Active Shooter Drills for Staff

How do we take staff wellness into consideration while also preparing and planning for active shooter drills?

In the wake of shootings threatening the safety of our students during the school day, many districts have taken a proactive approach that includes active shooter drills. While the protocol looks different at each site, some districts are partnering with local law enforcement to create a rather realistic scenario for teachers to practice. This can include discharging firearms (blank rounds) within the school building to prepare staff for the expected noise.

Our Move Mindfully® team has worked with administrators, safety coordinators and law enforcement to create some simple strategies that can help to mitigate the surge of stress hormones on the nervous system during these events.

The following document is available for you to print, share and implement. Email the PDF to staff, print and hang in the staff lounge or share with administration.

Active Shooter Drills for Staff Using Move Mindfully®

 

Also, read our blog Tips for Students During Lockdown Drills about using similar strategies with your students.

Looking to explain the stress response in greater detail? This document on the Somatic Response offers a script perfect for teaching adults or children.

What strategies has your building implemented to address staff and student wellness during lockdown or active shooter drills? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Co-Regulation and Hoberman Sphere

What should you do when an agitated child refuses to do any breathwork or movement?

We often say, “you are the intervention”. In fact, we dedicated an entire blog post to the idea of practicing these techniques for our own self-regulation before even beginning to teach youth. But, what does that really look like in practice?

In co-regulation, the grounded adult provides the frequency to which the dysregulated youth can atune. This sounds simple, but in practice, can be quite challenging. Extreme behaviors in youth often trigger our own stress responses. This is expected and normal. However, it is at this point where we encourage the mindfulness practice to take over. Notice the child’s reaction with a non-judgemental lens, and choose another response from your toolkit.

The Hoberman Sphere is the way we begin to teach Belly Breathing, our introductory breath. This tool and breathing strategy is a great resource for self-regulation. The idea is that this practice becomes so engrained that its response becomes second nature.

Let’s paint a scenario. A student enters the office in an extremely agitated state. He has “flipped his lid” and is not accessing his “thinking brain”. You offer releasing breaths or other strategies that you have practiced before, but nothing seems to be resonating. Instead, he is only becoming more agitated. At this point, you pick up the Hoberman Sphere off of your desk. You begin to do deep belly breathing, even counting the breaths along the way. By the time you get to ten breaths, you notice that the volume in the student’s voice has dropped and his body is starting to still. A this point, you could invite him to practicipate in the strategies again as you continue your deep breathing.

In this scenario, not only does Belly Breathing keep you in a calm, relaxed, alert state, but it serves as a model for desired behavior. You, as the regulated adult, are simply holding space for however the youth is showing up. While creating mindful spaces through color and decor are important, the real work begins by creating the mindful space within yourself. It is this space that will set the tone and energy for the youth you serve.

On a personal note, I’d also like to share how this strategy plays out at home with my own children.

My three year old was just finishing his first week of preschool. Emotional and physical exhaustion were at a maximum. Right before bed, an epic tantrum erupted. I recognized that he had “flipped his lid” and was operating in his lower brain. No amount of talking was going to turn the ship around. I brought out the breathing ball and asked, “Should we do some breathing?” The response was a resounding “NO” as he pushed the ball away.

At this point, I could have walked away, tried to persuade him into getting into bed or worse, forcefully put him into bed. However, I know the power of co-regulation. I brought out tools readily accessible in his bedroom, with which he was already familiar, the Hoberman Sphere and Essential Oils. Within three and half minutes I had completely redirected his behavior. To see the full video, visit our YouTube.

We’re not expected to be perfect. These strategies can be difficult to remember in times of turmoil and don’t always turn around each situation. However, knowing that these tools and strategies are available can make difficult situations seem much more manageable. The most powerful part of this work is sharing with youth, that our brains and bodies always have another chance to try again with a different response.

Have you ever had a successful co-regulation experience? What has worked well for you? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

A Peaceful Wake Up Routine For An Easy School Transition

A few mindfulness strategies can adjust your morning schedule for a happier start to each day! 

