Workplace wellbeing

Workplace well-being…is it blah blah?

I am sure you have heard the words “workplace well-being” by now.  It is becoming the new buzz word, companies are talking about it and hopefully implementing programmes to encourage it, individuals are either skeptical or thinking “finally!!!” and others are sitting on the fence.   I mean, is achieving a feeling of workplace well-being really possible?  How can it work when most people have mountains of work to do and not enough time to do it?

Is aiming for workplace well-being going to be taken seriously, or is this yet another box we need to tick?   For some companies, this new trend is going to be a whole load of “blah, blah” until it becomes a legitimate legal requirement for all organisations to ensure they offer their employees have access to sustainable ways of managing their work and maintaining an acceptable level of well-being whilst at work.

This is a huge topic which I will be focusing on a lot more from now on, not only because I am a well-being warrior and mind/body champion for two large organisations in the UK, but because I am receiving more emails from students who are participating in the Chilled Out Child programme to say that as much as they would love to teach mindfulness full-time, they are potentially likely to remain in other employment for the foreseeable future for one reason or another.   The reality is that many people are juggling two or three part-time jobs or building a business in their  spare time after working a full-day for someone else.  Holding down two or three different jobs is also referred to as building a portfolio career.  Portfolio careers are becoming the norm as some people thrive on the diversity this style of working can offer and companies are  offering flexible working and part-time instead of full-time roles.  This does sound exciting, but the danger here is that individuals might still be expected to fit a “full-time role” in to part-time hours and this is where taking workplace well-being seriously is essential.

Over the years I have seen new yoga teachers throw themselves wholeheartedly into their new roles, revelling in the fantastic work they are doing. But, as I have witnessed with some of my former colleagues who teach a number of classes during the week whilst also trying to build their business (marketing is not often a yoga teacher’s first love or strong point) their energy is zapped quickly.  What was once a passion, is now just another job and sometimes a job they are not enjoying because they have not taken care of themselves.   One children’s yoga franchise had their children’s yoga teachers teaching up to twenty children’s yoga classes a week in various locations. It’s not sustainable. These enthusiastic yoga teachers burn out in less than a year. They eventually wrangle with the franchise to set themselves free and with a last burst of energy they try and set up classes on their own, only to find that somewhere in the past year they have lost their passion, their energy has haemorrhaged… they are emotionally, physically and energetically drained.

So with my passion for workplace well-being and my desire to offer more support to past (and present) students of the Chilled Out Child teacher training programme, I have decided to write a workplace well-being module as well as a couple of other modules which relate to yoga and energy healing so as to create a practical toolkit of holistic healing modules which can be shared with children and teenagers and a module dedicated on building and maintain well-being for individuals who are teaching yoga, meditation and mindfulness to others.  You may not like to think of it this way, but you are running a business, big or small, but a business all the same and therefore you need to look after your own well-being as well.

Take a couple of minutes now to focus on your breath.

The breath is our life force and is one of the most important functions of the body.  The act of breathing correctly can create feelings of calm, relaxation, clear “headedness” and helps us manage pain. Breathing incorrectly can result in feelings of tenseness, nervousness and confusion.

To breathe properly, you need to use your diaphragm which is the large sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of the chest cavity.

  • To find your diaphragm, sit comfortably or lie on your back on the floor.
  • Place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your abdomen in the ‘gap’ of your rib cage.
  • Take a breath in and slowly breathe out.
  • When you breathe in and out, your left hand should remain still, but your right hand can move up and down.
  • If your left hand is moving, your breathing is too shallow and you are not using your diaphragm as you should.
  • Breathe in and out slowly about five to ten times.

Keep popping back as I write more blogs on how to create and maintain well-being in the workplace.

 

 

Helping children and adults manage their stress.
Anxiety management, stress management

Managing anger.

Helping your child learn to recognise the feeling of “oncoming anger” and teaching them to deal with their anger healthily will have many benefits not only for the child but for the whole family.

