All day long, you give away pieces of your self to others.
To the tiny humans who need your support. Your full-attention. And your love…
But do you ever take a fraction of a second to give back to yourself?
Like a Car.. You Just Can’t Run on Empty..
Listen, I’ve been there.
My students mean the world to me.. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. As long as it means their protection. As long as they are loved.
But along the way, I forgot to stop and love myself…
Even though, I was aware of it, I thought burnout just couldn’t happen to me if everything I did was out of love.
But that wasn’t the case.
I’m human. You’re human too.
And as humans, we need to be filling up our fuel tanks constantly so we can keep on giving to others.
Sometimes, that means we need to give ourselves morethan others.
For humble educators: it’s a hard pill to swallow…
But it’s true.
I’ve spent the last few years learning this lesson the hard way.
And if I could go back in time now and have a conversation with the younger version of Miss T, I would tell her this:
#1. Don’t Bottle Things Up:
It’s easy to stuff our feelings, our exhaustion… And carry on for the sake of our students. But don’t.
Talk to people. To other teachers. Find a community. There is power in knowing you are not alone.
#2. Practice Self-Care:
There are no rules for self-care – it looks different for everyone.
Do things that nourish your soul, recharge your battery and foster sanity. This could mean writing in a gratitude journal, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk… Whatever it is, schedule time for YOU… Everyday!
Begin your morning with something for you, instead of immediately rushing off to take on the world.
#3. Take A Break:
There is strength in knowing when to step back. When to ask for help.
We pride ourselves in never having to call in sick or book a sub. But that’s not sustainable… Take the time you need to recharge.
Book a mental health day each month. Or apply for a short leave if you are in need of some ‘you-time’. Make it a reoccurring thing – like you’d make time to see your mechanic regularity.
There is a Good Chance you Already Know These Things, I Did Too…
But please, don’t let yourself hit burnout, like I did, before actually making some changes in your life.
It’s time to put yourself first.
You are human, after all.
Even the tiny humans in your life need you to love yourself.
I just finished re-reading ‘The Power of Moments’ by Chip & Dan Heath. (If you know this book, awesome! If you don’t… get yourself a copy!… There’s a reason I read it a second time around! :P)
I first read this book 2 years ago. One day recently, I started thinking about it. How I wanted to read it again. And refresh my memory of its many lessons.
Two days after that thought, the book ended up on my boyfriend’s doorstep… randomly, through a book exchange he was a part of…
Talk about synchronistic!!
I took it as a sign to start reading it again. It was just as good the second time around!
‘The Power of Moments’ a wonderfully inspiring book about how we can capitalize on and craft moments that have the power to be life-changing. (More on HOW in another blog post… :P)
One of the biggest takeaways from this book was:
The Power we have to Create Moments Through Simple Connection.
It is so easy for us to get lost in our day-to-day mundane tasks. We go through the motions; Do our jobs and cross things off our daily list.
Students, clients, and fellow staff members become 2 dimensional characters to us. It’s easy to forget there’s more beyond the surface of the people we interact with daily.
I know for myself, after working with the same students each day, it’s easy to lose sight of the human being behind the student. Too easy to focus on the daily to-do’s. Especially when it feels like there’s a million of them…
But the truth is: Our students, our kids, our coworkers, are more than just a number, or a ‘to-do’ to cross off a list.
They have their own identity. And with their identity, comes a whole background of experiences and moments that shaped them into who they are.
It is important for us to acknowledge each individual identity. After all, we are all different in some way. We’ve had different experiences that all led us up to this one moment. HOW we got here matters just as much, if not more, than the fact that we are here.
Its our human nature to want to be seen and heard. To be noticed and acknowledged.
The authors of this book suggest a reframe to our thinking…
Instead of always asking “What is the matter with you?”,
we simply ask instead “What MATTERS to YOU?”
See how powerful that statement change is?
We get lost trying to assess and fix problems, we often forget to consider the individual as a whole.. Their feelings and their experiences.
