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Monthly Archives: October 2020

Main Challenges Facing Students Today

An excerpt from Mindfulness for students: The secret to student wellbeing? by Lachlan Brown

So why exactly is there so much more anxiety amongst students of all age groups today?

There is no one answer for this, and the problem can be found by investigating the most pressing concerns that students have to deal with.

Some of the major problems stressing students out include:

Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety, also known as climate depression, is a growing condition of anxiety caused by fears and worries related to climate change.

Young people today have grown up with the reality of climate change and the fear that not enough is being done to stop or reverse it.

According to one 18-year-old student from Alabama, she feels that climate change had become an inevitable part of her life.

“I feel like in my peer group, you just go right from talking about polar bears dying to ‘Did you see what Maya posted on Snapchat?’ Nobody has a filter to adjust. It’s like, the ice caps are melting and my hypothetical children will never see them, but I also have a calculus test tomorrow.”


More psychiatrists are observing climate-related anxiety amongst students, although it can be difficult to identify climate change as the cause since it’s a shared problem rather than a personal one. 


Social Media


Social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact with each other, and for kids and young adults who have only ever known a world with social media, this leads to consequences that previous generations never had to deal with.

Countless studies have found links between social media use/screen time and anxiety; the more screen time a young person has, the more likely they are to have higher anxiety than those around them.

But what is it about social media that leads to anxiety?

Everything from cyberbullying (which is rampant amongst students, as anonymity and faceless interactions make it easier for them to say things they would never say in real life) to comparing yourself against the social media highlights of your peers.

These upward comparisons to others can make students feel small and inadequate.

But the answer isn’t as simple as removing social media from their life cold turkey.

Amongst heavy users, this can also increase anxiety because of a phenomenon known as FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out.

Students who also engage heavily on social media are also more likely to have higher levels of alcohol consumption, which further increases anxiety and depression.

Information Overload


Another modern problem previous generations never faced is information overload, or the overwhelming feeling of being bombarded with too much information, data, and news on a daily basis.

And in the world of smartphones and wireless internet, students are forced to deal with more information than ever before.


For many young people, this information overload comes before their brains are fully developed and capable of processing everything without being overly stressed out or affected.

Information overload is also connected to distraction issues present in many students today, as they develop problems with focusing and concentrating due to endless stimulation.

Student Debt


Student debt and financial distress has made a huge impact on the overall mental health of older students and young adults today.

Also known as financial anxiety, student debt has been found to be a major aggravator of stress and anxiety amongst students in their 20s and 30s.

This stress is greatest as students are about to graduate, as the pressure comes from knowing they have to start paying off the debt but also knowing they are entering a weak job market.

According to Dr. Galen Buckwalter, “A lot of the pressure comes from where you started, thought-wise, where college is concerned.

Many people begin college and the openness of their personality changes, as everything feels suddenly possible.

“But the reality is that the expectations on all levels are really rigid and the stress comes from the abrupt shift, after several years in college where the world feels very welcoming to suddenly realizing that one needs to find the correct path, all with financial stress.”

Testing Anxiety


Testing anxiety or test anxiety affects around 10 million students in North America, with around 16 to 20% of students experiencing high test anxiety and another 18% dealing with moderate test anxiety.

The pressure to succeed as a student is now greater than ever, with standardized, high-pressure tests coming into students’ lives at earlier ages.

Students with test anxiety fear their negative self-talk, grades as a reflection of their value, high expectations brought on by themselves or by parents and teachers, and the overall lack of control when dealing with tests they aren’t comfortable with, such as timed tests or impromptu tests.

Mindfulness: What Is Mindfulness and How Can It Help Students?


With so many stressors attacking students from all sides, it can feel like an impossible task helping them overcome each and every problem.

The issue is that these stressors can’t be easily solved; problems like climate change, social media information overload, and cyberbullying are long-term issues that affect all areas of their life.

They simply can’t be “turned off”; they are a part of reality that students need to accept.

Helping students deal with their anxiety means equipping them with the tools to properly navigate through these issues without losing their sense of self. And the best tool to do that is mindfulness.

Full Article:


Mindfulness for students: The secret to student wellbeing?


 BY Lachlan Brown


Brown, Lachlan. “Mindfulness for Students: The Secret to Student Wellbeing?” Hack Spirit, 26 Sept. 2020, hackspirit.com/mindfulness-for-students/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because it is a very recent article that takes into consideration not only the normal struggles that students face, but also the more recent ones that come with 2020. Being knowledgeable about these struggles can help us mold our education system into one that supports the students in all aspects of their lives. 