When children learn how to manage their angry outbursts they will learn to solve problems and cope with their emotions in a balanced and safe way.   It is a good idea to explain to children that anger is the problem, and it is not them that is the problem.  You could give the anger a character, or name and ask your child to draw what they think this angry character looks like.  Ask them what colour he/she would be, what kind of face would they have, what specific features will the “angry character” have and what have they decided to call him/her?   Anger need not be a character; it could be a volcano or a raging sea, it could even resemble a weather pattern such as a tornado or wild storm.  With your child, think of some creative ways to describe and depict anger and if you can aim to make this amusing, it takes the edge off.

The way you respond to your child’s anger will influence how they continue to respond and feel about their angry outburst.   Talking to your child and identifying early warning signs that an outburst might be near will be very helpful and help your  child to recognise what triggers them and how to manage there reactions, or if they can, avoid the trigger altogether.  Encourage your child to walk away from their triggers or get them to do simple things like counting to ten or taking three or four belly breaths.  It is worth remembering that children model our behaviour, so this is good advice for us too.

Positive feedback is important, so it would be helpful to praise your child’s efforts to manage their anger even if they really struggle to manage how they feel and still end up erupting like a volcano. This will build your child’s confidence in the battle against anger. It will also help them feel that you’re both learning together.

Anger can rise quickly and can be a frightening and unsettling experience even for the angry person.  As frustrating as it can be to have to deal with adults and children who regularly display angry behaviour, patience and perseverance and a big dose of loving kindness can go along way to helping them get to grips with this unruly emotion.

Follow this link to contact us about the Chilled Out Child programme.

Anxiety management, stress management

Parenting an anxious child.

It can be very disconcerting for parents when they are faced with an angry and distressed child, especially if you cannot see what could be causing so much distress.

Most children have occasional tantrums or meltdowns and may sometimes lash out if they’re frustrated, but when children continue to have regular emotional outbursts, it is usually a symptom of distress and children who seem angry and defiant on a regular basis may be suffering from anxiety. The first step to helping your child manage their anger is for you to understand what could be triggering their outbursts.

If your child is suffering from anxiety,  they may have a hard time coping with situations that cause them distress which may result in them lashing out when demands at school or at home put pressure on them that they feel they can’t handle.  In an anxiety-inducing situation, your child’s “fight or flight” instinct may take hold and they may have a tantrum or refuse to do something to avoid the source of acute fear.

Activity:   It might be helpful to keep a journal of the times when your child has an outburst or expresses that they are feeling angry or anxious.  Also note down what they were doing before the outburst or what they were planning to do prior to their unhappiness.   By jotting all this down, it should help you put together an emotional map of what might be triggering their outbursts, which will eventually help you to help your child recognise when a problem might be about to occur and they can be better prepared to manage their emotions before they are triggered.

Here are a couple of useful links relating to parenting an anxious child:

What to do and not do when children are anxious.
https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/

Nine things every parent with an anxious child should try.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

If you would like to learn how to develop your own meditation practice and teach these skills to children and teenagers, find our more information here. 

mindfulness

Clearing mental clutter.

Writing in a journal helps our conscious mind build stronger connections with our sub-conscious mind and emotions.  This helps us to sort through any mental clutter which may be upsetting our emotions and get in the way of our understanding and clarity.

Journaling is a great way for adults and children to “download” their thoughts and daily life experiences on to paper and then refer back to these thoughts later if they wish to for self reflection.  During the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training one of our modules covers the benefits of encouraging journaling as part of a children’s and teens mindfulness class.   We spend some time exploring creative ways of incorporating this theme into the structure of the overall class.

Like adults, when journaling, children need to be careful that they do not use their journals as a ‘negative dumping ground’ and ideally they should be encouraged to think about their feelings as either better or worse and not positive and negative.  Creating and decorating a journal with beautiful words and imagery can be very uplifting.  Writing in a gratitude journal can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what you are grateful for in that moment.

