5 Tips to Reduce Stress & Promote Mindful Breathing

Students are stressed.  Parents are stressed.  Teachers are stressed.  What can we do?

With so much riding on test results these days, teachers are feeling the pressure more than ever before.  Teacher evaluations and a teacher's self-esteem can be affected by student test scores.  That pressure is often passed on to the students.  We need to arm our students with the tools to cope with anxiety and stress.

Top 5 Ways to Knock out Stress & Test Anxiety

1.  Breathe - Take deep breaths before a test to calm down and oxygenate the brain.
2, Positive Mental Rehearsal - Imagine yourself acing the test.
3. No Negative Thoughts - Don't allow yourself to dwell on the possible negative outcomes. 
4. No Perfectionism - Allow yourself to be human and make mistakes.  Don't get caught up on how much more you could have done.
5. Take care of your body by eating healthy and exercising.  Your body is like a machine that needs to be fueled with healthy foods so that it can perform at maximum capacity.  You wouldn't put dirty fuel into a race car just before a big race!

Practice Mindful Breathing with your students!
Mindful breathing is a calm breathing technique that allows thoughts to come and go without judgement.  Begin by sitting up straight and closing your eyes.

When we are stressed, we tend to breathe through our chest.  It is important to be mindful of where you are taking in air in your body.  In order to get more oxygen, we should be taking in a big "belly" breathe.  If you place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, the belly should be moving in and out during a breath rather than the chest.  It sounds easy, but it does take practice.  Being mindful of this first crucial step to better breathing will lead you to a calmer state of mind.

Once you have mastered the belly breathing concept.  Try the 4-7-8 technique developed by Dr. Weil, with your students.

When I was a teacher, I started having panic attacks.  This breathing technique, coupled with the 4-7-8 technique helped me so many times when I felt overwhelmed.  I hope it helps you and your students too!

Need some stress reduction activities for your classroom or office?

Click here to see this foldable activity.

Click here to open link to Stress Busters
Click for Test Stress Busters

Busy Teachers in the Summer

My little helper!!!  Friends love these as gifts.

Some teachers spend their summers relaxing as much as possible and it is WELL deserved.  Some find part time summer jobs.  I was never the part time summer job type of teacher.  However, every summer, I try to pack in as many things that I put off during the year as possible.  For instance, I love making homemade cleaning supplies that are non-toxic and easy on the pocket book.  From laundry detergent to hand soap, I just cannot get enough!

 These are a few of my favorite summertime creations.

Homemade Non-Toxic Liquid Hand Soap
by Heavenly Homemakers.com

You will need:
4 ounce bar of natural soap  
1 gallon of water

Heat the water in a pot, just long enough to steam.
Grate your soap with a cheese grater.
Remove water from heat and add grated soap.
Stir and let it sit for 15 minutes.
Mix with a hand mixer.
Let it sit overnight.
Mix with hand mixer in the morning.
Use a funnel to transfer the liquid into pump bottles.

My daughter loves helping with this one.  The smell is fabulous!
Peppermint Detox Soak for Feet

You will need:
Roughly 6 pounds of Epson Salt
2 pounds of Baking Soda'
10 bags of peppermint herbal tea
30 drops of peppermint essential oil
10 drops of Eucalyptus oil. 
Mix and place in mason jars.

Instructions for use:
Add 1-2 tablespoons to a gallon of hot water, insert feet! Relax.

                                            Homemade Fabreeze
It's great for your immune system to inhale it!!!

You will need:
1/4 cup of vodka
3 cups water
20 drops of peppermint essential oil
15 drops of eucalyptus radiata essential oil
5 or 6 drops of tea tree oil 
This also works as a mosquito repellent. Beef up the peppermint oil for even stronger mosquito repellent. Beef up the Eucalyptus to boost your immune system. The Tea Tree fights bacteria and germs. Great to spray when somebody in the house is sick or just everyday!

Everyday Planners are here!

In the spirit of "DIY" projects.  You can create your own "Meet the Teacher" presentation,  fun signs, posters, and cover pages  with these templates.

