Positivity Touch Points part 1

Positivity Touch Points

Michelle Schroeder – Lowrey for Pebble Tossers (part one of a three-part series)

Michelle Schroeder-Lowrey is an artist educator specializing in music, movement and drama at Columbus Academy. Michelle is a CAPP certified Positive Psychology Practitioner and recently completed certification as a Resiliency Trainer at The Flourishing Center in NYC. Her love of learning has taken her as far as Australia and as close as downtown Columbus. Michelle is passionate about educating people about the benefits of living life with purpose using the principles of PERMA-V and the VIA Character Strengths. She is a proud wife and mother and a founding member of Available Light Theatre and holds a BA in Theatre from The Ohio State University.


Part One:

It is something we often talk about in a longing way… “I wish we just had time to slow down and be together.”  Or “We are never all home at the same time!” And now, EVERYONE is home. Only, this isn’t the “slowing down” we were talking about, right? So, what do we do now that we are all home- TOGETHER- in new, uncertain, unplanned for circumstances with so many questions, feelings and fears running around in our heads and hearts?

In Positive Psychology we talk a lot about the parts of our life we can “control.” It’s a short list really – I can control: what I feel, what I think and what I do. That’s it. That is the list. Some research suggests that up to 40% of our overall happiness is controllable by what we feel, think, and do. Keep in mind that it’s not what happens to us that affects our thoughts, feelings and actions – it’s how we interpret what’s happening.  Our brains are wired to go negative. It’s how our species has survived thousands of years. Negativity bias keeps us questioning, it’s our “spidey sense” that reminds us that maybe walking into that dark, tiger infested forest or eating those red berries isn’t the best idea. In our modern world, there are fewer tigers and many apps that help us understand the dangers of our world – but our brains still want to protect us. So, reframing our natural tendency towards pessimistic thinking to an optimistic thinking style lays a foundation for positive problem-solving. Instead of: “We are all stuck at home forever and I’m never prepared for situations like this. I will never get any work done.”  SAY: “This is a tough, temporary situation. I’ve survived 100% of the stay at home, unexpected sick days in my life. I can handle this.”

Giving ourselves and others “permission to be human” is what positive psychology is all about. This may sound silly, but under extreme circumstances, many of us immediately put on our capes and fly around attempting to leap tall buildings (or teen angst) in a single bound – and the reality is: we are human not superheroes.  And humans have feelings. Humans make mistakes. Humans lose their patience. Humans cry. Humans need rest. Humans need exercise and good food. Humans are humans. So, start here: I give myself permission to be human. AND I give my child, partner, loved ones and others in my world the same permission. By granting ourselves this permission we are able to generate compassion for others and for ourselves. And boy howdy, do we need some compassion for ourselves and others right now. The others include our partners, children and loved ones as well as grocery store clerks, postal workers and healthcare providers. Patience with ourselves and others will go a long way right now.

Coronavirus + College

Lauren Alexander, Georgia Tech business student, Pebble Tossers Intern

Hi! My name is Lauren, and I am intern with Pebble Tossers this Spring helping with various initiatives like the new Teen Leadership Program. I am a third-year business student at Georgia Tech, and in the last two weeks I (like many others) have experienced my life turn completely upside down for the time being. I wanted to share some of the experiences and responses I have had thus far with you!


The last week and a half have been a whirlwind. One day I was attending class, engaging with friends over coffee and meals, participating in my normal activities, and looking forward to all of the plans I had made for the coming months. Quickly, I watched all of the expectations and certainties I clung so tightly to vanish one after the other. A slush of emotions followed, including fear, guilt, disappointment, inferiority, confusion, and anger. And yet, not all was wrong: I got to spend time self-quarantining with a loved one who lives far from me, my mom and I could cook and bake in our kitchen like we used to when I lived at home, and many leaders around me found incredible, innovative ways to adapt and carry on in the midst of social distancing.

Navigating your emotions, thoughts, and actions is hard on a regular day, not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic that is possibly the most impactful event of your lifetime. There are few important ideas that my friends and I are constantly reminding ourselves of. The first being that it is OK to feel afraid. There is so much unavoidable uncertainty in everyone’s lives that fear can feel inescapable. Along with this, though, it is important to TALK about your fear. I turn to my family, close friends, and mentors for a simple conversation, so that fear does not start to control my life. In doing so, I am able to stay grounded yet hopeful at the same time.

The second idea I keep reminding myself of is quite the opposite: it is OK to feel joy. Many people have expressed guilt to me about experiencing good things during this extremely challenging time globally. In a world filled with so much hurting and need, I say we need to relish in every joyful moment we can get our hands on (of course, we must also remain compassionate to all around us). Now is the time to find joy in the smallest of things: the chance to make blueberry scones with your mom, celebrating success in using unfamiliar virtual/ online tools, and extra time to catch up with people who feel incredibly distant. To acknowledge your joy is not to diminish the pandemic, but it is to bring a little light into this climate.

The final idea I will share is simply this: YOU MATTER. It is easy to feel small. Like nothing that you do has an impact. This could not be farther from the truth. We all must take responsibility for our responses to this crisis. We must choose to self-isolate when appropriate. We must choose to fill our extra time at home in a positive way: investing in family, completing at-home service projects, practicing self-care and love, and exploring new technologies and innovations that can benefit your community or the activities you normally partake in. You matter to your close loved ones and to the global population (and everyone in between) – and you cannot lose sight of the privilege and opportunity that comes with that.