The Benefits of Mindfulness

An excerpt from Why Mindfulness is Needed in Education by MindfulSchools.org​​

Solid scientific evidence shows that mindfulness practice improves attention, self-control, emotional resilience, recovery from addiction, memory, immune response, and more. This summarizes benefits that are particularly relevant to educators; these are fundamental human abilities that when fostered through mindfulness practice will contribute to greater well-being in our school communities.

Manage Stress & Anxiety

Mindfulness practice helps educators notice the impact of toxic stress and anxiety and develop the skills to more effectively transform stressful situations.


Strengthen Cognitive Health & Attention

Mindfulness contributes to greater clarity in executive choice, decision-making, and healthy cognitive functioning. It strengthens our “mental muscle” for bringing focus back where we want it, when we want it.


Model Compassion & Kindness

As an educator’s mindfulness practice deepens, they develop a stronger capacity for self-care and self-compassion and ability to nurture, comfort, and heal themselves, students, and others.

Cultivate Awareness & Balance

Mindfulness gives us the skills to be present with our emotions, especially the difficult ones. Mindfulness practice can help reduce their intensity and impact on us and allows for new possibilities and patterns.


Foster Empathy & Connection

Mindfulness practice is a powerful way to develop a deeper sense of connection with both ourselves and others. Building our capacity for empathy supports us in effective communication, collaboration and leadership.


Grow Resilience

Mindfulness equips educators with resources like patience, flexibility, and equanimity, helping them to cope with adversity. Cultivating positive states – calm, relaxation, and peace – builds our inner strength to take on the daily challenges in schools.


 ​

Full Article:


Why is Mindfulness Needed in Education?


 BY MINDFULSCHOOLS.ORG


Schools, Mindful. “Why Is Mindfulness Needed in Education?” Mindful Schools, 1 Aug. 2020, www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/why-is-mindfulness-needed-in-education/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[EMILY]

I chose this article because I like the fact that it is specifically focused towards educators, substitute or otherwise. Being able to connect with yourself is an important skill that will help create a balanced environment for those around you.

Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice

An excerpt from Mindful.org by Elisha Goldstein​​

Science continues to reveal that an active practice has important health benefits, relational benefits, and even corporate benefits. But no matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, putting a mindfulness practice into practice can be challenging.

Sometimes, all we need is a simple road map to get us started—or restarted, if it’s been some time since we practiced. Here are five essential elements to creating a mindfulness meditation practice in daily life:

1.

Prepare Yourself
Before even attempting to do any practice, it’s important to understand that your practice is not a performance. Each practice doesn’t need to be evaluated about whether it was a “good” meditation or a “bad” meditation. This performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is any goal at all to the practice, it’s simply to learn.

For example, if someone is using their breath as an object of attention, the goal is not to stay on the breath for a long period of time, it’s to learn about what it’s like to settle attention on the breath. If the mind wanders a lot, then you learn how busy the mind is. If it wanders a lot on a particular topic, you learn to what degree that topic is on your mind. If it is on your mind a lot you learn that whatever it is, it needs attending to and you can later make the choice to focus on it.

Everyone’s mind wanders, even people who have been meditating for 50 years. It’s part of what the brain does. In fact, you could make the argument that the more it wanders the more you have an opportunity to train the mind to see “choice points” to gently bring it back. What you practice and repeat becomes a habit and so you’re strengthening the habit of choice.

2.

Bring Your Heart Into It
There is sometimes confusion in how people teach mindfulness practice, but in the way that I’ve come to understand it is that it’s simply not as effective unless you’re bring your heart into it. The quality of attention has relaxed curiosity and tenderness to it. It’s as if we’re bowing with respect to the life being lived, whether the attention is on the breath, the body, or any sense perceptions.

You’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself, and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

When there is pain involved, there is an awareness of the pain and the attention has this quality of wanting to be supportive in some way. It is a quality of care and self-compassion.

In other words, you’re doing this practice ultimately because you care about yourself, and possibly because you know that doing this practice will also be a gift to those around you.

3.

Forgive Yourself
You’re going to be completely imperfect at this, like the rest of us. If time goes by and you forget to practice, practice “forgive and invite.” Forgive yourself for the time gone by, investigate what took you off course, and then in that space of awareness invite yourself to begin again.

This is a very forgiving practice; you can always begin to be present to your life again. It only takes a moment.

4.

Thank Yourself
Perhaps even the most important part of this practice is to thank yourself each time you do it. When the time is up, you acknowledge yourself for making the effort to take time out of daily busy-ness for your own learning, health and well-being.

This imprints in your memory that you care enough about yourself to pay attention to you! That self-compassionate caring type of energy is healing. What would the days, weeks, and months ahead be like if you had more of that energy circulating through your mind and body?

