Head full of worries? Try this for instant calm!

A super quick read today, combined with a super quick, easy and effective trick to help you, or your child, feel immediately better when you’re stuck in a ‘worry loop.’

Take a look at this awesome freebie, the ‘Circle of Control’or even better, just grab a pen and a note pad and create your own! No need for it to be fancy!

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious can be incredibly exhausting emotionally. And it’s often completely pointless, because so much of what we worry about isn’t even in the realms of our control. We just need reminding of this sometimes.

Complete the sheet – again by yourself of with your child if you’re trying to support them – and decide what things you can control, and what you can’t. Take a look at this example of what a child might fill in here:

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See? Super quick but very powerful.

If the worries you’re having have elements that you can control, then take whatever small or big action you can to make that inner-worrier quieten down a little.

More often that not though, we give ourselves anxiety headaches about things that we are completely powerless to change; mostly always things that never even happen! When this happens and your mind is repeatedly drawn back to this useless worry, look at this sheet again, remembering that you cannot control this. And maybe switch your attention to something that you can control, like the breath.

The more you practise this, the less you’ll worry! 🙂


Are you a teacher, school leader or parent in Yorkshire, looking to get ‘healthy mind’ strategies like the one above in your school? See skillswithfrills.com to learn more about the Mindfulness/Wellbeing workshops/days that we offer. Alternatively, contact Jo on 07719330358, skillswithfrills@gmail.com or through our Facebook page to find out more!  

Freebie Meditation Script, for children and adults: Cloud-Thoughts

As I adventure further and further into Mindfulness for children, teens and young adults, I only become increasingly convinced as to how effective it can be for everyone. In my work with parents, school children and individuals through Mindful coaching, the following meditation has proven itself to be one of the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.

This meditation is aimed at children from 5+, but it has the potential to give comfort to absolutely anyone. If you’re trying this with a young child, try this for just a minute each day. Depending on age and concentration span, you can attempt this for longer. For an adult who is new to mindfulness, I’d recommend 4 or 5 minutes to begin with. If you wish, you might like to record your thoughts in this handy log.

You can learn a lot about the recurring weather patterns in your mind, after only a week of recording thoughts in logs like this…

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You might also start to notice just how these recurring weather patterns effect your daily habits, behaviours, social interactions and core beliefs. You may realise, as you take a step back from the inner-chatter, that things that you never even questioned to be untrue, suddenly seem like fake news.

Once you’ve put in a little time here, you’ll hopefully find yourself pulling back from your thoughts automatically. This detachment from your thoughts and the realisation that you are you, not whatever is passing through your head at any moment, is just invaluable. It feeds into everything that you are and everything that you do.

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Enjoy this child-friendly ‘Thought-Cloud’ Meditation: 

  1. Sit down comfortably and allow your eyes to close gently. Your brain should know what your body is awake.
  2. Take a few moments to notice your breath and any sensations happening in your body. Notice how your body feels where it touches the chair or floor.
  3. Just continue to breathe and notice with curiosity – no need to control or fix anything. We’re just looking in at what’s happening today, and noticing.
  4. Have you ever laid on the grass and watched clouds go by? This is what we’re going to try now, but we’re going to watch thoughts go by today, instead of clouds. Take some time here to let thoughts come into your mind. Is there anything that you’re excited about? Worried about? Happy about? Unsure about? Let a thought float around in your head like a cloud, just letting it be there.
  5. As you watch these thoughts, as if they’re clouds, you might like to imagine that you are lying outside on grass, on a sunny day, watching these clouds. It might help you to notice the different shapes and colours of these clouds.
  6. As you watch these thoughts, realise that they’re just thoughts. Just like clouds in the sky, they come in different shapes, sizes and colours, but they all pass by. As you watch, notice how they pass by.
  7. If you notice that your mind has wandered, and feel that you’re inside of the cloud rather than watching it, congratulate yourself for realising this. This is brilliant for strengthening your attention muscles! Now go back to watching your thoughts from a distance, remembering that you are not your thoughts. They are just thoughts and float through your sky.
  8. After a few moments, return your attention to your breathe and notice the sensations in your body. Now gently open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room, stretching if you wish.