I wanted my students to know that they were loved and heard. I wanted them to feel appreciated, down to their very core.
During a Wednesday afternoon in Mindfulness Club, I brought in different coloured sheets of paper, markers, and crayons. I explained we would be mindfully working on a little project called:
“What matters to me!”
I reminded all of my students that although we are all in the same place, we all have different stories and backgrounds. There are certain things and experiences that make us, us. And how important all of our individual stories are. How those stories deserved to be acknowledged.
And so, we all had the opportunity in Mindfulness Club, that day, to create our own “What Matters to Me” poster (myself included!) so that everyone around us could see our stories. So they could see what lies beneath.
A one-day-project, turned into a whole-month-project!
Because my kiddos had so much they wanted to share about themselves!
They shared about their families and their experiences. About certain memories that stood out in their minds. About the things they liked and the things they didn’t. Some were personal. Some were sad.
All were so very beautiful in their own ways.
I learned a lot of things that day. About my students… About our own stories…
About making sure those stories are heard and understood.
What I’ll remember the most about that day, is the way their eyes lit up just because someone listened…
I really do believe it is as simple as acknowledging those around us.
Seeing them… I mean, really seeing them.
We all deserve to be seen.
And the most wonderful part about that…
Is thatWE have the power to give others the acknowledgement they deserve…
Do you understand and feel what others are feeling?
All of my life, I have been able to quite literally, FEEL the feelings of others.
When someone is going through a rough time, or having a bad day, in my head, I can instantly see all of the things that happened to them that led up to this feeling… I can feel exactly what they are feeling. I understand them.
And that feeling of empathy is magnified when it comes to my students..
Working at my little Elementary School, I’d met a lot of kiddos with some sad stories… some very tough starts to life.
They expressed their sadness through anger and tears.
And I felt it… deeply… So much that it would physically hurt.
I often wondered why I had been given this curse of being an empath…
I feel too much. Every heart break, every traumatic experience…
But over time (and with the help of a fabulous read that I’ll share below!), I shifted my perspective…
I realize now that being an empath is not a curse, it’s a gift.
Almost like having a super power!
To be able to completely feel and understand where someone is coming from. As much as it has the capacity to hurt… It can also heal…
You can truly BE there for that human being- fully present for that human being…
And being there, in complete understanding, can mean the world to someone.
So, if you are an empath, like me. And you hurt and feel the pain of others on a daily basis, just know that you have a gift!
The world needs your empathetic super power! Now, more than ever.
Trust me, I know it hurts. I know how hard it can be…
BUT, can you imagine what the world would be like without people like you and me?
I envision a world of isolation.. Beings who go through the motions each day.. Being who lack understanding and compassion.
And that is not a world I want to live in.
Pain is hard, but I’ve learned that I’d rather feel pain if it means also feeling joy.
Especially if it means that I can make a difference to one little someone. Anyone who might need someone to understand…
So… calling all you empaths out there…
You have a gift! And the world needs that gift!
P.S. Embrace the hell out of your superpower!
5 Powerful Tips to Take Care of Your Empathic Self:
As an empath, it is necessary to recharge yourself on the daily. We can easily be drained of our energy from day to day just through our emotions and feelings.
Here are some simple things you can do to recharge your battery:
Start the day off doing something for YOU!
It’s common in society for people to wake up at the last possible moment before rushing off to work or school. We get right into our days doing something for someone else, but this doesn’t allow us any time for ourselves. And at the end of a tiring day, it’s even harder for us to expend more energy on ourselves. We get left out. But when you jump start the day by doing something for you, it changes everything! And that something could really be anything, anything that fuels your soul… What do you enjoy doing? Journaling? Reading? Meditating? Yoga or some exercise? Whatever it is, make sure it is something you LOVE to do. Otherwise getting up a tad bit earlier will feel like a chore. Make it so you are EXCITED to get out of bed in the morning!
