Stress Survival Support for The Educator



Hello! My name is Rachel Scutt. I am a Medical Massage Therapist and owner of Mind & Muscle Medicine, LLC. You might be wondering what would a massage therapist have to share that helps me as an educator? Well, as a massage therapist we have learned and perfected the art of listening, healing and de-stressing people with the ability to precisely target into the root issue and addressing these issues through the power of intentional touch. In my practice in conjunction with my unique technique I also enjoy educating my clients in what they have going on physically to build awareness to their body. This approach does help aid in their healing along with reinforcing that muscle and mind connection for the individual’s overall health and function.

How does this apply to you as an educator? Just as we work through our hands you work through your voice. Just as we help educate clients on their physical ailments, you help educate and empower your students with necessary tools they will need to understand how the world works and become successful in their community. Helping them develop self-awareness through skill development in areas of motor skills, cognition, critical thinking, and creativity.

During this unprecedented time in our world, as an educator, you are faced with some of the most difficult challenges under circumstances that no one was ever anticipating to experiencing. Now, more than ever, it is important to have a solid self-care system in place to help you be the best you can for yourself, your students, and your family. This idea is only to help solidify that same passionate intention behind your teaching as you always had when you started teaching. I would like to open your mind to an approach through your self-care with an alternate perspective. I invite you all to now open your heart and minds to this new perspective as I walk you through a wide range of advice and techniques geared toward helping you to be the best you that you can be for yourself, your school and most importantly your students and community.

Safety & Security During These New Times

I am sure you are well aware of and have received an abundance of information regarding the safety measures that need to be followed for limiting and decreasing the spread of the virus. Staying up to date with the CDC, Mesa County Public Health Department, and the Mesa County District 51 guidelines will be your best tool in physically doing your part during this time. Along with understanding the basic requirements by the county and district I like to include a perspective into developing a warm & safe environment. As a healer I find that it is just as important to ensure that you, your fellow coworkers and the children also feel a sense of sanctuary upon entering the school and classroom setting. When I speak about sanctuary I speak about that sense of security. That same feeling you get when you walk into say your own home, your parents or grandparents’ home, your church, your best friends house, etc. That feeling you feel is safe, warm and inviting. As a healer I find this to be so important and so much goes into setting this for my clients. I always want my clients to feel safe and welcomed, which only opens their heart and mind to the experience in which they are about to receive. This is something that I think would be a great value to be established for the children. As some of you may have experienced as an educator during the course of your career, that some children come from a home life that isn’t very warm nor the best for them in general and they turn to that time at school as an escape from that world into the fun and magical world of your classroom where they truly feel safe. I believe that this feeling would be a great benefit to you and your students and should be established from the start but also maintained throughout the course of the school year.

Just like we want to decrease the spread of the virus, its just as important to decrease the stress of the world for yourself and the kids. Now we all have been around someone who is just having a terrible day, they are grouchy, irritable, and just plain negative and/or reactive. How does being around this individual make you feel? Crappy right?! This energy your experiencing is something that we refer to as transference. Transference is something that in my industry we really refrain from, I mean who wants to get a massage from a negative individual?! No one does! This translates directly to your work with children, as an educator in the form of regulation. Children learn to self-regulate by first co-regulating with their parents, caregivers and teachers. Just as a massage therapist leaves the stress of their personal life outside the clinic, a teacher needs to leave the stress of their personal life outside the school and classroom so they can be most present in helping the student to cope with the stress they may bring into the classroom from their own lives. Next, I am going to share strategies and tools that will help you find balance and regulation that you may need for a successful school year.

