Earlier this year, I met with a fantastic counselor who taught me a lot about stress management. The ideas she shared not only helped me to find calm and feel aware in my daily personal life, but also became a great support during the school year as well.
Basically, mindfulness is awareness - being focused on the present moment; bringing attention to things like your breathing, how your feet feel as they touch the ground or your posture. It’s all about noticing your feelings and thoughts as they are happening.
When I first learned about mindfulness, it was after a search about ways to calm down during a stressful time. I also found the book You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh an amazing resource on mindfulness and calm and a very soothing read. Then I met with Suruchi and learned even more. She gave me a lot of practical suggestions.
mindfulness techniques to try:
- When you arrive at school in the morning, take a few moments in your car before you rush in for the day; take several deep breaths of equal length inhale and exhale. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, tense, and then, release. This is a great charge up and can be a helpful reminder to stay aware throughout the day. I also like to do this when I get home, before I walk into the house after school. It allows me to let go of the day and helps to differentiate the school day from your personal evening. This technique is a great place to start; you can literally do it in thirty seconds, a perfect self-care morsel that is incredibly simple.
- Mindful mantras are another quick snap-back to awareness. I have a few Thich Nhat Hanh quotes saved in a notes document on my phone, though they can be easily memorized. With this technique, whenever you have a moment, take a few deep breaths and repeat your mantras to yourself. My favorite? “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.” Any quote that brings you calm will work. I have done this on my planning period or in the few minutes before picking my students up from lunch. It’s a very quick and effective reset.
- There are a lot of great mindfulness apps out there that can lead you in guided meditation. Using an app is incredibly convenient and can be really helpful if you’re not sure where to start on your own. The apps generally offer calming sounds and an easy-to-listen-to voice guiding you through certain steps. You can also often select the duration of the meditation you’d like to complete which is perfect if you only have a few minutes and still great if you’ve got some extra time. Some (free – yay!) apps I like: Stop, Breathe, & Think, Calm, The Mindfulness App, and Headspace. There are also paid apps available if you’re interested in more features or a deeper meditation experience. In addition, a simple YouTube search of “guided meditation” can lead to some helpful material, such as Quiet Mind Cafe.
- In the event that you have a little more time, another great technique is to get into shavasana, or corpse pose in yoga, which is basically lying flat on your back with arms and legs out slightly, and then slowly, starting with your toes, tense and release each part of your body working your way up from your feet to your head. The most important part of this is to just focus on the specific body part, to notice how it feels and to let go of negative energy as you tense and release. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is an excellent resource. It’s also nice to play quiet music or light some candles, anything that can support your relaxation and focus. Taking time to do a few additional yoga poses can be helpful, too, if time permits.
Over time, mindfulness and awareness have become a part of me, just as I’ve grown into being grateful and positive, I’ve become more mindful and aware just by making a little time for myself, even if it’s just a minute in the morning. I have noticed a major improvement in my ability to handle stress, to appreciate the moment, and to be aware. I know if mindfulness is something that is important to you or if you’re looking for a way to feel less stress, anxiety, or worry, these exercises may be helpful to you, too.