Ok, so you had the best of intentions to start the academic year mindfully. After a restful summer, you were determined to be mindful. But, before you knew it, you were knee deep in teaching, marking and new policies, all thoughts of mindfulness went out the window.
It happens! That is ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Make the development of your own mindfulness and the mindfulness of your class your New Years Resolution.
But, we all know that doing anything cold turkey can be counter productive. So, in preparation for the new Mindful year, get in a little mindfulness practice. Over five days, complete a new part.
Then, in January, join me for a #MonthOfMindfulness. Keep active in your thoughts and conversations mindfulness strategies. Like all things it takes practice and nurturing. Even if you have practiced mindfulness for a while, refreshing your practice will support your mental well being as well as the mental well being if your class and family.
Stress is a part of life. It always has been and it always will be. Trying to find mindfulness strategies to minimise how we react to stress is the key to life-long peace and well-being. The younger we are, the better we will be able to cope with what life gives us and use it to our advantage.
When we are stressed, our emotions overwhelm us. These emotions fight for attention and send our heart rates speeding. The emotions demand attention.
This simple 5 minute mindfulness strategy is a modified Japanese relaxation technique which allows us to give focused attention to various emotions in order to achieve peace and mindful relaxation.
This technique is appropriate for children and adults and requires only your hands and a quiet place.
Each of the fingers are associated with different feelings or attitudes.
* Thumb: Helps combat emotions like worry and anxiety.
* Index: Can help combat fear.
* Middle: Helps control anger and indignation.
* Ring: Emotions of sadness and depression; helps you to be more decisive.
* Pinky: Helps to calm anxiety, increases optimism.
Using the opposite hand, apply pressure to each finger by holding it tightly, focusing on that emotion and allowing yourself to release the negative energy of that emotion. Allow yourself to be a peace with the emotion without judging yourself. Breathe deeply for 15 breaths as you focus and release. You will begin to notice your pulse in the finger being held.
Complete the meditation, by applying gentle circular pressure to the palm of your hand as you smile and prepare for the rest of the day.
The key to this strategy is that you acknowledge your emotions, you give them some time that they demand. But, you control the way in which they are acknowledged and then put them to rest.
Today’s blog is written by Dan, a dedicated Year 1 teacher. At the heart of his teaching is always giving the children what they need to be successful.
As a teacher there are lots of people who can help you with your job. Admin staff, colleagues and even the children! However there is one job though that no-one else can do and it is the most important thing you can do in your working day. BE KIND TO YOUR MIND. What do I mean by this?
As teachers and just simply human beings our minds have never been so full of things – American presidential elections, parent requests, assessment deadlines, Brexit, planning, childcare, economic recoveries, marking as well as other school and family related duties. The danger is that our minds are becoming very noisy with all the events going on around us. By noisy I mean simply we are ending up in a situation where we don’t even know what we think about anything because our minds are so full!! We can’t even think and we are supposed to be teachers!
STOP. Enter mindfulness. Probably the most vaulable skill I’ve learnt in four years of teaching. Why? It’s had a massive impact on my performance in the classroom and most importantly at home as a dad and a husband. I feel very blessed and privileged to have a Principal who takes the mental well-being of her staff so seriously she gives up 15 minutes every morning before school to allow all staff to come and empty their noisy minds through a guided meditation which she leads. I’ve learnt missing it is not an option. Why? From my own reflections over the past 12 months those 15 minutes lead to greater productivity, increased calmness and significantly clearer thinking in the classroom environment. After our guided meditations I have 15 minutes before opening the door and welcoming the children in . During this time I often change plans or get new ideas because I have been able to stop and hear myself think. The noise has gone. My mind is no longer full. I am calm, happy and ready to face the challenges of the day – thankful, positive and smiling. I make an effort to show that smile as I open the door. It’s a simple equation – calm and happy teacher = happy and calm children.
I hold onto this mantra – the past is history, the future is a mystery, this moment is a gift which is why it’s the present. I tell myself it a lot because my only regret about mindfulness is that I didn’t discover it earlier on in my teaching career as it would saved a LOT of stress and I would have managed situations very differently probably. When I do this though I have to stop that thought because the past is history and the only thing that matters is the present. I need to remember to be kind to my mind.
Why don’t you try mindfulness this week in your school? I can’t think of a more important time for teachers and head teachers to use it on a daily basis in their schools. The demands of working in a school are ever increasing – mindfulness could be the key step your school takes in managing the stress and workload and most importantly ensuring your school is a calm and happy place. You know what the end result is of creating a calm and happy environment? Answer – happy children, and that at the end of the day is what we want to achieve more than anything else. There is nothing like the present moment – seize it! Go on – be kind to your mind – even just for 5 minutes!