Creating the Space for Yourself & the Kids

When it comes to creating the space for yourself and the kids let’s start with a fun visualization technique. From the moment you wake up to the moment you’re in your classroom. Join me in this visualization as you read through this. See yourself in your bed waking up to the sound of your alarm, rested and ready for another day. Feeling grateful for all you have. Feeling the sheets around you, the softness of your pillow, Are you comfortable? As you get up you go take a nice shower, allowing yourself to wake up and wash away the experiences of yesterday and get presentable for your day with the kids. You brush your teeth, because you know you don’t want to smell that breath in the mask all day. You comb your hair, or fix your beard and you love the way you look in the mirror so you smile at yourself. You get dressed in your new or favorite outfit. Feeling confident. You then go into the kitchen and get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, make yourself a nice lunch and eat a nice breakfast. You then gather your items to take with you. Tell your loved one’s goodbye with a hug and kiss. You get loaded up and start the car. Setting your radio to your favorite song as you drive into work. You get to work and park the car, gather your items for the day, and walk into your school wearing your mask and open up the door to your classroom. Maybe you run into a few co-workers and flash them an eye squinty smile from behind your mask and wish them a good morning. Everyone is getting ready to greet their students. Now as you can see with this morning flow you have created a great space for yourself physically and mentally and then brought that energy into the workplace.

Now let’s walk you through a visualization where life doesn’t flow as smoothly. Visualize and read along. We again begin with you waking up to sound of your alarm for the 2nd time after hitting snooze. You turn your mind to the frustration of having to get up. So, you then just get up quickly, tossing the sheets off you before recognizing what your sheets felt like. You then stubble into the bathroom, turn on the shower and try to get washed up as quickly as possible. You then brush your teeth quickly and with no intent on making sure you brushed long enough, because who cares you’ll have that dang mask on all day and no one cares. You comb your hair but find it frustrating that your hair is thinning and so you just put it up, or you kind of comb your beard cause again you’ll have that mask on so who cares right. You then leave the bathroom to get dressed not paying attention to how you feel about how you look. You then go to get your clothes on, you grab an outfit with no intentions of how you feel about it, you put on your socks and find a hole so you throw that sock and grab another frustrated. You then go down to fix some coffee or tea, only to find the lid to your mug missing, you then just say whatever and take it without the lid on. You decide to not grab a lunch cause you’ve got to get to work. You grab something to eat when you get there. You quickly say bye with a quick hug and kiss to your loved ones. You put your stuff in the car and start it up, you realize you left something inside so you irritably go back in grab it and slam the door on the way out as your loved ones say bye again. You then turn on the news radio or listen to a news video on your phone as you start heading to work. You hear about all the stuff going on in the world, you get irritated by the red lights, someone cuts you off, you think ok its one of those days. You park your car and grab your things, oh yeah don’t forget your mask. Then you head in, passing your coworkers saying good morning and head into your classroom. You then get set up and as your kids start to arrive you realize you didn’t get to eat your breakfast you brought so it goes in the drawer for later. So, this may sound like something vary familiar, but notice how you failed to set the stage for yourself and the energy you brought in was frustrated and disorganized.

As you can see these are two very drastic scenarios both of which you have complete control over through the decisions you make. One sounds very enjoyable and the other feels chaotic and unstable in nature, kind of like how we feel the world is functioning around us right now. And it’s this flow that can dictate the energy and outcome of your day for yourself, but even more so creates the underlying foundation to the energy that ends up transferring to the people in your life. This includes your loved ones, your coworkers and even the sweet children that you work with. There’s a popular saying that comes to mind with this concept “People will forget what you said or did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Remembering this saying can help you recognize where you are in your emotions & energy and over time you can then gain the necessary skills to quickly readjust yourself and switch that energy to a more positive and productive one.

Let’s take it a little deeper now. I want to open your minds to understanding what the decisions you make, the energy that you carry and the effects of both can be doing to you internally. Taking both scenarios from above as an example will help you understand what happens internally and physiologically to your body, mind and general health. When you look at the first scenario, the one where life is flowing and things are smoothly happening, you are present with yourself and the world around you, therefore your decisions are made in a positive direction. Stress levels are low which means the body is not releasing tons of cortisol, heart rate is normal, blood pressure is good, your autonomic systems such as digestion and respiratory are functioning smoothly, your body and mind are in a good place. This is the ideal place you want to be in. This is the ideal place your body wants to be in.

