I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course when I was at the height of panic and anxiety. The name sounded promising— I mean, stress reduction? Sign me up.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that it actually caused me more anxiety. Sitting still and noticing my thoughts was the last thing I needed for my dysregulated body and mind. The last session was a silent retreat and I ended up ‘sitting’ with a urinary tract infection. Let’s just say that my body was not happy about the timing I chose to part-take in this course.
I needed deep breathing, movement, and compassion FIRST, then MAYBE I could sit with my thoughts.
Mindfulness has MANY beautiful, wonderful benefits that I wholeheartedly believe in but if students (and ourselves) are not regulated first, sitting still in silence can be more of a hindrance than a help. I have seen it in my own life and with the students I’ve had the privilege of working with.
If sitting still in silence isn’t your cup of tea, you can also be in the present moment by using the tools below:
Imagine you and/or your child/student are in the midst of anger, overwhelm, or over-excitement. Choosing one of these can help bring the body and mind back into balance to soothe big emotions, together or alone.
Sound– Name two sounds you can hear in the space you are in. For children, I make it exciting…”OH! Do you hear that train/bird/wind” Then both listen for it together for 5-10 seconds or until attention wanders.
Sight– Look around your space and notice two things that are the color red (or any color you choose). “I wonder if you can spot the color ______ on the wall”
Touch- Give yourself a massage on your shoulders and neck. Bring all your attention to your hands touching your body. Imagine playing the piano on your shoulders. Ensuring the pressure is much lighter for children than for adult bodies.
Taste– Mindful eating with chocolate or any food you choose: Bring all your attention to the taste of what you are eating. A great book for children to support mindful eating is “No Ordinary Apple.”
Smell- Aromatherapy is a great tool for helping guide children into the present moment to soothe body and mind. Choose an essential oil and mix it with almond oil/fractionated coconut oil. A little oil in the hand and a drop of Lavender, lemon, ginger, or peppermint. Lavender is a nice one to start with, especially for calming anxious bodies/minds. “Big breath in through the nose as you notice what it smells like, exhale all the air out.”
What works for one body/mind may not work for another. Choosing the coping skill that works for you can help you tolerate, minimize, and navigate big emotions in life, helping you feel more like your authentic self.
Keep the resources you need close for the more challenging times. A note on your mirror using a dry erase marker, a sticky note on your car visor, love from a friend, whatever you need for a quick reminder that you are whole, needed, and enough.