Improving your resilience through mindfulness
Here are five suggestions to help you reduce your stress levels and resilience using the principles of mindfulness.
The uplift in expectations that has taken place for teachers and school leaders over the last decade or so has resulted in unprecedented levels of stress for these key professionals. Unless proactive measures are taken to manage stress levels there is a real danger that it will have a detrimental effect on a whole generation of teachers and school leaders, with serious consequences for the children and young people in our schools.
1. Carry out three ‘mini –mindfulness focuses’ at some point during your working day. You don’t need to sit cross-legged in the lotus position to do this! You could simply focus for anything as short as a a few seconds on an object or activity in your classroom, where you are totally in the present moment. Do this by focusing on the qualities, appearance, sounds or actions as they happen. Living in the present like this is a form of mindfulness, which has been shown to have many health benefits – including reducing your blood pressure. So much of the time our attention is split and this kind of mini-one point focus can really help to re-energise you.
2. Try to appreciate something about the world around you on your journey to work or during the working day (e.g. while on playground duty). It could, for example, be a distinctive aspect of the current season, a pleasant sound you have not heard before or something you have just not paused to appreciate in the past. Even the way that bricks in a wall are tessellated. Take in the details of your discovery and enjoy the feelings it evokes. Even for a few moments this rests your mind and draws it away from split attention.
3. When you get back from school allow yourself to ‘actively relax’ in some way, i.e. carry out some planned downtime activity before you start making the evening meal or preparing for the following day at work. As a teacher, your working week is frequently so hectic that unless you schedule some planned relaxation time it does not happen at all. If you have children and this is therefore difficult, find the moments where you can have this post school reflection eg as you put the key into the car ignition, and pause. Research shows that even periodic short moments of one-focus attention can improve feelings of control, well-being and energy.
4. At least once a week take a short walk from your home (alone or with your partner or a friend) with the aim of noticing at least five things in your neighbourhood that you have not enjoyed before. As you walk try to focus solely on what you can see, hear, smell or touch and endeavour to keep all other thoughts at bay. Try doing things you’ve not done before, like feeling the interesting texture of a wall you’ve walked past countless times before. Giving your mind the opportunity just to notice in this way will give it a break from the mental clutter of your busy life and can help boost your well-being. It can also result in enriching discoveries about the place you thought you knew best.
5. Just before you go to sleep encourage yourself reflect on at least three positive things that have occurred during your working day. Even though you may at first find this difficult you will be able to identify three things if you think hard enough about your day. Perhaps you’ve had a small breakthrough with a hard-to-reach pupil, an aspect of a lesson has worked much better than before, or you’ve been able to have a fresh start with a member of staff with whom things have been difficult in the past. Be thankful for these positive things, even if you’ve had some less positive things happen to you during the day. And vow to build on them during your next day at work. Keep your focus on this event.
Mindfulness encourages a spirit of non-judgment, of compassion towards self and others and of kindness. In each of the above mindfulness moments, bring these attitudes to the one-point focus.
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7th March 2015 Mindfulness, self-hypnosis and relaxation course, Cheltenham email us for details on firstname.lastname@example.org
There is further guidance on managing stress in my Managing Workload Pocketbook which you can view here.