This article was written by friend and colleague, Samantha Moe, SLP-turned-Parent Coach and creator of the Mad2Glad Blueprint.  Samantha is passionate about positive parenting tools to create peace at home, especially for families with intense children.

As a parent you naturally anticipate the change in morning routine way before your child – often with feelings of nervousness or even dread.

[If you prefer video tips, check out the short video here on Facebook.]

Before we can look at how to START a day we must look at how the previous day ENDED.

You may be surprised to hear that the evening wind-down routine is a primary influence to the wake up routine.

To ensure the day starts on a positive note let’s first look at key components to a restful night’s sleep – – –

  • Fresh air and movement
  • Positive connection time
  • A leisurely bath
  • Slower pace when transitioning from room to room
  • Quieter speaking volume
  • Independent play with only natural light or a lamp in the bedroom
  • Bedroom as an electronics-free zone
  • Quality reading time with lower lighting
  • Your presence and love for the final good-night blessing

With a good night’s sleep under the belt we can now create a plan to wake up your child in a way that is kind and gently energizing to reduce emotional outbursts and angry transitions.

Peaceful Wake Up Tips:

  • Start an essential oil diffuser 15-minutes before wake-up time … citrus or peppermint are positive alerting aromas.
  • Allow your child to choose a preferred wake-up signal – offer your voice and/or touch, or ask them to select a song that feels happy to them — not an irritating buzzing alarm.
  • Awaken your child’s body: draw shapes or letters on their back and allow them to guess what it is, or sit back-to-back and feel how the breathe moves in each of your bodies.

Many children wake up in a state of fight-or-flight stress, either because of how they’re wired or because parents’ unintentional stress amps up their emotions.

We know you do your best but let’s be honest, all of our busy, fast-paced lives can cause us to forget what children need to thrive.

Here is a list of morning disruptors you may want to avoid if Peace and Happiness are your goal…

Morning Disruptors!

  • Abruptly flipping on overhead lights and tearing off the covers
  • Using an irritating alarm sound
  • Snapping your fingers, telling children to “Hurry or we’re gonna be late!”
  • Threatening punishment if they don’t “Get a move on!”
  • Forgetting to welcome the day intentionally by connecting with your child, even if briefly.
  • Jumping out of bed in a hurry yourself, without giving yourself extra time to get ready before your child needs to be up.

Science tells us that children’s behavior is naturally a reflection of the adults in their lives.  Mirror neurons reflect the state others are in.

If you are calm, collected, and have some effective tools to start the day feeling positive, children will casually demonstrate similar ease and self-control!

However, if you start the day feeling hurried, stressed out, crunched for time, and anxious it is likely that you see your child displaying stress behaviors like whining, yelling, defiance and meltdowns.

At Mad2Glad Parent Coaching, we talk about “fire in the brain.”  

Consider for a moment, what do you do that may be fueling your child’s fire?

…and what do you do that successfully calms the fire?

We’d love to hear so please leave a comment!

To learn more, get the Top 10 Hidden Parenting Landmines free report here.

Educators & Therapists can become Certified Parent Coaches too!  Info here.

Bio: Samantha Moe is a Certified Parent Coach who is a coach and speaker on positive parenting tools that calm the yelling, fighting and frustration in families, particularly ones with Autism, ADHD, and/or Sensory challenges.  While working as a Speech Pathologist and Autism Specialist, Samantha discovered key strategies to help children with challenging behaviors become calmer and more cooperative – without threats, bribes, or repetition!  Her proven system, the Mad2Glad Blueprint, enables parents of intense children to experience more peace and joy at home.

Creating an Interactive Mindful Space

 As a mental health therapist, it is important to create an environment conducive to mindfulness.

My name is Katie Mac Jurado and I am a School Based Mental Health Therapist with an amazing nonprofit agency, Headway Emotional Health Services. Operating a practice within a school building has made me address the importance of creating a mindful space for my clients. Here are my Top 5 Tips to Creating an Interactive Mindful Space!  

