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Mindfulness and Me

Mindfulness and Me

“In a nutshell, my self care was non-existent. “

A few years ago, I found myself hitting a wall within my school setting. It was the second half of the 2016-17 school year and I was not feeling like myself. I was affected by the negativity that could be heard throughout the halls, as well as the overall stress that comes with the job of a school social worker. In a nutshell, my self care was non-existent. I was really at a point where I did not know what to do professionally. I was at a loss.  I found a few professional development flyers in my mailbox and asked my administrator if I’d be able to take this course to learn about mindfulness.

“I went on a journey that allowed me to release some of the stress and get back to what I had been trying to find, myself.”

During the mindfulness training, I had planned to listen to the speaker and multi-task to try and get caught up on work back at school too.  I am typically not someone who enjoys a whole-group stand-up activity, plus one where you get to know your complete stranger neighbor at your table and then do a skit in front of the room. Thankfully, that is not what was asked of me, but we did have many short mindfulness exercises to do throughout the day. Those brief exercises were all it took, I was hooked!  I found a sense of calm in myself pretty quickly and was surprised by the fact that this woman was guiding me to find my breath in a moment of silence and while bringing an awareness to my breath, I almost fell asleep. She said that happens sometimes and that is also a sign that you probably need to get more sleep 😆. The woman who presented, Renee Metty, spoke about her training with mindfulness through Mindful Schools. When I got home after the training, I looked up Mindful Schools so I could find out more about this program.  I read more on their website and wanted to look into getting some additional training. The next session was about to begin so I registered for the first course offered by Mindful Schools: “Mindfulness Fundamentals.”

Finding Myself Through Mindfulness

During this six week session, I went on a journey that allowed me to release some of the stress and get back to what I had been trying to find, myself. While working through the course modules, our instructor took us through mindfulness sessions. A session is when you are guided through a deep centered breathing and directed to allow thoughts to come and go, acknowledge them, and then allow them to pass through your mind in varying time frames as well. Through the mindfulness work, I was able to gain a better understanding of myself and improve upon my interactions with my family, my students, and co-workers.  The more I practiced mindfulness the better I became at being more alert and aware of my environment. I also noticed my sleeping improved as well as my own general mood.

Bringing Mindfulness To My Students

Around the same that I was enrolled in Mindful Schools, I had found a new program from Committee for Children called Mind Yeti. This was a brief lesson of video sessions that students could watch on a screen so they did not need to close their eyes but could focus on something.  The lesson was set to a soft sound or music with a narrator giving directions guiding the students. Most sessions were quite brief around thirty seconds, some went longer into about two minutes or more. Since I was using this program with a Preschool class at the time I opted to stick with shorter lessons to maintain their ability to remain engaged.

As a result of these programs, I was experiencing a renewed sense of self both professionally and personally.  I have since completed another course through Mindful Schools. While I do not have mindfulness sessions daily anymore, I do find myself being able to have short moments of quiet throughout chaotic weeks and am able to feel refreshed and ready to face what lies ahead.

Editor’s Note:  This article is a part of our SSWN January series, organized around the theme “Self-Care for the School Mental Health Professional.”  A big thank-you to Janet, one of our Loyola SMHAPP certificate students, for her example in describing how school clinicians can find ways to take care of themselves so they can do the vital business of caring for their schools.

About The Author

Janet Kester

Janet Kester LCSW is a school social worker in Rosemont, IL, where she has worked for 15 years. She is in the second year of the Loyola School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP) certificate, where her project is focused on improving the use of student data at team and grade levels in her school.

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