Get some good sleep (and probably a little more than you are currently getting)
This one is a given. Sleep is necessary for us to feel recharged. When we sleep, our brain and bodily systems have a chance to rest and restore themselves. The problem is, we don’t often give ourselves as much sleep as we need. Sleep looks different for everyone, so I’m not about to prescribe a ‘one-size-fits-all’ amount. But ideally, you want a consistent sleeping pattern and a nice deep sleep. Hitting REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is so beneficial for our health! This is when we do most of our dreaming. REM sleep positively affects our moods, memory and brain development. Treating yourself to some deep REM sleep is a wonderful way to replenish your empathic self!
Unplug from Technology or go on a Tech Fast.
This one partially goes hand in hand with #2… Unplugging from all technology (yes, I’m talking about ALL screens- your phone, your tablet, even your tv!) 2 hours before bed will help you get to sleep quicker and have a deeper sleep. Also, there is value in going on a technology (or social media) detox. Being dependent on our technology can cause enough stress on its own- constantly feeling the NEED to respond right away, or comparing ourselves to instagram models… Taking some time apart from technology is freeing! Try a day or 2, or a week – you decide what you’re comfortable with. Don’t let it become stressful though or you’d be missing the point. Even setting some better limits on the amounts and time you use technology. Like: not using your phone first thing after you wake up, or limiting the amount of time you spend on social media on your phone. Unplugging from our technology every once in a while – however you choose to do it – is a gift.
Know your limits… and HONOUR them!
As an empath, sometimes saying no can be a hard thing to do. When your boss asks you to stay at work and earn some overtime, or a friend asks you to attend an event.. We empathize with them and easily cave in. Even if we are already running on empty… Awareness of this pattern is important because once you can spot it, you can start to say ‘no’ when you are feeling depleted. It’ll take some time building the ‘no’ muscle though, so don’t be too hard on yourself if at first you don’t succeed! To ease into it, don’t say ‘no’ right off the bat. Try saying things like “I’m not too sure, can I check my calendar at home and get back to you later?” Then, when you’ve had more time to process the priority of what you are being asked to do, you can get back to them with a confident “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make it this time! I have a prior commitment.” Being aware of your limitations and saying ‘no’ are crucial for all human beings! It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup.
Read books on Empaths! Especially THIS book: The Empath Experience: What to do When you Feel Everything by Sydney Campos
This book played a huge role in shifting my perspective from the empathic curse to the empathic gift. A friend of mine at work recommended it to me (I’m all about book recommendations so if you have any, send em’ my way!) and I am forever grateful to her for it. It definitely changed the way I viewed myself as an Empath. It allowed me to see my strengths instead of my weaknesses. I’ve been better able to deal with tough situations and tragedies because of it. Not that it means I don’t get affected by sadness anymore, but my awareness allows me to shift my thinking to seeing the opportunity… the opportunity I have to help.. And to make a difference. And that’s all most of us ever want to do… is make a difference…
Remember: Self-care is not selfish, it is essential!
mindfulness, in essence, is our natural state of being; it is living in and embracing the present moment.
It releases us from all those swirling thoughts in our heads, and brings our focus into the now.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an extremely simple concept but it can seem complicated and hold more weight than it seems!
There are even a ton of benefits from incorporating mindfulness practices into your life. Some, you may haven’t even realized.
Yes, Mindfulness is bringing awareness to what is going on around you. And of course, focusing on the world around you brings you out of your own head and reduces anxious and fearful thoughts.
But what else does mindfulness do?
I want to introduce a new term to you (maybe you’ve heard this one before… it’s quite the mouthful!).. It may help you understand the power that lies behind mindfulness.
The study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease
I heard about this term about 3 years ago in a book I read by Dr. Gabor Mate. If you don’t know who he is, Dr. Gabor Mate is a physician and internationally renowned speaker who specializes in addiction, childhood development, and the relationship of stress and illness to the body. His book, that I read, is titled: When the Body Says No – The Cost of Hidden Stress.