Connect with Nature

Research shows that being around and within nature, especially trees, has a positive impact on our biology. Regulating the nervous system is a necessary and targeted piece of processing trauma, managing anxiety, being in a “learning brain”, as well as for building trusting relationships. It only requires being exposed to images of trees and nature for 40 seconds, to begin to see a biological and calming response.  The paper leaves on the bulletin boards not only serve as a theme in my space, but children are allowed to take one with them at the end of a session, providing a tangible conclusion to our time together. As I sat with a group of young girls who had been struggling with friendship issues, one girl looked around the room and said, “You know, Katie Mac, your room here is like a little oasis in the middle of the school,” and she smiled.

Incorporate of All 5 Senses

The more we integrate a child’s brain, the more effective they are at learning, re regulating after hard emotions, building healthy relationships, and understanding their own patterns of thinking and behaving.  We have the power to support this process through the environment that we provide. An interactive and mindful space should include processes that target each of the 5 senses: Sight, Touch, Smell, Sound and Taste.

Sight: I have included a nature carpet, blue and green pillows, fake trees, as well as paper cut out leaves.  Use images of trees and nature, and intentionally incorporating colors like blues, greens and natural tones will elicit this same biological response and support a mindful space!

Hearing: Almost constantly, there is mindful music of some sort playing within this space.  At times I will play nature sounds, or classical music, drums or other rhythmic options.  Children are allowed to explore these and chose which ones are most effective for them. (Check out one of my favorites on YouTube)

Touch: Different sensations offer new ways to experience the space, I have a leather couch, cotton pillows, soft carpets as well as a shag like carpet (that looks like grass), 8 different kinds of sand, as well as 5 different kinds of putty.

Smell: Essential oils, can be used to increase calming, focus, reduce anxiety, and lower someone’s heart rate. Learn more about Essential Oils here.

Taste : I will often offer a small snack or treat at the end of a designated time or may lead a mindful eating activity with a most delicious piece of chocolate (definitely a favorite for many children).

Comfortable, Casual, and Flexible Seating

When I first moved into my school based therapy office, there was a large metal teacher desk with chairs and tables from a classroom set up.  I removed all the hard chairs and tables and replaced them with soft casual seating (couch, pillows, a wobble chair, a tall spinning chair, a soft bowl chair, and a variety of yoga mats).  I purchased a small rug with a river and nature scene to incorporate nature as well! We can support not only their sensory needs and developmentally appropriate movement, but we support their emerging needs for self-direction, managing choices and personal responsibility.

Provide Opportunities for Move Mindfully®

Children learn through movement – so if we want them to be able to access and utilize our mindful spaces effectively, they need opportunities to explore these spaces and tools playfully.  Within my space, I have included resources that can be used individually or with partners. Students love the Hoberman Sphere and the movements described in the Move Mindfully Poster Strips and the Move Mindfully Card Deck. Also, the space can be manipulated by children as well! The small table can be moved, pillows arranged and changed, and they have the freedom to explore!

Create Safety and Structure

Just as children need space to explore and play, they also need safety and structure.  In order to allow as much child centered integration as possible, I also needed to implement a sense of control and boundary. This can be done through the Calm – Active – Calm cycle described in the Yoga Calm trainings.  We first calm and focus our minds and bodies (often with a chime, the Hoberman Sphere, pulse counting, or belly breathing), then increase movement and activity, followed by a buffer at the end that reorganizes to calm (this can be a calming routine or another mindfulness practice). This way, children are practicing skills and prepared to emerge into new expectations as they leave the space.

How do you create a mindful environment? Which of these tips are you going to try?  Leave a comment!

Contact Katie at Kathryn.Jurado@headway.org

Trauma Informed Mindfulness Practices

We believe mindfulness practices meet the needs of every body. Our trauma informed approach is rooted in choice.

People sometimes ask: Is mindfulness suited for all children? What about children who have experienced trauma or have mental health needs?

