Brain Integration and Stress/Anxiety Management in the Classroom
Is it normal to feel anxious about climate change? What you can do if you’re worried?
Click here for the Generation Carbon Podcast episode 4, featuring the following exercises and a cameo appearance by Jorah Costello!
Talking about the scenarios and the changes occurring in our planet can be scary for kids. While it is important that young people understand the seriousness of the threat facing our planet, it is also important that these conversations leave them feeling hopeful and empowered so that they are inspired to create change.
It is important to check in with your students periodically during these discussions to be sure that they haven’t simply gone into a state of overwhelm. One way of doing this is to do a blind self-assessment – the idea being that the students can admit to the instructor that they are feeling overwhelmed without losing face in front of their peers.
The following techniques are found in systems like Educational Kinesiology Brain Gym or Touch for Health. Short explanations of the techniques are included for kids and parents. These have been included with the intention of making what could be a stressful subject easier, facilitating the integration of the two hemispheres of the brain for optimal learning without overwhelm.
When working with these techniques in the classroom, have children pay attention to how they are feeling before and after doing the exercise. You can have them use a scale of one to ten to assess energy, mood, stress, pain, etc. Everyone is different and will respond best to different techniques. It should become clear which techniques work the best and most quickly for each learner. These can then become part of their daily routine.
Sometimes it can feel like your brain and body aren’t quite working together the way that they should. We can connect them again by “zipping up”.
To do this, use your hands to trace an imaginary line from the bottom of your tummy up to your bottom lip. Do it at least three times.
This should help you think more clearly, improve concentration, and wake you up a bit when your mind feels tired. If it doesn’t work right away, use your hands and go up and down the line really fast a few times. This is called ‘flushing’ the meridian and it helps to clean it out. Then go back and trace it from the tummy to the lip again – it should stay better now.
Moving your body around can help you remember things better while also improving your coordination when playing sports or just running around.
To do this, start marching! Bring your left knee up and forward and your right arm forward. Then put them down and bring your right knee up and forward with your left arm. You can also do this with the arms and legs going backwards, or out to the sides.
Once you get the motion, make circles with your eyes while marching. Sing a little song, count, practice times tables, or repeat any bit of information you want to remember better.
This kind of movement is called “contra-lateral”, meaning opposite sides. If it is too hard at first practice doing same-side movements for awhile, then try again.
The two sides of your brain do different things. Some activities, like handwriting or reading out loud, need both sides of the brain to work together. Doing “lazy eights” can improve your writing, help you learn new things more easily and make it easier to do two things at once.
To do this, put your ear down on one shoulder and stretch your arm out in front of you. Use your hand to make a big sideways eight in the air, starting in the middle and going up and out, watching your hand as it goes. Then switch sides and do it again.
Now pretend your arm is a big pencil. Use it to handwrite each letter of the alphabet. Make sure you follow the end of the “pencil” with your eyes – that’s what gets your brain working!
This is useful when you would like to calm down a bit or when you need to concentrate on something. It connects the different energy pathways in the body called ‘meridians’ and makes you feel good.
There are two different ways of doing this and both work well, so use whichever one feels most comfortable to you.
1) While sitting, put your left leg on your right knee. Put your right hand around the top of your left foot and your left hand around the bottom of your left foot. Hold for two minutes or so
2) Put your left ankle over your right ankle. Stretch your hands in front of you and cross your left wrist over the right wrist. Interlace your fingers and bring your hands up to your chest. Hold for two minutes or so.
After doing either of these hookups, place both feet on the floor, put your fingers together and take a few deep breaths.
ESR stands for “emotional stress release”. These are points you can use whenever you feel upset, sad or scared. You can also use them before a test or any event that is important to you.
To use these points, lightly hold your forehead between your eyebrows and your hairline. Think about whatever is making you upset until it doesn’t seem like such a big problem anymore. If you are holding these points before a test or competition or something, visualize the event in your mind. Imagine yourself doing really well. Make the picture in your mind as real as you can: think about what it would look like, sound like, feel like to do well.
You can use these points to help other people who are sad or hurt as well.
Holding these points helps you think of new ideas and solutions to problems, so you can use them anytime you feel stuck and need to think of things in a different way.