Every time I meet up with teacher friends, they mostly talk about how their day transpired. They exchange nice and bad experiences, give each other advice, and of course, laughter. But there’s always one who gives a mention to things like “How can I calm my anxious mind?” or “Is it possible to excuse yourself in the middle of the day for a long nap?”
Me? I was there listening, amazed, and hats off to these educators. But that inspired me to write a post on how to calm an anxious mind in the middle of a busy day in the classroom. Here’s what I have collected.
How Can You Calm Your Anxious Mind?
It’s no secret that stress is a part of teaching. However, everyone has their own way of handling it. In the education sector, there are a lot of psychological factors at play that cause teachers to react in a negative way when challenged with stifling social situations.
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Anxiety is quite prevalent in all ages, but symptoms commonly surface when the mind is surrounded by overwhelming tasks. Teachers are especially vulnerable at school because they are exposed to different personalities, behaviors, and situations that form pressures on their capacity to manage. Anxiety, when ignored, can hinder learning capabilities and performances.
To prevent this from happening, get to know practical ways to calm an anxious mind, and how they can be applied when anxiety attacks. Here are some examples that are quick to do but leaves you a feeling of contentment:
A Glass of Water
Yes, water. Did you know that simply drinking a glass of water brings some relief? It helps with headaches, keeps you awake, concentrated, and fit.
When you are anxious, a headache can come along and you may experience attention and memory span. As the brain consists of mostly water, hydrating yourself helps it gain back alertness. Anxiety also causes dehydration among teachers, and a good way to prevent this is to stay hydrated throughout the day.
You find drinking water not so challenging? Make it cheerful by adding fruits or herbs into your water so it gives a natural refreshing flavor. You can also use nice-looking water bottles or that which can hold the water temperature you like. Being fancier with your water can be a lot more enticing.
Negative self-talk like “I can’t do it,” “I’m not enough,” or “There’s no use,” can be detrimental to your thought process. Positive self-talk is exactly the opposite of these talks. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, as long as you believe you can fix it, correct it, and handle it; then life goes smoothly.
When pressure attacks your mind, positive self-talk seeks to motivate the mind to keep moving forward, that you can go further, and do better. This practice often allows you to discover the obscured positivity in any given situation.
Positive self-talk reframes negative thoughts into something more optimistic. This inner monologue has the power to make you feel good about yourself and everything going on in your life. It’s an inspiring voice in your head that tells you to look at the brighter side because you can do it.
Just like how students are distracted, you too can get preoccupied many times. The goal of brain breaks is to help the brain shift focus and reduce the stress you are having at the moment.
From the school’s regular breaks to the day’s longer break of recess or coffee time, note that they are not simply “breaks” but healthy and energy-giving downtimes.
Brain breaks or short breaks increase blood flow to the brain, helping it to regain focus and stay alert. As you pull back your important tasks back to the center of your attention, it also reduces stress and anxiety. Haven’t you noticed why kids are re-energized after their recess? That’s because their brain has gained back energy.
Try to focus your eyes on green plants and trees, or stare at the horizon. Nature has the power to heal. It has the ability to put yourself back to where it should be. Why not just close your eyes and think of a place like a seashore, mountain top, or country road?
One perfect “brain break” idea is visualizing yourself calm.
Find a suitable place in your classroom or in the campus that is quiet and relaxing. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, inhale, exhale, and then relax.
Now imagine something you like – a favorite place, the beach, stars in a cool night sky, or anything else you truly love. Start imagining it as detailed as you can. Don’t forget to breathe in and breathe out. See how it helps calm your mind even for just a few minutes.
Visualization is quite simple but it requires practice. By creating a mental picture, you get a feel of what it looks like to stay calm. The next time you’re anxious, you can do this again.
This is probably the easiest method to do since breathing is already innate in us. However, those struggling with anxiety are often overwhelmed and unintentionally take breathing for granted. This bodily process can cloud their human thought processes due to the lack of oxygen.
Deep breathing is said to be most efficient when one inhales air through the nose and out of the mouth repeatedly. What is so good about this technique is the fact that it can be done anytime and anywhere – even in class, when an anxiety attack comes up.
Our body normally breathes in and out about 22,000 times a day. This shows that oxygen (air) fuels the lungs and that oxygen is the body’s life-sustaining gas that powers the human body.
Listening to Music
Do you like listening to music? I do!
Music has a special ability to calm an anxious mind. A faster music beat can make you feel on the groove while the country and slower music can make you feel more relaxed.
But take note: forcing yourself to listen to music that doesn’t interest you might just create tension instead of reducing it. Plus, while music improves the mood, quiets the mind and quality of sleep, it doesn’t mean allowing yourself to feel sleepy.
Listening to music simply is a means to calm your brain so you can re-energize and function better in your next activities. You might want to load up your iPad with soft melodies or your favorite music. Look for good wireless headphones that can transmit sound and music from your smartphone.
An accommodating classroom setup helps prevent teacher anxiety. One example is a convenient seat plan that engages students more in a class activity than with rowdy classmates.
Posting written directions anywhere in the room will guide everyone with the right things to do. This approach is discipline training, too.
Another thing is the friendly groupings strategy that opens opportunities to get to know buddies during lunch, recess, and other activities; reducing the fear of rejection among students.
This idea not only ensures that students are comfortable but it optimizes organization in the classroom while lessening anxious thoughts to both you and them.
PMR is a method that helps relieve tension. It is a technique that involves tensing and releasing different muscle groups in the body and a process that distracts the person from dwelling more on their anxious thoughts.
Like a deep breathing exercise, muscle relaxation can be done anywhere at any given time. Even better when it is practiced every day as it allows you to spot any muscle constrictions that might be contributing to your anxious feelings.
In progressive muscle relaxation, you are compressing certain muscles as you breathe in, and then you release them as you breathe out.
Other than student engagement, classroom games encourage the class to interact with each other.
Playing with them can keep you feeling young and energetic. Fun games in the classroom are a sure way to help you forget about stress.
It makes you part of your students. It allows you to catch up with their energy, move your body, sweat out, and even laugh with them to the max.
By joining in fun classroom activities, you are supercharging yourself as you trigger the release of the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Playing can also stimulate your mind and help you solve problems. You will be amazed at how a playful nature can help you loosen up in a stressful situation.
Doing classroom games on a regular basis helps everyone in the classroom trust one another and feel safe. So you’re improving the quality of classroom relationships as well as connecting to your students.
In a nutshell…
Not only educators but all of us get upset once in a while. There’s nothing much to worry about as this is a normal part of life. But take note that when worries and stresses all add up to a heavy load, it can burst out like a balloon. So when anxiety takes over and you can’t calm down – it’s definitely time to put your attention to it.
It may take practice to calm yourself at the moment you’re too anxious, but it can be done. This is the reason why I collected these strategies — I want to help my teacher friends and all educators reading this to calm their minds when they’re feeling anxious.
Do you have fun ideas to share with teachers? It would be great to hear them in the comments.