Heidi Hannah explains in her book Stressaholic that ‘knowing the demands we face far exceed the energy we have in the moment can feel overwhelming even though our challenges are temporary.’
In general, in our day to day life in the classroom the challenges most of us face are temporary – although each day brings us new challenges to deal with and there can be a hundred different temporary challenges within the one day! To take on these challenges each day we need to have sufficient energy reserves to draw upon. When we are feeling depleted the challenges seem all too much to handle.
The energy we have from moment to moment fluctuates depending on a number of distinct variables that are widely accepted (but not always so easy to ensure)! Factors such as whether we are:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a balanced diet of nourishing and nutritious food
- Drinking enough water
- Moving our bodies everyday with vigorous exercise (the best energy enhancer)
- Resting and recovering from stress day to day – particularly during those times of increased pressure
- Involved in a spiritual practice that replenishes us
But something that you might like to consider and that I have found to be helpful in my life is identifying things that are actually draining my energy in a significant way –regularly and possibly on a daily basis. I have found that these things drain my energy even when the aforementioned healthy habits are squared away.
When I stopped to think about it and take note of my energy I realised a number of less noticeable activities truly were energy drains in my life. One of the first issues for me was rushing.
The times when I have felt most off centre have been times when I am rushing to try and fit too much in. I have been caught a number of times running across the playground to go and do something – without even really realising it! I am a naturally active person but rushing is something altogether different. For me it causes a sense of panic and anxiety. Judith Orloff MD recommends asking ‘Is the pace of my life supporting my energy or draining it?’ The best way to get the answer to this is through your body. If you stop for long enough (and that’s even simply 5 minutes), breathe slowly and deeply and tune in, the answer can come to you. You’ll feel it.
When you are out of sync with a sustainable pace you may feel fatigue, irritability with your students and colleagues and experience mood swings – all perhaps a common occurrence around this time of year – but an indicator that you might need to slow down. It’s a great time to ask this question!
The next inquiry to make is ‘What kind of change would feel good?’ The answer to this can be sensed intuitively too but aim for small, slow changes rather than rapid, grand ones. Start to lean towards some minor changes and begin to move in the right direction – one step at a time. Perhaps simply become aware of if / when you’re rushing and pull yourself back a bit, pause and take a breath (and walk instead of running).
THE PRACTICE OF SILENCE
When you are rushing you are not in rhythm with the now, the present moment. You are living in the future and thinking about what’s next. The breath is the best way to anchor you to the present moment and sitting in silence can help you to tune into your breath.
As Judith Orloff tells us ‘Making silence a part of your routine will revitalize you’ – so simple but not at all easy. Many of us have an aversion to silence, possibly because our nerves are so jangled and nervous system so overstimulated that to stop and be quiet is a massive shock to this system. Start with 5 minutes of silence a day and gradually increase this as you feel comfortable.
Year 4 teachers and students at my school have been involved in a study of the effects of daily meditation on students and teachers alike. For two terms we have followed our breath for up to 5-7 minutes daily. Some kids in my class have still not shut their eyes for more than 5 seconds at a time but I am still convinced that even though their eyes are not closed they are benefiting from even this short amount of stillness and silence as they too rush from task to task every day.
You might like to try it with your students. I do it first thing when we come into class. We start by taking some slow deep breaths and then count our breaths starting at 1 and counting up to 10. You can also give students a mantra or phrase to repeat as they focus on their breath such as “Maranatha” (which is what we use) or whatever quality you want to cultivate e.g. “I am thankful”. Alternatively get them to put their hand on their belly to feel the breath move in and out.
As Judith Orloff says: ‘With no noise distractions, Spirit is more easily sensed.’ It is this sense of spirit in our daily life that can have a grounding, decelerating and uplifting effect. To become more centred I urge you to slow down, breathe, tune into your body and start asking some questions about your pace.