The Mindfulness Bottle
Our bodies retain stress like a bottle retains water.
Throughout the day, stress (the water) fills your body (the bottle). For example, student behavior, parental interactions, organizational expectations, and so on. If stress levels are very high then the slightest nudge can cause "overflow". For children this would be a temper tantrum. For adults it is more complex, agitation, panic attacks, escape from reality (e.g. over APPing) and so on.
Trying to relax at this point can easily be counter-productive.
The body goes into fight-or-flight mode and works on automatic. Trying to force yourself to relax can actually cause more anxiety. You cannot run away from anxiety. So what should you do?
Relaxing is a learned skill.
What you need to do is train yourself to not get to this point. But how? Easy. Take a sip before you get there! Using The Mindfulness Bottle, you can train yourself to be more aware of your stress levels, allowing your body do the rest. Anxiety is a natural part of life, especially in the field of education but so is relaxation. By practicing relaxation on a regular basis and then being aware of yourself when in the classroom, you allow your body to react in a healthy fashion to your anxiety levels. This in turn lowers the chances of "overflow" as well as contributing to a healthier lifestyle.
For this tool you will need:
- a pen
- a label
- a bottle that you enjoy drinking from
Preparing Your Mindfulness Bottle
Sit in a quiet place and try to notice what your stress levels are, picking a number between One and Ten. Then choose a "Relaxation Exercise". There is a plethora of these that you can try. For example: meditation, sport, yoga, tai chi, dancing, progressive muscle relaxation, classical music, art, puzzles, and so on. The important thing is that you are able to recognize when you are relaxed. If you feel that you cannot do this yet. Do not worry. This skill will come with practice.
Put the label on your bottle and write down your Relaxation Exercise. Then write down the starting date and the ending date, four months forward.
Using your Mindfulness Bottle
Keep your Mindfulness Bottle with you throughout the work day.
One time each lesson, try to notice what your stress levels are (from One to Ten) and take a sip from your bottle.
Once a day, when in a quiet place (preferably at home), perform your Relaxation Exercise and then take a sip of water. Notice how you feel when you are relaxed. Some people focus on their thoughts, other's focus on their bodies as a way to recognize if they are relaxed. The latter has generally been found to be more effective for most so try to notice your body.
If you happen to notice that your stress levels are high, take a sip. Visualize the bodily sensation of being relaxed. Try not to get into a power struggle with yourself to relax. If it does not come then just carry on. Remember, this is about letting your body do what comes naturally to it.
After four months have passed, stop using this tool. If you feel that you still need it then take a two-month break and start again.