This term stood out in my mind. I mean, just look at the word! It took me a couple of tries to make sure I was getting the pronunciation just right.. But mostly, it gave a name to something that I had understood, but couldn’t quite explain.
Even though I had never heard the term psychoneuroimmunology before, now that I understood it, I realized I had already read a lot about it…
I love learning about the inner workings of us humans and our biology. In the past, I’d studied the placebo and nocebo effect a lot. As well as epigenetics (the study of how our behaviours and environment influence our gene expressions). Realizing, all of those were perfect examples of psychoneuroimmunology- where mindset and thoughts dictate reality.
I read many books with stories of instances where a patient’s mindset can have a direct impact on their healing process. And their likelihood to get ill again. Even instances where a particular mindset was the reason for illness in the first place.
Even within my classroom walls, I realized teaching my students to have a growth mindset was psychoneuroimmunology hard at work! Aiding kids to think in a positive mindset makes them more likely to reach their goals, AND creates happier and healthier kids!
I’d seen it all around me and learned all about it in my reading endeavors, but never really knew it had a name… until now! After naming it, I began to see patterns of psychoneuroimmunology all around me!
In my classroom, in the books I read, and even within my own family.
My sister is someone who has suffered from depression and chronic migraines almost all of her life. She has them quite regularly and was even put on a prescription medication to help her ease the pain of her migraines. It helped for a short while, but overtime, her body adjusted to the medication and she wasn’t getting results.
I started to pay more attention to her migraines. When she got them, and how often. I started to notice an interesting pattern… Her migraines always subsided when she had good days. And they flared up when she had bad days- bouts of depression or when something was causing her extra anxiety, or even when getting into arguments with someone she cared about.
It became very clear to me that her migraines were in direct correlation with her thoughts and overall mental health.
After studying psychoneuroimmunology and conducting some of my own experiments, I am even more confident that with the practice of mindfulness, we can positively influence our mental wellbeing and, in turn, achieve optimal health!
Mindfulness allows us to strengthen our mind by disassociating from our thoughts. It reminds us that, although we are full of thoughts, it doesn’t mean we ARE those thoughts. We simply have them and we can, just as simply, CHOOSE another thought. Mindfulness is about the power of choice. It brings about awareness- about ourselves, our lives and the people around us.
I see Mindfulness as exercise for the mind. Just as we would train our muscles by going to the gym, we can train our mental toughness through mindfulness.
And once again, we can benefit in so many ways from Mindfulness!
By using mindfulness to increase our mental resilience, it initiates a domino effect that translates to an abundance of other health and life improvements!
Reduced anxiety and depression
Improved immune system functioning (and other bodily systems!)
Boosts confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness
Better memory and cognitive abilities
Better physical health- increases strength and flexibility
Stronger and more positive relationships
Builds resilience – overcome adversity
Enhances mind/body connection
Increases focus and attention
Maybe you’re thinking.. Really? I can gain all of that just from the practice of Mindfulness?!
The answer is YES!
I believe that mindfulness is the key to health and wellness!
And just like the study of psychoneuroimmunology reminds us: Our thoughts and psychological processes have an impact on our overall health.
But don’t forget, mindfulness is not a ‘one and done’ activity. Mindfulness is for life. It is about practice and getting those reps of mastery in. Building a solid foundation of mindfulness to live a mindful life.
It includes building a daily practice that fits into your life, that fits your schedule.
Start off slowly, and eventually, you’ll be practicing mindfulness throughout your day, without even thinking about it!
Before you know it, you’ll be a mindfulness ninja!
Well… I can’t give you one simple answer. Because the practice of mindfulness is simple and complex all at once – we’ll save the complex stuff for another post!
Mindfulness is our natural state of being…
…before the world was filled with constant distractions and everyday stressors.
