De-Stress Yourself!

With the testing season in full swing, we are reminded about the term STRESS!  Stress is a growing part of our everyday lives for teachers and students.  According to Stanford School of Medicine, the number of children, ages of 7-17, treated for depression has more than doubled between the years of 1995 and 2001.  Based on a report from the National Institute of Mental Health  in 2014, “11.4% of population or 2.8 million adolescents, ages 12-17, have reported a major depressive episode.” Shifts in the home lives and finances of our students’ families, increase in testing, issues with peers and other factors have increased our need, as teachers, to be aware of this growing concern and how it affects our children. Even a small amount of stress produces a shot of adrenaline that can increase alertness and increase engagement such as a competition or struggling with a tough task.  As educators, we must keep a good balance of productive stress while teaching our students to successfully manage stress to keep learning conditions optimal.

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signally other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain which keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon and when repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. Remember dendrites? When this action happens in the brain, it is relating to the brain the information, action or event is important to remember or retain.

 

See Image of a Neuron Below:

 

 

When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halts learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.

Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control.

The AHA Moment—students in a constant state of stress not only struggle with attention but their brain is actually inhibited from learning due too much or little cortisol.

 

Symptoms of Chronic Stress:

Symptom Examples 
Physical fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, grinding teeth, stomach problems
Cognitive inattention, lack of concentration, blaming others, poor problem solving
Behavioral loss of appetite, withdrawal, acting out, tantrums
Emotional anxiety, guilt, irritability, uncertainty
Physiological Increase in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and muscle tension

 

Looking at the chart above, do you recognize any of your students?

 

Here are Five Ideas. Try to implement one this week!

  1. Get Active:  Integrated movement where you cross the midline of the brain hemispheres will promote a better emotional state. 2-5 minutes before a test or activity where students need to have a clear mind try this site called Go Noodle (https://www.gonoodle.com/).  It is free and provides active online videos to help your students get moving AND de-stress.  By crossing the lateral line of your brain with movement helps to remove the survival reaction of your brain to a more focused state.

Example of a video found on Go Noodle:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvgYsbDDZW8

  1. Breathing:  Remember when someone is under stress, they produce cortisol which is impeding the brain’s ability to learn. By adjusting a person’s breathing while under stress, signals reaction and stops or shifts the production of cortisol. You can pair deep breathing activities with a calming visual which deepens the body’s ability to calm the mind and emotions.  The benefits of deep breathing includes more oxygen circulating to the body, cleanses the body of toxic stress chemicals such as cortisol, and begins to refocus attention and clear thinking.

You can access this handout (calm_breathing) for ways to teach deep breathing with your students.  Here are basic guidelines:

  • Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds)
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers)
  • Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths

*You can access a calming visual through www.calm.com

3.  Model and practice the “Take 5 Technique.”

When students are filled with frustration due to anxiety the “Take 5” strategy is a easy visual to say—STOP and Think.  This strategy allows you to help the child begin an inner dialogue about how to calm down while de-escalating the situation. Breathing or counting is a way to help regulate the brain and stop the focus on the anxiety or emotion that is stopping the dendrites to fire. Students truly do “stop thinking” when in a state of stress or reaction.  Helping them to learn ways to handle this stress will help them learn how to regulate the body.  Click here for a printable version of this technique from:   www.childhood101.com.

4.  Ball Toss or Silent Ball:  Tossing the ball or even the movement of watching someone else, will lower cortisol levels.  This movement increases a student’s ability to focus and concentrate.  As a teacher you can use the ball as part of your instruction during the question and answer part of your lesson. The movement of the ball helps to refocus all students and the unknown of where it will be thrown increases concentration and engagement.  You can also play a ball toss game or Silent Ball for a few minutes (recommendation no more than 6 minutes) before a difficult task to heighten “good stress” by increasing the adrenaline of your students but not overwhelming them.

Click here for directions on Silent Ball:   silent ball

5.  Lazy Eight:   A figure eight pattern will increase thinking and eye movement across the midline of your brain and create coordinated movements. These movements activate the entire brain and the repetition resets neural connections.You can have students take a scrap piece of paper and draw a figure 8 (see diagram below) for 30 seconds continue to retrace.  Have students switch to the other hand and continue to draw and trace the pattern for 30 seconds. Continue to switch hands and draw for a total of 2 minutes.  Another version of the Lazy Eight is for students to physically stand and use their arms extended to move in a figure 8 pattern and move from side to side as you would if you were drawing the pattern.

