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Self-Care for Educators: What is Mindfulness?

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

May 8, 2020

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Question

Self-care for educators: What is mindfulness?

Answer

Mindfulness is about paying attention in a particular way, which is on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. This definition is from Jon Kabat Zinn, who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Many people who have a terminal illness go through this eight-week mindfulness program as a first intervention, especially at some of the large hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkins, and places like that.

They have found that a significant amount of the people that go through that program no longer need treatment for that physical disease. Mindfulness is a very powerful practice and it's a practice of being fully present in the moment and noticing what's going on in our brain and in our body without judgment. This is kind of holding the anger out and thinking, oh, this anger is very interesting. Why did I get angry at him when he said that thing? Oh yeah, because I've told him a million times not to do it. But, I can have a little compassion for him. Maybe it's been a rough day. Then let those thoughts and those feelings go without holding onto them. That's the power of mindfulness.

The challenge for us is that being in the present moment is challenging with our big brains. We tend to ruminate on the past or project into the future. Being here right now and dealing with what we're dealing with can be challenging. The non-judgmental part can be hard because when something comes up for us, we immediately attach a judgment. I'm angry, that's bad. Or, I'm sad, that's bad. Instead of just recognizing I'm angry. Okay. Interesting. Now I'm going to let it go.

Mindfulness definitely takes practice. It's an ongoing constant way of being. Part of practicing mindfulness is being aware of your emotions and also being aware of your breath. For example, I notice that when I have to talk to this one parent, I tend to hold my breath. Or when I have to make this one phone call to my administrator, my stomach starts to get a little queasy. Noticing those things is also mindfulness, and then being able to do something about it.

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Stress, Trauma and Mindfulness: Self-Care for Educators, by Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT.


nicole steward

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

Nicole Steward is a social worker and registered yoga teacher (RYT) with a focus on community engagement, public education, foster youth advocacy, and trauma-informed yoga.  With more than a decade of social work practice in non-profits and K-12 education, Nicole has noticed the need for radical self-care to discharge toxic stress we absorb through our work. This awareness drives her to study trauma as well as the ways yoga and mindfulness affect our brains and bodies, keeping us engaged and renewed. Nicole teaches yoga, mindfulness, and offers self-care workshops and retreats. Nicole believes self-care is a way of being we must adopt if we are to sustain ourselves as service providers, educators and human beings.


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