Enjoy the clouds! xx

 

Become a Zen Master with these Mega Mindfulness Resources!

Mindfulness can be defined as the act of consciously focusing on the present moment, while accepting one’s  feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; with compassion, without judgement.

As stress levels rise, the number of mindfulness-related books, sites, magazines, apps, games, retreats increase daily. And whilst some of these items have a definite stink of ‘fad’ among them, there are also some really valuable resources available that will support you and your family/colleagues/staff/students on your quest for more zen.

Here’s 5 of the good ones:

  • ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the FRAZZLED,’ by Ruby Wax, available for under £7 on Amazon right now. Comedian Ruby Wax has been pretty open about her struggles with mental health, and now with an MCBT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) degree from Oxford under her belt, she’s written some pretty inspiring stuff. Ruby offers an honest and comedic perspective, along with a ton of practical tips and information. Included are a 6-week Mindfulness course, along with specific chapters aimed at parents. This book is a must when it comes to mindfulness. I’ve already got her one, ‘How to be Human: The Manual,’ lined up and ready to go!
  • ‘8 Minute Meditation: Quiet your mind. Change your life,’ by Victor Davich (Currently under £14 on Amazon.) This 8-week programme is full of practical information and guidance to help you make your practice consistent and effective. I first read this a few years ago when I was just venturing into mindfulness, and a big part of me believed that in order to really find my headspace, I’d probably need to devote an hour a day to sitting in lotus position, or perhaps spend three-months at an Ashram in India. Eat, Pray, Love your heart out. This book offered me an alternative and much more realistic schedule of 8-minutes daily practice (a lot harder than it sounds!) that I could comfortably slot into my busy life. If you prefer a less anecdotal approach, this book offers a well-structured, text-book style course, sure to bring that little more peace into your day.8 minute mindfulness.jpg
  • ‘Mindfulness On the Go’ card-set by Anna Black, currently under £13. These activity cards come in a beautiful box and won’t look out of place on any kitchen worktop or office desk. There are 54 beautifully designed cards, split into Practice and Activity cards. The Practice cards are mini-meditations that you can do when you’re out and about (you could easily fit the pack into your bag, or select one to keep in your purse/wallet.) The Activity cards, on the other hand, tend to focus on setting intentions for the day and increasing awareness of your daily habits. I love these cards because not only do they look pretty, but they encourage me to actually practise mindfulness and not just forget about it as soon as my ‘to do list’ starts to ramp up.
  • Mindful Kids’ 50 Activity-card set’ by Whitney Stewart and Mina Brau. I’ve mentioned this one before, and it’s just an absolute bargain at under £8. If you’re a parent of young children, struggling to fit in mindfulness around the kids, then why not include them in your practice? You’ll increase your own chances of success dramatically, while at the same time setting them up for a calmer, happier day. The cards are divided into 5 categories, summarised as confidence building; handling challenging emotions; sharpening awareness muscles; acceptance of yourself/the world; rest and relaxation. The activities are great fun for adults and children, most relying on imagination alone. If nothing else, you’re bound to create some precious family memories. Remember when mum tried to ‘be a tree’ and fell over?!

  • ‘In the Moment’ magazine isn’t cheap at £5.99 per monthly issue, but it’s a worthwhile luxury if you’re feeling inclined to spend. The act of sitting down in silence and reading any magazine or book is brilliant me time/mindfulness, but this magazine takes it to a whole other level. It’s crammed full of zen-inspiring articles and interviews, along with practical tips, activities and pull-out resources. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also produced on beautiful paper – I find myself repeatedly going into the present moment, feeling the touch of this beneath my palms. Reading this magazine in all together a lovely experience. You can save money by subscribing online, or pick it up monthly on most supermarket magazine stands.in the moment mag.jpg

Bonus Freebies:

Wanting to ‘up your attention,’ without the expense? Get yourself on YouTube! Just searching for mindfulness or meditation will bring up a ton of results, and though you will have to wade through lots of cheesy/annoying/awful clips, you might just find something that works for you. Here’s a link to some brilliant audio meditations from Professor Mark Williams. I’ve had a lot of success with these!