Journaling should not be confused with keeping a diary.  Writing in a journal could be viewed and approached as an opportunity for children to be creative.  If you are teaching meditation to children,  a journal can be a great space for participants to express their thoughts on how they felt about the guided imagery meditation or overall experience of the class they have participated in.   The versatility of keeping a journal means this activity can also be incorporated into many different areas of learning which includes subjects like math, science, social studies and english.

Here are a few journaling ideas for you to do at home, school or incorporate in to a children’s and teens meditation class:

  • Make, or decorate your own individual journals.
  • Use a “journal jar” and each week pick a “topic” to reflect on and journal about.
  • Use positive affirmations – it is a good idea as a group to come up with positive affirmations which turn daily challenges into an opportunity to look for a positive and empowering solutions.
  • Start a “feelings journal” – enabling children to identify their current emotions, draw a picture, write about it and then link it to the idea of “my personal weather report”. For example, stormy (angry), rainy (sad), sunny (happy).
  • Choose a feeling from a feeling poster or wheel and write about or draw about it and if it is a negative emotion look for the positive affirmation to “balance it out” and bring a positive aspect to it.

Encouraging children and teenagers to take a moment to move out of their “minds” and reconnect with their hearts through the process of journaling about what makes them happy, or grateful can be very therapeutic.   Writing or drawing in a journal can help them to channel their energy into something creative and enable them for that moment to focus on the positive, removing the tendency to focus on thoughts that create or encourage anxiety.

If you would like to know about how you can help children and teenagers manage their “mental clutter”, follow this link to find out about the Chilled Out Child programme and how this programme will support you in your journey to becoming a meditation and mindfulness facilitator.

Anxiety management, mindfulness, stress management

Meditation and ADHD.

The brain is the most complex organ in the body and has approximately 100 billion neurons, which are nerve cells.  These neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals.  Between the neurons are chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that trigger responses in the transmitting and receiving neurons.  It is the neurotransmitters which are at the root of ADHD, as these messengers do not go where they are supposed to go and they often react erratically.  When acting erratically, they either cannot bridge the gap between the neurons, take too long to convey the signal or they connect the wrong two neurons. This is what leads to ADHD behaviour.

Recent research has shown that mindfulness training can be adapted for people who are diagnosed with ADHD and in trials mindfulness training has been shown to improve the concentration levels in individuals with ADHD, as well as children without ADD/ADHD.

If you have already worked with children or have your own children/grandchildren then you will know that anything that encourages children to self-regulate their sometimes unsettled emotions is a very helpful skill,  especially so in a formal  classroom environment where one child’s unsettled emotions can set a few of the other children off as well.

If you follow this  link , you can read a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies which discusses the effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and simultaneous training in mindful parenting for the children’s parents.

With a few small modifications to some of the mindfulness exercises, like starting a meditation practice by meditating for shorter periods of time and practicing mindfulness exercises which use visual aids (many individuals with ADD/ADHD are visual learners), mindfulness can be enjoyed by children with ADHD and be of great benefit to them.

Here are some simple mindfulness exercises you might like to try:

To introduce mindfulness to your family or children at school ask them to sit quietly and try to observe the following:

  • Sounds in the environment.
  • Details of their breath.
  • Body sensations, for example a sore foot, uncomfortable shoulder, or aching stomach.
  • Looking closely at their immediate environment. What do they see now, that they may not have seen before.

Introducing mindfulness to your home environment has to be approached in a unique way as unlike adults, not many children will just sit down on a mat, close their eyes and start focusing on their breathing bringing their awareness to the present moment.

Activities which require movement such as yoga or tasks which focus on the five senses are all appropriate means of teaching a child to be more mindful.  Guided meditations such as the body scan are all helpful in teaching individuals to live in the present moment and be more aware of how they feel and how their feelings and reactions to stimuli will impact the word around them.  Remember to keep this shorter for more energetic children.  They will not want to sit or lie down for long.

