The Pause and Mindful Beginnings

The Pause is a mindful beginning that creates a sense of rhythm and safety.

Dr. Stefanie Bauer PsyD, LP from Life Ripples is a mental health practitioner who believes in the power of the mind/body connection. One way she incorporates mindfulness into her sessions is with an optional mindful beginning. “I offer clients the opportunity to listen to The Pause at the beginning of our sessions”, Stefanie explains, “and almost everyone takes the option.” Here are three reasons why a mindfulness practice is the perfect way to start your sessions with clients.

Grounding

When people start a therapy session, they may be feeling stressed from the day or feeling nervous about what will be discussed. Starting with a mindfulness practice can help calm their nervous system helping them be more present during the session. It is important to get grounded before the cognitive work starts. Bruce Perry, a developmental mental health psychiatrist, explains in his neural sequential model, human beings process best through a “regulate-relate-reason” model. We can not emotionally connect or begin to cognitively process before our nervous systems are regulated.

Predictability

Routine is incredibly important. If clients know that the first four minutes of a session is always going to be the same, the predictability creates a sense of safety. Listening to the Pause is an audio cue that shifts the heart, mind and body into a space where cognitive and emotional work can begin.

Connection

The healing that occurs in a therapy session is largely based on connection – both between therapist and client and the client’s own deeper connection to themselves. A mindfulness practice helps foster co-regulation and connection. Using an audio recording (like The Pause) allows both therapist and client to fully participate in the experience.

Stefanie explains that The Pause offers relevant topics and themes that often seamlessly integrate into her sessions and offer an anchoring perspective, like “Choice is where my freedom resides” or “Reset”. You can find these audios at our store. Also, sign up for our newsletter to receive The Pause, a mindfulness practice, every Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you use a mindful beginning with clients or students? Leave a comment!

Mindful Snack

A fun and effective way to introduce mindfulness is with mindful eating.

Do you have a snack time? Perhaps your students eat snack during read aloud, or simply shovel it in before recess. The Mindful Snack activity from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum is the perfect resource to create a meaningful mindful experience.

At the core of mindful eating is staying grounded and present with our senses. How are we connected to our food? What food creates healthy energy? The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program is a grant that provides weekly fruits and vegetables. The vegetables offer the perfect opportunity for a Mindful Snack lesson!

Preparing the Snack

ingredients for mindful snackUsing carrots and some additional items from my own pantry (raisins, crackers, cheese, honey, pineapple, chocolate) we had all the ingredients we needed to create. To make the moment special, I used special plates from the Goodwill sale rack!

The twist in this assignment was that they were not creating their own spread, but their partner’s. The big question that drove the lesson was, “How can beautifully displayed food contribute to mindfulness?”

They had a fantastic time arranging the food and finished the display with a placemat, fancy napkin and cup of juice. Since the excitement in the room was about to bubble over, I made sure to take time and get re-grounded with Belly Breathing from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck.

Next, it was time to present the food. Sitting down at the plate that was painstakingly created by their partner, there were audible gasps. I had them sit in silence for one minute and just notice the display.

mindful snack display 1  mindful snack display 3

Eating the Snack

The students had to eat for two minutes in silence. Just noticing all of the different flavors. Chewing slowly and deliberately. Then, the students spent a minute or two journaling about what they observed with their five sense. Finally, they were allowed to quietly talk to the students at their table. The conversation was all centered around the food taste, texture and presentation.

Enjoying mindful snack

Comments like, “I don’t like raisins, but they looked so beautiful on my plate, I had to eat them!” “I never would have thought honey would be good on pineapple, but I really enjoyed it!”

We didn’t use any sharp knives or any heated kitchen appliance. The students could go home, pull items out of their pantry and create something for their family. This makes a great holiday gift that essentially costs nothing. Knowing the value of beautiful food is a life skill.

To finish with another life skill, students wrote a thank you note to their partner. We talked about what a thank you note should entail and the importance of hand written acknowledgment. It was a highly motivating, real world writing assignment!

thank you letter from student

Mindful eating is a core component to wellness. Slow down. Facilitate a space where your students can experience food. It was amazing how grounded, present and calm the energy was in the room during the entire experience.

This year, giving a few minutes to mindfully eating the snack has made a huge impact, not only in their appreciation of food, but also in the development of sensory language. We are miles past, “It tastes good” to “It tastes crunchy and smells floral”.

Have you brought mindful eating into your work with students? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Class Parties and Special Events

To the nervous system, excitement and fear feel the same.

Classroom parties. Decorations, change in schedule, novel activities… what provides excitement and anticipation for some students, may be experienced as fear and anxiety for others. When you create exciting (out of the norm) classroom opportunities, it is important to be aware of reactions such as fear, anxiety and other big emotions. You may be thinking, “It’s a simple Valentine’s Day party… what is there to be afraid of?” 

When a body feels excitement, it experiences physical symptoms.  This may look like an increased heart rate, faster breathing and a boost of energy caused by the release of glucose. Surprisingly, these are the same effects collectively known as Somatic Response or “fight, flight and freeze”. It makes sense why people would watch a scary movie or ride a roller coaster. Sometimes fear can feel exciting.


While we are not advocating for discontinuing special classroom events (those are the moments that make learning special!), we do recommend following these tips so all students can feel included and safe.

Prepare

While surprises may feel exciting for some students, a trauma-responsive approach provides adequate warning and preparation. The week before your party, show your students the decorations. Take time to explain the art project and preview the playlist. All of these details create a predictable picture that allows students to feel safe. If there is a change in schedule, review the changes and display it visually. The novelty of the day can be a large component of the fear.

Beginnings and Endings

It is important to include a mindful beginning to classroom parties. We recommend belly breathing and intention setting. Creating an event with a class intention can be incredibly powerful. It can also serve as a check in and a place for students to voice concerns or ask questions. In addition, an ending to the event is also very important. So often the timing can go over and students are pushed out the door without getting the opportunity for closure. When students aren’t regulated before they get on the bus and return home, the transition becomes very difficult. Set a timer to make sure that you have 5 minutes at the end to regroup with a slow or releasing breath. 

Releasing Activities Throughout

Depending on the length of the classroom party, students may need an opportunity to release throughout the event. In between high energy, offer a releasing breath or movement. We love our Move Mindfully® Permission to Pause poster, featuring Plank and Down Dog, as a great releasing option. Then, reset with a short rest, like Head on Desk.


Provide a Calm Corner

Even with all of our best planning, students will still get overstimulated. Offer a Be Station, or a place where students can reduce visual and audio input. It could be another classroom with dim lighting, soft music and areas to hide. Or, it could be a space in the classroom with noise cancelling headphones and sensory objects. During your check in at the beginning, offer and describe choices that will empower students to self regulate and normalize over-stimulation

Monitor and Offer Choice

If students are unable to self regulate, it is helpful to be prepared with alternative options. Not into the dance party? Offer students a place to color. The competitive nature of bingo stressing you out? Provide a beading activity. The most successful classroom parties offer choices.

Classroom parties are important. It is important to celebrate, create community and be playful together. However, approaching planning with a trauma-responsive lens will allow all students to feel successful and included.

What have you done to create inclusive classroom parties? Leave a comment!