It’s that time again. Going back to school ~ whether you’re in elementary, middle, high school or college ~ can be a time constricted stress. And parents can begin to feel the frenetic energy of this transitional time, too. Mindfulness can become a powerful tool for both kids and parents to stabilize and regulate mood states and manage energy levels. The power comes from the inside out through mindfulness-based skills such as breath work and other mindful practices. The anticipatory thoughts about diving back into school work, navigating social pressures and extracurricular activities can be a great catalyst for stress. But being committed to cultivating a mind that helps shift focus back to the present moment can build internal resources needed to successfully journey through the rest of the school year. Whether your child is in elementary school or heading back to their college campus, these two mindfulness tools will help create equanimity from the inside out ~ fostering concentration, clarity and a sense of inner calm:
1.) 4-2-6 Breathing
Remember, our thoughts create our reality and when we’re experiencing stress-based thoughts, our cellular body responds. While gearing up for the school year ahead, commit to 4-2-6 breathing. You simply inhale for a count of 4, pause at the top of the breath for 2 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds. Practice this breath technique for 5-10 minutes a day and use it whenever you sense stress arising within the mind and body. It can shift you away from negative thoughts into an innate space of inner peace. 4-2-6 breathing shifts the nervous system into parasympathetic dominance ~ a state of rest and relaxation. When we’re overcome with stress, our nervous system is in sympathetic dominance ~ or fight or flight. When we’re constantly in that stressful fight or flight mode, we experience a whole host of symptoms including anxiety, difficulty sleeping and distractibility…to name a few.
As a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, I work with adolescents and college students to cultivate this 4-2-6 breathing on a daily basis so they can begin implementing the technique during a stressful transition (such as going back to school, etc). It’s empowering to know that we have all we need within to uncover the balance that IS our true nature as humans.
2.) Power of Intention
Our mind is our most powerful tool. Before going back to school, I recommend that students journal about how they want to feel during the upcoming year. When growing up in grade school and while in college, we’re conditioned to “set goals” about what we seek to achieve. This is a natural part of living in our Western world…but, typically, there’s little attention paid to how we seek to feel from the inside out. Have your child identify the primary feeling they want to experience daily while they embark on another year of school. This intention is then transformed into an affirmation. As you inhale, repeat the words “I am” and as you exhale, repeat the feeling you seek to manifest….this could be “joy,” “peace,” or “power.” This affirmation directed toward the self can become a daily practice, repeated first thing in the morning, ten times before entering into the day or event jumping on your smartphone. This intention becomes a north star throughout the year ~ the guiding light of truth when times become challenging and stressful. When we come home to this affirmation, we’re changing our physiology, hijacking the body’s automatic stress response when challenges arise in life. We ALL possess the capacity to shift into a greater state of energetic and emotional balance. Mindfulness is our portal into personal growth and elevation.