How many times have you seen an anxious child or adult wringing their hands in their moment of upset? Our minds are amazing things and we naturally revert to movements to calm ourselves down whether it be using sighs to stimulate deep breathing or wringing our hands to calm us down.
Mindful hand and wrist massages allow children to relax their muscles, calm their breathing, improve their mood, reduces pain, stress, anxiety and tension by way of a natural reflex.
Note: The use of fragrance free oils or creams is optional. Please ensure that if you do use oils or creams that you have checked for all allergies for your class.
Before you begin:
Set the mood by lowering the lights of the classroom and putting on some relaxing music.
In the beginning, explain to the children how a hand and wrist massage can help them to calm down by focusing on the sensations and encourage the use of deep breathing through the entire session to enhance the effects.
Sit up straight and take three deep mindful breaths as you allow your mind and body to be in this moment.
Rub the emollient over the entire hand and wrist area in slow, gentle strokes. (Optional)
Use the thumb to rub small, gentle circles around the opposite wrist feeling the small bones located here and the sensations being felt.
Then use the thumb to continue to rub in small circles between bones on the tops of the hands. Follow the natural lines along the hand towards the fingers.
Take each finger in turn and use the thumb to rub in the same circular motion along each finger from base at palm to fingertip.
Pull each finger softly by the fingertip.
Clasp hands together, entwining hands (like in prayer) and move hands and wrists back and forth, left to right and in soft circular motions.
Turn the hand over and use the same small, gentle circular motions of the thumb to rub the palm of the hand starting at the thumb base and then working your way up the palm to the top near the fingers.
Repeat on other hand
Complete the massage by giving your hand one more rub down like you did in the beginning.
Lay your hands in your lap, take three more deep breaths and continue your day.
During the massage, continue to remind the children that all the motions need to be soft with focus being on their breathing and the sensations they are feeling when they are massaging their hands.
On my drive to or from work, I can find myself drifting off to the dealings of the day or the things I will need tomorrow. I replay conversations or have conversations that may happen in the future. Before you know it, I can’t remember the drive at all! Not only can this be dangerous, it can make me feel upset and unsettled intensifying the stress you are under.
Has this happened to you? More than likely, yes!
The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.
Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity.
One way to remain focused on your drive is to give yourself a mindful task that allows you to be in the moment of driving home. (This can also be done even if you take the train, bus or even walk to work.)
The Colour Meditation is one way to keep focused.
– Choose a colour and decide to notice that colour during your travel time. Take the time to notice the objects and people wearing that colour. (I like to choose colours that I think will be more difficult to come across as it does make me really stay focused in the moment.)
– Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before? How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)
Make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate yourself for being in the present.
With this mindful task, you may find that the world becomes more colourful.
There are three fundamental processes required for mindfulness to occur: forming intention, paying attention and adjusting your attitude (Shapiro, Carltion, Astin & Freedman, 2006). Mindfulness is a purposeful act and, the process of becoming mindful, can seem to be selfish in today’s society that deems multi-tasking to be what successful people do to be successful. This is particularly true for educators in as we juggling children, parents, other teachers and leaders and government expectations. Thus, we have people who can not calm their mind and recognise individual thoughts and feelings which leads to fight or flight reactions that are hard wired into our natural reflexes.
Daily meditations that are about 10 minutes in length on a morning can start a day in a calm, mindful mood that can support the day’s work.
How to set yourself up for a successful meditation?
– Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted for 15 minutes. I like using headsets to listen to meditations as it helps me block out other noises.
– Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
– take a couple of deep, mindful breaths to begin to relax your mind and body.
Some meditations that get my day off to a good start:
* Note: It is likely other thoughts will invade your meditation. Do not become upset with this. The very act of recognising you are having invading thoughts is an act of mindfulness. Accept that you have had the thought and allow that thought to float away. Do not dwell on the thought and allow it to control you. You control the thought. I assure you if it is an important thought, it will come again at a time more appropriate time.
Developing mindfulness has a lot to do with shifting of perspectives. We have some deeply laid neuropathways that allow us to fall into a habit of reactions. We don’t even realise we are reacting; we just do it. Those automatic responses more deeply ingrain responses; many which are negative or destructive to our own health and well-being.
when we are working with children, we can get easily caught up in their emotions, upset, anxiety and frustrations. A vicious cycle can put you on edge and creates reactions devoid of all mindfulness.
You need to focus on changing that perspective and challenging your response
So, if the day is starting to get on top of you, try this quick and easy strategy.
10 Second Mindfulness- STOP
This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.
S– Stop what you are doing.
T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.
O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment.
P– Proceed with what you were doing.
Do this as often as you need during the day. Those few mindful moments can change your reaction to what is happening around you leading to a better positive response that changes the course of events.
You may want to make a few copies of the photo with the acronym and put it in key places as a gentle reminder for giving yourself a mindful moment.