 Demonstration here at Youtube

 

In days ahead, we are faced with the challenge to keep students as free from stress while learning. Remember, for the brain to function, the hypothalamus must be regulated in a stable or regular state.  Deep breathing, active moving, and using calming visuals will help the brain stop making cortisol which impedes learning and thinking.  Learning how to manage feelings of stress is a life long lesson and if we model and practice these skills for our students—they will become healthier AND more engaged in our classrooms. Who knows—maybe we will learn a thing or two along the way!

Resources accessed for this article:

Article by Marian Wilde accessed on March 15, 2016: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/stressed-out-kids/

Statistics accessed on March 15, 2016:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adolescents.shtml

 

 

Push = Stress

As we end February, the word “PUSH” comes to my mind often in SO many different connotations.  Frustration is permeating through the school with testing, data, students who are not responding to intervention, sickness, etc.  With the stress swirling around, I think we as a school are feeling “the push.”

The push of…

  • A math curriculum that does not allow for a day off
  • A principal who needs a volunteer for…
  • A coach who needs you to…
  • Parents who want to ask …
  • Our families who need…

Remember that each person we come in contact with is under stress and trying to complete the tasks on their list which often cause our list to grow.  I was told last week, “You are so intense. Don’t you understand what I have to do?”   My job was causing a “push” to this teacher and it caused anxiety.  If we as adults experience this—what do you think we are doing to our students?

How in the world do we manage and do all that we do?

Stress is a growing part of our everyday lives for teachers and students.  According to Stanford School of Medicine, the number of children, ages of 7-17, treated for depression has more than doubled between the years of 1995 and 2001.  Based on a report, from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2014, “11.4% of population or 2.8 million adolescents, ages 12-17, have reported a major depressive episode.” Shifts in the home lives and finances of our students’ families, increase in testing, issues with peers and other factors have increased our need, as teachers, to be aware of this growing concern and how it affects our children. Even a small amount of stress produces a shot of adrenaline that can increase alertness and increase engagement such as a competition or struggling with a tough task.  As educators, we must keep a good balance of productive stress while teaching our students to successfully manage stress to keep learning conditions optimal.

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signally other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain which keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon and when repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. Remember dendrites? When this action happens in the brain, it is relating to the brain the information, action or event is important to remember or retain.

 

See Image of a Neuron Below:

When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halts learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.

Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self-control.

The AHA Moment—students in a constant state of stress not only struggle with attention but their brain is actually inhibited from learning due too much or little cortisol.

 

Symptoms of Chronic Stress:

Symptom Examples 
Physical fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, grinding teeth, stomach problems
Cognitive inattention, lack of concentration, blaming others, poor problem solving
Behavioral loss of appetite, withdrawal, acting out, tantrums
Emotional anxiety, guilt, irritability, uncertainty

 

Physiological Increase in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and muscle tension

 

Looking at the chart above, do you recognize any of your students?

Remember two easy ways to deal with stress—

  1. Deep Breathing!
  • Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds)
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers)
  • Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths

 

  1. Movement!

Movement increases production of dopamine which is a chemical produced which combats stress and helps you feel happier and think more clearly. The movement only has to be for 2-3 minutes and can be simple tasks.

  • Go Noodle
  • Silent Ball
  • jog in place or do 10 jumping jacks
  • get up find a partner to share information

Remember stress is inevitable. How we deal with it and teach our students to respond—is up to us!

 

The following older Blogs were used to create this Blog.

http://thiskelly.edublogs.org/tag/stress/

Learning and Self-Confidence

I have been inspired this week by watching students at Summer School who have become completely different learners. No they have not magically jumped to proficient according to Reading 3D or state standards BUT they are excited, engaged and becoming more confident. My research this week has been on how self-confidence affects learning.

Self-esteem or confidence actually resides in the frontostriatal section of the brain which is located between the ventrial striatum and the prefrontal cortex (Decision making, personality and social parts of brain) according to Anna Almendrala (2014).   The venrial striatum is associated with feelings of motivation and reward.  Studies have shown that with continual positive or negative statements and emotions an increase or decrease can occur in the activity of this pathway of the brain. Therefore this affects the person’s self-esteem.

According to Susana Martinez-Conde from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, our brain “makes use of two types of knowledge everyday:  explicit knowledge (the “know what” type) and implicit knowledge (the “know how”).   She uses the example of explicit knowledge is knowing your math facts which is something concrete but implicit knowledge is riding a bike which is something you know how to do. Implicit knowledge is not as easy to explain to someone because it uses many functions and actions to complete the action—you know how to do it.

