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Monthly Archives: July 2020

The Science Behind Student Stress

An article from Edutopia by Youki Terada

A new study finds that when students experience an academic setback such as a bad grade, the amount of cortisol—the so-called stress hormone—in their bodies typically spikes. For most students it drops back down to normal levels a day later, but for some it stays high. These students remain fixated on the setback and have difficulty moving forward.

The researchers analyzed the stress levels of students at two high schools in central Texas during an especially stressful time—the transition into high school. Students completed daily surveys asking about the stress they experienced, and daily saliva samples were collected to measure their cortisol levels.

“A majority of these students—68%—experienced a drop in grades in the first semester and reported feeling stressed as a result.”

In how they handled that stress, two clear groups emerged. Students who believed that intelligence can be developed—a growth mindset—were more likely to see setbacks as temporary, and not only had lower overall cortisol levels but were able to return to lower levels shortly after a setback. Students who believed that intelligence is fixed, on the other hand, maintained high cortisol level for longer, said researchers—a stress response that tends to depress problem solving and intellectual flexibility.

“Declining grades may get ‘under the skin,’ as it were, for first-year high school students who believe intelligence is a fixed trait,” explains Hae Yeon Lee, the study’s lead author. 

“But believing, instead, that intelligence can be developed—or having what is called a growth mindset—may buffer the effects of academic stress.”

The researchers speculate that students with a growth mindset may be more likely to seek out "resources to help them cope—such as talking with teachers, peers, or parents about how to study more effectively."

Stress isn’t always bad. Cortisol increases blood sugar, metabolism, and memory function, providing a temporary boost to physical and cognitive ability, and positive stress—called eustress—can boost motivation and decision-making, helping students achieve goals. The stress experienced over an upcoming test is a reminder to study, a way of raising the stakes so that students recognize the importance of being prepared.

But with chronic stress, high cortisol levels can instead impair brain functioning and suppress the immune system, causing long-term damage. During childhood, the neural circuits for dealing with stress are malleable, and chronic stress can rewire the brain to become overly reactive or slow to shut down when faced with threats. So too much stress can disrupt normal brain development and increase the risk of diseases even into adulthood, according to a 2014 Harvard report.

What can schools do to help? “For many young people, the transition to high school can seem like the start of a stressful, seemingly endless marathon,” the researchers write. They recommend that in addition to helping students develop a growth mindset, schools pay closer attention to the demands that students face in ninth grade, and provide more academic and emotional support during this transition year.

The takeaway
: Stressed-out students aren’t thinking about solutions. If you want students to learn from their mistakes and overcome obstacles, think about ways to encourage them to adopt a growth mindset.

Full Article:


The Science Behind Student Stress


BY Youki Terada


Terada, Youki. “The Science Behind Student Stress.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 24 Aug. 2018, www.edutopia.org/article/science-behind-student-stress.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

II love the well-explained down and dirty on what’s happening in the brain and body when we are under stress. Understanding the science of it helps normalize the experience, as I think everyone can relate to what’s described here.

Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders

Why do some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago? In this passionate talk, second grade teacher Kayla Delzer speaks about her mission to revitalize learning and the classroom environment. Kayla explains how to release the power in the classroom by giving students ownership of their learning and making it relevant to them.
Breaking down the four walls of the classroom allows her students to become globally connected - and you won’t believe the endeavors her students conquer by embracing purposeful technology.

Kayla Delzer is a 2nd grade teacher and Project Lead the Way Lead Teacher in West Fargo, North Dakota. In August, she will begin her 8th year of teaching 2nd grade and her second year with West Fargo Public Schools (WFPS). Teaching is her true passion in life, and she enjoys her job and helping children to love learning and become creative problem solvers. Her students are her focus in life; they are like family to her. In August 2014, she completed her master’s degree in Elementary Education.
She also serves on the Technology Task Force and Social Media Task Force for WFPS. Her classroom Twitter account, @tweetingtopdogs, has allowed her students to learn virtually with hundreds of classrooms and educational experts from all over the world.
Kayla has teamed up with several companies to improve the lives of students and teachers, and she works frequently with GoNoodle and Remind. She is highly sought after by educational and technology companies to preview and review their products.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

Delzer, Kayla. Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders. TEDxFargo, Youtube, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6vVXmwYvgs&t=272s.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because in our country, it is an unprecedented time. Many schools are relying on technology to teach their students, in and outside of the classroom. Education is not longer one-sided. We are forced to work together as teachers and students to provide the best experience out of our circumstances, and I think this video is a good resource.

