Mind, Body, Spirit

Taking a Pause: Breath, Body, Thoughts

Have you ever felt frustrated in the classroom before? Angry, and like you needed to get out, or burst out? How many times have you had a tough night, or rough morning, and you came to school with so much going on in your brain that you just didn’t have room for anything else? Like you had enough going on already and this school stuff just wasn’t as important right now?

We get that. As teachers, even we have those feelings from time to time.

Sometimes each of us really just needs a chance to pause, and we recognize that. In our building we want you to know that at any point in our classrooms, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, you can raise your hand or come up to us and ask to take some space in the hallway. This is a safe place to do that. We will nearly always tell you yes, and chances are we’ll come and check in on you after a couple of minutes. You might just need space, and that’s fine, but we want you to know we’re there if you need it.

While this is a safe place for you to step away and take that space for a pause, ultimately, we hope to help you grow to a point where you can pause while still remaining in the classroom. This could be closing your eyes for a few moments and taking deep breaths, doing a couple stretches in your chair, or finding something to focus on while you gather your thoughts. This skill of pausing in our own space allows us to collect ourselves while continuing our tasks at hand, which is important for collaboration – especially in the workforce.

But how do we know when we need a pause? How can we recognize that we’re feeling overwhelmed in the present moment before it’s too late?

I’m going to recommend checking in with three things:

Start with your breath.

No need to change it, but notice it. What is your breathing like? Are you taking rapid, shallow breaths? Has it been a sprint of a day, or do you feel the nerves of your day kicking in? Or maybe you’re taking deeper breaths. Maybe you’re feeling calm, collected, in control, focused.

Wherever your breath is, notice it, and begin to deepen it further. Make your breaths longer. Count slowly to four as you breathe in through your nose… and slowly to four as you breathe out through your mouth. Do this a couple of times, imagining you are filling your lungs like big balloons in your belly.

That seems silly, right? To tell high schoolers to imagine balloons in their belly. But when we don’t think about our breathing, we only use the top third of our lungs. When we breathe deeply, filling our entire lungs like balloons, we are supplying our bodies with 200% more oxygen. This oxygen goes right to our brains, helping to improve our thinking, our focus, and it goes right to our bodies, heightening our senses and awareness of how we are feeling. So when I encourage you to take these deep breaths like balloons, I’m being serious in a silly way.

Next take a moment to check in with your body.

Move through your senses, noticing what you smell.. taste.. hear.. see. Scan your bodily sensations from your toes up through your legs.. your core.. your arms.. your shoulders.. neck.. face.. How is your body showing up today?

Is your belly hungry because you didn’t give yourself time to eat breakfast? Are your shoulders still tight from yard work or travels this past weekend? Maybe you’re feeling a little warm because this end-of-summer weather is full of so much sunshine. But hopefully you’re enjoying that warm feeling, and looking forward to today’s lunch, and maybe you’d like to take a few moments to stretch out your shoulders and back.

What does your body need right now? Is it hungry, thirsty, sore, uncomfortable? Or are you feeling pretty good? When our physical body is feeling nourished and safe, it makes it much easier for our brains to think clearly.

Now check in with your thoughts.

What thoughts are taking up the most space in your brain today? What feelings? Sometimes it can be really easy to put words to our feelings that help us understand them better. Many times, however, it isn’t quite that simple. So maybe try and classify your feelings in other ways.

Maybe you pick a color. Maybe you’re feeling blue, kinda low and sad. Or maybe you’re yellow, energetic and bright like the sunshine. Maybe those colors have different meanings for you than they do me. Or maybe you pick a kind of weather, or maybe you don’t know what it is you’re feeling but on a scale of 1 to 10 it’s a 9 and you really don’t like it.

It’s important to know how we feel about how we feel.

So see if you can put to words where your thoughts are, and how you’re showing up today. I’m currently feeling just like my sky blue pants, all floaty and like my brain is up here but my body is down there and I’m just a bit disconnected today. But I’m feeling ambitious, and social, and truly so happy to be present in class with all of my students.

How are you feeling?

Do you need a pause?

Written by Aaron Rogers, Dean of Students

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