Two of the biggest topics in education right now are artificial intelligence (AI) and mental health.
Everyone seems to be talking about the spread of AI, and more specifically ChatGPT, the AI assistant that uses natural language to answer our questions.
But mental health is still at the forefront for students and educators, especially in the wake of COVID-19 closures and remote teaching.
Can our mental health benefit from using artificial intelligence? Absolutely! This goes way beyond ChatGPT’s ability to give a user a pep talk.
In this post, you’ll find several ways that ChatGPT (and other AI assistants) can support your wellbeing.
1. Procrastination and Overwhelm
AI assistants like ChatGPT can provide personalized support and guidance for those who are feeling stuck or overwhelmed. These AI assistants draw tons of data from across the internet, from books, and from other resources. AI assistants analyze the data and look for patterns, providing us with their best guess for a helpful answer based on what has been published before. Because it can analyze resources that are helpful for supporting our mental health, there’s a good chance it can provide something useful.
AI assistants can offer strategies for breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. They can also provide motivation and accountability strategies to help people stay on track. In the case of overwhelm and procrastination, a person isn’t being lazy or choosing not to do their work. They feel emotionally incapable to begin the work. It’s been said that overwhelm isn’t the problem of having too many options. It’s not knowing where to start.
ChatGPT can provide outlines for concepts that can help a procrastinator get started, suggestions for how a beginner can look, or even provide resources to review so the emotional overwhelm that stops them from beginning feels lessened by the assistance.
ChatGPT has been a huge help for me (Mandy) and my ADHD. It has made me more productive, confident, and less anxious not because it gives me answers but because it gives me a start.
Prompt: I need to write a blog post. Break it down into steps for me.
Choose a topic: Start by choosing a topic that interests you and that you want to write about. Consider your audience and what kind of content they would find valuable.
Brainstorm ideas: Brainstorm some ideas for your blog post. Make a list of potential topics, angles, and key points that you want to cover.
Research: Conduct research on your topic to gather relevant information and data. This can include reading articles, watching videos, or conducting interviews.
Outline your post: Organize your ideas into a clear and concise outline. This will help you structure your post and ensure that you cover all of your key points.
Write your post: Start writing your blog post based on your outline. Write a clear introduction that hooks your readers, followed by the body of the post where you cover your main points and a conclusion that summarizes your key takeaways.
Edit and revise: Once you've written your post, take some time to edit and revise it. Check for spelling and grammar errors, ensure that your post flows logically and is easy to read, and make any necessary changes or additions.
Add visual elements: Consider adding visual elements such as images, videos, or infographics to enhance your blog post and make it more engaging.
Publish and promote: Once you're satisfied with your post, publish it on your blog or website. Promote your post on social media, through email newsletters, or other channels to drive traffic and engagement.
Remember to have fun with the process, and don't be afraid to experiment with different styles or formats until you find what works best for you!
2. Coping Strategies
To understand your own mental health, it’s important to develop coping strategies for any challenges you may feel you have. A catch-22 of mental health issues is once you are struggling, it is so much harder to do the necessary research to help yourself. It’s always important to seek the help of a mental health professional. ChatGPT can suggest coping strategies that you could try. Remember to check with your mental health professional before including them in your strategy repertoire.
Prompt: Suggest three coping strategies for anxiety.
Certainly! Here are three coping strategies for anxiety:
Deep breathing: When you're feeling anxious, taking deep breaths can help slow down your racing thoughts and calm your body. Try taking a deep breath in for 4 seconds, holding it for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Repeat this pattern a few times until you feel more relaxed.
Positive self-talk: Our thoughts can often contribute to anxiety, so try to reframe negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking "I can't do this," try telling yourself "I may feel anxious, but I can handle this situation."
Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present and reduce feelings of anxiety. Try focusing on your senses and what you're experiencing in the moment, such as the sights, sounds, and smells around you. You can also try a guided mindfulness meditation, which can be found online or through mindfulness apps.
Remember that coping strategies can be different for each individual and it's important to find what works best for you. If you find that your anxiety is impacting your daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional.
Prompt: I feel overwhelmed. What can I do?
I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling overwhelmed. Here are some strategies that might help:
Take a break: Give yourself permission to take a short break to recharge. You might try going for a walk, doing some stretching or yoga, or simply sitting quietly and taking some deep breaths.
Prioritize and plan: Make a list of your tasks and responsibilities, and prioritize them based on what's most urgent or important. Break them down into smaller, more manageable steps, and create a plan or schedule for when you will complete them.
Practice self-care: Engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing mindfulness or meditation.
Reach out for support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you're feeling. Consider seeking support from a mental health professional, who can help you develop strategies for managing overwhelm and stress.
Remember, it's okay to ask for help and to take things one step at a time. Be gentle with yourself, and know that overwhelm is a common experience that can be managed with time and self-care.
3. Self-Care and Mindfulness
There is often a misunderstanding of what self-care actually entails, usually bringing on images of painted nails and bubble baths. However, self-care is bigger than that. Self-care is intentionally caring for ourselves as a way of showing ourselves self-love, self-compassion, and building our resilience and healing muscles. It doesn’t need to cost money. It just needs to heal yourself as a human.
ChatGPT is a great resource for helping to discover self-care strategies and providing suggestions for self-care when we are just not willing to use our mental capacity to make those decisions. It can also provide suggestions on new hobbies to try depending on interests or how to get started in a new hobby when you’ve chosen one to try.
