“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany.
Amishi Jha, a University of Miami neuroscientist who investigates mindfulness-training’s effects on individuals in high-stress situations, says, “These results shed light on the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based training.
After collecting data on those educators’ well-being, observations of classrooms and student behavioral reports over the course of a year, we found that teachers who received emotional regulation training were more emotionally supportive, demonstrated greater sensitivity to student needs, and provided more positive and productive classroom environments. Furthermore, when assessing teachers’ stress levels, those teachers noted considerably less distress, and an improved ability to manage their emotions.
In the face of stressful situations, I instead used techniques like deep breathing and mindful walking to calm my body and mind, gaining that heightened self-awareness to thoughtfully respond to the issue at hand.
The survey, released by the American Federation of Teachers and the advocacy group Badass Teachers Association on Monday, included responses from about 5,000 educators. It follows a 2015 survey on educator stress—and finds that stress levels have grown and mental health has declined for this group in the past two years.
In the face of mounting testing pressures, rapidly changing reform efforts and student circumstances over which teachers feel little control, more than half of teachers consider their jobs to be highly stressful, which is affecting teacher absenteeism rates, retention and student achievement, according to The Hechinger Report.
Education leaders can offer longer-term solutions that address root issues by providing mentoring support in schools rather than bringing in outside experts, rolling out new initiatives in a more teacher-centered way, and involving teachers in discussions about what works best for students.
But principals also need to build relationships with teachers themselves to create a sense of trust and more open and honest lines of communication. Good teachers are hard to find and losing them to stress is not a good option. Finding ways to solve the issues that are causing them stress and helping them deal with the inevitable pressures along the way is well worth the effort in the long run.
Roughly half of American school children have experienced at least some form of trauma — from neglect, to abuse, to violence. In response, educators often find themselves having to take on the role of counselors, supporting the emotional healing of their students, not just their academic growth.
The symptoms are similar in some ways to post-traumatic stress disorder: withdrawing from friends and family; feeling unexplainably irritable or angry or numb; inability to focus; blaming others; feeling hopeless or isolated or guilty about not doing enough; struggling to concentrate; being unable to sleep; overeating or not eating enough; and continually and persistently worrying about students, when they’re at home and even in their sleep.
One of the handful of studies of STS in schools found that more than 200 staff surveyed from across six schools reported very high levels of STS.
STS can affect teachers’ happiness, health and professional practice. But Betsy McAlister Groves, a clinical social worker and former faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says that she has often been surprised by the number of teachers, school counselors and administrators who recognized the cumulative stressors that they faced in their schools but did not realize that their symptoms were a common reaction to working with traumatized children — and that these symptoms had a name.
How Schools Can Acknowledge Secondary Trauma:
Building a Culture of Awareness
Create Peer Groups Trauma-Informed Schools: School leaders should take a school-wide approach. There is a growing movement around creating trauma-informed schools— schools that recognize and are prepared to support community members affected by trauma and traumatic stress. Such schools deeply integrate social-emotional learninginto their teaching, culture and approach, understanding that the holistic health and wellbeing of their charges is essential for achieving academic success.
Resource for teachers and schools
Assess how your work as an educator might be affecting you (both positively and negatively) by using the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) self-assessment tool and exploring the toolkit created by Teaching Tolerance to learn self-care strategies.
Learn how, as an educator, you can begin to identify secondary traumatic stress and learn strategies for self care through the tip sheet created by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Learn about additional individual and organization strategies for addressing secondary traumatic stress, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Stay tuned for a new online curriculum for preK–12 teachers, named STAT (Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma), being created by experts in the fields of secondary traumatic stress, education, and technology. The curriculum, due for a 2019 launch, will feature five modules on risk factors, the impact of STS, and self-assessment, among related topics.
quote the former Buddhist monk Clark Strand here. This was in a review of your work. “None of us dreamed that mindfulness would become so popular or even lucrative, much less that it would be used as a way to keep millions of us sleeping soundly through some of the worst cultural excesses in human history, all while fooling us into thinking we were awake and quiet.”
corporate mindfulness programs are now quite popular. And as we all know, most employees these days are extremely stressed out. The Gallup poll that came out about four or five years ago said that corporations — and this is in the U.S. — are losing approximately 300 billion dollars a year from stress-related absences and seven out of ten employees report being disengaged from their work.
The remedy has now become mindfulness, where employees are then trained individually to learn how to cope and adjust to these toxic corporate conditions rather than launching kind of a diagnosis of the systemic causes of stress not only in corporations but in our society at large. That sort of dialogue, that sort of inquiry, is not happening.
An integrity bubble is where there is a small oasis within a corporation – for example let’s take Google because that’s a great example of it.
You have a small group of engineers who are getting individual level benefits from corporate mindfulness training. They’re learning how to de-stress. Google engineers [are] working 60-70 hours a week – very stressful. So they’re getting individual level benefits while not questioning the digital distraction technologies [that] Google engineers are actually trying to work on. Those issues are not taken into account in a kind of mindful way.
So you become mindful, to become more productive, to produce technologies of mass distraction, which is quite an irony in many ways. A sad irony actually.
mindfulness could be revolutionized in a way that does not denigrate the therapeutic benefits of self-care, but it becomes interdependent with these causes and conditions of suffering which go beyond just individuals.
Mindfulness has become a core social and emotional learning strategy in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) in Texas. The district has even created a mindfulness specialist position, filled by James Butler, the district’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.
There are various understandings of mindfulness, but most focus on being nonjudgmental and present in the moment.