Mindfulness & the Self-Care Toolbox

Posted on October 20, 2018


I like to write a follow-up post to PD workshops I do as a way to further the discussion and offer resources to participants. This is that kind of post.

First of all, I really enjoyed talking with the educators in the room at #MCTE18. To those in attendance: I appreciate your curiosity, thoughtfulness, and presence. Thank you for coming. I’m always open for further conversation.

This workshop was a survey of a number of mindfulness, self-care tools, and anecdotes about how it all comes together in my classroom.

The Basics of Mindfulness

I put mindfulness on the schedule for Tuesdays and Thursdays in my classes; I say yes to any request, and I ask students which practice they’d prefer and why. I record that info in my research journal, because, in my 4th year of research on it, I’m interested in finding out how students are advocating for their own self-care in the classroom. Most weeks, both the ELA9s and IB11s request nearly every day.

Current favorite practices are: Dr. Vo (Lovingkindness, Thinking, Breathing, & SOBER), Mindfulness Bell, and Bob Ross. I’ll introduce a new one next week, because couple of days ago, a senior told a freshman to request, “Breathing,” by Joe Reilly. It’s a beauty. Enjoy!

As time moves along, I share information about the brain, stress, wellness, and cognitive function before and/or after practices. I often reiterate: We’re doing this so we can calm down and learn better. We’re a caring circle of friends; this is something we can do to help a classmate who is suffering. I also share information on who else is practicing mindfulness and why: Olympic coaches, artists, musicians, authors, NBA coaches, U.S. military, police, corporations, and prisons, among others. I point it out when I see mindfulness practices in books, like in Aza’s struggle with OCD in John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down.

Sensory stimulation is important to help participants become aware of their bodies, emotions, and thoughts. Tools like a singing bowl or other interesting sound makers help students to focus on listening; a calming jar can give students a visual focal point and demonstration of what’s happening in the brain during mindfulness; a small stuffed animal–a breathing buddy–can help young children coach each other on “belly breathing.” Lynda Barry’s spiral drawing is another great way to provide a visual and physical focal point.

#1 Takeaway for Teachers: Teachers should have their own practice, but even a week of practice on your own can be enough to start introducing it in the classroom, IF you’re comfortable going on that learning journey with the students. To be honest, a teacher could just dive right in by using a research approach, “I learned about this at a workshop, and I’d like to try it.” Inviting students to try the practices as action research with you can be motivational for them; many of my students LOVE to help me learn about teaching and learning. In my first year of incorporating the practices, I asked students to do quick writes before and after each practice, so I could learn about what they experienced. That data was extremely informative and valuable.

#1 Takeaway for Students: Plan for student safety first. Set clear rules that no one should ever touch someone during a practice. Explain that one can simply lower one’s gaze OR close their eyes during a practice. Emphasize that as long as everyone is silent and still, you are not the “thought police.” It’s their time for self-care. When students feel comfortable, many may close their eyes, but that may take time. Many of my students feel confident enough to lie upon the floor with eyes closed.


Academic achievement suffers when we suffer. Both teachers and students can struggle to achieve because of stress. Learning how to recognize the symptoms of stress, both acute and chronic, and finding ways to manage it, can increase our level of physical wellness, emotional balance, and cognitive function. Many students and teachers are suffering from trauma, which impacts our bodies, emotions, and thinking; we can heal from trauma with the help of good self-care practices in a caring community.

10 Tools for Self-Care

  1. Mindfulness Practices
  2. Time Outdoors
  3. Beautiful Nature Art Indoors
  4. Music (making, listening to, creating a calm work space)
  5. Drawing and Coloring
  6. Daily Physical Activity
  7. A Caring Circle of Friends
  8. Pleasure Reading
  9. Healthful Eating
  10. A Good Night’s Sleep

Resources for Further Exploration

Here are the books I brought to the workshop.


Dr. Vo’s Mindfulness for Teens is my #1 recommendation. It has everything you need. Next, I can’t recommend Dr. Caryn Wellsworkshops at Oakland University highly enough. I’ve taken at least three, and I found each one inspiring, informative, and extremely useful.

If you want to continue the conversation, or if you want to schedule a workshop for a group (family, friends, teachers, etc), please email me at lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com

Peace and love to you, my friends. Be well.