Here is how the dictionary defines mindfulness:

Mindfulness: 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.

Our Move Mindfully®  sessions allow present moment awareness to create a place where restoration and rest is possible.

Here is how mindfulness, and choice, are woven into each stage of a Move Mindfully session:

  1. Breathing

We always begin with simple breathwork, most commonly  belly breathing, to prepare to heart, mind and body.  Students act as leaders and choose number of breaths, usually between 5-10. Instructors can also offer breathing techniques to meet various emotional states, such as a releasing breath like Yoga Calm®‘s woodchopper or pinwheel breathing. Bringing attention to breath is the best way to foster present moment awareness.

 

  1. Movement

Our instructors use the Move Mindfully Card Deck to guide students through a variety of body positions. Introducing accessible movements first, like starting in a chair or seated is a great way to encourage all ability levels to join. Next, movements like forward folds and balancing positions help regulate the body and foster a sense of safety and stability. Offering variations for more challenging movements builds in the element of choice. For example, Eagle can be accessed on the floor (pictured), in a chair or using just arms. The language that we use to cue the movement continually reinforces the social emotional objectives and brings students to the present moment, like “I am strong”. Through this process we are deliberately activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest functions, and preparing the body for the final relaxation/integration.  

  1. Final Relaxation

After moving the body, relaxation integrates physical, emotional and cognitive experiences. However, this can be the hardest component of the practice. Stillness and quiet can be challenging, especially for students dealing with trauma. Therefore, a relaxed state can look different for every body. We use sensory cues, such as hearing the sounds in the room or feeling the ground, to make being still and quite a bit more comfortable. Students can choose to leave eyes open, which may feel safer, and take in the visual stimuli.

We often start with progressive relaxation, tensing one part of the body at a time and then releasing it. This helps students experience relaxation while still feeling a sense of control and staying present. Also, offering different body positions (pictured) or various activities such as mindful eating, walking, music, art or storytelling can make the experience comfortable for everyone.

Part of teaching through a trauma-informed lens means that instructors must be constantly watching/observing  how each student is responding to the practice. Mindfulness simply anchors us to the here and now. Getting out of the trappings of past depression and the anxieties of the future, students can experience the present moment where ultimate learning can occur. We help students find ways to connect these strategies outside of class and into their everyday lives. Learn more and go deeper with Kathy Flaminio and Lynea Gillen’s Transforming Childhood Trauma Online Course.

When working with youth that have experienced trauma, we emphasize that while we don’t always have control over what is happening around us, we do have choice in how we respond. This is why mindfulness instruction is important for all students, especially those that have experienced trauma. Choosing our response is where our freedom resides.

Have you had a positive experience with mindfulness and trauma informed practices? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly and the 1000 Petals Team

Lockdown Drills and Move Mindfully

“Teachers, please secure the door to your classroom.”

The classroom teacher heads over to the lightswitch as she hears the announcement. Lights off. Blinds closed. With a finger over her lips she points to the corner of the room where all the students scurry and huddle together.

School safety is on everyone’s mind. From the Oval Office to the principal’s office, the topic unfortunately is trending. Lockdown drills are now commonplace mandates that serve as a cornerstone for safety protocols. But… what impact do these drills have on our children? Let’s look at it from a scientific perspective.

We  Cannot Reason With the Amygdala

We know it’s a drill.  A drill means practice. We are just practicing in case a dangerous person were to come into the school.  There isn’t really someone posing a threat to our safety, it is just the building secretary checking to make sure the teacher locked the door.

However, when that door handle rattles, students will undoubtedly react. Even though students know in their cognitive minds that lockdown drills are just practice, the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for survival, does not know. The protective part of the brain goes into action before our frontal lobe has a chance to explain the lack of threat. However much we prepare our children, we cannot reason with the amygdala.

Trauma Resides in the Nervous System

So what happens when in that moment when the door handle shakes? The amygdala fires and sends out an SOS.  In order to survive, our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Huddled together, holding their breath, students don’t have the option to fight or flee, so they are left with freeze as the only means of survival. Adrenaline and cortisol are frozen in the nervous system.