Click picture to make your own.

Ultimate Organized Teacher Planner and Sub Binder



TPT Store Makeover

Who doesn't love a makeover???

With all of these snow days in Shelby County this year, I've been spending my extra time making over my TPT store.  Cover pages are the first impression that can make or break a sale.   After looking at my stats page and deciding which products should be selling more, I began changing the fonts and graphics on some of my items.  In addition to making the text more readable, I've changed the image size to 8" X 8".  This is apparently the preferred size for TPT cover page thumbnails.  It maximizes the available space.  After looking at countless "best sellers" from our most successful teacher sellers,  I've also come to the conclusion that using clip art of kids faces might be a good idea.  Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions!  Thanks in advance for your feedback.



Some other recent product makeovers:

Thanks for stopping by and leaving feedback!

Best Snow Day Announcement Ever

Was waiting for a snow day announcement via text or email, when I saw this post on my facebook page.

I have never been more proud to work for Germantown Municipal Schools.  Starring in this video are Mr. Ruiz (Assistant Principal at HMS), Mrs. Woody (Assistant Principal at HMS) and Mr. Manuel (Superintendent of Germantown Municipal Schools).

Now I suppose I will get my Pinterest suit on (pajamas) and enjoy another snow day.

Teen Advice

I recently stumbled upon an amazing motivational speaker for teens.   His message is so real and on point. Josh Shipp has been called the "Dr. Phil for Teens" and "The Teen Whisperer." I would compare him to Kid President in some ways.  He has an empowering message for tweens and teens today. One of his major premises about life is that it's not all bad or all good. It's somewhere in between. Check out this video from YouTube. This is one of my favorite messages from him.

As a parent of a teenager and a school counselor of teens, I feel a lot of pressure to reach out to these kids and speak "their language."  Josh has really figured out how to relate to them in a way that parents and counselors cannot.  I am thankful to be able to share his message with my own children and the kiddos at my school.  Thanks for making my job just a little easier Mr. Shipp!

I see girl drama on a regular basis in my profession.  I created a "Friend or Frenemy" bundle with activities to help girls distinguish between true friends and frenemies.  (see samples below)

Teacher Stress Relief

This year as I settle into my new role as school counselor, memories of teaching and the stress associated with it still linger.  I don't think anyone could have ever prepared me for the amount of responsibility and worry that goes along with being a teacher.  Balancing the needs of the students, with the demands of the state, the expectations from admin, evaluations, the requests from parents, and the paperwork was overwhelming.  I admire anyone who can teach and keep it together.  There were times when I felt my sanity slipping.

As a counselor, I want to keep teacher needs on my priority list.  I think it is important to keep our teachers healthy and mentally balanced.  They are so busy that they sometimes forget about self-care. 

Exercise is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress, yet it can also be one of the hardest things for teachers to fit into their schedules.  This year, I kept thinking how nice it would be if we just had an exercise machine or two at the school for those days when getting to the gym was not within reach.  So, I decided just to "ask" for donations on a facebook group in our community.  Boy was I surprised.  We had four machines donated within a few hours.  BAM!  The new teacher fitness center was born.  Ask and you shall receive?!!!

Teacher "work room" becomes "work OUT" room. 

Made this calendar to sign up for the machines.

This make-over was the first step.  In honor of Stress Awareness Month in April, I plan to create a "Fitness Challenge" binder for teachers to compete for weekly prizes. 

Purchase the Stress Busters for Teachers Pack
For Teachers trying to keep track of weight loss, I found these cute weight loss trackers all over etsy.  Just put stickers in the left side representing the number of pounds you need to lose.  Move the stickers to the right as you lose!  I clipped mine into my Teacher Planner.