3 Easy Mindfulness Practices to Incorporate Into Your Day

An article from Yoga International by Megan Thompson​​

Most of us find it hard to stay on top of our regular activities and commitments. Leading the fast-paced lives we do, it’s not surprising that many of us feel perpetually stressed out.

Mindfulness practices can ease stress and can even help to relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety. A recent study followed 93 individuals who dealt with generalized anxiety disorders. The researchers found that those who completed even one mindfulness-based stress reduction session showed a significant reduction in their symptoms.

A 30-minute mindfulness meditation session may seem at first glance to be the ideal option for helping us to calm down and regain focus. However, the truth is that even grabbing five minutes for a few deep breaths can feel like a luxury. But if we want to improve our well-being and cultivate a calm, focused mind, integrating a few simple mindfulness practices into our lives can definitely help. And it’s easy to do—we just have to know how and where to practice them.

Check out these three very quick and simple mindfulness practices that you can immediately include in your daily routine!

MINDFULNESS PRACTICE 1: PRACTICE AWARENESS

Becoming more fully present and cognizant of each of our daily actions and their consequences is enhanced by incorporating mindful awareness into our lives.

To cultivate this awareness, first consider something you do on a very regular basis—something like picking up the phone. Practice awareness with this very routine action, and each time you pick up your phone, stop for a second and notice where you are and how you’re feeling. Consider how this action (sending a text message to a loved one, checking Facebook, writing an email) will influence you and your mood. Take a second to appreciate the healthy hands that are holding the phone, as well as the brain that enables you to understand how the device works.

Consider something you do on a very regular basis—something like picking up the phone.

You can practice this exercise with any movement or experience—mindfulness is as appropriate with a physical action as it is with a felt emotion. In fact, the perfect opportunity to practice mindful awareness is when you’re feeling anger, fear, or embarrassment. Becoming mindful in those moments will help you learn to accept those emotions, instead of struggling against them. This makes it easier to process and release them, as resisting negative emotions only encourages them to persist for longer.

This exercise will discourage you from auto-piloting through life, helping you instead to cultivate purposeful awareness of who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing. As a result, you’ll likely find yourself growing calmer and more grounded.

2. PRACTICE-FOCUSED BREATHING

We all breathe. And although it is essential for our survival, we can easily take it for granted. That creates a great opportunity to practice becoming more mindful!

You can begin mindful breathing by consciously taking a deep breath in and then out. Do this slowly. Three seconds in, and three seconds out; breath through your nose, if possible. Pay attention to the sensations you feel, and purposefully focus on your breathing as the air makes its way in and out of your body. If you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath. (Your to-do list for the rest of the day can wait.) Picture the air revitalizing your body as it enters your lungs, and dissipating into the environment around you as it leaves your nose.

Want to know what you’ve just been practicing? A mind-calming exercise we call meditation!

3. PRACTICE PURPOSEFUL OBSERVATION

We often lose touch with the beauty of this world and all the wonder hidden in our natural environment. Mindful observation of our world can help us reconnect.

To make mindful observation part of your daily routine, choose one natural object within your line of sight. It could be something as simple as the clouds outside your window, a beloved pet, or even a potted plant in your office.

Now, simply focus on it. As you concentrate, look for the tiny details you normally would not notice (if it helps you to focus, you can say those details out loud). Pay careful attention, remembering that you’re part of that natural world, which is so much bigger than ourselves.

Connecting with a piece of nature can help us to feel harmony with the world around us. Focusing intently on one object helps to quiet the mind.



Final Thoughts


Once you understand that mindfulness can be practiced at any time and in any place, cultivating it one moment at a time is not hard to do. Just incorporating these three simple mindfulness practices into your daily routine can help you be present in each moment of your life, and more in tune with the world around you. Such awareness is grounding, and it can create a feeling of wonderful calmness. It also can help you to cope well with everything life throws at you.

