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October 29, 2023

What Is Test Anxiety, and How Can We Help Our Students Alleviate It?

How The Usage of Meditative Disciplines, Especially Box Breathing, Can Alter A State of Mind and Produce a Calmer Test-Taking Mindset

We’ve all experienced a little anticipatory test anxiety, right?

And because you may have experienced yourself, you can empathize with students of varying ages and intellectual capabilities still experiencing these varied elevated symptoms.

That inner frantic arises knowing the assessment can alter grades reflective of their institutionally defined “success”. It is human and natural to experience slightly elevated anxiety in anticipation of a test, especially in math! 

It requires a plethora of steps, formulas, specific rules, and reviews to ensure that the content presented is being done correctly. It can be a lot for one young mind to absorb, especially when other subjects are being taught throughout their very full school day! Wouldn’t you agree?

Despite the study guides, in-class reviews, & other forms of resources educators provide to help students feel prepared- there are just some things unable to settle a jittery set of nerves. It’s especially difficult for some children and adolescents not fully developed or have advanced emotional regulation skills.

That is okay! It just means there have to be tools provided to them much more digestible and easy to do at the moment (or before) to alleviate their test-taking anxiety. There’s a wide array of methods to achieve this outcome, but two of the most common only require the person doing it!

I’m sure many of us are familiar with meditation. It’s a practice through mindfulness focused on a particular thought or object to train awareness, thus installing a stabilized state of mind. It can be done in a few minutes, some enjoy doing it for a few hours! It depends upon the situation and intention behind creating that new awareness.

How does meditation aid in test-taking anxiety? The Mayo Clinic explains that meditation combines many different physical actions to create the desired relaxed sensation. Some of these actions can include slowed deep breathing, closed eyes, and attention to what’s occurring within the mind and body. By instructing students to scan their bodies and manually relax their involuntary movements, it can rid them of jumbled thought processes and inner stresses. 

Productive utilization of this method in an educational setting could be instructor-led class meditation. Taking a few minutes to facilitate a few minutes of meditation in a class can not only reach a higher volume of students but overall calm the test-taking environment. It would also cultivate a strong community in the class environment if an instructor were to have the whole class partake regardless of the varying anxieties students are experiencing.

Aside from the usefulness of meditation, there’s another breath-oriented action proven to reduce bodily anxiety. The technique is referred to as box-breathing; it’s also known as square breathing. Navy SEALS, nurses, even emergency personnel utilize box breathing for times of severe stress but can be used in other stress-inducing settings. 

What is it exactly? It’s prolonged deep breathing in a well-seated position, and it’s imperative to operate in a QUIET environment. This can be incorporated into meditation since that can also include guided verbal factors. Nonetheless, box breathing can also just function as its method of relaxation. 

What makes box breathing such a powerful anxiety-reducing mechanism is the controlled holds between inhales and exhales. The Mayo Clinic claims that slowed breathing has benefits beyond the moment it’s used in; yogic breathing can help balance the autonomic nervous system in charge of involuntary processes! 

Because breath is such a familiar action to us humans, we don’t always recognize its importance to our state at every conscious moment. The focus on recalibrating the depth and pace of breathing will stimulate the body to strengthen its homeostasis. Even those who have stress or breathing-related disorders can greatly ease their symptoms by constantly practicing box breathing! 

Box breathing, with or without additional meditation, can provide that space for growth for the students’ inner skills. The long-term benefits can apply to anyone who adopts this because we all have intricate nervous systems in charge of our body’s regulation. 

If you are an instructor looking to apply more mindfulness skills in the classroom, then research all the different steps and benefits of meditation strategies. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to learn a skill that you can apply to your stress management skills!

Even if you aren’t administering the assessments students feel apprehensive towards, cultivating a much calmer learning environment for the student can happen outside of school! If you notice a student, whether it be a tutoring or guardianship situation, express anxiety over math homework- do not fret! 

Before starting all that math, instruct the student through a few minutes of deep breathing. You can even create personalized affirmations about their problems with math to alter their subconscious programming. 

Having them tune back to their body can aid in replenishing their energy and increase cognitive function. Watch the tension release from their body after a few good days or even weeks of consistently revitalizing the alignment between their physical being and spirit.

September 10, 2023

Put Your Mind To It

How The Use of Mindfulness Can Benefit Math Students

Mindfulness encapsulates an overall state of being. Generally, it is the human capacity to be conscientious of our existence, more specifically the emotional and mental sensations we experience. This cultivates a varying amount of different skills; for instance, someone who practices mindfulness is present in the moment, intensely sensing their feelings, being reflective, and many more intuitive behaviors. 

