Combating Stress and Anxiety with Dr. Jeri McKinney


Change is in the air at Casady this year. Schedule changes, dress code alterations, the new entrance, and even the new bell are just a few things that students and teachers have had to adjust to in the past few weeks. Schedule changes, in particular, were caused by an effort to promote mindfulness and to lower anxiety surrounding schoolwork. Dr. Jeri McKinney, the new school psychologist, brings fresh ideas to the table surrounding mental-health related issues to the Casady community.

Dr. McKinney grew up in Washington, D.C. and went to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York. She studied Psychology, Art, and African studies. She moved to Oklahoma City fairly recently and has lived in other cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Durham, North Carolina. On studying psychology, Dr. McKinney says she,“ knew what [she] wanted to do early on and so every experience [she] had was about getting to know and understand children and their parents. And it’s just something that [she’s] always held dear.”

One of the biggest issues that Casady students face is fitting all our commitments into one day. Going to a competitive school, many ambitious students are involved in time-consuming activities such as rigorous classes with a heavy workload, sports, clubs, and the play or musical, to name a few. More likely than not, the average Casady student does not get a healthy amount of sleep in order to finish their homework and study every night. While next year’s block schedule is aimed to solve this problem and give students more time to meet their goals, Dr. McKinney wants students not to be so hard on themselves if they are not able to accomplish everything they want to in one day. While she recognizes that sometimes one needs to lose sleep to accomplish what one wants in preparation for the next day, she says that, “Sleep is vital to your growth and development. […] If [staying up] is a part of your daily routine, […] then we need to think about ways to reduce that.” If you are struggling to attain a healthy amount of sleep every day, Dr. McKinney believes that you should look at your schedule and ask your teachers and people who support you how you can, “modify your schedule through the day because sleep is vital to success.”

The pressure to do well can negatively affect mental health and sometimes cause anxiety, and Casady administration has been trying to combat this stress recently. In February, teachers met to listen to Dave Mochel speak about mindfulness and how it relates to this. According to Dr. McKinney, being “mindful means just to be present in the moment and experience that moment for what it’s worth and blocking out all the distractions.” Attempting to do this could help Casady students best take advantage of the time they do have to accomplish the tasks at hand and therefore combat anxiety. She also believes that, besides time management, one of the ways you can stave off stress is by “knowing that no matter what you’re good enough and if you do your best that is good enough.” Other ways she believes you can do this is by exercising and “set[ing] aside what are the two or three things that I need to do today” and focusing on accomplishing those tasks.

Another way students can combat stress and anxiety is to go visit Dr. McKinney in the Harper wing next to Chapel. Dr. McKinney would like to form strong bonds with students and to help them as much as she can. Students need not worry about confidentiality or letting other people know they have an issue if they do not want to; Dr. McKinney has put up a locked mailbox outside her door where students can write her a note if they need to speak to her. If students cannot make it to that side of campus, they can either send her an email or contact Coach T.