I don’t know about you, but this merry-go ‘round we’re all riding seems to have gone into overdrive and my fingers are desperately grasping to keep my hat firmly planted upon my head.
We all have a plethora of things to do.
- Lunches to pack.
- End-of-the-school-year presentations to watch.
- Deadlines to meet.
- Gardens to weed.
- Miscommunications to rectify.
- Social events to plan and attend.
- House to clean.
- Diplomatic report cards to compose.
- Work dedications to meet.
- Broken hearts to mend.
- Cars to maintain.
- Emails to craft.
- Exuberant exclamations inviting mirrored responses.
- Phone calls to make.
- Recycling to sort.
- Hands and knees playtime.
- Appointments to schedule.
- Social media vacuum.
- Crisis. Crisis. More crisis…stretching me into a spindly version of myself.
So, I find myself, desperate to create sacred space of respite, breathing room.
To create an untouchable sense of peace within my soul.
Ironically, while Social-Emotional Learning (which encourages teaching mindfulness practice) is at the forefront of our explicit classroom teaching, it’s common to see teachers overwhelmed, overworked, and super stressed. It’s ironic that the very thing we’re meant to be teaching our children and students to do, we’re not incorporating into our own lives. Wouldn’t we be more effective in teaching mindful practice if we practiced it regularly, ourselves?
But how? And when? How does mindfulness not get shoved to the bottom (or top) of our list as yet another line item to action?
So, within the goal of simplicity in mind, I’ve curated a small handful (because we all know overabundant choices breed paralysis and overwhelm) of my favourite mindfulness strategies. You can integrate them into you own life. You can encourage your students or children to do the same. It feels pretty good to press “pause” on this busy life of ours.
Some are super short in length and can be done while you’re waiting in the grocery line-up.
Some are delicious and more lengthy opportunities for reflection.
Here we go…
Mindfulness Strategy ONE: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Technique
This activity is about grounding yourself in the present by tapping into your 5 senses. Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I find this strategy so useful, calming, and unassuming. No one even needs to know you’re doing it. And it really works to calm a racing mind. I first learned this strategy from the amazing Life-coach and Counsellor Julie Evans (check out her striking new website).
Here’s how you do it:
Start with a deep breath.
5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and name them.
4 – FEEL: Check into your body and think of 4 things that you can feel.
3 – LISTEN: Take a few seconds and allow yourself to listen for and identify 3 sounds.
2 – SMELL: Good, bad, and ugly…allow yourself to find two distinct smells that root you into the present. If it’s hard to do, move around or try and remember and name your two favourite smells.
1 – TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.
Take another deep belly breath to end.
Mindfulness Strategy Two: Text Three Good Things:
Thank you, Counsellor, Educator and Change-Maker, Lisa Baylis of AWE (Awaken the Wellbeing of Educators) for this incredible new strategy. We were recording an interview for my upcoming podcast (launching in September 2018) recently when she shared this ingenious strategy. This one is so simple and easy, and it came as a delightful new way to connect with friends, family, and colleagues while building my gratitude practice. Two birds, one stone, right?
Find a friend, colleague, or family member. Decide for 21-days (or as long as you can manage) to text one another three good things that happened at the end of each day. I love the accountability of this daily practice. The benefits are multi-fold: you connect with someone daily, you train your brain to search for the good in every day, and neuroscience has proven that the practice of gratitude in your life raises your overall happiness and wellbeing. Can’t argue with science!
Mindfulness Strategy Three: Meditative Counting
I learned this super easy and quick calming strategy through the Headspace App. It’s one of the first exercises one learns on his/her meditation journey and it’s the perfect ticket for training yourself to stay with your breath.
Start by sitting comfortably, eyes opened or closed.
Take note of your surroundings, becoming aware of the origin of your breath. Where do you feel the rising and falling? Without wanting to change the tempo of your breath, notice the shallowness or depth of your inhales and exhales.
When you feel ready, start counting each inhale up to a count of 10.
Then, start back at 0 again and count to 10 again.
Repeat this cycle 7-10 times until you feel calm and centred.
This sounds so easy, but it’s a trickier than it seems.
I’ve found that being disciplined enough to restart the count once I reach 10 keeps my mind from running away on me. In other words, the practice of staying with my breath and counting gives my brain a break from the laundry list of things to do.
I would highly recommend the Headspace App. Andy Puddicombe hosts a number of wonderful guided meditations on a variety of different themes including, Anxiety, Happiness, Performance, Gratitude, Motivation, Relationships and many more.
Mindfulness Strategy Four: Get Out in Nature
Just this morning, nature beckoned and invited us to delight in her wonders. While hydrating some of the neglected herbs on our deck, my little family noticed that a tiny salamander had made the watering can its home. My children shrieked with glee as the little guy ran across our deck and hopped into their splash pool, swimming a few laps nonchalantly as we looked on. We decided to spend the next half-hour making a comfortable home for him in our garden. We asked ourselves, what might he need to be safe, comfortable, and happy? We fashioned a tiny bathing pool for him under the protective foliage
of our roses and perennials. My kids were tripping over themselves to create a sanctuary for our new friend. It was such a lovely reminder of the connection, inspiration, and replenishment that nature brings us.
So, take a walk, watch the birds, just sit with a cup of tea outside for a few minutes and soak it all up.
Mindfulness Strategy Five: Guided Gratitude Practice
This is a guided meditation or reflection that I recorded that takes about 3 minutes and fills you with a sense gratitude, purpose, and the ability to resolve inner conflict. Initially inspired by Tony Robbins, it’s a good way to start your day if you’re feeling a little disconnected from yourself and your purpose because of all of the ‘busy’ in your life.
I sincerely hope that you manage to find a moment of replenishment and soul nourishment today. You can’t give if your cup’s not full.