“Freeze” is Detrimental

Trauma counselors will tell us that the freeze response has the most detrimental long-term impact on the nervous system. When the amygdala is activated, it is crucial for the body discharges the influx of survival energy. When fight or flee are not options (as in the case of lockdown drills),  the nervous system is left with excess. Repeated activation of the amygdala without allowing for completion of the cycle will leave adverse effects on the mind, body, and heart.

Bringing Move Mindfully ™  into your Lockdown Drill

So, what can we do? Lockdown drills are our reality. The lights off, huddle and hide routine is now commonplace. However, integrating three Move Mindfully ™ strategies into your lockdown drill will mitigate some of the potentially negative lasting impacts.

Step 1: The Huddle

When students assume the huddle position, cue them into Child’s Pose. With head below the heart and a curved spine, this position naturally relaxes the body. Take long, deep breaths to activate the relaxation response. Another benefit to this pose is the elimination of the visual stimuli that can cause hyper-vigilance (i.e. waiting for the door handle to shake, sounds in the hallway). Blog Bonus- Download Child’s Pose from our Move Mindfully Card Deck for suggested language. Please note: We want to practice these skills when the body and mind are calm so that we can easily access them during high stress times, like lockdown drills.

Step 2: Release

It is absolutely critical that students are given an opportunity to release after a lockdown drill. Our best option is to tap into the “flight” response and run a lap around the school. If that is not possible, shaking, jumping or tapping are viable options. The body uses these movements as a way to discharge the stress hormones released during the lockdown drill.

Step 3: Re-Integrate

Finally, returning to a relaxed-activated state culminates the drill. Cue students into 2-3 Forward Folds, which helps the body tap into a calming response. To transition back to learning, use the breathing ball and take 10 belly breaths.

As long as lockdown drills are a reality for our schools, we can support our students with the science and practice of Mindful Movement. What have you tried during lockdown drills? Leave a comment.

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Beyond the Classroom: Yoga Calm in Juvenile Detention Centers & Other Settings

This approach makes Yoga Calm an especially good fit for the sites of some of our our newest implementations: juvenile detention and probation programs in the Twin Cities area.

Thank You to Jim and Lynea Gillen of Yoga Calm for writing this article about our president and founder, Kathy Flaminio. You can view the original post on their website.

Through the years, we have been blessed to work with so many amazing teachers, counselors, social workers, therapists, and other helping professionals who dedicate themselves to helping children and families thrive in an ever more challenging world.

Kathy FlaminioOne of those is Kathy Flaminio, who we first met 10 years ago when she and a colleague were looking into how yoga was being integrated into school systems. Today, she’s our National Director of Training Development who has brought Yoga Calm into roughly 500 schools in 17 districts.

She’s also been a key figure in taking Yoga Calm beyond the classroom to youth in other institutional settings, such as hospitals and mental health facilities. Among the current projects she and her team are working on?

  • Expansion into an additional hospital, providing direct instruction on adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health units.
  • Partnerships with new school districts, including district-wide training and implementation of Moving and Learning Residencies.
  • Bringing Residencies into early education and ECSE environments, integrating Yoga Calm into pre-K, Head Start, and preschool/daycare settings.
  • Development of two new products to be used as tools to support this work in both therapeutic and educational settings.

If you’ve taken one of our courses in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, you’ve likely met Kathy and have seen firsthand the passion that drives her work and fuels her expertise.

“The body is the access point to my work,” she says. “Nervous system regulation is the foundation, for when the body is regulated, heart rate lowered and the mind brought to the present moment, the brain is at its optimal learning state. This is where my work begins.”

This approach makes Yoga Calm an especially good fit for the sites of some of our our newest implementations: juvenile detention and probation programs in the Twin Cities area.

Trauma & the Power in Healing

Just this past January, Kathy and her team trained more than 60 staff members at the Dakota County Juvenile Detention Center, where the program is referred to not as “yoga” classes but “self-regulation” classes.

