This month between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation can be a bit energetic in the classroom. There is hustle and bustle. There is often a heightened stress that comes with students both anxious for and sometimes terrified of what the holidays may bring. Families can be a source of happiness and good memories, while they can also be the impetus for a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. Balancing the needs of all students during this time can be a challenging job, especially during this time. A great way to do this is by adding opportunities for mindfulness throughout your days or weeks. Mindfulness is paying attention in a specific way to the present moment on purpose without judgement. Not only can moments of mindfulness help us lessen stress, but they also can help us enjoy, cherish and savor moments that we may miss if we are busy living in our heads. A little mindfulness may go a long way: for both you as the teacher and the students you are teaching.
Simple Mindfulness Activities for YOU….
It’s always customary to start a New Year’s resolution after the holidays, but what about starting a great habit right now? It’s possible that implementing a holiday habit now will save you stress in the long run. Now is not the time to go out and declare you are going to start meditating each day for an hour both morning and night, but now may be a great time to plan on 1-5 minute mini-mindful sessions added throughout your day. Here are some other ways to bring some mindfulness to some simple holiday tasks.
Now, hopefully you are present every time you drive, however, how many times do you drive from point A to point B without even remembering how you got there? Why not try some mindful drives this season. Whether that be to embrace the traffic by listening to Christmas music and focusing on all that you are grateful for while inching along to the entrance of the mall or purposefully going for a drive in the evening to check out holiday light displays, you can bring some mindfulness to your driving this season.
Holidays are filled with traditions which can sometimes feel more like obligation. Really sit down and consider your holiday schedule if this is usually a source of stress for you. Change a usual obligation if the normal one doesn’t work anymore. If it’s too late to change or backout, create the least possible stress when upholding the obligation. Perhaps you make a plan to only stay for a short time if it’s an event you aren’t completely into but need to still attend. Perhaps an event will surprise you if you go knowing your plan. If not, consider this a great way to practice mindfulness: being present while you are there, instead of being in your head wishing you were somewhere else.
Other ways to practice mindful scheduling include (but are not limited to) setting aside a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing, taking a walk, being outside, doing some light exercise, listening to music, taking a bath or any other activity that brings you a little peace and serenity. Proactively scheduling this time into your day will guarantee a little respite throughout these busy times.
Mindful Holiday Eating
The month of December is synonymous with holiday parties and celebratory food. Whether it be at parties, the break room or your own home, there is often more food, snacks and treats than usual. Mindful Holiday Eating does not mean that you resist eating extras and goodies during this time. It actually means you make choice to eat something and REALLY enjoy it. Get a plate, pull up a chair, take your time eating, and make it memorable. Perhaps make a guideline for yourself, if you don’t have time to actually sit down and enjoy the item, save it for when you do. This may be more difficult at gatherings, so instead try to take small portions on a plate instead of piling everything on at once. It will slow you down, giving your body time to signal signs of fullness. But if you are still hungry, by all means get that small second (and maybe even third!) plate…just do it mindfully and with intention!
Mindful Holiday Shopping
Many of us start off with great budget intentions but throughout the holiday season, those intentions may become distant memories. Maybe applying some mindfulness to shopping excursions will help to stick to your planned budget. Instead of just scheduling to go shopping one day, actually make a list, and promise to only buy what’s on the list. If something starts calling to you while shopping, write it down but don’t buy it (yet). When you get home, compile a list of all the things that you wanted to buy but weren’t on the original list. Actually sort through those things, were they just things that you wanted because you were caught up with shopping? Examine the now “wish list” and honestly account for it: do any of those items need to be added to the next shopping excursion list? If they do, then they make it to the top of the next outing list. If not, you can let those items go. Yes it will cause you to have to make a second trip (which I’m sure we all do multiple holiday shopping trips), but you will have already consciously deemed the item(s) worth it.
Other ways to bring a little mindfulness to shopping are taking regular breaks, scheduling intermittent times to breathe deeply while among other stressed shoppers, having a plan for waiting in line (maybe you practice some mindful listening), and allowing more time for things to take longer than they should. All of these exercises may help to lower the cortisol (our fight or flight stress hormone) that is released during high stress situations.
So hopefully some of these ideas will be small ways to bring some mindfulness to your holiday hustle and bustle. Just taking a little more time bringing mindfulness to your daily life may make a tremendous difference in the way that you feel at the start of 2017.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we give you tips for integrating mindfulness into the classroom introducing some of these ideas to your students!