Homemade Gifts

My favorite gifts from students have always been the homemade kind.  I have never been one to purchase Chex Mix.  I mean, I would eat it if it was the only food around, but it was never my favorite type of food.  So when this sweetie pie brought me a baggie of her family recipe during the holidays,  I didn't think much about it.  But she insisted that it was like no other. So I opened it up to taste it before sharing the rest with my family.  Let's just say, after the first bite, I was hooked.  (My family never had a chance.)  Ever since, I've been throwing hints at her to get the recipe.  Then today..... she brought me these little tubs of crack as I will now lovingly refer to them.  She even wrote the recipe in her own "best" handwriting.  Don't you love the name?  "Wham Bam Thank ya Ma'am!"  It does have a kick to it which is probably why I love it so much. 

This can was my breakfast and lunch today.  Maybe a can will make it home to my family!

Positive Minds Think Alike

In the mid 90's, during my undergrad days of studying Psychology at "Memphis State," I became hooked on the idea of positive reinforcement.  This is the idea that rewarding positive behaviors will shape behavior.  Wait, we can shape another person's behavior?  Isn't that like hypnotism?  How cool is that?!  I want some of that.  So I took notes,  I observed interactions between students and teachers, kids and parents, and I became addicted to how to get others to behave a certain way.  Words have power.  Words communicate expectations.  How exciting that idea was to me. 

So, positive reinforcement is a powerful tool that can shape behavior in children, other adults, and in ourselves.  It's a little more complicated than merely using positive words, but thinking positively, praising others often, and going out of your way to be nice can drastically change your life for the better. For one thing, you'll have more friends because nobody wants to hang around a Negative Nelly or Debbie Downer.

The key to effectively shaping the behavior of others is to accept the idea that all humans are innately good or that they at least want to be.  It means conveying the idea that your expectations of them are to be a rock star and that you truly believe in them.

 Wow, talk about seeing the glass half full, Anne.  You are amazing.

Now consider this, when a child is misbehaving, the natural instinct would be to get upset with the child and want to punish them.  But perhaps a more effective method of shaping the child's behavior would be to look for the root of the problem and find ways to help that child.  There's a reason why he/she acts this way.  Find that reason and take it away.  Maybe they get attention by acting up.  Take that away.  Ignore fits and tantrums.  But you have to replace it with something.  So look for that one second when they do something right, and give them an enormous amount of attention for that.  "Look at you putting away your toy!  You are so kind for picking up after yourself."  Positive reinforcement is a SLOOOOOW process sometimes and it's tempting to use negative reinforcement because of it's immediate results, but if you want to shape behavior for the long term, it's worth the extra time and effort. 

What it looks like for you as an individual:
Catching negative thoughts in their tracks and making an effort to change them.  I'm not a morning person, so I have to do this EVERY morning when I wake up.  A mental pep talk if you will... "You got this, it's going to be a great day.. go get'em."
Give yourself compliments.  (Think Stuart Smalley SNL circa 1980's)
Fake it til you make it.  Pretend to be happy even when you're not. 
Look for the positive in any situation no matter how dire.  If it's not there, create it.

Side note:  I admire morning people! I'm trying really hard to become one... currently I'm somewhere in between these two people:
Ok, back to what I was saying...


What this looks like for parents:
Reward good behavior with compliments.
Let your kids catch you talking great about them. (even when they don't deserve it)
Occasionally give a prize for good behavior.  (Be careful with giving children too many "prizes" because you don't  it to turn into bribery..)
Ignore bad behavior whenever possible.  Distract the child by pointing out something positive going on nearby or simply changing the subject.  You might have to hone in on your acting skills.

What it looks like for teachers in the classroom:
Point out students who are acting appropriately and praise their efforts.
Don't bring attention to negative behavior.  Address those children privately or discreetly.
Leave positive notes on their papers about their personal strengths.
Call home to brag on the student.
Brag about your class to other teachers.

I think it all just boils down to giving unconditional love to others even when they don't deserve it.  Expect them to be great and give them time to live up to that expectation.  We are all a work in progress.

Go forth and spread the love!

My new office door signs!
click to see more

Click picture to see more

Click picture to see more!
This bundle includes one of my favorites.. The Shout-Out binder.  Faculty passes it around to spread cheer through the building.  Last time I read the one at our school, I cried.

Click to see products!