Other ways of cultivating mindfulness in children are, practicing a musical instrument, reading a book and doing artwork.

Colouring mandalas or pictures from a colouring book are great ways to be mindful.   These activities are considered mindful as they require the individual to be “focusing in the moment”.  If your child prefers building things then building with lego, or building something outside in nature, like a hide, or mandala made out of items found in nature can also add an element of adventure as they run around looking for the correct materials to build with.

Do you remember this game from your childhood?  I do!

Memory game  – noticing the finer details.

Select a number of objects which you can lay out on a tray.  Ask the children to memorise the objects for a minute and then close their eyes, whilst you pack the objects away.   How many objects can they remember? Can they describe the objects in detail – colour, size?

This memory game will encourage children to focus and pay attention to things in detail as opposed to just casually noticing something and not really noticing the finer details around them.

It is worth remembering that mindfulness is an enjoyable and natural skill and we need to provide the right environment and encouragement to the children in our lives to enable this skill to develop. 

Children are very distracted by how busy our lives are with televisions and radios blaring, traffic noise, constant talking, phones ringing, text messages, Facebook and various other app notifications going off and noise in general.  If you live in a city and you sit quietly for a moment, notice just how many different noises you can hear.  Our lives are filled with noise.   All this noise makes it more difficult to stay focused and comes between our natural ability to be focused on real life.

Exams, Life at School

Conquering exam stress.

At many times during the school year, Children feel a bit anxious about sitting exams.  Children and teenagers feel anxious because, lets face it, how many of us really enjoy sitting an exam?

As parents, we become anxious and start worrying about whether our children and teens are preparing enough for their exams, as at the end of the day, we want them to do well and not feel stressed about learning.  Without realising it, we the parents, project our levels of anxiety onto our children and start making verbal statements or ask too many questions which create more anxiety.  It all becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, with everyone in the family feeling as if someone, or themselves are fit to burst with all the stress that floats around leading up to an during exam time.

Exam stress can affect all children of all ages and will influence how they approach an exam situation.  Depending on their approach and their anxiety levels, these unsettled moments will more than likely impact their exam performance.  There are some individuals who thrive on challenges and are less affected by the prospect of exams, whilst others struggle with their attention and memory, resulting in diminished problem solving and heightened levels of anxiety during exam time.

But, all is not lost, we as adults need to take a deep breath and share with our children how to feel relaxed by teaching them relaxation and correct breathing techniques, plus introduce some simple mindfulness techniques to help calm their nerves.   If we as parents can display calm, grounded and positive behaviours towards challenges, then by example, we are showing our children how to cope in potentially anxiety provoking exam situations.

Research has shown that children who participate in regular meditation sessions, cope better during exam time as they are able to call upon their inner calm and improved resilience to see them through.

In fact, teaching children to focus on the current moment or the “here and now” is essential to their long term mental health.  Consider how often as adults we worry about tomorrow and harbour regrets about yesterday.  If we had been taught mindfulness meditation when we were young, I am sure many of us would look back and feel grateful that we could reduce our anxiety by learning how to focus on the here and now and approach life in a more grounded way.

Unfortunately not all schools have the space in their curriculum to offer mindfulness as part of a child’s education and with a busy after curricular timetable, it can be difficult to persuade schools to add yet another activity to their schedule.

There is growing recognition worldwide that a well-rounded education must involve more than academics and a competitive sports programme.  It should include learning experiences and skills related to social and emotional literacy, including the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction breathing techniques.

Luckily, planting the seeds of mindful awareness in all spheres of your child’s life is easier than you think. Children have a natural tendency to notice the smaller details of life that we as adults tend not to notice anymore as we rush about our day.   You do not need to be an expert to start a mindful practice at home, just an open mind and a willingness to become more aware f how you and your family are interacting, or not, with the world around them.   Keep it simple, but commit to starting, even if for a mere minute a day.

