During my time in undergrad, I often was busy for up to 16 hours a day or more with my various responsibilities. My schedule was full of extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, internships, freelancing, and a full class load for many of those years. Leading up to my graduation, even finding time for basic necessities like eating and sleeping was a challenge. Learning to schedule time to incorporate meditation for stress management helped me to decompress and refocus. This was a huge breakthrough for me, and it became an essential part of juggling the many commitments I had during those years.
Student schedules are packed to the brim with things to help them prepare financially and academically for their futures, and mental health and self care can fall through the cracks. The concept of relaxation can become increasingly foreign the further along in their academic career a student advances and can lead to the development of anxiety and depression if left unattended.
While it can be difficult to fit in mindfulness meditation and other healthy practices into an already busy schedule, the benefits are many and they are worth the extra time. Mindfulness helps with:
- Decreasing stress
- Improving concentration and academic performance
- Improving sleep
- Boosting creativity
- Improving memory
Mindfulness can even benefit those guiding others to practice it by promoting empathy and compassion. Tending to mental health is just as crucial for future success as excelling in class and learning to save.
Here are some ways to implement mindful moments in your classroom:
Have your students lay down on the floor or sit cross legged in a comfortable position. Turn out the lights and have them breathe deeply and slowly, following the video below. Encourage them to focus on their breaths and to direct their minds away from whatever assignments, deadlines, or exams they may be worrying about. Doing this at strategic points throughout the day, such as in the morning before the first lesson, or right before a test, can help students become calm, attentive, and ready to tackle whatever task is in front of them.
“I am loved and supported.”
“I am enough.”
“I am healthy and strong.”
“I am safe.”
Lead your classroom in saying a variety of positive affirmations like these throughout the day, and encourage your students to repeat them to themselves whenever they might be feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. These affirmations can help interrupt and redirect negative thoughts such as, “I’m ugly. I’m stupid. I can’t do this. I’m afraid. I’m not good enough.” These can refocus your students on their strengths and build confidence.
Cultivate gratitude by blocking out a few minutes for students to write down things that they are grateful for that day. They can keep it simple (“I woke up this morning and had enough food to eat”) or get creative with it in whatever way they choose. Keep it open-ended and watch the changes in your classroom as students’ self-esteem, empathy, and relationship skills improve as they consciously focus on the positives in their lives rather than the stressors.
Supplementing mindfulness practices with stress management techniques students can implement over time will help them actively change their lifestyle and prevent them from feeling overwhelmed in the future. Providing students with these tools can make them feel more capable when facing daunting goals and busy days, preparing them for healthy and successful futures.
Vanessa Baioni is an intern for the K-12 Marketing team.