April is National Stress Awareness Month. During this annual thirty-day period, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the country will join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for everyday stress. We need this more than ever now that our stress levels are rising along with the coronavirus pandemic!
As educators, we have to keep our own stress in check and also be cognizant of the stress our students may be experiencing. One way to keep our classrooms and homes as stress-free as possible is by introducing mindfulness activities.
The practice of mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thoughts so we can choose thoughts that feel more positive, calming, and reassuring. Mindfulness helps us become more attentive to our breath, too, so we can bring about a relaxation response. It also helps us become more focused on the present, which calms the mind and frees us to enjoy every moment. In summary, mindfulness leaves us more focused, grounded, and happier.
Our Mindfulness Works! Card Set includes many mindfulness activities that can help reduce stress in any environment. These easy mindfulness exercises have many benefits and won’t take up a lot of time or space whether at home or in your classroom.
Here’s a sampling of activities created by Bari Koral in collaboration with Becker’s from our collection of mindfulness products.
By simply paying attention to our breath, it automatically deepens. Invite children to close their eyes and pay attention to their breath as you guide them with these questions. Instruct children not to answer out loud. Pause between all questions. Take your time. This exercise should last for about a minute or a little longer.
Tell your students to close their eyes and take some slow breaths in and out and ask these questions:
• Where can you feel the breath in your body?
• Can you feel it in your belly?
• Can you feel it in your chest?
• Can you feel it in your back?
• Can you feel it in your shoulders?
When finished, slowly open your eyes.
One of the best ways to stay positive and happy is to practice gratitude as much as possible. Talk about what it means to be grateful. Consider including this or a similar gratitude activity into your daily schedule.
Help children think about something they feel grateful for today.
• A kind act someone did for you
• A person in your life (friend, family) that you love
• An animal that makes you happy (a pet, animal character in a favorite story)
• A place where you can go (home, school, trip, playground, etc.)
• A skill or ability you have
• Feeling healthy
• Something you have that brings you joy or comfort
After you brainstorm a list of ideas, children will have a better concept of what it means to be grateful.
The Bell Game
You will need a copper bell, like a school bell. This game uses the echoing sound of the bell to create a focused listening experience. If you don’t have this type of bell, you can experiment with a meditation chime or a wind chime. This is a great exercise to channel everyone’s energy into a shared experience.
Tell the students you’re going to ring the bell once and it will keep echoing for a few seconds. Then instruct them to raise their hand when they no longer hear any bell sounds. Practice with their eyes open, then ask them to close their eyes.
Mindfulness skills can help us in all areas of our lives. This thinking game helps children develop a mindful approach to eating. For this activity, you’ll need to prepare food samples in advance. Show children the food and encourage them to look and think about it before they begin tasting.
Ask the students to study their food carefully. Tell them to look at the color, shape, and think about where it came from. Did it come from the ground, from a box, or a place nearby?
Then tell them to close their eyes and take several bites and to pause between every bite to think about the food. Is it crunchy? Is it soft? Is it sweet or savory? Does eating the food make them feel different in any way?
This is another tool for your mindfulness toolbox. You and the children can share the experience of using energy to create warmth, happiness, and comfort reaching to the stars!
• Tell students to close their eyes and imagine a sky full of stars and do the following:
• Reach up their arms as if they are grabbing a star
• Rub their hands together for 10 seconds to feel the warmth of the star
• Pull their hands apart and ask them if they still feel the warmth and energy from the star
• Place their hands on their heart and rub the warmth into their hearts
Then ask them to open their eyes and take a bow to give thanks to the star.
Share with us the mindfulness and stress-reducing activities you do to help yourself, your families, and students be more focused, calm, and happy during stressful times.