This is a specific kind of meditation many people practice. However, mindfulness in itself is a quality whereas meditation is an action. You can acquire mindfulness THROUGH meditation; all in all, the two can exist independently or together. 

Having a moment-by-moment awareness with a more nurturing approach is incrementally beneficial. Rather than focusing on the future or past to gain a sense of control over your reality, practicing mindfulness relieves you of stress that your focus is entirely invested in the PRESENT. Reducing that anticipatory rumination will alleviate feelings of frustration, stress, anger, and even helplessness. Mindfulness is also especially helpful to increase metacognitive awareness, or the awareness for how you think. 

Why does mindfulness matter in the first place? Because it’s an avenue one can take to overall improve their mental and/or emotional health. Mindfulness bleeds into all sorts of life experiences, like interpersonal relationships. Aside from the external benefits, mindfulness can overall better one’s relationship or perception of themselves.

There have been studies and discussions about the physical benefits of mindfulness as well, but the primary influence is within the conscious self. 

How does Mindfulness help with Math? 

By learning to address mental or emotional frustrations, you’re establishing a safe space to grow your perspective. Actively practicing mindfulness helps you to create a growth mindset, which can be helpful in times of challenge.

Due to math’s more dense and logical functionality, it’s one of those disciplines that challenges a majority of people in MANY ways. Mindfulness, especially when fused with math, can strengthen divergent thinking skills, patience, and improve many life skills. 

When being faced with an obstacle, for example a challenging equation, mindfulness can be used to navigate the challenge with a more hopeful approach. If you were to fail or get the math equation wrong, you can still utilize mindfulness by removing yourself from the stressful environment, gaining clarity, then returning with a newfound approach that may attack the problem correctly (maybe even more efficiently). 

Noticing the reactions you experience when partaking in mathematics can guide you to find a new attitude better suited for the task. Identifying those feelings will also pave the way to cultivate a more thoughtful, intentional response! 

Younger children with less emotional regulation may find it difficult to master mindfulness during math on their own. Don’t worry, familiarizing them with the process of mindfulness can be introduced in AND out of the classroom. Implementing mindfulness at an early age can prove to be expediently helpful. 

If you are a teacher or educator looking to provide a supportive environment for optimal learning, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness! First and foremost, encourage the student(s) to be fully present and focused on what’s currently occurring! To prepare students for an engaging experience, instruct and/or guide them to calm their bodies and minds for the upcoming educational lesson.

Can you fuse mindfulness with math? ABSOLUTELY. There are a few different methods that can be integrated into a young mind’s lifestyle, whether it be during math time at school or when they experience a stressful situation at home.


3 Practices That Blend Mindfulness With Math

Count Your Breathing:

There are LOTS of specialized kinds of breathing able to sound the physiological sensations of stress or anxiety. There’s deep breathing, belly breathing, box breathing… you get the idea. Regardless of what KIND of breathing is being used, counting is a great way to control respiration! 

Instruct the student or class to get comfortable in their seat(s). Count an inhale for four counts, have them hold it for another four counts, then fully exhale for the final four counts. The purpose of the counting is to bring attention to this typically involuntary action. Becoming more aware of the flow of oxygen in and out of the body will instantaneously calm the nervous system, which means the students will feel more relaxed and present for their lesson.

Nourish The Mind AND Body:

Cooking has proven to be a fun yet engaging task that incorporates various math techniques! The human body needs to be nourished with yummy, wholesome food to function at its best, therefore this is an exciting yet immersive way to bring a child back into their body and enjoy caring for themselves. Try including the child in fun cooking exercises that get them excited to feed their bodies (and minds).

Some fun ways to mindfully practice math is to have a child count their pieces of snacks, measure ingredients for their favorite food, time the cooking process of their highly anticipated treat, and so much more!

Time to Shake It Out:

Kids feel so pent up and sometimes frustrated when they cannot exert their energy in the classroom, so physical movement may help them out! 

Aside from recess at school, take a few minutes at different times during school to allow children to move and wiggle their bodies. Encourage them to (safely) shake out their frustration, attune to their bodily sensations, and wiggle away any negative feelings. This can be used as a good transition or break between subjects, lessons, and used before or after a long lesson!

July 2, 2023

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a practice that equips someone with the ability to draw focus to a particular object, thought, or activity in order to train a deeper awareness. It’s believed to be so beneficial because of its impact on one’s achievement of clarity, relaxation, or emotional stability!

You’ve probably heard this word being paired with “Mindfulness”, which is the awareness of the present moment. When you put them together, you get something called “Mindfulness Meditation” which is a practice able to help you draw focus to the present in order to bring stillness, peace, or emotional clarity to what’s currently happening. Mindfulness meditation is incredibly helpful for grounding your being and alleviating symptoms of ruminating thoughts, anxiety, stress, even depression.

However, meditation is a very malleable practice with lots of versions to accommodate any and all needs. You can find meditations for pretty much anything, but also mold it to fit your individual desires!

The Benefits of Meditation

There are many proven benefits to meditation in social, emotional, and mental capacities! Here are just some of the core perks:

Improved Attention: Those who meditate can eventually condition themselves to attune their focus much more easily, effectively, and naturally! Attention is something many of us deal with especially in times of stress or anxiety, so meditation can act as that grounding force.

Boosts Immune System: New studies and clues indicate that meditation CAN boost the immune system! Negative emotions, traumas, and more have the power to manifest inside our body, so meditation can help us begin to release those stresses and connect deeper with our bodily instincts.

Longer Concentration: The strengthened attention can help prolong one’s ability to concentrate on tasks! Performing a task or set of them can be difficult when someone can get overwhelmed or pressured by external stresses, so incorporating meditation into a daily routine will improve the fluidity of someone’s day–to-day responsibilities!

Lower Stress Levels: Reducing stress is a very typical motivating factor in why people take up meditation! Stress is usually produced as a result of ruminating thoughts about the past or future, draining tasks or interactions, and more. By integrating meditation into everyday life, you can create space to decompress from these taxing thoughts and have more time to actually enjoy the present moment.

Why Meditation Should Be Encouraged In the Classroom!

Meditation shouldn’t just stay in yoga classes or within the adult community- you people can benefit from it, too! This can become an especially useful resource for kids in school, being that it can be quite a stressful environment for them.

Here’s why meditation should be encouraged in educational environments:

Increased Focus = Less Distractions: When children are unable to pay attention for prolonged periods of time, their schooling isn’t nearly as effective. They are unable to retain a majority of the knowledge- but that can change! Meditation can encourage students to bring themselves into the present, and by fortifying their focusing skills they won’t be as distracted! Less distractions leave more room for productive growth!

Cope with Stress + Emotions Better: Stress is never going to go away completely; we all experience it in different ways. Emotional regulation can be tough for younger people, so giving them the tools to start early is a great idea! Meditation has the ability to bring down the heightened bodily and emotional sensations, which gives children the space to process what they’re thinking and feeling.

Helps with Nerves during Test Taking: As a result of the stress reduction, stressful tasks are not as daunting! Children face many assessments, exams, projects, and responsibilities that heighten their fear of failure. So, meditation can be a great preparatory exercise so they can attack their assignments with clarity and even more confidence.

Calmer State of Mind: Schools can be very chaotic, even draining environments for some kids. They deserve to feel secure, safe, and comfortable in the places they exist in for long periods of time. Meditation can help- the connection between body and mind will calm the childrens’ nervous systems for a more pleasant attitude.

Strengthened Social Skills: Children are very impressionable people, and one negative experience can harm them. This is applicable when making friends, which is a very stressful thing when it’s not always as organic or easy! Meditation can help a student regulate their own selves so they know how to better approach their peers and create stronger bonds.

Develop Empathy: Those who consistently practice meditation have a greater ability to show deep understanding of others’ perspectives. This can be incredibly beneficial in school environments, where many young individuals are exposed to different viewpoints. Empathy can help a student resolve a conflict, understand a relational situation, or just ground their mind before reacting to something.

Improves Overall Self-Esteem + Confidence: Students can have a VERY hard time attacking their assignments and learning with confidence. Meditation, especially when incorporating affirming statements, will broaden their belief systems. The positive, more mindful thinking will allow them to recognize their worth and capability! The improved self-esteem will better ALL areas of life, but show in the results of their education.

If you are curious to know more about why meditation is so beneficial, there are many articles out there to help you with research! This one is a great yet simple summary of what you can find!

June 24, 2023

Be Mindful

How Mindfulness Exercises Can Be Integrated Into Educational Environments For Beneficial Purposes

What IS Mindfulness?

With the swarm of a global pandemic, quarantine, and an assortment of crises, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the madness of it all. So when looking for resources and methods to alleviate these tensions, mindfulness has gained some major popularity!

What is it exactly? In basic terms, Mindfulness is the human awareness and ability to be in the present moment. It encompasses a variety of thoughts, actions, and beliefs we ALL already possess, but take time and energy accessing. Mindfulness has been practiced since ancient times, but only studied within recent years.

