Boulder Valley School District

Pandemic driving many to the end of their rope

teachr standing outside with 2 students
Randy Barber

En Español

Helpful techniques for students, parents and educators to manage the stress and frustration of these difficult times

If your home is like most right now, at some point during the course of the day there will likely be screaming, yelling, crying or some mix of it all, as our kids (and if we are being honest with ourselves, we adults) melt down under the stress and frustration of the pandemic.

Boulder Valley School District Mental Health Advocate Katie McGee says during such difficult times, like this, it is absolutely expected that we will all regress in our behaviors a bit.

“That is perfectly normal right now,” Katie McGee said. “We shouldn’t expect [children] to get through the day without having their meltdown, whether that is a kindergartner, the fifth grader or the 10th or 11th grader.”

She encourages everyone to recognize the situation and acknowledge the struggle, even if you don’t have a solution.

“It is okay to name it and to say, ‘this is really hard. What do you need right now? I am here,’” McGee said.

“We are trying to be normal through this and we can’t be normal through this,” McGee added. 


SERIES: Saving your sanity during the pandemic

In November, we shared that BVSD’s team is available to support students and families that are struggling during the ongoing crisis.

Read Part 1 - BVSD’s mental health team remains an important ‘lifeboat’ for students, staff as everyone returns to remote learning


Our resiliency is being tested by the pandemic.

As we all struggle with concerns about the health of ourselves and our loved ones, the economic uncertainties and the constant changes and uncertainty – nearly everyone has been faced with a moment in which they are at the end of their rope. 

For some, their resiliency runs out regularly.

Our mental health advocates say that everyone has a different “Window of Tolerance.” The term was coined by Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. It refers to how our bodies, and especially our brains, react to adversity. The idea is that we all have some amount of tolerance for the natural emotional ups and downs we experience on a daily basis and a number of factors, including stress, can impact whether we have the capacity to handle any given situation.

“We each have a window of tolerance,” McGee said. “A number of factors impact our resilience factor including our DNA make up and where we entered that day. There are certain trigger points that will put us over the edge.”

We do not have to feel helpless, however. It is possible to build a toolbox of strategies that can help us to self-regulate, widening that window of resiliency, even during difficult times.

“It doesn’t necessarily change how you’re feeling, but it helps you to tolerate what is going on at the moment,” explained Jamie Smalley. “The more that we do these strategies every day, the more our window of tolerance widens. We are a little bit more prepared, grounded to handle things.”

Smalley says it doesn’t always work, but the strategies can help tremendously, especially if you are utilizing them regularly throughout the day.

“I tell kids this all the time: Some days you may have to do all of your practices – one after another after another,” Smalley said.

“Do not wait until the end of the day,” McGee added. “Take really deep breaths all day long, so when we get that email that says, ‘we are going back to Home Learning,’ it is like, ‘okay, I’ve been regulating my nervous system all day long."


Building Your Strategy Toolbox

We all can use some extra strategies in our toolbox right now. Here are some resources that can be very helpful.

In the midst of holiday and pandemic stress, we encourage you and your family to take a moment to review our 99 Coping Skills.

You can find specific suicide prevention resources on our Health, Wellness and Prevention website, in the suicide prevention section

For free mental health therapy for uninsured or underinsured youth struggling with suicidal thoughts reach out to Rise Against Suicide.

Additionally, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has an excellent article titled Taking Care of Yourself this Holiday Season.


Opposite Action

At the end of the day do the opposite of what you feel like doing. If you feel like passing out on the couch, go for a hike or participate in a virtual yoga class.


Listen to your Body

Sometimes when you feel really tired, take a rest. Watch a movie or make a delicious soup. Recharge.

Chi Kim Videos

Check out these short briefing exercise videos from Chi Kim.


This holiday season (and for the remainder of the pandemic) the best gift you can give yourself is ‘me time’ and grace

During the long months of the pandemic, it is especially important for everyone to take moments for themselves.

“Take a bath, watch a funny movie, journal, go for a run, talk to a parent,” Smalley said.

It may seem indulgent to take a few moments for yourself, but doing things you enjoy and safely getting away from home for a few moments can make a big difference.

Additionally, BVSD’s mental health advocates say that we need to avoid being so hard on ourselves.

“We need to give ourselves permission to not be perfect and to know it is going to be hard,” McGee said. 

“We have to remind ourselves that we are in a pandemic. There is a crisis all around us. Everyone is struggling,” Smalley said. “I’m reminding everybody to be kind and gentle to themselves and to take a deep breath in those moments and to remember we are all really feeling vulnerable, raw and stressed right now.”

Finally, when you have the inevitable bad days, allow yourself to have a fresh start the next day.


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