Goodbye Summer! Hello Fall! You have hopefully spent some time rejuvenating and respiriting your heart, body, and soul! Crunch time looms as you begin the preparation for another wonderful school year start! I don’t have to remind you, but Peterson in his depiction of work of the principal, reminds us that the work is all about Brevity, Vexation of Variety, and Fragmentation. In other words, we have numerous opportunities for interactions and we have to juggle EQ with IQ. Peterson estimates 2000 interactions a day! Most exchanges last one to two minutes. You can have 50-60 such exchanges an hour. 85% of a principal’s time is spent on tasks lasting less than 9 minutes! “A principal’s job is filled with fragmentation. In the course of a day, new projects, new problems and crises interrupt the cycle of ongoing activities, says Peterson” This continuous barrage of information hacking on the brain to problem solve, make a decision, defer or delegate, or as Peterson puts it, “juggling the completion of tasks against the preservation of relationships” causes stress, emotional upheaval, and the inability to sometimes do anything, brain freeze kicks in! This is why Mindfulness Matters!
Jon-Kabat Zinn, Mindfulness author and instructor states Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” I like TIME Special Edition on MIndfulness author Mary Elizabeth Williams take on Mindfulness as “putting down the juggling balls for a little bit. Embracing the beauty of monotasking!” You know when your phone or computer starts acting up? It has been on and never turned off for awhile? Shutting it down and rebooting often “fixes” the situation and makes it run better and faster. Think of Mindfulness as a reboot for the brain!
As principals, if we have 2000 interactions a day and live a life of fragmentation, variety, and brevity, then we need to be purposeful about ensuring that Mindfulness happens. Health benefits abound. “The American Psychological Association cites it as a hopeful strategy for alleviating depression, anxiety and pain.” A study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that those who meditate regularly demonstrate different brain electrical patterns that may potentially lead to more efficient attention-paying and learning!” Enough of the why! How do we do this as principals living a life of brevity, fragmentation, and variety? We have to practice being more mindful!
You may have to schedule time in your calendar to shut your door and just be more mindful, breathe and quiet your mind. Mindfulness is about being present and in the moment. A life of brevity, fragmentation, and variety may mean that we are not truly being a listener and being present. I remember my first year as a principal, my daughter was a kindergartner and she said, “Daddy, you are here, but you are not here.” Ouch! Wake up call! That’s what mindfulness is all about, staying present in situations with the people you care about and love, including yourself!
Here are some tips I gleaned from a TIME Special Edition focused on Mindfulness. Pick one or two, try them and see how they work. Start your year out being more present, more mindful which in turn will make you more creative and less stressed!
Here are some Mindful tips:
- Do someone a five-minute favor
Volunteering helps people connect to others, which aids in stress reduction. Get
a cup of coffee for someone who is having a bad day. Cover a classroom briefly,
take over for a parapro or classroom aide. Spot a need, and, for five minutes, be
the one to fill it.
- Hide your phone
ability to focus on tough tasks a pair of 2014 studies found. The mere presence
of a phone also made people trust and like each other less than if it weren’t
- Take a break before lunch
exhausted than people who take breaks in the afternoon, a 2016 study found.
Morning breakers were more likely to say they were satisfied with their jobs, too.
- Let yourself procrastinate
minutes of Minesweeper. Those who played the game generated ideas
considerably more creative than those who got right to the task. Their minds
were most likely chewing away at the problem in the background.
- Disappear for a bit
ruminate about work while you’re gone. Instead, listen to a podcast, make a
phone call, do a walking meditation or bring a friend to talk about something non-work related.
- Be social, visit the Faculty Lounge!
researcher with the Wharton People Analytics at the University of Pennsylvania.
But to truly detach--and reap the productivity and wellness benefits of a solid
break--you have to keep the conversation office-free.
- End the day like you mean it
feel less in control and have more of the stress hormone cortisol. Meanwhile,
another study shows that as long as your work gets done, putting in more hours doesn’t make you a better worker in your boss’s eyes.
- Take the scenic route
Japanese study found a link between chemicals released by trees, called
phytoncides, and lowered levels of stress hormones.
- Pull ears, feel better
ears midway down with two fingers, in line with your ear canal. Gently pull both
at a 45-degree angle away from your head and hold for 60 seconds. This calms the nerves that surround the central nervous system.”
- Turn off the pinging
heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol level spiked. Before you check Gmail
again, ask yourself, Can it wait? (Yes it can.)
- Go to the B-A-R! Breathe And Relax!
of your nose. New science is showing that slowing down and deepening your
breathing can have profound effect on well-being.
Try it yourself!
- Sit in a position that is comfortable enough to sustain for a few minutes of alternate-nostril breathing. (Sitting in a chair is just fine.) This is one of many breathing exercises shown to have some health benefits.
- Make a “hang 10” sign with your right hand. Hold your right thumb over your right nostril to plug it closed. Inhale slowly through the left nostril until your lungs are full. Hold for four seconds.
- Release the right nostril, and plug the left with your pinkie. Slowly exhale. Once you’ve exhaled fully, inhale through the right nostril and then exhale through your left. Do about four rounds on each side--or more if you have time.
Deep slow breathing has surprising benefits. A happier mood, deeper sleep, less anxiety, a healthier heart, and better air intake have all been found to occur through various research studies.
Matt Severin, Region 5 Elementary Principal shared this with me via email not too long ago, “As you know I have been trying to be more intentional with my self-care and focus on gratitude. Each (most) morning, I take 3 minutes to focus on my breathing and meditate for a little time before everything gets crazy. Normally I am able to do this before anyone else is in the building.
This morning, I was running late, but still managed to take a few minutes until I heard Nicky(my secretary) at my door: "Matt, are you ok? I have walked by 3 times and you haven't moved, I wanted to make sure you were alive" Great to be loved, eh?
Mindfulness Matters! And it matters MORE during times of stress and emotional upheaval than peace and tranquility!