“Must be nice to have all summer off!” “You only have to work 8-3!” “Playing all day sounds so easy.”
How many times have educators heard those sayings? We know that they couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who work in education know that there is far more than meets the eye to be a great teacher. Even before the pandemic, teachers have consistently been driving themselves to burnout.
This past year, there has been a more prominent call to practice self-care in order to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Self-care is such a vague term because there are so many different needs that need to be met based on the individual. For some, that could mean taking a walk or eating a cupcake. For others, it’s drinking tea with a friend or curling up with a good book. These things are less likely to happen in the middle of the workday.
I want to share with you how mindfulness paired with stretching can instantly make your day better. These calming activities bring a sense of refocus and peace to the day – even if just for a moment.
Quiet Your Mind
People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years. Though it stems from both religious and secular traditions, mindfulness is commonly understood as being intensely aware of how one feels in the present moment. The benefits of calming activities like these include: stress reduction, decreased anxiety, increased focus, and the ability to suppress negative distractors. As a classroom teacher myself, I would benefit from these things.
Practicing mindfulness does not require intense training. You just need to take a few moments to become more aware and to quiet your mind. Try this right now:
- Find a quiet spot to sit and close your eyes or gaze at the floor.
- Place one hand on your heart and the other relaxed at your side.
- Be aware of your heart beat and relax your body.
- Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for two seconds, let it out of your mouth for two seconds.
By doing this you are actively focusing on your breathing and allowing your mind to slow. It’s definitely hard to quiet a teacher’s brain, and mindfulness is like a muscle that needs to be trained. Give yourself grace when your mind wanders to the copies you need to make, or the assessment that is coming up.
I encourage you to take moments like this before the first bell, during your lunch break, or during afternoon recess. Allowing yourself to calm down and quiet your mind in the middle of a busy day could give you the emotional and mental boost you needed.
Stretch It Out
Tension and teaching go hand in hand. A good runner will always warm up before being active, and a knowledgeable dancer will always stretch out after a long workout. Stretching is another important key to preventative and restorative self-care for everyone. Stretching, by nature, is a slow paced and individual activity that closely aligns with mindfulness.
There are numerous benefits to stretching like improved blood flow, increased range of motion, reduced muscle tension, and the fact that it feels refreshing. There are a multitude of different stretches that can be done standing, seated in a chair or on the floor. By pairing your mindfulness breathing with a restorative stretch, you are giving yourself the gift of peace, joy and energy.
Want to see this in action? Check out the Mindfulness Strategies video workshop.
Give This Gift To Your Students
Teachers are constantly looking for ways to build relationships with their students and modeling appropriate behaviors during the school day. Kids need breaks and oftentimes these brain breaks include energetic cardio dances or running. These breaks are also frequent and disrupt the flow of the day.
By teaching mindfulness and stretching to your students, you are teaching them how to self-regulate or calm down on their own. Begin by teaching your students how to take deep breaths from their belly. A great phrase to use with students when learning is, “Smells the flowers. Blow out the candles.” This skill is so important because it empowers the students to recognize when they need a shift in mindset.
If you’re looking for other ways to include more calming activities into your classroom, these visual arts ideas are a fantastic way to encourage a mindful environment.
One last thing – I like using a Zenergy Chime in my classroom while they are doing guided mindfulness because they are focusing on the ongoing sound. I bet if you dedicated five minutes to a guided mindfulness practice, you would see less behaviors and more engaged students throughout the day.
Admin Can Help, Too!
Administrators can help in numerous ways. First, practice mindfulness stretching yourself to see and feel the benefits. Use these practices with students you encounter throughout the day. Go into classrooms that are using mindfulness and stretching and participate. Better yet, go and tell the classroom teacher to go and take a break away from their students as you lead the class in a mindfulness practice.
Are you looking for a way to get your staff on board with mindfulness and stretching techniques? Start your next staff meeting with a mindfulness practice and have them take a moment for themselves. They will feel more focused and restored before the work of your meeting. Another way to help is to provide the opportunity for professional development to those who are interested in mindfulness practices in the classroom. I have personal experience with Calm Classrooms, but there are numerous evidence-based courses and books available for learning.
So take a moment to “smell the flowers and blow out the candles” and find inner peace throughout your busy day.