Teachers can promote their students wellbeing by taking time to meditate themselves. Teacher and healer Dave Read offers three exercises to perform easily in the classroom to reduce teacher stress
A student’s personal and academic development is directly dependent on the teacher’s ability to make connections on all levels.
The striving to connect requires conscientious and continuous input to a degree that can be draining. To tackle this, it is important for staff to address the factors that create stress, and then go on to create a still balance within themselves that will enable a fulfilled and meaningful life on all levels.
Here are some initial ideas that could bring benefit.
1. Stop the rush
Breath and breathing are key. The way we breathe reflects our state of mind. If we are only taking short breaths, it is a sign that we are feeling trapped and fearful. Reduced breathing equals reduced feeling, and leads to a significant decrease in our flow of energy.
Try The Square Breath. Begin by taking breath into every part of your body. Close your eyes. Breathe in through the nose. Breathe in a white light of cleansing energy: breath out through your mouth – grey light – breathe away tension, stress, anxiety. Do this for two or three minutes and you will already feel relief. Then, on your in-breath, count to three. Now hold that breath and count again to three. Release that breath through your mouth: just really let it go, counting to three as you do so. Now, rest for a count of three. Do this for about five minutes, and you might well be surprised at how much more relaxed and centred you are already becoming.
Do this exercise every morning when you first wake up. You can do it for shorter periods at various times in a school day if you are feeling stressed. The idea is to very gradually extend the count over weeks and months – eventually to a count of seven or eight: do so very much at your own pace.
2. Stop the reaction
Every experience of stress triggers a shot of adrenalin. Since it takes 27 minutes for the body to drain each shot, two stress reactions in a one-hour lesson and you’re hard-wired – lesson on lesson – until the exhausted crash at the end of the day.
The challenge is to relax in response to these stress triggers and stop having your buttons pushed. Start by breathing in through the nose for a count of two and breathe out through the mouth for two – then rest for two. Practice this – and be aware of your breathing throughout the school day. Breathe at a conscious level close to that of beginning to fall asleep – not too deep – and this will continue to nourish you.
Now place your tongue on the back of your two front upper teeth, and let it slide back to the soft palette on the roof of your mouth. The aim is a neutral jaw-line: we relay many unspoken feelings through the shape of the jaw-line.
Use your voice less and your presence more. Don’t react to low-level disruption as you might normally do: instead, start to manage on your own terms. Slow your physical movement and pace of interaction. By calmly focusing on the student (with a neutral jaw-line) and waiting, you will begin to isolate their behaviour and transfer the risk to them – where to go next? To escalate or capitulate?
But take care not to let the student trigger those familiar reactions – don’t directly engage by staring into their eyes when they challenge you. Instead, appear to be engaging by focusing on some part of them (such as the corner of their glasses) so that you can mentally disengage from the situation. Now the student’s behaviour is not rewarded – and you have communicated this to the rest of the class. You are no longer a part of their theatre. Practice becoming neutral.
3. Keep on practising
Work on building a strong relationship with yourself will begin to place your feelings and values back in the centre of a greatly enriched life. The relationship with yourself is a re-connection with your feelings. So do something that evokes those positive feelings about yourself. It will probably be something very simple, but something you haven’t done for a long time – or denied yourself due to pressure of work or anything else that would displace any chance of connection.
These techniques can be underpinned by meditation to continue a balance which in turn will become a springboard to further personal and professional development. An act of meditation is a gently evolving routine that will create that vital stillness within you – a stillness that you will gradually come to project around you and into all you do.