The same attitude can be applied to the app store. Read reviews before you download, and expect free apps to throw ‘in app purchases’ your way. I’m a big fan of the Head-space app, described as a ‘mindfulness coach in your pocket.’ This app gets bigger and better every year – unfortunately, so does the price! At present, the first course of 10 beginners sessions are still free and definitely worth a download. These babies lasted me over a year and some of the animation clips have really stuck with me.

Enjoy! xx

Would your students benefit from a Masterclass in Mindfulness? ‘Mind Masters’ is ready!

Having completing my Mindfulness teacher training with the British Mindfulness Institute, I’ve been increasingly impatient to get a mindfulness workshop under my belt.

Yesterday, I taught a full day of ‘Mind Masters’ for the second time and I’m thrilled with how it went.

This masterclass in mindfulness works fantastically, either as a follow-up to ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ or as a standalone day’s learning experience. ‘Mind Masters’ lasts the full teaching day, though a compressed version can be taught as a morning only, or as hour-long workshops to different groups/classes. It’s well suited to key stage 2 pupils of any age, and easily adapted below or beyond this age range.

The aim of the day is to introduce children to the different aspects of Mindfulness and the art of really paying attention. If you weren’t already aware, the countless benefits of consistent mindfulness practice in children include improvement of self-awareness, self-regulation skills, mental health and social connectedness.

According to the BMI, the advantages of regular practice for children can include:

  • Increased ability to orient attention
  • Increased working memory and planning and organization
  • Increased self esteem
  • Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance
  • Increased quality of sleep
  • Decreased test anxiety
  • Decreased ADHD behaviours- hyperactivity and impulsivity
  • Decreased negative affect/emotions
  • Fewer conduct and anger management problems

There’s something for everyone! 

Here’s what we’ll cover throughout the day:

We begin with an introduction to Mindfulness and discuss the benefits, as well as covering rules and expectations for the day.

Throughout the morning, we take part in a range of activities which allow us to switch off our auto-pilot and really ‘step into the moment.’ Included are observational tests and sketching; a ‘What’s that Sound’ quiz and Sound Mapping; activities based on listening to our emotions and meditations; touching, smelling and tasting games, with the odd grape and blindfold thrown in. It’s endless fun! At the end of the day, we bring everything together with some Mindful artwork, before wrapping up to recap what we’ve covered and how we might use this.

The skills and content covered offer students a refreshing ‘day out’ from their regular curriculum, and they’ll enjoy the mindful games, activities, quizzes and artwork, whilst gaining valuable tools to support them mentally and emotionally both at school and at home. As we focus on strengthening those all-important concentration muscles, we’ll also boost our writing, speaking, listening, collaborative and artistic skills.


Interested? Call 07719330358 or email jo@skillswithfrills.com to find out more!

Help your students to find their inner ‘Wellbeing Warrior’

I am delighted to announce the creation of ‘Skills with Frills’ original and signature workshop day, ‘Wellbeing Warriors.’

Delivery of this Learning Experience typically lasts the full school day. It’s aimed at upper key stage 2, but is easily adapted for children lower down school or further up. The workshop focus is mental health and wellbeing, something that children (and staff) are frankly crying out for across the country. The workshop has been carefully designed to take children through a journey aimed at creating a positive, ‘Growth Mindset’, better relationships and a happier life.

We begin the day with rules and expectations, followed by a simple question: What does a warrior look like? After considering what it truly means to have the qualities of a warrior, we begin working through the warrior code as follows:

Work hard: understanding and training yourself to have a Growth Mindset.

Appreciate: being thankful for all you have, including yourself.

Risk-hunting: understanding the biology of Fight, Flight and Freeze, and using this knowledge to support you as you step out of your comfort zone.

Resilience: considering the ‘Iceberg Illusion’ of success and how failure only makes us stronger.

Invest in Kindness: practising kindness and reaping the benefits in how you feel.

Observe (B.E.S.T): Mindfully observing breath, emotions, surroundings and thoughts.

Responsibility: Owning your responsibilities and the choices that you make, no matter what life throws at you.

Activities are chunked and varied to keep students engaged; including a mix of discussion, practical activities, video clips, stories from real-life people and written/drawing activities completed in workbooks provided at the start of the session. Students are invited to take these workbooks home in the hope that they will use them as a self-made, self-help guide in times of need.

This workshop incorporates elements of Mindfulness teaching, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Growth Mindset, Neuroscience, Biology and theory/practice relating to Happiness teaching. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we’re also building up writing, comprehension, speaking and listening skills along the way.


Want to see this taught in your school? Still have questions? Call Jo on 07719330358 or email jo@skillswithfrills.com and we’ll be happy to discuss this workshop further.

Just to whet your appetite, here’s some feedback from year 6 students at Walton Academy, following a day-long workshop. As part of their plenary, they were asked to write down one thing they’d learnt; one thing they’d do as a result of the day’s learning; and one thing they would say differently. The answers speak for themselves!

QUICK READ: Top 5 confidence hacks for students

Confidence isn’t something that has ever come naturally to me. It’s something that I’ve had to, and continue, to work on daily and as such, I’ve absorbed a scary amount of self-help material. Because of this, I’ve gained a really useful tool-set when working with students who struggle with the same issues. The methods below have really worked for me personally, and they’ve always been well-received with my students too!

Here are 5 top tips to gain instant confidence:

  1. Tony Robbins tells you to imagine that you’re wearing an invisible cape – like a superhero. Seriously. If I’m ever feeling low, I put my cape on and turn around to see it flapping in the wind. Your body language changes entirely. What can I say? I’ve always fancied myself in a bat-suit.
  2. Tell yourself – it’s not nerves, it’s excitement. In nerve-wracking situations that used to terrify me (job interviews, public speaking etc.) I would practise deep breathing and tell myself I was calm. My brain just didn’t buy it – what my body was feeling was the opposite of calm. As the symptoms of excitement and anxiety are the same, it’s much easier to just repeat in your head, ‘I’m so excited!’
  3. Step into the moment. If you’re having a wobble, distract yourself by noticing your surroundings – really noticing… like you’re a new born baby or an alien. Stare at the sofa/carpet/sandwhich as if you’ve never seen anything like it. Examine the way it looks, smells, feels, sounds, tastes – just be warned that if you taste the sofa, people may start to worry about your sanity.
  4. When you’re full of self-doubt/paranoia/fear and anxiety, think about what you would say to a friend in this situation, and say it to yourself. A lot of us find it easy to motivate and inspire our friends when they’re down, but don’t extend the same kindness, patience or sympathy to ourselves. Treat yourself like you’re a good pal, apply reason and show yourself some self-love.
  5. Recite a mantra in your head. For years, I was super skeptical about mantras. I likened them to incantations and pictured myself talking to the mirror like Bruce Willis in Friends: “I am a neat guy!” Then, a couple of years ago, I listened to the audio-book of Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the Fear and Do it anyway.’ When I heard her happy, confident mantra, “I’ll handle it,” on my way to school, I realised that if I really believed that I could handle any situation – any presentation, difference of opinion with colleagues, argumentative colleague, last-minute deadline – then although the actual tasks would still be there, their negative emotional pull on me wouldn’t be. Whenever I start to feel like it’s too much and I can’t cope, I force a smile and tell myself, “I’ll handle it.”

Here’s what has worked for me, but everyone is different. If you’ve found success with any of the methods above, or have an alternative tip to share, comment below!

Teacher Wellbeing: Never put your happiness on hold.

This weekend I came across one of my favourite poems: ‘Days’ by Philip Larkin. I love the simplicity of this poem and the message, at least as I see it, to live in the moment and enjoy each and every day.

When I was previously unhappy in my job, or indeed in my life, I’d put off happiness constantly. I’d tell myself ‘I’ll be happy when I get these last ten pounds off,’ or ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve bought my own house,’ and certainly, as a teacher, it was a case of ‘I’ll be happy when it’s my next school holiday.’ In reality, no item on this tick list ever made me ‘happy.’ Even the granddaddy of school holidays, Summer, never lived up to this kind of street cred and I often found myself just as unhappy, only in a different situation.

