Easing Your Start-of-the-School Year Anxiety

by | Sep 10, 2020 | mindfulness, School, Social-Emotional Learning

Start-of-the-School – Photo by Deleece Cook

The end-of-summer jitters come for educators every year, but the unknowns for this upcoming school year may feel especially anxiety-inducing. At Mindful Practices, we believe the way to embrace the present is to understand the intricacies of how we are feeling and how to regulate those feelings. Our practices below are meant to provide self-care around boundaries, gratitude, and mindfully acknowledging your present feelings and emotions so you can feel more prepared to handle the unknowns as you move into the school year. 

We hope our suggestions below help you to lessen your anxiety and increase healthy positivity.

Webinar: Building Boundaries

  • Description: SEL Specialists Erika Haaland and Stefanie Piatkiewicz discuss mindfulness, social emotional learning and boundaries in this 1-hour informational and experiential session. This webinar offers an opportunity to reflect on what you need to create space for YOU and remind yourself how important your own wellbeing is as you enter the new school year. 
  • Watch: Linked here, passcode is Summit2020

Self-Care: Positive Self-Talk and Positive Thoughts Journal

  • Activity 1: Positive Self-Talk Language Minute Meditation
    • Why: Words are powerful. How we speak to ourselves and about ourselves (whether out loud or in our own minds) has a powerful effect on our self-esteem.
    • Supplies: None
    • Directions: 
      • This week, speak this affirmation at the start, in the middle of, and at the end of your day. “Today I will find my center no matter what storms come my way. I will remember that how someone treats me is their choice, but how I respond is mine. I will choose to meet conflict with grace. Today I will be proud. I will remember I am powerful and resilient.”  Once you conclude, take 3 deep breaths reflecting on what is happening in your body.
  • Activity 2: The Power of Positive Thoughts Journal
    • Why: This is also known as the Test Preparation Journal exercise for students, and is used as a calming and self-regulating tool for both students and adults. If you make a habit to replace nervous thoughts with positive thoughts, you will create new neural pathways, making it easier for your nervous system to calm down, and you will feel more relaxed.
    • Supplies: Piece of paper, writing utensil
    • Directions:
      • (Scripted): What happens when you’re nervous?  Your heart feels like it’s racing, and your palms become sweaty.  This is your nervous system talking.  If you’re about to take a test, maybe you’re thinking, “I have to do well on this test.  I hope I don’t mess it up,” or “I am going to forget everything!”  When we have those thoughts, our nervous system responds.  Our heart rates increase, and we feel nervous.
      • The good news, though, is if you change your thoughts, you can change how you feel by turning off the part of your nervous system that is making you uncomfortable! 
      • ANTS & PATS:  Automatic Nervous/Negative Thoughts and Positive Automatic Thoughts (Dr. Daniel Amen)
      • Today, we challenge you to take a piece of paper, and make two columns: Nervous Thoughts and Positive Thoughts. In the Nervous Thoughts column, write down some thoughts that go through your mind when you’re feeling nervous. Reminder – this can also be in response to the pandemic and racial justice.  Now, in the Positive Thoughts column, write down some positive thoughts that contradict the nervous ones in the first column, such as: “This is my chance to shine. I can really work to increase student voice in my remote learning strategy!” or “I can control that I wear masks in public, and carry hand sanitizer with me.”  If you make a habit to replace nervous thoughts with positive thoughts, you will create new neural pathways, making it easier for your nervous system to calm down, and you will feel more relaxed.
  • Self-Care: POP Check
    • Why: A POP Check is a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) strategy that allows students and adults to experience and practice the SEL competencies of Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation. Doing so ensures students and adults have space to voice and meet their physical, social, cognitive, and emotional needs. 
    • Supplies: Visual POP Check Chart (optional)
    • Directions: 
          • Self-care is continuous. Check in with yourself throughout the day, not just at the end of a stressful situation. Each day, we challenge you to take a moment at least three times to practice a POP Check.  PAUSE and take a deep breath. What do you feel in your body? What thoughts do you notice in your mind? OWN IT – Own whatever thoughts, feelings, or emotions you are experiencing. Notice what your energy level is and how you are feeling. Note that no feeling is “bad,” simply name your feeling without judgement. PRACTICE – Practice Equal Breath, taking a slow four-count inhale and slow four-count exhale three times.
  • Activity: Gratitude Jar
    • Why: According to psychologist, Robert Emmons, practicing gratitude has been shown to have a positive impact on physical health, psychological well-being, and our relationship with others.  Gratitude contributes to positive emotions, lessons negativity, builds resilience, and improves self-worth.
    • Supplies: A jar or box, sticky-note-sized paper, and a pen or marker
    • Directions:
      • First, if you are the creative type, decorate your jar or box with a sign title “Jar of Gratitude”. 
      • Next, reflect on one thing for which you are grateful (it can be anything).
      • Then, take a deep breath in and out, and notice the sensation or sensations in your body when you think about this thing for which you are grateful.
      • Last, write down or draw what YOU are grateful for on a slip of paper and place it in your jar.
        • You can look at the slips of paper at the end of each week, each month or anytime you just need a reminder of the positive. 

If you are interested in experiencing Mindful Practices programming like this for your school or classroom this fall, please email erika.panichelli@mindfulpractices.us. Please reach out with any questions or feedback at hello@mindfulpractices.us.

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