Chances are, at one point or another, you have experienced a moment where your heart rate increased, breathing suddenly became difficult and panic set in. Perhaps you forgot to set your alarm, misplaced something valuable or forgot to complete a time-sensitive task. Worse yet, perhaps you had no idea what was causing the feelings of discomfort in the first place. Anxiety comes in various forms and, for many, it significantly hinders their ability to live their lives to the fullest.
While some individuals may occasionally experience the aforementioned feelings, others may be subjected to enduring and chronic anxiety, potentially being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. One in four individuals between the ages of 13 and 18 are affected by anxiety disorders (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2017). This begs the question: as secondary educators given a specified allotted time for classroom instruction, how can we alleviate and subdue anxiety among students in our classes and, further, equip them with tactics to do so on their own, providing the most optimal learning space and experience?
Mindfulness and Meditation
While mindfulness is the practice of being conscious of the present moment and meditation is the practice of repeating a mantra and focusing on breathing techniques to become mindful, the two terms can be used interchangeably. Moreover, the act of meditating promotes mindfulness (Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N., 2017). When it comes to relieving anxiety and stress, enhancing self-awareness and improving focus, studies show that meditation can positively impact students’ learning experiences (Semple, R. & Droutman, V., 2017).
How Teachers Can Implement Daily Meditation Practices with Students
Implementing a brief daily meditation ritual at the beginning of class can provide students with a fresh start, improving their well-being and paving the way to make the most of their learning. In an interview with Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Trauma and the Community at Georgetown University Medical Center, explains that people with anxiety have difficulty “distinguishing between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” She continues, “Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” (2014).
Voted Apple’s Best App of 2017, Calm is a mobile and web-based application that offers soothing and information-guided meditation practices along with sleep stories. The guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes and include themes such as improving focus, breaking habits, deepening concentration, gratitude, managing stress, enhancing relationships and calming anxiety. For educators and parents, Calm includes a feature titled Calm Kids, which includes age appropriate guided meditations and is a great starting point for implementing daily meditation in the classroom.
Of course, as with any new digital technology and subject matter, it is crucial that teachers immerse themselves in Calm’s teachings and layout. I have explored a variety of guided meditation apps and found Calm to be the simplest, most informative and enjoyable of them all. Additionally, the sessions are instructive, yet digestible enough for a beginner to dive right in.
Within the Calm Kids section, there are brief introductory sessions broken down by age groups ranging from ages 5-7, 7-10, 10-13 and 13-17. The sessions provide an overview of meditation and mindfulness in a manner that relates to the specified age group. From there, it is up to the teacher’s discretion how to proceed with the daily practices. I would recommend implementing a routine, spending approximately the first five minutes of class experiencing a brief guided meditation. Depending on the length of your class, you can adjust the amount of time spent to meet the demands of your classroom instruction and needs of your students.
One of the best aspects of Calm is that subscriptions are free for educators — to apply for yours, click here.
See below for an overview of Calm’s features and benefits.
Although some students suffer from diagnosed anxiety disorders, implementing a brief, group guided-meditation can alleviate anxiety and promote the well-being of all students. Further, it can help the teacher do so as well.
If you are skeptical of allotting class time to such practices, think, for a moment, of the students who come to your class flustered, stressed from previous classes, or those who possess too much anxiety to think clearly — If you can hit a reset button, does it not make sense to do so?
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017, August). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#
Calm (2017). App Icon (Digital Image). Retrieved from https://calm.com
Corliss, J. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N. (2017). Exploring mindfulness and meditation for the elementary classroom: Intersections across current multidisciplinary research. Childhood Education, 93(2), 168-175. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/1895978441?accountid=12598
Semple, R. & Droutman, V. (2017). Mindfulness goes to school: things learned (so far) from research and real-world experiences. Psychology in the Schools, 54(1), 29-51. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/doi/10.1002/pits.21981/epdf