Try this quick exercise with you children and teens (and any other members of the family too)

The one-minute pause
All you need to do is pause for one minute.  Literally stop what you are doing and just pause.    Individuals need to be encouraged to observe the beauty around them ie. A lovely tree, a moment in nature and natural open spaces, also notice how they are feeling, their breath, their bodies, emotions…. just pause and see what is happening with you and your relationship to the world around you in that short space of time.

You can time this minute and ring a bell when the minute is up.

When you teach children and teenagers stillness and introduce them to the concept of the one-minute pause, you are encouraging them to discard the “minds chatter’ and observe the world around them from a deeper place inside, even if for only a minute…

Try and do this yourself and with your children and teens a few times a day.

One of the best gifts you can give your children is the gift of calm and clarity during stressful moments in life.

As a busy parent, you owe it to yourself to develop and strengthen your own mindfulness practice so that you can share mindfulness with your children and help them manage the ebb and flow of life as you manage the intricacies of work/life balance.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

Anxiety management, mindfulness, stress management

Reducing anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological problems among children of all ages. Anxiety triggers the psychological and physiological fear response even when a child is in a safe situation and this is where chronic anxiety becomes problematic. Taking time out in nature is one way to help reduce anxiety and encourage children to re-connect with nature.

If a child is constantly feeling anxious, the body is constantly releasing adrenaline and cortisol to counter the effects of heightened adrenaline. 

The body eventually becomes used to this heightened feeling of unease and this becomes a new set point – a new normal.   Learning to be more mindful helps increase awareness of the thoughts and bodily sensations that are part and parcel of this mental fear.  The benefit of this, is that we can learn to recognise when we are feeling fear over an event or situation which does not need to be feared, before the fear really takes a hold and we are totally caught up in our cycle of anxiety.

A direct route into the present moment is through our senses, which is why as parents we should look at different ways of bringing awareness to our senses whilst continuing with everyday life. Remember that when we are being mindful and are in the present moment, at that particular moment…feelings of anxiety are not at the forefront of our thoughts.

Keep it simple; when you next go for a walk, start by noticing sights, sounds and smells.

To connect with nature and inspire some mindfulness you could take a country walk and pay particular attention to sounds you year, the  sights you see and the smells you notice.

Sounds in the environment.   Ask children if they heard that sound (bird, aeroplane, car, insect etc.) and start a discussion about the noise they heard.  If it was a bee buzzing, you could talk about the importance job bees have in nature.  If it was a car sound, you could ask them what car they think it might have been?  You could turn this into an opportunity to play a game where they close their eyes and try and hear as many sounds around them as possible.

Sights all around.  Life tends to flash past us as we rush around.  Helping our children become more aware of their environment and “seeing more” not only enhances their life experience, but can also protect them from danger (ie. being more aware when crossing roads).   Children (and adults) tend to walk around mindlessly – either rushing or daydreaming.   In either “mode” we are not aware of our surroundings.  When you next take a walk, ask your child what they see (it could be flowers on the side of the road or in the park, beautiful trees, squirrels, insects – or it could be litter).  Either way, start a conversation around what they see around them.

What is that smell?   Admittedly some smells are not that great.  But if you are smelling pollution in the air, then it does give you an opportunity to talk to children about looking after the environment.  On the other hand, you could bring your child’s attention to the smell of any beautiful flowers you are walking past, or the smell of rain in the air.

When encouraging children to be more mindful, make a game of it and approach the mindful activity playfully.  Children may not want to be told that they are about to go out on a mindful walk and that the idea is that they pay attention to the world around them.  Cultivate their awareness in a gentle way so that they do not feel they are being observed or having to do something which reminds them of a school project.   Your child might not appear to be paying that much attention to sights, smells and sounds around them, but on a deeper level they are noticing and will be connecting with nature.  The more you walk outside and the more fun you make it, the more likely they are to take notice of life around them and may even point out things you are not seeing, hearing or smelling.

This week enjoy some walking in nature.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.