Get ahead of back-to-school stress. Nourishing yourself now with your attention and keeping the well full throughout the school year.
Back to school is a challenge for many parents, teachers, and teens. And it's no wonder, in times such as these. Heading into the landscape of performance, and not-good-enough, and the need to prove yourself is a tremendous stressor. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to offer ourselves and others kindness and compassion in the midst of difficulty, as well as the chance to send ourselves the message that we are enough, despite the negative messages that bombard us.
If you are a parent or student experiencing fear or anxiety about the school year to come, know that you are not alone. The decision to pull my own daughter from her Montessori preschool and place her in the local public kindergarten was filled with stress, overwhelm, and even fear. How many years before she starts getting bullied? Will she be able to finish her lunch in time to get outside for recess? What if there are too many kids in her class and she has to manage herself in the midst of total chaos? How can she begin to understand a lockdown drill? What if...
And so, managing this kind of fear with mindfulness is possible, and as the uncertainty and the anxiety build, I notice myself increasingly wrapped up in rumination and worry, spiraling into stressful communications with my ex-husband, caught in negative thinking patterns that keep me from appreciating beauty and pleasure in the present moment. And then, I get to really deepen the practice, because the awareness of this manic worry mind is mindfulness. And even though it doesn't always change the situation, or reduce my anger or fear, I get to come back to the breath and the five senses, and remind myself to just be. That I am enough, and this moment is enough. When I exercise this skill, as I have consistently for three years now, it becomes easier and easier to access the present, even when the negative thinking mind is a powerful destructive force.
The sun hitting a rock. Leaves dancing in the wind. A breeze and the air on my skin.
Breath, moving in and out of my lungs, filling my heart and body with fresh oxygen.
Exhaling. Letting go of what is no longer needed.
No matter where you are, how long your to-do list is, or how high the stress level is around you, you can come back to yourself, give yourself a minute to just breathe, to notice the beauty of the world around you, and to feel the pleasure of nourishing yourself with a moment to just be enough, just as you are. You are worthy of your own attention, and I wish you a school year filled with as much (or more) nourishment for yourself as you give to others.
-Cindy Garner, Executive Director.
Cindy Garner, MFA, RP, is the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Mindfulness Center. She is a licensed Colorado Educator, Qualified MBSR teacher, and has a passion for helping people manage stress and learn improve their relationships to themselves.