December 12, 2019

At Work with Healthier Generation's Social-Emotional Health Team

This post is part of our #HGatWork series, giving you an inside look at the people behind our work and the leaders who further our mission to empower kids to develop lifelong healthy habits.

Meet a few members of Healthier Generation’s social-emotional health content team—the innovative leaders working behind-the-scenes of our new Resilience in School Environments (RISE) Initiative! Presented in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, RISE empowers schools to create safe and supportive learning environments by developing policies and practices that improve the social-emotional health of all students and staff.  

When it comes to meeting children’s comprehensive health needs, our RISE team knows that fostering social-emotional health is just as critical as building our physical health through good nutrition and regular physical activity. They also know that learning and teaching social-emotional skills requires patience, practice and the right support.  

Read on for a brief introduction to our RISE content managers and learn how they’re taking steps to support their own social-emotional health.

 

Elizabeth Cook

Senior National Advisor, Social-Emotional Health 

Lives, works, and plays in: Madison, WI 

What SEL competency is still a work in progress for you? What strategies do you use to improve and why do you think it’s important to develop further? 

To be honest, they are all a work in progress for me. On any given day I’m more or less effective at any given one—even those I am ‘good’ at. SEL competencies aren’t a thing to ‘master’ in my opinion. More like something that needs to be regularly attended to and reflected on. Since SEL skills are really about being human, you’re going to naturally ebb and flow within all of them. 

I will say the one I consistently ‘yet to have mastered’ is self-management as it relates to the organization of stuff. My mind is a very organized place, but my desk? Not so much. In fact, you can tell where I’ve been by the trail of stuff I leave behind. You know how Hansel and Gretel left a trail of breadcrumbs—well so do I. Except replace breadcrumbs with coffee cup….cell phone…hair tie…notebook…pen….well, you get the idea. 

As a busy professional, how do you support your social-emotional health? 

This job is a great privilege and when I step outside the everyday business of emails, meetings and deadlines, I am constantly in awe of how it came to be that I am able to do the thing I love (support schools and out of school time sites) with the people I love (educators & public health folks) in a way that allows me to honor my non-work life (aka husband, kids and dog).  It took me a while into my career until I was able to step outside in this way—but an intentional practice of trying to do that helps me really maintain perspective and helps me stay balanced, much of the time 

And it’s not just me, science says cultivating a sense of awe can help brighten our mood and improve happiness :) 

 

Yasemin Corzo

Content Manager, Social-Emotional Health  

Lives, works, and plays in: Los Angeles, CA 

What SEL competency is still a work in progress for you? What strategies do you use to improve and why do you think it’s important to develop further? 

For me, self-management is the SEL competency that is a work in progress. I really like to make lists – if my workspace is a mess, it’s probably because there is something going on with my discipline or stress. I’ve found that writing down what I’m feeling or thinking helps me identify what is getting in my way. Sometimes it’s a couple of incoherent words, but at least I know what I’m talking about. After that, I can usually set aside some time to regroup and go back to goals that I’ve set. I also like to set the intention of my day and week. I think that it’s important for me to further develop these skills, because I have not typically been successful at a work-life balance. As I’m starting at Healthier Generation, this is one of my priorities.  

As a busy professional, how do you support your social-emotional health? 

I try to eat a healthy and yummy diet – I love food and all the flavors, spices, and textures that come with food. So, exploration on that front is really fun for my belly, heart, and mind. To boost my self-awareness, I’ve found that working out helps me. Whether a full hike or a few minutes in the pool, I always feel more present in my emotions and self after some physical activity. 

 

Megan Gildin

Content Manager, Social-Emotional Health  

Lives, works, and plays in: Philadelphia, PA 

What SEL competency is still a work in progress for you? What strategies do you use to improve and why do you think it’s important to develop further? 

With our ever-changing worlds bringing new experiences and challenges to navigate, I think all of our SEL competencies remain a work in progress throughout our lives, requiring consistent effort to maintain and build. One competency in particular that I have been focused on for the past few years is self-management, specifically stress management. As someone who is very much a planner, I have struggled with my stress response when faced with the inevitable uncertainty that comes with life. To work on this, I have explored mindfulness practices that have helped me develop a mindset to react to uncertainty with a less intense stress response. These strategies have allowed me to view uncertainty as opportunity, focus on the current moment, and when stress does come, not let it consume me. This is a lifelong project for me, and something that I believe is vital for building my social emotional health. 

As a busy professional, how do you support your social-emotional health? 

The best way I support my social emotional health is two-fold. The first step is building my self-awareness to understand what I need to be holistically healthy. This ranges from knowing how I recharge to understanding my communication style. With understanding my needs, I can then put my second step into action – setting and maintaining boundaries to protect these needs. For example, I am someone who needs time to process. This is something I have communicated to my team and integrate into my workflow in different ways. I ask for meeting agendas and documents ahead of time so I can think through any topics we are going to cover to collect my thoughts in advance. Additionally, my team knows if they ask me something on the spot, I may not have a full answer for them right away and will need to follow up. Having this boundary in place eliminates a source of stress, and as such, nurtures my social-emotional health. 

 

Jason Marshall

Content Manager, Social-Emotional Health  

Lives, works, and plays in: Atlanta, GA 

What SEL competency is still a work in progress for you? What strategies do you use to improve and why do you think it’s important to develop further? 

Probably self-management (maintaining my boundaries) as I like to be of service to others and have an overactive brain that is always thinking, strategizing, and planning. 

As a busy professional, how do you support your social-emotional health? 

I try to turn off email notifications by Friday around 4pm so I don’t read emails on weekends unless I am expecting to hear from someone. 

I make it a priority to exercise  at least twice during the work week to clear my brain and give me something to feel good about as my hectic meeting schedule, which requires me to be in a car a lot, will sometimes have me sedentary for long periods of time—working out makes me feel like I am taking care of my body and indirectly my mind, emotions etc.  

I try to also reflect on the work that I am doing and why. I can easily get caught up in the “doing” of things and taking pride in checking off things on my to do list. But taking the time to reflect on my process for completing work and the work in general allows me to look at it with a deeper lens and integrate more of myself into it, which gives it more meaning for me.

 

Cat Willett

Content Manager, Social-Emotional Health  

Lives, works, and plays in: Portland, OR 

What SEL competency is still a work in progress for you? What strategies do you use to improve and why do you think it’s important to develop further? 

I’d say self-awareness is still sometimes a challenge. As someone who finds other people’s thoughts and emotions deeply fascinating, I still struggle to identify my own feelings in the moment. So much so that sometimes my therapist has to use the same feelings chart she uses for her child clients just to help me think about what I am feeling. 

Recently, I’ve started meditating a little bit every day and joined a mindfulness group, which has been helping. I also have a sign on my office door that says “Wait. Trust.” To help me remember to pause and trust myself and the people around me before I act. Some of the choices I have regretted in other jobs have come from not understanding what I was feeling and how I was reacting from that place, so I am glad I am growing my abilities there (especially since it’s a big part of what I will be talking to educational staff about!) 

As a busy professional, how do you support your social-emotional health? 

I have a text thread with several colleagues where we do check-ins on our health and wellness goals. Recently I decided I wanted to take a half-hour walk every day and it was really nice to have people to send random photos to as an accountability step. It really helped me meet my goal! 

I also love reading and cooking and so have started putting specific time for those things into my personal calendar so that they remain a priority! 

 

Create a healthier learning environment at your school by developing policies and practices that improve the social-emotional health of all students and staff. Get started with RISE today by visiting the Healthier Generation Action Center.