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St. John’s podcast provides path to mental wellness

St. John’s High School has created a weekly podcast to help students keep calm and carry on during COVID-19.

Mind Health, a weekly podcast-style post that focuses on mental health and wellness is the brainchild of St. John’s guidance counsellor Sheri Denys.

Denys started sharing mental health management strategies with students via Instagram at the start of the pandemic. Now, she’s creating weekly videos that dive deeper into the mind and cover such practices as guided visualization, full-body guided relaxation and mindful moments in nature.

The videos are posted on Google Classroom and are accessible to all St. John’s students.

“With COVID, we’re being forced to sit back and revaluate our lives,” Denys said. “I truly believe we have two paths, two choices in front of us. You can choose to hold onto the past and be angry and bitter or you can choose to find the freedom that we have in our restrictions.”

“Just because we’re stuck at home and we’re isolated, it doesn’t mean we can’t work on us. We can still create something phenomenal or work on those dreams that we have.”

In addition to her role as a guidance counsellor, Denys teaches a half-credit Mind Health class at St. John’s.

“I did a 30-minute guided visualization with my students where I took them on a journey,” said Denys, who is also a certified yoga teacher and has taught yoga to St. John’s staff and students in the past.

“You just sit and listen and let your imagination go and allow whatever happens. I prompt them with questions like ‘What can you see?’ or ‘What do you smell right now?’”

“The students open their eyes and go, ‘I could actually feel it, like I was there.” That’s the power we all have. Our minds have the capacity to do so much more, to calm us and bring us back to centre so we can find what’s truly important to us.”

The Mind Health podcast has also featured Tai chi instruction from a St. John’s staff member and there are plans for nutrition and fitness content, including an upcoming Zumba lesson.

With her videos, Denys said she’s just tapping into something that is already there.

“It’s about slowing down, getting centred and being true to yourself,” Denys said. “Students today are so influenced by their phones and what other people think of them. But, at the end of the day, what someone else thinks of you doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you think of yourself.”

“It’s tapping into their own resiliency. We have phenomenal students that when they slow down and start sinking into that space in themselves – their heart space – they realize, ‘Wow, I do have the answer.’”

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