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She was eternally grateful for that one ‘good hair day’

I realised a couple of years ago that the old cliché is true and that happiness truly does come from within. It’s about the things you choose to notice and choose to ignore; it’s about what you’re consciously grateful for every day; it’s about how you choose to eat, move, interact, challenge yourself and others, and most importantly, think.

Nowadays, I still look forward to holidays just like I used to, but there’s less desperate urgency about it. I focus more on the small-wins of every day life: a gorgeous class to teach, a new idea to try with a tricky pupil, a lesson plan that gets the creative juices flowing, a free period, a homemade soup for lunch, a post-school Netflix binge!

I’d like to point out that my natural disposition is to be cynical, sarcastic, anxious and negative (and that’s on a good day!) so thinking this was hasn’t come naturally – I’ve had to force it. Cultivating this kind of attitude has taken years of effort and still continues to challenge me – it’s not like I don’t have bad days, or hormones… but it’s incredibly powerful to know that the feeling that you’re looking for is available to you right now, if you only open your eyes (changing your body language massively helps too!)

So please – enjoy your day and take notice of everything good around you. I’ll leave you with this awesome poem:

Days

What are days for?

Days are where we live.   

They come, they wake us   

Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:   

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question

Brings the priest and the doctor   

In their long coats

Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin 

 

 

 

Teacher Wellbeing: Are you hanging out with school Dementors? Are you one yourself?

There have days/weeks/terms in my career when I was overworked, stressed out and miserable, and as such sought solace in moaning, ranting and complaining to others. It wasn’t a conscious decision at the time. I just couldn’t seem to stop the words coming out of my mouth. And anyway – it’s good to let off steam right?

Frankly. No.

This wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t solving anything. All I did was bring myself and my colleagues down.

I had become a school Dementor. I was sucking the life out of anyone who came near me.

Now… I’ll be kind and let myself off. Looking back, my situation at that time was soul-crushingly bleak on so many levels, that I’m still amazed I survived at all. Still – I realise now that I made things significantly worse for myself through my own mental and spoken dialogue.

Teachers beware; beware of spending time with Dementors; beware of becoming one yourself.

A good rant is healthy and necessary every now and then, but if it becomes part of your daily routine to nip into your colleagues classroom every day at the end of school, and spend half an hour longing for another life, complaining bitterly about school mismanagement and unpleasant kids; about the pile of books you have to spend the night marking when you should be ironing instead, well… just stop. Half an hour a week is two and a half hours – that’s weekly PPA time for many. And you’re spending it complaining?

Instead, you could be rattling off some work and getting home a bit earlier to spend time with your family. You could race off to the gym and get some much-needed endorphins to help you cope all you have to moan about. You could go and sit outside on your own with a cuppa and enjoy a bit of quiet mindfulness. If you’re really unhappy, you could spend that time looking for another job.

You could do something that makes you feel better – not worse.

I know that this is easier said that done, especially considering that most of the time we really enjoy moaning and the company of those who moan along with us. They’re often not only colleagues, but trusted friends.

But this is your life. This is your well-being; your health. And it’s theirs too! 

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If you’re more left than right, maybe something needs to change!

Tell your friends how you feel – tell them that you’re trying desperately to curtail your complaining to help yourself feel happier. Any friend worth their salt would want that for you anyway. Ask them to help you; maybe they can shout, “Chucky Cheese!” at you whenever you unconsciously start blathering on; if they’re a ‘funny’ friend, maybe they will start Irish dancing with a finger up the nose (I’ve never tried that but I know I have friends who would oblige!). Maybe set a day after school when you get together and have a good old moan. Just make sure that this day doesn’t spiral into a week.

And if they’re not obliging? Maybe you need to change your working patterns for a while; perhaps your classroom door gets closed at the end of the day; maybe you head home at half 3 and work on the kitchen table. Do whatever it takes to help yourself feel happier. Give it a month – if you’re no happier, feel free to return to your complaining!

With so many teachers leaving the profession, the ones who are staying need to take steps to protect themselves in any way that they can, even from themselves.