We prepared staff for the implementation of these self-regulation groups by exploring the impact of trauma and how it’s held in the body. When looking through the lens of trauma, we get a deeper understanding of “behavior.” So, for instance, we defined the importance of understanding the “fight, flight, and freeze” mechanism and how this is expressed.

It was helpful for the staff to understand the mind/body connection and the scientific underpinnings of mindfulness and yoga based movement. It was important to understand that we were doing much more than “just yoga.”

We felt it was imperative that we included all staff in the first training, from program directors on down. When training is opt-in, a lot of people won’t attend because they don’t know what it is and how it can help both staff and the youth they’re working with.

Here, everyone knows what we’re doing, and this benefits the residents immensely. And now that they’re beginning to see the changes in the youth – wow! To see the power in healing from these practices is amazing.

Teaching as Loving Care & Kindness

The self-regulation classes use both mindfulness and movement, and they’re provided twice a week by instructors from 1000 Petals, Kathy’s wellness company. Along with the consistency and structure that come with practicing yoga-based movement, one of the most important things that the instructors bring with them is authenticity.

“We laugh with them,” Kathy explains. “We joke. And we’re real with them. The youth don’t want to be known just by their past behavior or how the system has labeled them. They just want to be loved.”

Teaching them – which includes sometimes simply listening – is one sign of love.

We don’t need to know why they’re there. We just need to be with them in the here and now. We need to be with the person who is in front of us. And when we approach them in this way, they can more readily learn how to apply what we’re doing in their everyday lives: ‘Where do you feel stressed?’ ‘How’s your sleep?’ ‘Do you want to improve your cardio and focus so you can do better on the basketball court?’

The idea is to identify their needs, not impose what we think they need.

That, too, is a sign of loving care and kindness.

So we’re constantly nudging them: When will you use this in your day? How does this apply or connect to your real life? And as they apply it, they not only see or think but completely experience the reality that you can change how you think and feel. That’s a new concept for most.

The youth in juvenile detention know firsthand how little control they have over the circumstances that surround them on a daily basis. We’re teaching them that the one thing they always can control is how they respond to a situation. Using breathing, mindfulness, and movement, we empower them to change how they feel in any given moment by pausing and checking in with their mind, body, and heart.

Individualizing in this way also helps when it comes to reinforcing the idea that the tools and skills they learn in class are things that they can put to work at home – or anywhere inside or outside the institutional setting. It’s not just stuff for “yoga time” but strategies and tools they can use anytime, anywhere they need to.

Bringing Families into the Picture (& Practice)

To take this even further, Kathy and her team are looking forward to introducing mindfulness and yoga-based movement to families by participating in family events in therapeutic settings and schools alike, as well as expanding their school programming across the upper Midwest.

When whole families understand and practice the skills their children have been learning, all benefit.

“As we say,” notes Kathy, “the real yoga begins when we take it off the mat and into our lives.”

Do you have experience teaching Mindful Movement in therapeutic settings? Leave a comment!

Our “Why” and Explaining the Brain

“All of this yoga stuff- my students will never take it seriously.”

Does this sound like a self-doubt you have faced when considering implementing Mindful Movement?

As we begin the journey of teaching body work infused with social emotional learning, ensuring buy-in can seem like a daunting task. There is a fear that students won’t take the work seriously, and instead act silly, leaving the teacher to feel helplessly embarrassed. This fear is real. For many teachers, knowing how to begin the conversation and create a classroom culture ready for this work, can be the biggest hurdle.

We recommend beginning with the facts. Begin with the brain science. Once students (and teachers) understand the “why” behind these techniques, the buy-in is almost automatic.

Model of the Brain

Even small children can benefit from this simple, interactive model of the brain from Daniel Siegel.  Begin by having everyone show a fist (thumb inside). This model serves as a visual for parts of the brain we want students to understand.

  1. Brain Stem (wrist)

The brainstem is what attaches the head to the spine. It is the first part of our brain to develop.

