BrainWise Teaches Emotional Support Skills for Responding to Covid-19

Posted On: May 1, 2020

The Colorado Department of Education asked all school districts to complete a survey of their top needs during the pandemic. More than 90% responded and listed “Providing Students with Emotional Support” as their #1 need.

This need is not limited to Colorado – the pandemic has exacerbated the national need for mental health prevention and support. The stakes are even higher for  children and teens at-risk – those who are on the autism spectrum and those who  have any number of physical and mental health issues.
As a school nurse, I learned about the safety, clear structure, and support resources that schools provide to students. As a visiting nurse, I saw childhood environments that included family violence, food insecurity, neglect, and sexual and substance abuse. I developed BrainWise to teach children and youth the skills they could use outside of school, when they had no one to help them. They needed better-developed executive function skills to guide them during difficult situations.
This pandemic has magnified everyone’s fears for safety and has triggered basic and ineffective Lizard Brain reactions. Children, teens, and adults who have learned BrainWise cope better because they understand this process and know how to stop, think and use the 10 Wise Ways. They are able to recognize how and why Covid-19 triggers fear. This awareness helps them use Wizard Brain thinking to step back and control their response. They know what they can do to lower their Emotions Elevators and replace Lizard Brain impulses with Wizard Brain behaviors.
The following example applies the 10 Wise Ways to common concerns about Covid-19. Use the BrainWise CPR Problem Solving worksheet for teens or for K-5 and have students assess the Covid-19 issues that worry them.
PROBLEM:  How do we address a fear of contracting Covid-19 ourselves or transmitting the virus to someone we love?


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WW #1:  Identify Lizard Brain and Wizard Brain reactions.
WW #2:  Identify double-line support resources to put in your Constellation of Support. Attached is a new Constellation of Support Worksheet to help you identify double-line resources you can turn to for help and support.
WW #3:  What internal red flags do you feel?  What external red flags do you feel?
WW #4:  List one to three emotions you are feeling and identify what floor they are on the Emotions Elevator. What brain are you using if the emotions are above the 5th floor? What can you do to lower your emotions? Here are some specific strategies:
-Use control-self talk.
*Talk to yourself and replace  the fear conversation in your head with the facts that you are following safety recommendations, washing your hands, keeping safe distances.
*Tell yourself that you are responsible for your actions and are doing everything that is recommended to protect yourself and loved ones.
*Think about the positive examples of people who exemplify the best in humanity.
*Acknowledge other pandemics and life-altering events and the renewal of life that follows them.
– Reduce exposure to the news and sensationalism.
*Avoid resources that are upsetting.  Seek factual sources when you are   low or off your Emotions Elevator.
Other resources are “Do something else” like cleaning, exercising, listening to music, keeping a journal, or painting to get the negative thoughts out of your head.  Also, practicing breathing exercises, mindfulness and meditation. Here is a link to a BrainWise CPR worksheet for lowering your Emotions Elevator: ( What are you feeling worksheet.)


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WW #5:  When you are low or off your Emotions Elevator, think about the types of Covid-19 information available and use reputable sources to separate fact from opinion. The Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci are the gold standard for facts on Covid-19.
WW #6:   Form and ask questions that will help you get the information you need to make an informed decision.
WW #7: Identify your choices. Include “not making a choice” as one of your choices.
WW #8: Examine each choice by considering the consequences of the choice now and later (CNL)  and the consequence affecting others (CAO.)


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WW #9:  Set a goal and make a plan. Decide how you will use your thinking skills to switch your fear to a positive response and action. Think about the barriers you may face right now and figure out what resources are to help you overcome them.
WW #10:  Use all of your thinking skills to communicate your confidence during this difficult time. Repel fear and anxiety nonverbally by holding your head up and smiling – even through your face mask.  Use “I” messages and assertive statements. Take other People’s Point of View (POV) to try to understand difficult behaviors.
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