In this series of articles by Amy Malloy, we’ve spoken a lot about practical applications of mindfulness in the classroom and how it can help your students’ concentration, focus and ability to learn. Today, Amy is going to show you how mindfulness can support you at home, during the holiday period.
Mindfulness and your routine
In the run-up to the festive season, it is common to feel like your routine has completely broken down, especially when you’re not giving classes or working at school. The holidays also often bring with them lots of people and family, lots of excitement. That sometimes means that we also experience fluctuating emotions, stress and the feeling that everything should be perfect.
On top of this, shops and social media are filled with advertising – and there’s definitely more ‘stuff’ to buy. In addition, wherever we look you can see messages telling us we need to feel ‘merry’ and ‘bright’. Even the popular greeting, ‘Merry Christmas’, can sometimes feel less of a greeting and more of an instruction.
Sometimes it feels like the people around us expect us to always feel happy and joyful over the holiday season. This is fine if we really do feel merry, but we will always have ups and downs. If you don’t feel happy, for whatever reason, it can feel even harder than it might at times where there is less expectation all around us.
Overcoming the challenge
Finding a way to introduce mindfulness into the holiday season can be a wonderful way for us to understand our emotions at this time of year. It will help you think about your expectations and let you find a moment to pause to accept whatever the reality actually is.
Here are some quick and easy ways to find some ‘you’ time and keep checking in with how you’re feeling. These are also tips you can try with children in the classroom and for yourself at home to keep yourself on track.
3-minute body scan
Find a quiet moment. This may be in the few minutes after you wake up or go to bed, during break time, or even at the start of a lesson.
- Notice the contact of your feet with the floor. Notice the sounds around you in the room.
- Take three deep breaths and notice how they feel.
- Scan down the body in your mind from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Observe what you notice about your body with an air of curiosity – look for any tension, discomfort or comfort. Also, notice if there are any expectations you have of that day or moment. See if you can simply notice them and set them aside. This curiosity helps us stay detached from what we notice so we can just observe.
- Take three more deep breaths, and carry on.
Writing something down can be a wonderfully mindful exercise. Have a stack of post-its or a little notebook on your desk or bedside table. You could encourage your students to do the same.
1. Pick a point in your day. It could be at the start of each day, the start of each lesson, or just before bed. Each day, at that time, take a moment to write down three:
- good things that have happened in your day
- things that felt challenging
- things you feel grateful and thankful for
2. Review your notes every now and again during the holiday period. This will give you a sense of your shifts of mood and energy that might have occurred.
Noticing something you feel grateful for has been shown to physically improve your wellbeing and state of mind.
1-minute cupboard pause
When things feel over-stimulating, find a quiet space just for a minute. Even if it’s in a cupboard!
- STOP: notice the contact of your feet with the floor.
- BREATHE: take ten deep breaths, breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of six.
- WATCH: watch each breath coming and going from the nose or chest or belly. Observe what your thoughts and feelings are doing. Allow them to sit without needing to respond.
Then head back into the area you were in.
I hope these tips help you to navigate the festive season without expectation and with curiosity for what each moment holds along the way.
Remember that holiday days you celebrate are really just normal days. It’s simply that expectations have changed. What’s more, everyone’s expectations will be different.
Simply taking time to notice this can make a huge difference to the pressure we put on ourselves. Releasing this pressure can even lead to more enjoyment overall – so why don’t you try it and see?
Wishing (and not instructing) you the merriest of festive seasons.
For more advice from Amy about implementing mindfulness into your classroom read the following articles:
- Does mindfulness really work? And can it help your students?
- Mindfulness in the classroom: autopilot & paying attention
- Mindfulness in the primary classroom: practicalities and barriers
Want to learn more? Listen to Amy talking about mindfulness in our new podcast: