Teacher Health and Wellbeing – Mindfulness

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By Nicki Allman

Find out how mindfulness can improve your health and wellbeing

mindfulness

Stress is part of our daily lives as educators. Life is often busy as we move from one activity to the next and generally we don’t have opportunities to stop and pause. How many times do normal everyday stressful activities spill into a feeling of not being able to cope and of thinking that our workload is too great? Finding ways to cope with the daily toils of a busy, endless working day is crucial. The lack of productivity and solution-based activities from increased stress can lead to illness and an inability to cope. Mindfulness can play an important part in dealing with stress. It provides an opportunity to pause and relax, a time to take stock and just focus on the now. It can help provide ways to deal with the stress and anxiety that the job of an educator brings.

What is mindfulness?

The Oxford dictionary defines it in two ways:
  • The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  • A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness is also ‘paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally,’ as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindfulness is not a recent concept. 1979 saw the development of ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’ (MBSR) followed by the development of Mindfulness Based Cognitive theories in the early 1990s and this is now an accepted and endorsed part of mental health. Much research has been done on mindfulness and its impact on wellbeing. It takes into account the development of awareness of thoughts, emotions, sensations and the environment surrounding us. Educational interventions have looked into the way that teachers can be responsible for their own care and undertake activities to help focus on the ‘now’, which ultimately will help build resilience and a sense of greater wellbeing.

How can mindfulness help?

Mindfulness can help us to bring a new focus to our daily lives. This will help us in the following areas:
  • It can help to focus our attention on present tasks. We become attentive to things that we are doing and things around us. It can bring a greater sense of enjoyment in daily things.
  • By providing us with the ability to pause, take stock and cope with the daily stresses of life, it helps to build up a resilience to stress.
  • It helps us to focus on how we feel and can help us to change our responses to the stresses of the day. Our emotions can often impact the way we deal with things.
  • It can provide a sense of calm and helps us to focus on calming down. It helps us put aside the worries we might be feeling.
  • It can help us to adapt our thoughts and habits. It can help us to change the way we would normally do things.
  • It helps us to focus on ourselves and stops thought patterns becoming negative. Often this can lead to a refreshed sense of finding solutions to problems rather than going round in circles. It can help us to become more outcome orientated.
  • It can help our sleep patterns.
  • It may help us be more proactive rather than reactive. Giving ourselves a chance to stop and pause, helps us to think of ways forward rather than jumping to a decision and then regretting it at a later date.
  • It can lead to a greater sense of confidence and improved self-esteem.
  • It can help us to deal with stress and anxiety in a much better way than getting angry, or rushing from one task to the other and being inefficient.
  • It provides ways to help us relax and have time out.
  • Ultimately it will have a positive impact on our productivity, creativity, thought patterns and sense of wellbeing.
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