Posts

By Emily Sommers, MSW, August 15, 2018 –

Just like the teachers, school social workers come into the building several days before the first day of school to prepare for the new school year.  

One thing I have noticed upon returning is that “summer brain” is a real thing!  Summer brain is not a good or bad thing; it just means it is time to change patterns and create a new rhythm.     

As school social workers we briefly talk about problems with students, parents, and teachers and tend to spend more time discussing solutions to maximize the success we hope for in our work.  So, if the problem is summer brain…the solution is mindfulness!   

Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment and noticing inner experiences like thoughts and feelings.  Research shows that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety.  

Parents, children and teens may benefit from discussing their perception of mindfulness with each other and, hopefully, this article will encourage just that.  

What examples can you come up with where you are already using mindfulness?  You might surprise yourself and build confidence by starting there!  It is certainly very rewarding to do this with a classroom of students, no matter the age, who share their wisdom so freely.  

Here is a brief list to encourage mindfulness as we begin the 2018-19 school year. See if you and your family can add to the list.   

  • Create a “daily” gratitude jar where all family members can write down and contribute one good thing (or more) about their day or something they think they did well.
  • Establish a particular space at home for everything that will be needed for the following day to ensure backpacks are loaded up and ready to go. Making lunches together the night before can also be a family mindfulness activity.
  • Frustrated with an activity? Take a time-out and come back to it later.
  • Check your self-talk…is it kind and encouraging?
  • Write some positive inspirations and post them around you.
  • Deep breathing exercises and stretch breaks can be very helpful.
  • Challenge irrational thoughts by asking yourself, “Is this something that I can do anything about today?” If so, take the necessary steps to do just that.
  • Eat mindfully.  Notice how your food looks and smells. Rather than rushing, eat slowly, mindfully and take in all of the senses.  
  • Make a daily inventory of the things you felt you did well and those you felt you might have done better.
  • Remind yourself it happens a little at a time…not all at once!
  • Journal!  Journaling can benefit by providing an emotional and physical release as well as providing insight and inspiration.
  • Take a walk or enjoy any exercise you prefer.
  • Get outside in nature…enjoy the sunset and take in all of the sights, sounds and smells! 
  • Experience a loving-kindness meditation…YouTube has some great examples.
  • Listen to music.
  • Take time to laugh.

Easy does it.  Remember, mindfulness is all about the daily practice, and the more we practice something the more permanent it becomes.  Good self-care has a positive ripple effect to all of those around you, too.

By Callie Sanders, LSW – December 12, 2017 –

With the demands of 21st century life – work, parenting, endless emails, texts, social media, etc. – people wear overstimulation like a badge of honor.

There seems to be a kind of confusion in our culture where people feel the need to be anxious and always “on the go” to be effective.  I’m just as guilty.

With that being said, we find ourselves in a mindfulness revolution.  It’s prominent everywhere.   From hospitals to corporations, 33% of Americans said they had used alternative health practices, including meditation (National Institutes of Health).

Mindfulness practice embraces the beauty of monotasking.  The way I describe mindfulness to the students I work with is simply “paying attention on purpose.”

By incorporating mindfulness practice at my schools this year, the students that are willing to give it a try leave my office feeling less stressed.  Most ask to repeat the practice during additional visits.  Let’s face it, kids are stressed out too.

There aren’t any prizes handed out for being the greatest at mindfulness. It is about connecting to our experiences in a different way and giving ourselves a chance to pay attention in the present without adding more stuff to our plate.

If you’ve used phrases like, “My mind just works too fast” or “I’ve tried it and failed,” or my favorite, “I don’t have time for that,” you’re exactly the kind of person that needs mindfulness most.  Mindfulness is a lifelong journey, not an all-or-nothing mentality, and it’s free.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by the University of Southern California, most Americans spend 13-plus hours a day consumed by media.  No wonder everyone is stressed out.

I was skeptical when the term mindfulness was first introduced to me.  But when I decided to give it a chance, I was surprised how simple it was and what I felt.

Practicing mindfulness can happen anywhere.  I like to practice in my vegetable garden or out in my yard.  When I take a second to sniff a fresh tomato after I pull it off the vine or listen to the birds singing in the background, I feel better.

For just that one second I was present; I noticed nature.  What a powerful feeling!  I encourage you to try this with your family at home.  After you take a second for yourself and enjoy nature, be grateful.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some tips for your workday, especially in the afternoon when the “two o’clock yawns” kick in.

When you can take a break, don’t go straight to your phone for at least one of the breaks.  A 2014 study found that being able to see a cellphone hinders the ability to focus on tough tasks.

If you can, go for a short walk and try not to ruminate on work.  I realize this can be difficult, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.  Ignoring your phone is a great way to practice mindfulness during the walk.

Also, do someone a favor.  Not only does this help you connect to others, it aids in recovering from stress.

Most importantly, start small.  Remember, no rewards are given for being the best at mindfulness.  I encourage you to put your phone down during dinner this evening and engage in conversation.  You will feel better being present.