Practiced regularly, these exercises help to root the mind in the present moment. In addition to being present, mindfulness helps us to perform daily activities with greater calm, command, and open-mindedness.

Give these simple mindfulness practices a try. You might find they’re just what you need to quiet your mind, deepen your yoga practice, and become more in touch with who you truly are.

Full Article:


3 Easy Mindfulness Practices to Incorporate Into Your Day


 BY Megan Thompson


Thompson, Megan. “3 Easy Mindfulness Practices to Incorporate Into Your Day.” Yogainternational.com, Yoga International, 19 June 2017, yogainternational.com/article/view/easy-mindfulness-practices.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because it is so easy to go about our day without stopping to think about the things we're doing. It's important to slow down and put consideration into our actions so that we can live a more mindful life.

Benefits of Mindfulness

In this animated video, Psych2go explains the benefits of mindfulness in schools. 

Mindfulness is 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. Mindfulness is a type of meditation, useful in achieving the here and now. In this video, we talk about the many benefits of mindfulness, especially in school settings. 

Torres, Paul-Daniel. “Benefits of Mindfulness.” Youtube.com, Psych2Go, 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iUsKvGRYRo.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because it shows why mindfulness is important and how it can be incorporated into modern day education, all with fun visuals.

Exploring the Four Pillars of Purpose

An excerpt from What it Means to Have Clear Vision by Rich Fernandez​​

There are four research-backed qualities that lead to a strong sense of purpose: awareness, values, aspirations, and congruent behaviors. The good news is that these qualities can be nurtured with simple mindfulness practices designed to activate these four “pillars of purpose.” Those practices are: awareness, to connect with what’s alive within you; intention, to visualize your best life; alignment, to match your actions with your values; and resilience, to unhook from rigidity.

How to Practice Awareness

1.

Connecting with What’s Alive for You

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

Awareness simply means paying attention to the experience you are having as you are having it. You can practice awareness of your own sense of purpose through quiet meditation, taking the time to simply notice the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that arise when you consider your life and what purpose means to you. By observing your thoughts, emotions, ideas, sensations, discomfort, and anything else that arises, with kindness and curiosity, you can begin the process of discovery that can lead to insight into your purpose.

You can also integrate the practice of awareness into your everyday life. Ask yourself: What do you notice as you move through your day, or as you engage in tasks, meetings, or other forms of work? Is your life and work situation energizing? Draining? Does it sometimes bring feelings of joy or well being, or the opposite?

Remember that awareness practice is a process and that each phase, stage, and chapter of your life is a stepping-stone and a learning experience in which you can exercise awareness. Be kind to yourself as you bring curiosity to these large questions of purpose. We’re all unfolding. Life is a process. The fact that you’re interested in aligning your life with your purpose means that you’re already halfway there. Reflecting on purpose helps you gain insight into your own lived experiences and, when necessary, into how to respond appropriately and effectively to opportunities as they present themselves.

The fact that you’re interested in aligning your life with your purpose means that you’re already halfway there

In both the formal meditation and integrated practices of developing awareness of purpose, the most important consideration is whether your life or work situation is contributing to a sense of aliveness for you. Perhaps more than anything, focusing on what makes you feel alive and energized is a key indicator of what is good and true and worthwhile to consider in terms of purpose. Aliveness can take many forms: joy, absorption, meaningfulness. I find that this concept of a search for what is most alive in one’s life is not only profound and beautiful but also very practical. You know it when you see, feel, or sense it!

How to Practice Intention

2.

Imagining Your Best Life

Intention is your innate capacity to harness and direct your energy and effort at will. It seems simple enough, but it takes a lot of practice to harness your innate ability to direct your attention at will. And it’s also a critical skill for the journey toward realizing your purpose.

In many ways, setting the intention to live with purpose is an act of imagining an ideal future, and then living and working toward the realization of that vision.