Self-confidence is an element added to these two types of knowledge which affects our ability to share or retrieve this knowledge based on what she calls real memories or fake (subconscious).  Our subconscious (fake memories) actually is the foundation for how our own confidence is ascertained.  Our subconscious is much like a “recorder” because it is taking information from all of our senses and recording impressions.  Our subconscious is different from other information taken in from our brain which is manipulated, organized and utilized in a purposeful way.  The information from our subconscious is simply brought in and impressions recorded. When we are engaged in certain activities, these impressions will cause anxiety or enjoyment or lack of confidence based on previous information gathered by our subconscious.

Powerful Information!!  Think about a student from a home where literacy is not celebrated. This could be for various reasons; parents uncomfortable reading, lack or unstructured time, unstable environment.  The events are not necessarily remembered but an overall impression is being created in the brain as the subconscious records the events. These recordings are creating negative feelings that will be associated with literacy. In contrast, our children who grow up in literacy rich homes feel comfortable with reading and more willing to try because the subconscious has recorded positive attributes with the event.

This immediately made me think of this quote from Ghandi.

Ghandi

The implications I have gathered through my research is that most likely our lowest performing students have developed a negative feeling or impression of the topic in which they struggle.  When a negative thought is repeated many times it is actually being “recorded” and causes stress when the child engages in this activity. For example, speaking publicly is very difficult for me because I lack confidence in that area and I have over the years developed negative feelings about being in that situation.  To combat this low self-confidence or negative feeling in our students, we must replace the negative connotation with positive repeatedly.

Positive affirmation can simply be a smile!  Smiling, positive feedback, encouraging words and simply being patient can help a child begin to “record” positive subconscious thoughts as they engage in the activity such as reading.  The more positive and comfortable the student feels, the more likely they are to try harder and build higher self-confidence.  For students who are extremely shut down, a tangible reward paired with positive feedback can begin to create the connection between the task and a good experience.

Positive feedback and sometimes a tangible trip to the prize box will activate the venrial striatum (home of reward and motivation) which connects to the frontostriatal (home of self-confidence).  When these two sections of the brain work together, you are increasing both self-confidence and motivation which increases the engagement and openness to learn.

It is powerful to think that we can help change a person’s self-confidence and motivation. How often as teachers do we hear, “I can take a horse to water but I can’t make them drink.”  I do not believe that old adage is true. With repetitive positive affirmation and helping a student feel success we can improve their motivation to try. This in turn will begin to build self-confidence.  These factors together can increase the change of learning because the child becomes open to receive the information. We may not be able to “make them drink” but we can certainly motivate them to want to try!

For a related article, check out my April Blog entitled, “Too Much Stress= Impeded learning.”  It explains how the brain reacts to stress and how it affects learning. In today’s blog it shared how confidence affects learning and how the subconscious can put learners in a state of stress. The April article focuses on how the brain reacts to high amounts of stress. In a state of continual stress, the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway and stop impulses. This results in the lack of input and messaging in the brain which makes it short circuit that pathway and stops learning. In addition, a constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control. (Poor behavior–sound familiar??)

http://thiskelly.edublogs.org/2016/04/15/too-much-stress-impeded-learning/

 

Articles that were cited and helped inspire this Blog:

Article by Anna Almendrala for Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/self-esteem-brain_n_5500501.html accessed on July 20, 2016.

Article by Susana Martinez-Conde and Richard J. Haier on June 2008 entitled Ask the Brains: What are ideas? Does confidence Affect Performance.  Accessed on July 22, 2016:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-ideas/

Quote from values.com

 

 

 

Too Much Stress = Impeded Learning

Stress is a growing part of our everyday lives for teachers and students.  According to Stanford School of Medicine, the number of children, ages of 7-17, treated for depression has more than doubled between the years of 1995 and 2001.  Based on a report from the National Institute of Mental Health  in 2014, “11.4% of population or 2.8 million adolescents, ages 12-17, have reported a major depressive episode.” Shifts in the home lives and finances of our students’ families, increase in testing, issues with peers and other factors have increased our need, as teachers, to be aware of this growing concern and how it affects our children. Even a small amount of stress produces a shot of adrenaline that can increase alertness and increase engagement such as a competition or struggling with a tough task.  As educators, we must keep a good balance of productive stress while teaching our students to successfully manage stress to keep learning conditions optimal.

Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signally other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain which keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon and when repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. Remember dendrites? When this action happens in the brain, it is relating to the brain the information, action or event is important to remember or retain.

 

See Image of a Neuron Below:

neuron

 

When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halts learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.

Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self control.

The AHA Moment—students in a constant state of stress not only struggle with attention but their brain is actually inhibited from learning due too much or little cortisol.

 

Symptoms of Chronic Stress:

Symptom Examples 
Physical fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, grinding teeth, stomach problems
Cognitive inattention, lack of concentration, blaming others, poor problem solving
Behavioral loss of appetite, withdrawal, acting out, tantrums
Emotional anxiety, guilt, irritability, uncertainty

 

Physiological Increase in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and muscle tension

 

Looking at the chart above, do you recognize any of your students?

 

Here are Five Ideas. Try to implement one this week!

  1. Get Active:  Integrated movement where you cross the midline of the brain hemispheres will promote a better emotional state. 2-5 minutes before a test or activity where students need to have a clear mind try this site called Go Noodle (https://www.gonoodle.com/).  It is free and provides active online videos to help your students get moving AND de-stress.  By crossing the lateral line of your brain with movement helps to remove the survival reaction of your brain to a more focused state.

Example of a video found on Go Noodle:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvgYsbDDZW8

  1. Breathing:  Remember when someone is under stress, they produce cortisol which is impeding the brain’s ability to learn. By adjusting a person’s breathing while under stress, signals reaction and stops or shifts the production of cortisol. You can pair deep breathing activities with a calming visual which deepens the body’s ability to calm the mind and emotions.  The benefits of deep breathing includes more oxygen circulating to the body, cleanses the body of toxic stress chemicals such as cortisol, and begins to refocus attention and clear thinking.

You can access this handout (calm_breathing) for ways to teach deep breathing with your students.  Here are basic guidelines:

  • Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds)
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers)
  • Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths

*You can access a calming visual through www.calm.com

3.  Model and practice the “Take 5 Technique.”     big

When students are filled with frustration due to anxiety the “Take 5” strategy is a easy visual to say—STOP and Think.  This strategy allows you to help the child begin an inner dialogue about how to calm down while de-escalating the situation. Breathing or counting is a way to help regulate the brain and stop the focus on the anxiety or emotion that is stopping the dendrites to fire. Students truly do “stop thinking” when in a state of stress or reaction.  Helping them to learn ways to handle this stress will help them learn how to regulate the body.  Click here for a printable version of this technique from:   www.childhood101.com.

4.  Ball Toss or Silent Ball:  Tossing the ball or even the movement of watching someone else, will lower cortisol levels.  This movement increases a student’s ability to focus and concentrate.  As a teacher you can use the ball as part of your instruction during the question and answer part of your lesson. The movement of the ball helps to refocus all students and the unknown of where it will be thrown increases concentration and engagement.  You can also play a ball toss game or Silent Ball for a few minutes (recommendation no more than 6 minutes) before a difficult task to heighten “good stress” by increasing the adrenaline of your students but not overwhelming them.

Click here for directions on Silent Ball:   silent ball

5.  Lazy Eight:   A figure eight pattern will increase thinking and eye movement across the midline of your brain and create coordinated movements. These movements activate the entire brain and the repetition resets neural connections.You can have students take a scrap piece of paper and draw a figure 8 (see diagram below) for 30 seconds continue to retrace.  Have students switch to the other hand and continue to draw and trace the pattern for 30 seconds. Continue to switch hands and draw for a total of 2 minutes.  Another version of the Lazy Eight is for students to physically stand and use their arms extended to move in a figure 8 pattern and move from side to side as you would if you were drawing the pattern.

fig 8 Demonstration here at Youtube

 

In days ahead, we are faced with the challenge to keep students as free from stress while learning. Remember, for the brain to function, the hypothalamus must be regulated in a stable or regular state.  Deep breathing, active moving, and using calming visuals will help the brain stop making cortisol which impedes learning and thinking.  Learning how to manage feelings of stress is a life long lesson and if we model and practice these skills for our students—they will become healthier AND more engaged in our classrooms. Who knows—maybe we will learn a thing or two along the way!

Resources accessed for this article:

Article by Marian Wilde accessed on March 15, 2016: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/stressed-out-kids/

Statistics accessed on March 15, 2016:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adolescents.shtml

 

 

 

 

Subscribe By Email

Get a weekly email of all new posts.

Please prove that you are not a robot.

Skip to toolbar