Keeping all three of these concepts in mind, I find myself able to navigate my feelings and thoughts so that I can continue to lead and partake in the many initiatives that are important to me and those in my community.

Maintaining Mental Health in a Crisis

Choosing Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

 Olivia Kemp, MSW, Pebble Tossers Program Manager

Over the last several days, I have spoken with many people in regards to our current health state with COVID-19. Statements that I continue to hear from friends and family sound like this, “I’ve never experienced a situation like this,” or “I wonder when we will finally be in the clear?” Living in this unknown state that we are in, can not only be anxiety-provoking but isolating. Because of those reasons, it is important to take care of our own mental health during this time while also supporting others in theirs as well. 

Up onto this point, the CDC has done a great job providing virus prevention information like washing hands, using hand sanitizer, social distancing, and even routinely disinfecting different surfaces. Without taking these types of measures, we all would be in a much worse state of physical health. A similar process can be considered for our mental health too. Being a social worker, I would love to provide you all with different suggestions that you can implement into your daily lives that keep you mentally strong.

Pebble Tossers’ Mental Health Tips for COVID-19:
Social Connection

As humans, we are wired and created for community with others. The reality of our normal routines that consist of going to school, work, sports, and clubs being postponed can be hard to accept. So how do we fill this gap of connection and belonging in a new way? First, we can set up designated times to check-in with friends or family on the phone each day. We can play board games, set up video chats, start a virtual book club, and even create a craft that can be sent to your friend via mail. By keeping our communication going, but in different ways, it can reduce loneliness and stress.

Emotional Health

Watching the news and or logging onto social media accounts daily to see COVID-19 updates can drain our emotional capacity. By creating healthy boundaries, a family or individual can limit their exposure to COVID-19 news and decide how often they will watch TV, be on social media, or even discuss the topic with others. If your children express fear or anxiety around the topic, validate what they are feeling and let them know it is okay to be upset or confused. Share with your child different ways that they can cope and express their emotions during this time. Whether it be through art, exercising, or playing games.

Create a Routine

During this time, many people are either working remotely, not working, and or helping their kids do school work. These new and unfamiliar patterns can bring an additional layer of stress to a family. By itemizing time for different activities for your children, you can help their schedule to become goal-oriented for school and fun during downtime. Challenge yourselves as a family to create food recipes, discover a new hobby, or make a unique craft.


The beauty of self-care is that we need it in every stage or season of our lives to continue healthy patterns. There are several activities and outlooks that we can utilize throughout our days that infuse self-care. For example, any form of exercise gets you moving and increases your endorphin level. You can do indoor exercises or venture out and take a walk in your neighborhood, while still social distancing. Meditation, prayer, and utilizing grounding techniques in this time can also provide a sense of peace. Through grounding techniques, you can establish what is happening presently in the moment by identifying what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. This technique is especially helpful when someone crosses into a fear/anxiety response. Self-care can also be as simple as taking a shower, listening to music,  journaling, or making yourself some tea. The end goal is to seek rest for yourself as we navigate this season together.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis at this time please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225 anywhere in the state. A counselor will connect with you via the crisis line and be available to assist you 24/7 and 365 days out of the year.  


If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness or is in need of services like food please call 211 and you will be connected to a representative of United Way Atlanta.

leadership through service: resources for continuing to serve

Due to overwhelming response and an ever-growing list of projects and resources this page has moved!

But don’t worry, clicking on the links below will take you right where you want to go!
Also, be sure to bookmark the following page www.pebbletossers.org/serve-from-home

Please Note: The new page will continue to be updated daily.

serve at home
serve with social distancing
discussion resources
continued learning
how to guides

Coronavirus + volunteering: keeping you safe

From our Founder + Executive Director:

In light of the recent reports of the Coronavirus diagnosis in Atlanta, we want to address how this might affect our upcoming volunteer opportunities. As a trusted nonprofit, we are committed to ensuring a safe + healthy environment for our volunteers and the clients we serve.

We are keeping a close watch on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) reports on risk and guidance, especially since we serve many vulnerable individuals. While the risk assessment is still considered low, we want to be proactive in our actions to reassure our volunteers. Even before the Coronavirus concerns, we have a policy to clean + disinfect all toys, tools + supplies before + after use at a service project. We will continue to take preventative measures to ensure that all supplies which volunteers + clients come in contact with are thoroughly cleaned + disinfected.

Your volunteer efforts are needed now, more than ever! However, in case one of our nonprofit partners feels the need to cancel a project, we will alert you as soon as possible. We are in constant contact with our nonprofit partners and some have also enacted additional protocols for virus prevention.

Important Reminders

Here are some important reminders to ensure we all do our part in keeping our volunteers and clients safe and healthy:
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth + nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose + mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap + water. Use hand sanitizer when soap + water aren’t available.

These are good precautions to take to avoid the flu and other bugs, not just the Coronavirus. We want to ensure you that, with your help, we will work hard to maintain a healthy environment for everyone during this time. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at jguynn@pebbletossers.org.

Thank you for your service to our communities.

Jennufer Guynn

Founder + Executive Director