  1. Hippocampus (inside the palm)

The hippocampus is responsible for memory. What is the latin name for butterfly? What is the capital of Georgia? What is 4 x 6? Students rely on the hippocampus for academic success throughout the school day.

  1. Amygdala (thumb)

The Amygdala is the part of the brain that interprets the world through the five senses and constantly analyzes situations to ensure our safety. Someone drops a glass in the hallway and it shatters. The sound triggers the flight response as you atomically jump in your chair.

  1. Prefrontal Cortex (fingernails)

This is the part of the brain that does the thinking and reasoning. It processes the memories, the sensory inputs and makes logical decisions based on past experiences.

When students feel calm, the amygdala passes information to the prefrontal cortex, which passes to the hippocampus. All of the parts are working well together. However, we have all heard the phrase, “blow your top”. At this point, students shoot their four fingers up into the air, exposing the thumb (amygdala).

This metaphor perfectly illustrates what happens when the amygdala senses danger. It stops communicating with the prefrontal cortex and the brain is now in “survival mode”. Survival mode is great when… well, we need to survive. However, we run into problems when our amygdala interprets something like- getting budged in line, as a survival situation.

This brings us back to our “why”. Through Mindful Movement we are using breath and movement in specific, meaningful patterns to sooth the amygdala, and the stress responses. To know that you have control over your mind and body is the ultimate power. Once students have this realization and experience it for themselves,  they often want to return to this relaxed/alert state. The work sells itself.

Have you explained the brain to your students as a justification for Mindful Movement? What has worked for you? Leave a Comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Relaxation and New Beginnings

The day after Labor Day. For so many children and families, this Tuesday brings a flurry of new beginnings. New clothes and haircut, new routines and friends, new joys and anxieties. As September unfolds, it is important to remember the incredible amount of new information that has to be integrated.

We know, from brain and behavior science, that integration can only fully happen when there is an opportunity for relaxation. As teachers, we must remember to build in moments of silence throughout the day. With all of the transitions and micro-expectations, students need time to quietly reflect and download the material. As parents, we must remember that children will come home feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Schedule downtime.

Here are our 5 tips for integrating relaxation:

1. Music 

During quiet work or rest time in the classroom, try playing music that is relaxing and energizing, but not dysregulating. The Anjali CD is a great mix of instrumental music (no words) that has a calm feel without being overly sleep inducing. This is also great for the car ride home when you are all out of words!

2. Lavender Oil

Essential oils can be a fantastic classroom tool. Try using our lavender spray on a washcloth to enhance a relaxed state.

3. Guided Relaxation

Guided relaxations are a way to keep students engaged, but also provide a break from learning new routines. Ready, Set, Relax has scripts for you to read focused on various objectives, from following directions to focusing for a test. Another idea is to write your own incorporating new learnings from the school day . Better yet, have your students write them! These stories can also be used at bedtime as a great transition to sleep.

4. Non-Verbal Physical Touch

We know the importance of human connection. Sometimes, when our brain is on overload, connecting physically without having to verbally communicate can offer restorative benefits. Try back drawing as part of your morning meeting in the classroom. At home, simply holding hands with a loved one can have a huge impact.

5. Twists

Twists are wonderful for dealing with anxiety. They open the chest, shoulders and back, which sends a relaxation reflex to the rest of the body. Twists also allow fresh blood to flow in the body, stimulating circulation and producing a refreshing effect. Try using them as during difficult transitions, such as after recess or lunch.


As you embark on new beginnings, remember to carve out time for relaxation and integration. How do you build relaxation into your day? What have you tried with your students or your children? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Self Care for Teachers

I challenge you to stand in your power and connect to your inner strength. You are the intervention.

“Teaching is not what it used to be,” says a 40-year veteran teacher. It’s hard to pin point exactly what the changes are or where they are coming from. However, I think most teachers can agree that things are increasingly more… stressful.