Keep coming back to these four essential elements of a mindfulness practice.

5.

Find a Buddy
You could do the previous four elements of practice on it’s own, but it sure helps when we have people to do it with. Maybe you know someone who has had the interest to start a practice or you go on meetup.com and check to see if there are any groups in your area. Or maybe you look at an app like Insight Timer that has worldwide online and in-person groups to check in with.

Again, a buddy is not essential to start, but it can help you feel more connected to others who are aligned with this interest of yours. Ultimately that really helps motivation.

Full Article:


Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice


 BY ELISHA GOLDSTEIN


Goldstein, Elisha. “Five Essential Elements to Develop Your Mindfulness Practice.” Mindful, 9 Oct. 2019, www.mindful.org/starting-your-mindfulness-meditation-practice/.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

One of my favorite things about meditation practice is how practical and accessible it is. It can be as simple as this article describes and really it only becomes difficult when we make it difficult. This is a great reminder of how to approach a daily practice.

How to Explain Mindfulness and the Brain to Children

An excerpt from Mindfulness and the Brain by Chris Bergstrom at Blissful Kids

THE AMYGDALA – THE JUMPY SUPERHERO
The amygdala is like the brain’s super hero, protecting us from threats. It helps us to react quickly when there is danger. Sometimes it’s good to react—when there’s a real physical threat, like when you see a football coming your way. The amygdala simply decides that there’s not enough time to think about it and makes us react quickly: you move your head away from the path of the football. In this way, the amygdala can decide whether we get to think about the information our body gathers through our senses or not.

But there’s a problem. The amygdala can’t see a difference between real danger and something stressful. You could say it’s jumpy and that it makes mistakes.

When we’re angry, sad, or stressed the amygdala thinks there’s real imminent danger. We then simply react without thinking. We might say or do something we regret immediately. We might even start a fight or just freeze when we’re offended, or supposed to take test, or speak in front of the class. Fear and stress shuts down our thinking in this way.

THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX – THE SMART ONE
The part of our brain that helps us make good choices is called the prefrontal cortex, or PFC. You could call it the smart one, as it helps you make smart choices and decides what is stored in your memory.

To make good choices, the PFC needs to get the information our body gathers through the senses—sights, sounds, smells, and movements. The questions is: will the amygdala allow the PFC to analyse the information early enough?

Remember: the amygdala, the jumpy superhero, often times hinders the information from going to the prefrontal cortex and we make rash choices. This can happen when we’re angry, sad, negative, stressed, or anxious.

What we want to do is to help the jumpy superhero calm down. But how?

Here’s the trick.

When we’re calm, the amygdala is calm and sensory information flows to the prefrontal cortex and we can make better choices. Even our memory improves when we’re calm and happy. We’re able to remember better and make new, lasting memories.

So, how do we calm down so that the PFC, the smart one, has time to get and analyze all the information for us so that we make better choices?

MINDFULNESS PRACTICE TO THE RESCUE
Mindfulness helps us to calm down, and this, in turn, calms the amygdala so that it allows the information flow to the prefrontal cortex—that part of our brains that helps us make good choices. When we’re calm, we can more easily be mindful and make good choices.

Scientists have figured out that the prefrontal cortex is more activated following mindfulness training and our high-level functions like the intention to pay attention, emotional regulation, body regulation, our communication skills, empathy, and our ability to calm and self-soothe are more available to us.

Pretty cool, right?

The more we practice mindfulness the more we’ll experience calm moments, even if we weren’t trying to be mindful.

HOW TO DO IT?
When you feel overwhelmed, stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly. Name the emotion you are experiencing.

Focus on your breath for five breaths. See where you can feel your breath most easily—your stomach, your chest, or your nose.

Control your breathing for a short while. Do deep belly breathing for five breaths. Put your hands on your belly and feel how it expands as you breathe in.

Multiple short mindful moments per day trains your brain to become more mindful even when you don’t try to be mindful. In other words, the more you train, the easier it will be to be mindful and self-soothe when you’re actually in a stressful situation.

Full Article:


Mindfulness and the Brain - how to explain it to children


 BY Chris Bergstrom


Bergstrom, Chris. “Mindfulness and the Brain-How to Explain It to Children.” Blissful Kids, 11 Feb. 2018, blissfulkids.com/mindfulness-and-the-brain-how-to-explain-it-to-children/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because I thought this article would help open the author did a wonderful job of bringing science into an analogy that kids will understand and enjoy! It also shows how the part of the brain work together to accomplish each task, so taking care of your brain makes everything run smoother. 

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