Meditation and mindfulness can help relieve stress

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Teaching can be stressful, and meditation and mindfulness can help alleviate the stress and bring a greater sense of calm and purpose to your life at work and at home. Research has shown that meditation can reduce burnout, improve self-confidence, empathy and the ability to concentrate — and even boost health and job performance.

There are many forms of meditation to explore and by sampling from different traditions you can find the type you enjoy most. These traditions include various forms of yoga, which use movement, dynamic breathing, meditation and chanting; guided meditation, which offers imagery and visualizations for overcoming anxiety or stress and is also useful as a sleep aid; mindfulness meditation, in which you are fully present in the moment while allowing your thoughts to pass without judgment; and loving-kindness, or metta, meditation, in which practitioners cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward themselves and others.

A variety of apps — some free, some low cost and others with an annual subscription fee — are handy for meditating at home, at work or on the go. Here are some apps to consider: Pause, Calm, Headspace, the Mindfulness App, Buddhify, Insight Timer, Smiling Mind and Meditation Timer.

Look for the UFT Member Assistance Program’s free podcast series, Classroom Café: Brewing the Conversation, which launches in May on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. One episode of this podcast will discuss mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is particularly well-suited for time-stressed teachers. Part of a prep period or even a five-minute break is all you need to slow down and focus on your breathing or the sounds around you. Every time your mind wanders, bring it back to your intended focus.

There’s no time like the present to try it out! Start small, with five minutes of mindfulness. Close your eyes, inhale and exhale and silently count one, inhale and exhale and count two, until you reach 10. If you become distracted, just refocus on your breath. When you are done, acknowledge your intentions with a silent statement such as, “I am peaceful and calm. Let this feeling enhance the rest of my day.”

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