Well-being and Mindfulness for Educators

“Teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the country, but introducing organizational and individual interventions can help minimize the negative effects of teacher stress.”*

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Mindfulness: an essential piece (and peace) in addressing stress to achieve work-life balance!

I understand the challenges of stress and burnout working in public education and know far too many fellow educators who feel the same. On this page there are some studies about stress and the impact on educators (see below), however, I didn’t need a study to become aware of how my own stress levels were negatively impacting my emotional, mental, and physical health and work and in life. Too many educators are feeling overwhelmed and completely off-balance. 

“Toxic stress starts as decreased productivity and creativity, escalating to more serious symptoms like frequent anxiety, dissociation, frustration, and, eventually, burnout. Roughly half a million U.S. teachers leave the profession each year – a turnover rate of over 20 percent.” ~Mindful Schools 

Learn how to put on your oxygen mask to reduce the risks of stress in your professional and personal life.  

Stress = the problem. Mindfulness = the solution!!! I experienced first-hand how positively impactful mindfulness training can be. In efforts to find “tools” to support my students with social-emotional challenges, I discovered how mindfulness supports my own well-being — personally and professionally. I ended up discovering the missing piece/peace and tools for my own life! Afterall, adults who grew up without learning the essential life skills and tools to support them when younger become adults without those tools! Consequently, life can be filled with stress and overwhelm because of certain relationships or life situations as parents, as educators, or any other role — one area impacting the other! As I began sharing and teaching mindfulness practices with students and staff, I kept hearing “everyone needs to learn this” and I quite agree! So I made a decision to follow my own advice for well-being by leaving the stresses and challenges of working full-time in special education in the public school setting to launch Mindful Kindful YOUniversity in order to offer mindfulness & well-being programs for educators and youth.

When we support a practice that supports all the nervous systems in a school building, when we do something that takes care of all of the adults AND all of the students in a community, the fabric and culture of that community begin to transform.

How Many Teachers Are Highly Stressed? Maybe More Than People Think.

According to a new study by the University of Missouri (MU), they found that 93 percent of elementary school teachers report that they are experiencing a high stress level. The researchers asked 121 teachers who taught kindergarten through 4th grade in an urban Midwestern school district to complete self-report measures on their levels of burnout, stress, efficacy, and coping. The teachers were asked such questions as “How stressful is your job?” and “How well are you coping with the stress of your job right now?” The researchers then linked the resulting data to the behavioral and academic outcomes of their students. They found that high teacher stress levels were usually associated with poorer student results, such as lower grades and frequent behavior problems. In the study, educators with low levels of stress and high coping ability were practically non-existent. While Herman wasn’t surprised that most teachers feel stressed in their jobs, he didn’t expect that “only 7 percent rated themselves as having both low levels of stress and high levels of coping with their jobs.” (Herman and his colleagues are finding similar results in a yet-to-be-completed follow-up study with middle school teachers.) {Source}

Key Findings from research on “Teacher Stress and Health”*

  • Forty-six percent of teachers report high daily stress, which compromises their health, sleep, quality of life, and teaching performance.
  • When teachers are highly stressed, students show lower levels of both social adjustment and academic performance.
  • Interventions on the organizational or individual level, or those that reach both, can help reduce teacher stress by changing the culture and approach to teaching.
  • Programs for mentoring, workplace wellness, social emotional learning, and mindfulness are all proven to improve teacher well-being and student outcomes.

The average rate of reported burnout by new teachers is 2.5 years, however, the average rate of leaving the teaching profession as a new teacher is 5 years. So what happens between the reported burnout and when the teacher leaves 2.5 years later? Or what happens when the burned out teacher is a veteran teacher holding out for retirement? We all know that emotions can be contagious, especially in community settings. What happens to our young people exposed to these burned out, under supported teachers?

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity Supports Educators!

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity helps participants become more self aware and self-empowered to cultivate the healthy life skills & habits, attitudes, behaviors, relationships, and resilience for social-emotional well-being and success. Mindfulness provides a foundation for education because it contributes to optimal conditions for learning and for teaching. With practice, mindfulness can help us to become aware of the present moment, both positive and negative, by observing thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, words spoken or to be spoken, actions, and the environment without reacting in an automatic or habitual way. Children soak in and model after the things we say as adults at home, in the classroom, and in our communities so adults have an essential role in modeling and being more mindful, kindful, and skillful! With practice, children will then learn to access the tools within their hearts and minds to handle any challenges with the same calm and mindfulness that they observed in us. What a beautiful legacy we can leave for our children. This is how each of us can contribute to a more compassionate, peaceful, and kinder world. 

From Congressman Tim Ryan’s book “Mindful Nation”: “Tish (Jennings) {author of Mindfulness for Teachers} was talking to me about how challenging it can be for teachers to face students with emotional difficulties…. Sometimes teachers can… begin to resent and reject the children because their own amygdala has gone rogue. But when they can interrupt that with a moment of mindfulness and return to awareness of the present moment, they may see what’s actually going on with the child…. We need to support our teachers with this kind of help. As Tish says, ‘If teachers can notice the emotion within their body, they can stop and make choices. Instead of seeing children with challenging behavior as problems, they can experience them as suffering human beings who need compassion. Over time, that will change how they lead their classrooms.’”

From Study shows mindfulness training can help reduce teacher stress and burnout:

Teachers who practice “mindfulness” are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a new (2013) study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at UW–Madison’s Waisman Center.

While teachers play a critical role in nurturing children’s well-being, progress in addressing teacher stress has been elusive.

Stress and burnout among teachers is a major concern for school districts nationwide, affecting the quality of education and incurring increased costs in recruiting and sustaining teachers.

“I highly recommend {Dee’s classes} to anyone who is looking for practical, ready-to-use, research-backed tools for being healthy and resilient in our stress-filled world! Dee teaches with clarity and passion, not only about the important neuroscience behind mindfulness but HOW TO incorporate the practice into our busy lives. I have learned so much and wish the class was longer than an hour each week!”  ~Lisa Arakaki, Occupational Therapist, LMUSD

The science and research is confirming

the powerful and transformational benefits of mindfulness and meditation!

Researchers are finding that the benefits of mindfulness training benefits both emotional and physical well-being:

  • reduces stress, anxiety,
  • improves health,
  • improves focus, concentration, mental clarity,
  • improves sleep,
  • increases positive states,
  • increases compassion and acceptance in self and others,
  • reduces depression,
  • and more! See Research and Benefits

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Discover More About Mindful Kindful YOUniversity!

School Psychologist attending an after-school “ME Time” Mindfulness support group in Sacramento, CA ~ with Dee DiGioia

Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or inquiries!


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