When we focus on the present moment and are mindful in everything we do, it’s like we are connecting back to our roots. Our natural state of being.
Back in the times of our ancestors, our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ mode of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) was only activated when we were in serious danger. Dangers like being hunted or killed by larger animals.
And even then, when our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ (called our sympathetic nervous system) was triggered, we were still PRESENT. Presently focusing on removing ourselves from danger.Once the danger was removed, we were easily able to switch modes back into our parasympathetic nervous system, where our bodies and minds could ‘rest and relax.’
Nowadays, these stress triggers are everywhere. We stress all day long. About our kids, students or families. About our jobs or the pay we get. We stress over not making it to work on time while sitting in rush hour traffic. Or about how we will do on an exam.
And now with COVID we have additional stressors! We stress about sickness and the health of our friends and family. We stress about when the next shut down might happen. Or if we’ll end up losing our jobs. Or worse.. Our lives or the lives of someone we love.
Sometimes, we’ll even stress about all the bad things that could possibly happen and things that haven’t even come true yet (and most likely, won’t ever come true).
In this day and age, stressors are EVERYWHERE.
But there are 2 crucial differences about these stressors than what we’ve experienced in the past:
Our sympathetic nervous system is basically running on overdrive! When we are regularly stressed, our body is living in this constant state of fight, flight or freeze. There is no time for our parasympathetic system to kick in (our rest & relax mode) and so our body is unable to conserve the energy it needs to function properly. Our body systems are working hard to get us out of this perceived danger, which never really seems to go away… This can have serious detrimental effects for us in the long term.
The majority of these new stress triggers aren’t even happening in the present moment! They are things that are going on in our heads!! Like I said earlier, we give too much attention to the things that have not yet happened, and may not even happen. Yes, some of the things we think about are important to consider in terms of planning our lives, however, when we are non-stop thinking about our stress, it completely takes us out of the present moment. We are stuck living within our heads. Not mindful at all. And not our natural state of being.
Now, the wonderful thing about understanding all of this is that it makes us aware. Aware of the problem, so we can also be aware of the solution.
And in returning back to our natural state of being- Living and breathing mindfulness, we can reverse some of the long term effects that stress and anxiety can have on our minds and our bodies. We can extend our lives and improve our health!
Of course, it’s never too late to practice mindfulness!
But, I am an avid promoter of the “get ‘em started young” philosophy!
Why, you might ask?
Well, for one, kids are SPONGES! They are the best kind of learners because they hold onto new information quite easily. Especially if that information is engaging! And even more so, if they see the adults in their lives MODEL it well!
And second, even though it’s never too late for anyone to practice mindfulness and improve their health, when we teach mindfulness to kids, we are better able to set them up for a successful path in life. We can teach them strategies BEFORE stressful events happen and they will better know how to deal with them when the time comes.
Ever heard of the mastery rule of 10,000 hours?
Well, Michael Gladwell speaks about it in his book “Outliers.” He states that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve a level of mastery in a particular skill.
In the case of mindfulness, bringing awareness and teaching this skill to kids at a younger age, allows them to achieve this level of mastery even before they become adults.
This is why I am so ‘gung-ho’ about practicing mindfulness to kids. By practicing mindfulness throughout their younger years, living in the present moment becomes a natural part of their subconscious. They develop mastery level to this skill before their teen and adult years – some of the most stressful years of their lives.
Being a master at mindfulness before they get into those stressful years, will allow them to utilize strategies for dealing with stress in the future.
We are setting them up for success in a terribly stressful world.
Imagine a world where we can all get out of our own heads and into the present moment?
A world where we don’t have to be constantly living in fight, flight or freeze.
I believe THAT world begins with our kids.
Stay tuned for more posts on how mindfulness works and how it improves, not only our thoughts, but our overall health!
This is the phrase I scribbled onto the school pavement at Sherwood Elementary each September.