Passing other staff in the hallway, an appropriate greeting now consists of a grunt or at best, “It’s Friday.” Conversations in the staff lounge center around the uncertainties and anxiety facing our teaching profession from the greater political cultural climate. While technology and innovation have considerable benefits, the new skills and information we are expected to personally process and then apply to our instruction, has teachers feeling like hamsters on a wheel. Not to mention the data! Teacher performance is being continually monitored and tracked by standardized testing.

As I sit at my back table, administering a reading test, I look up and see the little girl sitting in front of me. Except, I see her-seeing me. Hunched shoulders. Furrowed brows. Clenched jaw. My body communicates what my brain can’t fully comprehend. I am stressed. Much to my surprise and horror… her body language was matching mine. She was mirroring me.

This realization hit me hard. I noticed students all around exhibiting stress signals. Hiding under tables. Making excuses to leave the classroom and wander the halls. Destroying classroom supplies. These behaviors were symptoms of emotional turmoil, and it was standing in the way of students achieving their academic potential.

Now, I know that many of these issues are complex and multilayered. I am by no means blaming teachers for the  dysregulation in the classroom. However, the first step to an emotionally regulated classroom is to be emotionally regulated yourself.  It is imperative that we bring the body into our work.

YOU are the intervention

The good news is, even if your brain is not yet convinced, you can begin with your body.

Here are three tips to get started.

1. Set an intention for yourself and your classroom

Before you get out of bed, think about how you want to show up today. Words like- strong, healthy, at ease, organized, or peaceful. Imagine what it looks like and feels like. Now imagine the one thing that would make your classroom great today. This intention could be, “students working well together in pairs” or “the excitement for a new project.” Visualize and move to the feeling place of these intentions then write them down. I have found that writing an intention down and visualizing the outcome takes less than a minute. However, most days, this fortune actually comes to fruition. A worthy time investment.

2. Take a breathing break

Teachers never stop. Heck, we usually don’t even slow down. I have seen teachers eating their lunch while walking down the hallway! During your prep, your lunch, transitions between classes… intentionally take 5–10 breaths. Inhale for 2 counts and exhale for 4 counts. I even like to close my eyes and bring back my intention from the morning. For an added stress relief, cup your hands and inhale our Move Mindfully® Essential Oil Blend.

3. Unwind your nervous system

Good ol’ fight or flight. Your body doesn’t know if you are running away from a hungry predator or if you are preparing to be observed by your principal. All it knows, is it’s time to send in the stress hormones! Your frontal cortex can’t talk its way out of this response. “Body, I am not being chased by a predator, it’s just my annual observation.” However, there are key trigger points in the body that activate when the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. This means, if we can release the body throughout the day, the brain will believe that everything is okay.

Jaw:

Place feet flat on the floor and sit up nice and tall. Inhale breath and when you exhale stick out your tongue. For added effect add a nice long “hah” sound. I even like to massage the opening that is created next to my ears while my jaw is open.

Eyes:

Rub your hands together to create heat and place them on your eyes. And/or gently smooth out the brow line from center to outer eye, say to yourself “soft eyes”. (Yes, unfurrow that teacher brow.)

Shoulders:

Interlace fingers behind your back for a chest expansion and take three slow deep breaths. Teachers spend a great deal of time hunched over students, and simply opening the shoulders can be a total mood changer.

Hip Flexors:

Lunge back with right foot and left foot forward in a bent knee lunge, take a few breaths, then switch sides. Your hip flexors and psoas are your flight muscles, so release them!

I began to realize that same little girl, mirroring my furrowed brow and hunched shoulders, began to mirror my deep breathing. When doing a backbend stretch during a transition she commented, “It feels good to stretch, doesn’t it?” Yes. It does.

When we release the tension and anxiety held in the body, we are able to be present. The present moment is our freedom. This intervention for your body is an important first step for creating a peaceful classroom for your students.

As I began implementing these daily routines, I noticed other things around me begin to shift. I realized that being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing. I changed my focus and redefined what was important and started to pay attention on how I was bringing my body to work.

Have you tried any self interventions? What has worked? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly