Maybe not all mindfulness techniques but some of the most common: deep breathing, and body check are not as simple or risk free as you might think:
How Deep Breathing Can Worsen Trauma Responses | Psychology Today
It is a dreich rainy first November here in Scotland. And at 7 am I am contemplating my second cup of coffee.
What better day than today to dig up this draft about mindfulness and its pitfalls.
Over the last years I have come across several SoTL projects that proposed to implement group-mindfulness exercises in the higher education classroom.
Every time I stumble across these, particularly when run without the knowledge, or training that would enable trauma informed implementation, I become extremely worried.
Dear colleagues, if there is anything I wish you would reconsider it is this:
Using mindfulness and breathing exercises with your students as a panacea to help with anxieties. Particularly, in larger cohorts.
It’s unfashionable to speak out against mindfulness.
People who support folk with ADHD suggest it works well, and granted–as with all things–there will be people (with ADHD) for whom this works well indeed. And there will be people for whom this is the worst thing they can engage in.
So if you are contemplating mindfulness for your learners inform yourself:
- Make it opt-in not opt-out! Choice is important (and we already know we are different no need to reinforce this).
- Offer a variety of practices, deep breathing is not the only one, or body scan!
- Imagine your body (or parts of it) for a whole host reasons (emotional or physical trauma, disability, chronic pain) is hostile ground. Making people focus on the body, without building a strong safety net beforehand, might not be the best strategy. And can trigger trauma response
- There are other methods such as variations of noticing: some focus on one object in the room that speaks to the person, or brings joy. Others focus on what can you sense, hear, feel, smell, see–describe it and focus on the respective sense used at the time. Without focussing on the body
- Some years ago a friend recommended a really interesting article to me about walking meditation, mindful walking, forest bathing. There are different mindfulness practices that include movement.
- There are other methods such as EFT tapping to help relieve stress and calm down a heightened body response.
However, mindfulness is not the only way to support your learners. If anxiety is caused by feeling overwhelmed your students might benefit from some very simple workload and time management techniques and tools:
- The good old to-do list! Don’t snub it. Have you experienced the positive reinforcement when ticking off an item?
- Making realistic plans. When working in learning support, I sometimes used a simple hourly week calendar and started blocking and colour coding time slots, so the learner had a realistic picture of their busy and spare times. Also some were rather surprised by how long chores such as cooking, laundry, shopping can take.
- Bullet journaling can help your learners to integrate time management, with reflection and mindfulness.
- Prioritising: there is an interesting exercise, where you write down every single thing that you need and want to do. Then sort all of these into categories (not too many), and then prioritise, and set up a timescale for things.
- There are some really good resources online that have practical strategies to help deal with overwhelm such as the Anti-Burn Out Club