Every year, on the first day of school, a handful of teachers and I would go out onto the school grounds, where we would greet our new students and write out inspirational messages before they arrived. ‘You do YOU’ became my ritual to signal the start of a new school year.
Heck yeah, it’s a catchy phrase! But to me, it’s much more than that…
It was my wish for our whole school community. For them to embrace who they are, and all of the differences that make them, them.
And I meant it, truly. With my whole heart…
All I ever wanted for my kiddos was for them to be themselves- to allow their uniqueness and individuality to shine brightly!
You do you – be your truest, most authentic self.
I think this message is extremely important for kids these days (also an important thing for us to keep in mind). It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and to conform to the actions of others around us, but that is not allowing us to be who we really are.
This is one of the biggest challenges I faced while working within the typical school system…
More often than not, school focuses too much on improving weaknesses instead of capitalizing on strengths. They try to squeeze each individual kid into the same exact box as the other kids around them – expecting them to all learn the same way, behave the same way, think the same way…
I’ve seen it happen. Even teachers who care and have wonderful intentions are not given the environment, curriculum, or resources they need in order to help their students see real success.
And you know, our kids see it as well. They may even be more observant than some of the adults around them…
…Because observation is how they are wired to learn.
And they observe so well. They take what they see from the classroom and apply it even on their own – in the playground or during after school activities.
And because we focus so much effort on improving weaknesses and lacking skills, kids begin to notice other kids are lacking certain skills and they create their own boxes that they believe their friends should fit into.
Kids conform, not just to our educational standards, but even to meet the standards of their peers.
It’s been a tough thing to watch over the years. Children not being their authentic selves just to “fit in”…
And while it’s still important to be constantly improving and setting goals for ourselves and our kids, SOLELY FOCUSING ON WEAKNESSES does not allow individuality to thrive.
Instead, we expect all of our students to reach all the same benchmarks, as if they are all the same anyways. And come from the same backgrounds and share similar experiences.
This is just not the case.
Every child (and adult- because lets be real here for a moment, we were all children once too) has a unique background. They come with different types of baggage from their different life experiences. And as a result, they’ve acquired different sets of strengths and weaknesses than the other children around them.
And so I wonder, who are we to decide that their individual life experiences aren’t good enough learning grounds for their future?
Instead of working hard to make up for what skills they lack, can we not embrace their strength and their interests in order to mold a successful child?
By not enhancing our kids’ strengths, we aren’t allowing them to reach their fullest unique potential. I believe it’s a wasted opportunity!
As an educator, we have good intentions. We get into this field to help kids succeed and because we care. But I believe that intention gets side swiped by all of the targets that educators are forced to complete by the end of each school year. Teachers have certain topics to teach and grades to mark and so these targets tend to be the priority.
It is by no means a teacher’s fault. They have a LOT on their plates. Many shoes to fill and many hats to wear. (I applaud all of you!)
This is when we need to take a look at our current system and ask:
“Is this working? How can we make it better?”
This school system is an old model of thinking that needs to be revisited. We are training our kids to be and do the same. We are training them the same way we’d train individuals to work in a factory during the industrial revolution.
But the reality of the world has changed! And so, our school systems need to change.
We need to focus more on fostering the skills, experiences and interests of our children. Letting their unique identity guide the way to their own education.
We need to embrace their strengths, to foster curiosity and growth.
Imagine what the world would look like, and our school grounds would look like if we all embraced the “you do YOU” philosophy… Educators, parents and kids alike!
I see a beautifully different world, filled with so much uniqueness. A world where people don’t knock down others because of their differences, but instead, lift them up BECAUSE they’re different. A world where differences are strengths and are embraced.
Can you see it too?
I’ll end off with a quick reminder, in case no one has told you yet today…
You might be wondering WHY I chose to do what I do. Why I chose the path of educator, and now, am choosing the path of a writer..
Well, part of the story might be a bit of a fluke, or maybe the universe meant for it to work out exactly the way it did. Depends on your perspective, of course, but I feel like things happen for a reason.
And so, this story is MY story nonetheless.
When I was 18, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no ideas, no direction.
There was a lot of pressure from teachers, family, and friends for me to pick a career path, get into university, and do the ‘typical’ highschool-university-career timeline. I felt like one moment, I was just a kid, and the next moment, people were shoving me off a cliff unprepared to fly into the world of adulthood..
This left me in a real funk…
Maybe you’ve already read this in my previous posts, but I am not someone who likes to feel defeated or stay defeated. I think this part of me comes from my competitiveness that I got from playing team sports as a kid.
And so… I read books, watched documentaries, and dedicated tons of time to learn more about depression and anxiety, how it affects our biology, AND what we can do to overcome it.
I love learning! Learning is what saved me.
It was because of this knowledge, and more importantly, the practical implication of this knowledge, that I was able to get out of this serious funk and find some direction in my life.
Yes, I am aware that I’m not perfect – I still have my moments where anxiety takes over, and still have a lot of learning and self development to do, BUT awareness helped me persevere. It helped me get better.
Long story short, I managed to get out of my funk and move on with my life.
I applied as an Educational Assistant for Edmonton Public Schools- not because it was my “calling” by any means. In fact, if I’m being honest, the real reason why I applied was because my Mom was an EA, and well, I was a tad jealous of all her vacation time throughout the years…
(…I know, my motive was not ideal, but like I said, I believe everything happens for a reason!)
Shortly after applying, I got the job!
I felt blessed to be able to shape little minds and have a positive impact on little lives. But, it did open up my eyes to more sadness in the world. Kiddos whose families didn’t have enough money for lunches, kiddos being shuffled in and out of foster care, kiddos whose families weren’t supportive or not completely able to care for them in the ways they deserved. There were many kids who saw more sadness in their short lives than I ever did in my 23 years of life.
It put a lot of things into perspective for me..
In creating Mindfulness Club, I hoped my previous struggles and my lessons learned could be used for good.. to help these kids. So they didn’t have to do it all alone, like I did. So they didn’t have to feel alone, like I did.
I saw the practice of Mindfulness work wonders in my years at Sherwood Elementary, hosting my little club and through living and breathing mindfulness each moment!
But then, 2020 rolled in…
And life changed… Drastically…
For many people, the year 2020 turned worlds upside down.
For me, 2020 was a pivotal moment.
Yes, I felt the stressful effects (and still do). Like the seclusion from friends and family.. And all the time spent in my head ruminating over the question if this world was ever going to return to ‘normal’ again (I can’t even remember what normal is anymore)..
But more than ANYTHING, from this darkness, I was able to see the light.
Yes, there was suffering in the world, maybe more suffering now than the world had seen in a while, but there was also an opportunity, MY OPPORTUNITY, for growth, change and inspiration.
I spent the previous few years helping a small number of students in a very small part of the world stay mindful and care for their well-being. 2020 allowed me to think BIGGER. To help more people on a WAY BIGGER scale!
I felt like I had a lot to say and plenty of experiences to share that could help people struggling in the world. And so, I started by helping the teachers at my school.
I created a presentation about building resiliency in our students and in ourselves- through the practice of mindfulness to cultivate some coherence in our bodies and minds. I gave the presentation at a staff meeting at the beginning of October 2020.
First off, I feel like I need to mention that I’ve always had a HUGE fear of public speaking! When I was in Elementary school myself, I used to ask my mom to call in sick for me whenever I had to speak in front of the class (Shh, don’t tell my teachers!).
Never did I ever imagine that I would be WILLINGLY standing in front of a group of 20+ people giving a presentation.
But I did. And it changed me!
My presentation was a hit! Staff members were inspired to take care of themselves more. They understood the link between our thoughts and our overall health. My principal raved about my presentation and sent it to a few of his colleagues.
And well, one thing led to another… and soon, I was speaking my truth to other groups within Edmonton Public Schools… and then to other educators in Western Canada… and finally, to educators around the globe!!
Because of the shift in the world and the abundance of online opportunities after 2020, I was able to get my message out there, my experiences and lessons out to a larger population!
All I ever wanted to do was help the kiddos at my school cope. But 2020 opened my eyes to the fact that I was capable of helping so many others. Especially in such a time of need, a time of struggle.
Speaking and writing has allowed me to do just that.
I want to continue to speak my truth… To use my writing and speaking to share my experiences with those who could benefit. For those who maybe can relate. For those who just need a little bit of help and guidance.
I’m here to remind you that it’s okay to need help, and okay to ask for it.
In my last post, I explained, plain and simply, what mindfulness is.
Essentially, it is a state of being consciously aware of something… really anything! Anything that draws our focus to one particular thing in the present moment.
This could mean bringing focus to our breath or our surroundings. Using our 5 senses to analyze the things around us. Grounding us here, in the now.
Once we become better at practicing mindfulness, our subconscious will allow us to automatically become more present throughout our day. Until then, it’s important for us on a daily basis to deliberatelyschedule mindful moments in.
To train our subconscious mind.
These moments could be big or small, although I recommend beginning anything by starting small. Making it more manageable to do will improve your success and follow through rate. Plus, once you are confident in your first baby step, you can take a few bigger steps until you eventually reach your ultimate goal.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “Change for the better” or “Continuous Improvement.”
It is a term that involves the continual process of manageable and incremental steps in order to see improvement.
We can use the kaizen philosophy to better ourselves (and the kiddos in our lives) at being mindful. By taking small, intentional steps to reach our fullest potential. We can adjust our steps as needed. This guarantees success!
Now, there are SO many ways and opportunities to schedule mindfulness into our days!
Whether you are practicing mindfulness for yourself, or for your kiddos, or perhaps, you have an entire classroom of kids, it is EASY (and hopefully I’ve convinced you it’s possible) to find time for mindfulness.
Tips on HOW to Schedule Mindfulness into your Day:
Schedule specific times on a calendar. When you write things down, you are more likely to make it happen! It doesn’t matter if it means only deep breathing looking out the window for 30 seconds-1 minute each day. It’s still the start of something. The key is to make it INTENTIONAL. Set specific times each day to make time for YOU!
Try having a morning and evening practice. Once again, even if you can only dedicate a minute in the morning and a minute in the evening, that’s okay! Starting the day with mindfulness can set you up for success and ending it off with mindfulness helps you relax for a more peaceful evening or sleep.
Take deep breaths before beginning tasks. An easy way to sneak mindfulness in the day, whether in your personal life or in the classroom, is to begin each transition (of whatever it is you’re doing), with a deep belly breath or 2. Getting in your car to run an errand, before starting work, transitioning from one task to another (in a classroom setting, switching subjects), coming home from work or school are all great times to sneak in a few deep breaths. Deep breaths are powerful because they calm our brains and allow us to reconnect with our body and breath.
Positive affirmations and intentions: Take a quick moment in your morning to set an intention or speak out some positive affirmations for your day ahead. Could be as quick as taking a minute to say things like “I intend to be filled with gratitude today,” “I am happy and healthy,” “I will persevere today!” Really feel the power behind your statement as you make it. This could begin as a quick moment in the morning, and grow to the point where you are stating affirmations randomly throughout your day, maybe even setting intentions at night for how you’d like to feel the next morning!
Express your gratitude daily! I really do believe that gratitude is the most powerful form of self-medication! You get the most “bang for your buck” with adding in the practice of gratitude. Expressing gratitude on a consistent basis really does make us happier and healthier humans. I could go on and on about the power of gratitude, but there will be more time for that in another post… 😛
Here are some other quick & easy mindfulness practice ideas:
Going for a walk in nature
Thinking of 3 things to be grateful for each morning or night
Taking a minute to do a quick body scan and listen to your body