“Being mindful means that we suspend judgment for a time, set aside our immediate goals for the future, and take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be.”
- Mark Williams
Fact: School is stressful.
Myth: There is no way for school to be less stressful.
There is no arguing the fact that school, for kindergarteners all the way up to post-graduate students, can be excruciatingly stressful. Not because there’s always what non-students usually deem “difficult work” but because the expectations for students are inflating every single year.
Our school system pushes students to be better than the generation before them, smarter, more driven, more dedicated, and, as a result, more exhausted. Burnout and anxiety are at an all-time high and there isn’t much being done to combat it on a large scale.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do yourself to mindful your way to a better school year as a student and as a parent.
1. Mindful Breaks
Students: Take a 5-minute break from studying (or working) every 20-30 minutes. Use this time to do a short 5-minute meditation, walk around (outside is best, the sunlight is very good for you), or do a short yoga, not at the desk you’re working at but somewhere else. Try this 5-minute calming meditation by The Honest Guys and this yoga sequence by Yoga with Adriene (featured below).
Parents: Try encouraging your students to take these breaks. Social breaks have similar effects on our ability to focus, so chat with them a bit if you have the time. When the break is over, allow your student to concentrate when they’re doing their work. You can try working quietly near them to encourage positive-peer-pressure or maybe leave them to focus without distractions.
2. Keep a Clean Space
Students: Research tells us that a clean, uncluttered work space and home lowers our stress levels and allows us to function at a higher level. Keep a clean desk and a clean space surrounding that desk.
Parents: Help your student keep a clean space by encouraging organization around the house and in their room/desk area.
3. Breath Breaks - Diaphragmatic Breathing
Students: Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing from the bottom of your lungs rather than from the top like we normally do. You can teach yourself by laying on your back, putting one hand on your tummy and one hand on your chest. When you breathe in, think about breathing all the way to your feet, keeping your chest still, and feeling your abdomen expand on the in-breath and contract on the out-breath. If you’re having trouble, breath as though you’re drinking through a straw.
Breathe in for 4 counts, pause, and breathe out for 8 counts (or 6 if you’re not able).
This type of breathing immediately decreases the stress hormone increases feel-good hormones.
Parents: Encourage your student to take the space and time necessary to practice mindfulness and breathing techniques without interruption. Encourage your student to take the space and time necessary to practice mindfulness and breathing techniques without interruption.
4. Be Kind to Yourself - Self Compassion
Students: School is hard and it’s important that you’re committed to your goals but that often comes at the price of genuine self-care. This can take the form of:
1. Not taking on more responsibility when you already have plenty
2. Not self-sacrificing when it isn’t necessary
3. Not staying in a situation just because you think you should
4. Forgiving yourself for the failures so that you can recover more quickly (Mindfulness is immensely helpful in this.)
Parents: We know that failure is hard on you and your student. Instead of punishing them for a failing grade, try helping them put together a plan to improve their overall understanding. This can include meeting with their teachers, implementing a study or homework schedule, or simply working alongside them to encourage focus. Research shows that leading by example is significantly more effective than commands.