Prioritising your own mental health over that of your class seems counterintuitive to many of us. In our guest blog this month, Jo Ulatowska from Mindfully You gives us an insight into why it’s so important, as a teacher, to focus on your own mental health through practicing mindfulness.
You know the situation; you have been in it many times. Your plane is just about to take off but before it finally happens, you are bored with cabin safety instructions. Among them, there is always that strange one: the oxygen mask rule. In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, you are asked to go against your instinct and secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others (including children). Some may find it harsh but the valuable lesson to learn from plane travels: prioritising your own safety and health is the only way to save anyone else. However, how many times upon hearing that rule did you think, I get it but still it doesn't seem right? Shouldn’t a good parent/carer be putting the mask on the child first? At any cost …
Here’s another situation which you may be familiar with. That buzz word keeps popping up in many areas of your work environment. Mindfulness. A researched way of training the brain to reduce stress, improve concentration, boost your immune system and increase happiness. Fellow educators and child psychologists claim that it can be life changing therefore you should … teach children to use it. How many times hearing it did you think, I get it. My responsibility is to protect my pupils’ mental health. At any cost …
Often educators only come across mindfulness from the perspective of delivering it to their learners. Don’t get me wrong, teaching children mindfulness techniques is an amazing investment in their future. If we give them the right tools, the next generation will be much healthier and better able to deal with stress than us. But how can you, as the educator, engage in that process when your own energy is low and stress levels high?
Constantly giving energy and facing stress means that you are more likely to run out of steam yourself which can lead to burnout. As a result, you will not be able to help, teach or - more importantly - live your life fully. The solution? A polite reminder that the oxygen mask rule stretches far beyond travelling by plane. It is about protecting yourself first by using a well-being safety mask, for example, by practising mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a trendy word and has been interpreted in many ways. What it boils down to in its most basic form is:
Getting familiar with your own personal stress indicator: when do you move from the good stress levels to the bad stress levels?
Learning how to respond instead of react: rather than reacting in frustration to a challenging behaviour in the classroom or a last minute change to your timetable, pause and respond differently.
It’s ultimately about training your awareness. How can you do this? In essence, it’s by simply following the cabin safety instruction: stop what you’re doing, breathe and restore your energy so you will be able to help others.
If you decide to try mindfulness, the benefits can be great. Especially when practising regularly. It gives you tools to train your awareness, to be more awake in the present moment, to help you recognise your stress trigger points and to weather those storms life throws at us with more calm.
And by doing that, you are modelling a healthy mind to the children. Instead of being taught, they will experience how you recognise stress and how you deal with stressful situations. Is there a better way to introduce mindfulness than by practising what you preach? (Is it only me hearing the Barry White song right now?)
I hope that learning mindfulness tools will help you discover how to look after your precious well-being. By doing that, you will become an education professional who enjoys life more ... and shares it with their pupils.
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and the tools you
can apply, whether that’s an introduction to mindfulness designed for educational professionals or a research-based 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, why not check out what we have on offer at www.mindfully-you.org
We’re also happy to have a 1:1 chat with you to see how we can support