Mindfulness is especially beneficial for those who experience tense emotions and detrimental thought cycles. Within recent years, mindfulness has been encouraged in the classroom for kids to help them retain education better.

DISCLAIMER: Mindfulness exercises are not a cure-all for deep rooted anxiety, depression, and trauma. It is a great outlet to incorporate with other methodologies, so please consult your doctor or a therapist when exploring Mindfulness for your needs.

Why You Should Get Into the RIGHT Headspace

Mindfulness-oriented practices have been proven beneficial for many fields and activities. In its entirety, mindfulness gets us to reflect and attune to our instincts, needs, and wants to uncover deeper rooted mental or emotional blockages.

More recently, there has been a movement to integrate Mindfulness exercises and values into school environments. This ensures kids not only will learn to strengthen their emotional & mental regulation skills, but succeed in their academic endeavors.

Here are a few of the infinite reasons why Mindfulness should be brought into education!

Increased Focus: Non-judgmental attentiveness, especially towards the present moment, increases awareness for what’s currently happening in the classroom. When focus is increased in school, the students will more likely retain the content being taught to them! This helps them build a deeper understanding for the material and its usage.
More Attentive To Details: The overall increase in focus will also heighten a student’s attention to detail. This can be especially beneficial for many school subjects that require critical thinking, like literature and math! Their connection to the present will open them up to make astute observations able to help me construct more effortlessly effective answers or understandings.

Confidence In Participation: If a student feels strong in their abilities, they’ll feel more inclined to voice their perspective in class! It’s quite common for them to get easily intimidated by their fear of failure or rejection for an incorrect answer, so bringing Mindfulness into their space will allow them to observe and focus in such a way that is more positive and doesn’t make them feel judged!

Growth Mindset: Mindfulness is being able to learn AND evolve from your current choices, behaviors, and beliefs. If you incorporate Mindfulness into the class, then the students will be able to attack their assignments with the knowledge that even if they don’t get it right the first time, the failure or setback still provides them with productive learning for future situations.

Problem Solving Skills: This particular trait requires patience, determination, and recollection of skills and knowledge to devise the best solution to a given problem. Mindfulness can alleviate some of that usual academic pressure that clouds our articulation of potential avenues of solution. Critical, divergent, and logical thinking skills can be strengthened when students are taught to identify their stresses and instead deal with them rather than suppress them and succumb to emotional problems.

Decreased Stress: Everybody can get worked up when something isn’t going flawlessly or even their way- which is okay and VERY human! Mindfulness really allows us to focus on our innate awareness and morph it into a purposeful power. When we allow ourselves to focus on what’s actually happening and not ruminate on the past or future hypotheticals, stress levels can decrease which also helps with anxiety!

Social AND Emotional Wellbeing: Mindfulness helps with emotional regulation, which kids don’t know how to do as well as full grown adults. If you start them young, they’ll be able to communicate more openly, build sustainable relationships, and do what’s best for themselves as well as others!

Academic Performance: All in all, the mental and emotional spaces students can reach with the help of Mindfulness will fortify their academic performance! They won’t relinquish their talent, attention, or patience to a projected frustration and be able to do what’s in front of them.
Mindfulness Ideas for Your Educative Space

Meditation: Mindfulness in itself is a form of meditation, but you can find all different kinds of meditative exercises to suit your needs! Full body scans, sensory meditations, and intuitive movement are just some examples of this practice.

Breathing Exercises: We take this involuntary action for granted on a daily basis, and can be quite a grounding resource! It helps us tune into our nervous systems when we use the breadth and timing of our breathing to bring our body back into a stable state.

Journaling: Being in the present is hard for some with ruminating thoughts or anxiety, so putting your thoughts and feelings OUTSIDE of yourself can be helpful! It’ll encourage students to be more expressive about what they’re experiencing which helps with emotional regulation and awareness.

Heartbeat Exercises: Just like breathing, our hearts provide us with an involuntary function that carries us through day-to-day life. When we experience stress or anxiety, our heart rates can accelerate causing us to feel frantic or unstable. If you tune into what’s occurring inside your body, your thoughts will naturally flow and gravitate towards the root of what’s causing these negative emotions.

Quiet Time: Silence can speak volumes! Even just a few minutes a day of pure silence will give students a calm, safe space to reflect and relax which is helpful in long, arduous days of dense schooling!

There are many more exercises designed for kids in the classroom that you can experiment with and see what works and what doesn’t!