Many teachers are several months into the new school year. As we move through the 2022-23 school year, what will you focus on in your classroom to decrease stress levels?Continue reading
This time of year can come with a variety of emotions. I am sure many emotions have popped up over the last few weeks for you in some way. As a former science teacher, the study of the brain and the connection to resilience is fascinating. When we are dealing with our emotions it’s important to know why and how our brains are reacting to that emotion.
In the video, The Learning Brain v.s. The Survival Brain, Dr. Jacob Ham explains how stress can affect learning for our students. We need to create safe environments in the classroom that assists children in learning. One of the ways we can do that is through using tools that you can teach to your students that will calm the brain down.
In my recent video, I demonstrate five tools you can use with your student to help them feel safe and access their learning brain.
Our refrigerator has more uses than just keeping food cold. It’s my billboard for reminding me how to keep sane with all that goes on in my life. This makeshift “board” in the kitchen holds various reminders that keep me from losing my cool and help me stay focused on what is important in life.
My life can feel like chaos theory in action. I’m involved with our two active teens at home, helping our two young adult children navigate life, teaching, and trying to have some time with my husband. With all that’s going on in my life, here are my top three secrets on how to create mindful moments for myself. Mindful moments allow me to have the energy to support others in my home and my work.
The first secret is to know the definition and feeling of Peace. I have the following quote on my fridge door:
Peace – It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
This simple refrigerator magnet reminds me to be in the moment. I need to stop and breathe, recognize that the only moment I have is this moment. Then ask myself, “how do I want to spend this moment?” The practice of mindfulness has helped me to pay attention to the heartfelt intention toward myself and others. I say practice because that is what it is, doing the same thing over and over within myself.
This morning I noticed that my son was very slow in getting up for school. In the past, I would have been loudly encouraging them to “get a move on and daylight is burning.” I would yell this up the stairs. This morning I reminded him of the time and when his friend was coming to pick him up. Then I went about making my breakfast. It was hard to not keep reminding him to hurry, but I stopped myself, took a breath and ate my eggs. He made it on time!
There are days when I can’t calmly take in the behaviors of my teens. This is when I use my second secret, giving myself an Adult Time Out. When the kids were younger, we had a “time out” chair for them. Out-of-hand behaviors got them a few minutes in the “time out” chair to calm down. Now they are a little big for the time out chair and yet there are moments I wish I could return them to that spot. I am now the one that takes the time out.
In moments when my emotions are so heightened, I grab my journal and my needs and feelings cards off the top of the fridge. In a state of heightened emotions, I head to our bedroom for a little Adult Time Out.
What do I do there? I take out my feelings cards and go through them searching for the feelings I am currently having in my mind and body. I lay the cards out and ask myself, “What was I needing at that moment from myself and from others around me?” I quickly shuffle through the needs cards to search for those needs that resonate with me. Then I journal.
Sometimes my handwriting is large scribbles and heavy-handed. As I exhaust my emotions onto the page, my energy changes and so do my words, taking me to a place of calm. Calm enough to move from the bedroom into a discussion with those around me, I share what I needed and was feeling in the moment.
For times when I am not able to get away, I use another form of the Adult Time Out. I hum upbeat songs under my breath and busy my hands washing dishes or with some other task. This helps me to check in with myself and allows me to take a step back from the problem.
My final secret is the process of stepping back and taking a view from the balcony. I keep a poster on the front door of my fridge: “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”. The poster is a reminder that many of the conflicts and problems my teens encounter are not mine to own. The problems are theirs, and they need to solve them. Sometimes the solution comes through the valuable lessons learned from making mistakes. They will fail, begin again to become resilient adults.
We were at our lake cabin this past summer and I was walking with my sons in the woods. They were ahead of me arguing about something. At one point I wanted to step in and beg them to stop. Instead, I hung back on the trail and watched the conversation. Recognizing that this conversation was not “my circus,” even though they were “my monkeys”. Finally, the discussion ended and we were back on the trail heading for home with a whole new topic of discussion. I allowed my teens to come to the conclusion that they can agree to disagree.
Being a parent and teacher has been a journey of self-discovery for me. I have found myself learning more about how I want to show up in the world, My three secrets of being mindful, Adult Time Outs and removing myself from the circus have helped to keep me in the present moment. Knowing that all I really need is right here and right now.
Happy New Year!
The beginning of the new year is a great time to start a practice of gratitude. When you practice gratitude you can increase happiness, decrease depression and strengthen resiliency. Use the game “Grategories”, that I demonstrate in the video, to guide students in creating an attitude of gratitude.
It is a bright sunny day and you’re going about your daily business, going to work, washing clothes, sweeping the floor, making supper, and then boom!
A bomb drops!
Maybe the bomb is that your teen is involved with drugs, your friend’s mother has died, or your close friend is in an accident. Something that stops you in your tracks and shakes you to your core. You know you will step up to the plate and do your best, but how do you take care of yourself when life is anything but normal?
How do you react?
Where do you turn?
What do you do?
How do you react?
First, you react in a panic, milling around like a bug that has been swished by the big shoe of life! Or is your reaction sadness and crying, where you feel the pain and have empathy for your people involved, or for yourself. Your reaction might be to go into planning mode? Well, next I have to do this, and then I need to do that….
In reality, it could be all of these, and the reactions could all happen within seconds. Shock can take a toll on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Finding ways to calm yourself down and make an assessment of what is happening is hard at times when life is less than brilliant.
Breathing is the first step to calming down your reaction to the situation. Deep breaths that go in through your nose and out through your mouth. Automatically humans take over 23,000 breaths a day. Mindful deep breathing is an action we don’t usually focus on in our lives. Yet by taking several deep breaths, you can get your racing heart and mind under control. Continue breathing deeply until you can lower your pulse and arrange the next steps in your mind.
Where do you turn?
After your mind is cleared, you might ask, “What is next? Who do I turn to? Please place people in my life to help me.”
As you breathe, say to yourself, “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy and may I live with ease.” Next, say this for the other people involved in the situation. Send out encouraging energy and an intention of loving-kindness. Then think of people you can contact for support and start contacting them. You can find support from your partner, spiritual leader, or a trusted friend. Be willing to seek out trained professionals such as a therapist, counselor, or doctor in a time of crisis.
What do you do?
When turning to others, you will receive an assortment of advice, however, listening carefully to your heart, ask yourself some key questions.
- What do I want?
- What’s important about that?
- What is my intention in the situation?
- What or who am I overlooking that can help me?
- What am I committed to doing?
- What am I committed to not doing?
Working through these questions alone, with a trusted friend, or with a professional assures that moving ahead based on first reactions won’t produce actions that you will later regret.
So let’s be honest, the unexpected will happen in your life. It’s inevitable that upsetting events will occur. In situations where life is not a bowl full of cherries, remember to breathe through your reaction, turn to others and ask for help, and do work through the tough questions about the problem. The problem remains and needs to be dealt with in the best way possible. Dealing with the difficulty using these steps will help you address almost anything with a clearer mind and a thoughtful plan.