Prompt: Plan three five-minute activities for me to do today to give myself a break from work.
Sure! Here are three five-minute activities you can do to take a break from work:
Stretching: Stand up and stretch your arms and legs to release any tension or stiffness. Reach for the ceiling, touch your toes, and roll your shoulders. You can also do some simple yoga poses, such as downward dog or child's pose.
Breathing exercises: Take a few minutes to practice deep breathing or another breathing exercise. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this pattern a few times, or try another breathing exercise that works for you.
Mindfulness practice: Take a mindful break by focusing your attention on your senses. Sit in a quiet space and take a few deep breaths, then focus on what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste in the present moment. Notice the sensations without judgment, and then return to your work feeling more present and centered.
Remember that taking breaks throughout the day can help boost productivity and reduce stress, so don't feel guilty for taking a few minutes to recharge!
4. Grounding Techniques
A grounding technique is a mindfulness practice or sensory-based strategy that helps you stay present and connected to the present moment. Grounding techniques can be used to manage symptoms of anxiety, stress, or dissociation by focusing on sensory experiences or calming thoughts. By staying grounded, you can reduce feelings of overwhelm and increase your sense of control.
Prompt: Provide grounding techniques
Sure! Here are some grounding techniques that can help you stay present and connected to the present moment:
5-4-3-2-1 technique: Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Body scan: Starting from the top of your head, slowly scan down your body, paying attention to any areas of tension or discomfort. Release any tension as you exhale.
Box breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat this pattern for several minutes.
Mindful breathing: Focus on your breath, paying attention to the sensation of the air entering and leaving your body. You can count your breaths or repeat a calming phrase to yourself with each inhale and exhale.
Visualization: Imagine a peaceful scene or place, such as a beach or forest, and focus on the sensory details of that scene, such as the sound of waves or the feeling of soft sand.
Remember that everyone responds to grounding techniques differently, so it's important to experiment and find what works best for you.
5. Guided Meditations
Guided meditations are a type of meditation practice in which a person is verbally guided by a teacher, recording, or other audio sources through a specific meditation technique or visualization. Guided meditation typically includes instructions on how to relax the body and focus the mind, often using techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or visualization. Guided meditation can be used for stress reduction, relaxation, improving sleep, and cultivating mindfulness. It is especially helpful for those who are new to meditation or find it challenging to meditate on their own.
ChatGPT can provide guided meditations. Create a voice recording of you reading the guided meditation and listen to it when needed.
Prompt: Provide a guided meditation.
Sure, here's a simple guided meditation for you to try:
Find a comfortable seated position in a quiet space, either on the floor or in a chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your belly expand. Hold the breath for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
Begin to focus your attention on your breath, noticing the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. Allow your breath to flow naturally, without forcing or controlling it.
As you continue to breathe, notice any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that arise in your mind and body. Observe them without judgment, and then let them go as you return your focus to your breath.
Visualize a peaceful scene or place, such as a beach or forest. Picture yourself in this place, and focus on the sensory details of that scene, such as the sound of waves or the feeling of soft sand.
Stay with this visualization for a few moments, allowing yourself to fully immerse in this peaceful scene. Whenever you feel ready, take one more deep breath in, and then exhale slowly to complete the meditation.
Remember, meditation is a practice, so it's okay if your mind wanders or if you find it difficult to focus at first. Keep coming back to your breath and practicing regularly, and you may find that meditation helps you feel more relaxed and centered over time.
6. Pep talks
Maybe, at the end of the day, it’s really only that pep talk that you need. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Here is a ChatGPT encouraging message for you:
Prompt: Give me a pep talk.
Hey there! I want you to know that you are amazing and capable of achieving great things. I know that sometimes life can feel overwhelming or challenging, but you are strong and resilient. Remember that mistakes and failures are just opportunities to learn and grow, and don't let them define you. Keep pushing forward toward your goals and dreams, and know that you have the power to create a life you love. Believe in yourself, because I believe in you!
Keep in mind, with all six suggestions above, that ChatGPT or any AI product is never a replacement for getting help from a mental health professional. But if you need some ideas or some simple next steps, it can be what you need to move forward.
About the authors
Mandy Froehlich passionately encourages educators to create innovative change in their classrooms. An experienced Director of Innovation and Technology, technology integrator, and teacher, she has experience at many levels of the organizational structure. Her interest lies in reinvigorating and re-engaging teachers back into their profession, as well as what’s needed to support teachers in their pursuit of innovative and divergent thinking and teaching. She consults internationally with school districts and post-secondary institutions in the effective use of technology to support great teaching, mental health support for educators, and how to create organizational change. Her four books focus on supporting teachers in their emotional health so they can best support students. Reach her at www.mandyfroehlich.com or on Twitter at @froehlichm.
Matt Miller taught in public schools for more than 10 years, teaching all levels of high school Spanish. In his career, he planned nearly 12,000 class lessons. He taught more than half a million instructional minutes. And he graded work for nearly 2,000 days of class. He’s an award-winning author of six books. Matt is a Google Certified Innovator and Microsoft in Education Expert. He was named a ‘23-’24 Top 100 Influencer in EdTech by EdTech Digest. His Ditch That Textbook blog encourages tens of thousands of educators in more than 100 countries to use technology and creative ideas in teaching. Reach him at matt@DitchThatTextbook.com or on Twitter at @jmattmiller.