Setting a clear and strong intention toward realizing purpose helps you to create the conditions for that purpose to arise. Some call this serendipity but there may be a more scientific explanation linking our thoughts and intentions with our behaviors. Neuroscientist Regina Pally describes how setting intentions (or goals) for yourself causes your brain to nonconsciously predict what is most likely to happen in order to achieve those goals. Then your brain becomes wired to act in ways consistent with those expectations. “According to neuroscience,” says Pally, “even before events happen, the brain has already made a prediction about what is most likely to happen, and sets in motion the perceptions, behaviors, emotions, physiologic responses, and interpersonal ways of relating that best fit with what is predicted.” In many ways, setting the intention to live with purpose is an act of imagining an ideal future, and then living and working toward the realization of that vision.

Setting intentions isn’t reserved only for things relating to your purpose with a capital “P.” Living a life of purpose means investing everyday moments with intention—which is why another key element in practicing intention is love. Having our intentions informed by love emphasizes the quality of how we are being in the world, rather than what we are doing. Bringing love to the mundane activities of everyday life is an invitation for each of us to live every day as our best selves. No matter what, intention imbued with love can bring us closer to a sense of congruence and alignment between what we value and how we act in the world.

How to Practice Alignment

3.

When Your Actions Match Your Values

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

After you do the hard work of uncovering what’s alive for you, and setting the intention to direct your energy to incorporating those things in your life more, the next step is aligning your actions. It can be hard work: acting in a way that aligns with your values. It is sometimes all too easy to lose sight of what’s most important to you when you’re in the middle of the slings and arrows of everyday life. It is very easy to succumb to the “busyness trap,” or prioritize the needs of others over your own—to lose the forest for the trees. The days, months, and years pass by and there can be the surreal feeling or realization of “How did I get here? Where did my time go?”


It’s helpful to consider that all of the decisions and actions you take eventually help you better understand what alignment means to you. The very act of recognizing that you feel misaligned is the absolute necessary beginning point on the path to full alignment with your purpose.

The very act of recognizing that you feel misaligned is the absolute necessary beginning point on the path to full alignment with your purpose.

So, how do you know if you are living and working in an aligned way? In the simplest sense, it is about congruence. “Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming,” suggests Alice Walker, the renowned American writer and activist.


How do you know when you are on course to this “future you are dreaming”? I’d like to offer the following inquiry-based practice focused on the three “gates” that lead to aligned action.

How to Practice Resilience

4.

Unhooking from Rigidity

Illustration by Edmon de Haro

Resilience is the learned capacity to bounce back from adversity, adapt, and thrive, according to world-renowned resilience expert Linda Graham. Learning resilience is critically important to realizing your purpose because it allows you to gracefully and effectively navigate the challenges you will certainly meet along the way. Challenges and setbacks are inevitable. I’d go as far as to say they are necessary: They force you to redefine and connect with your purpose in an even more meaningful way. That’s why the final pillar of realizing purpose is the ability to harness resilience to come back to your sense of purpose when you lose your way.

The good news is that more than five decades of research show that resilience is highly trainable. A mindfulness practice called response flexibility underpins the core research-backed resilience factors of optimism, balanced management of strong or difficult emotions, a sense of safety, and a strong social support system.

According to Graham, response flexibility is “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely,” especially when we are met with adversity.

Your purpose is not some elusive hidden treasure that reveals itself all at once in a blaze of euphoria. Contemplating your purpose and taking aligned action is a process, a sometimes scary and painful process that unfolds over time. Sometimes long periods of time. Perhaps even the arc of a lifetime. As you live your way into a deeper understanding of what is true and good and meaningful for you, no matter how on or off course you might feel right now, you will gain the capability to acknowledge and invite new possibilities to live and work with awareness, intention and aligned action.

Developing your purpose is ultimately an exercise in imagination and creativity, because as the beloved Brazilian philosopher and educator Rubem Alves noted, “The frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual.” What, then, is possible for you? Developing a sense of purpose for all that is possible (and not only what is actual) means listening deeply to your inner voice and connecting with what is most alive, true, and good in your life

Full Article:


What it Means to Have Clear Vision


 BY RICH FERNANDEZ


Fernandez, Rich. “What It Means to Have Clear Vision.” Mindful.org, 24 June 2020, www.mindful.org/what-it-means-to-have-clear-vision/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because I think it is important to understand the concept of purpose and what it means to us personally. Purpose is not a destiny that is handed to us but something that we create through practice and mindfulness.

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