Now take the second scenario, things are not flowing well and seem to be chaotic. Waking up in this state tends to be reflective of the day/night before, usually from lack of proper sleep. Things like too much mental stress from that day before, bad diet, lack of exercise, even relationship tension or financial stress, unresolved psychological stress from triggers effecting you emotionally can cause you to not receive the best level of rest that is ideal for recovery that your body needs nightly. When you rob yourself of a good night of rest you lose out on the important healing time your body needs to recover from that day before. This lack of rest and recovery can make decision making more difficult and decrease your own tolerance and/or threshold for additional stress, blood pressure can be higher than normal, heart rate can be high, cortisol is flowing high, your gut health gets off balance, all from the stress that you didn’t heal from in the day before. With this state of being you also can make poor decisions that can make you move about in your day with a higher risk for potential injuries. For example, in the second scenario the drive to work could have ended up in an auto accident where injuries would have been sustained along with unnecessary financial hardship and a delay into arriving and being prepared for work. This place is not
ideal and truly becomes a ripple effect of chaos, and before you know it, you’re wondering how you got here to begin with. This is a place our hearts and mind need to avoid as much as possible.

Ok, so you know the basic logic behind the importance of planning ahead, being organized, Along, with the standard necessities like eating well, getting exercise and getting a good nights’ rest. However, it’s one thing to know these things and to understand them, however, the key is knowing how to apply them into your life in a way that provides you with the most benefits. When you can apply the key ingredients into the right time of each day of your life you can then have better productivity in your work, better stress management skills to allow you to give more of yourself to the people who need it most, like your family and your students. Now, let’s go into some additional strategies and tools to help you establish an internal balance as an educator.

Mindfulness Techniques for the Educator

What do you think of when you think of mindfulness? Many like to think of meditation, yoga, relaxation, etc. all of which are utilizing mindfulness however they are not mindfulness itself. Mindfulness is by definition, a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. A study out of Harvard University showed that an adult mind wanders on average 47% of the time. So, you can imagine how this might be for a child. Mindfulness really is more than just attention, it’s intentional and kind attention. So how does mindfulness apply to you as an educator? When you think of being present in the moment while in the classroom or engaging with the kids it can become easy to get overwhelmed by other kids, other coworkers walking into the classroom and even in the midst of say a fire drill. Being in control of your mental state of mind under these circumstances can help you direct and guide the students in the necessary lessons that you have worked hard to create and would like to implement. Here are some ways to master your mindset, handle stress, and delegate the decisions in a more efficient way.

One habit to kick start this is truthfully starting your day off right. As simple as this may seem its actually very difficult for many to get into a habit of creating that good start to a day. One of the most powerful things you can do is start giving yourself that one positive thought first thing in the morning. A nice moment of holding your hand or hands on your heart with intentional touch as you say to yourself “good morning.”. A simple message to yourself from yourself. When the world all around you is always throwing you so much negativity, shaming, or accusation don’t you think you deserve to hear something positive? And from the one person you should always be able to rely on, yourself! So, allow yourself to start saying one positive thing about yourself or give yourself that moment to connect to yourself each morning before you get out of bed. Along with closing out your day by giving yourself this brief connection before you fall asleep to say goodnight, thank your body for what it allowed you to accomplish so you can sleep feeling your own self-love.

A second habit, is the awareness to your own feelings and those around you. Being able to recognized when your mind is overwhelmed, your body is tired, your emotions are sensitive is important. Because how you feel is felt by those around you, remember the transference/regulation that I discussed before. When you learn to develop this heightened sense of awareness you can then start to recognize and change of energy between yourself and the people around you. What’s really amazing is when you become really good at this level of awareness you start becoming aware of other people’s energy and feelings and then you can start to learn to disassociate yourself from what they are personally dealing with and remove that responsibility that you think you need to carry their emotional responses and not carry that as your own and then be able to sympathize with them. It’s not your job to carry how someone else feels or handles something, that is for them to figure out, your role is just to be a support to them as they work through whatever they need to work through. This can be very empowering when working with students. Children struggle with understanding this level of thought at such a young age so being able to help them recognize when they are feeling frustrated, tired, hungry, overwhelmed can only become an extremely powerful tool as an educator. You can then allow yourself to teach them that these are emotions and they are important for them to feel it, understand it and for them to let it go. Kids love this guided support in feeling. Often times they are told how to feel or what to feel that they rarely get the opportunity to feel supported in how they feel or guided through the emotion as they process it. This can be one of the most influential educational moments for you as an educator. Just think, if they feel that they have the support to feel on their own and are guided through the process, I bet they will be all ears for learning what else you have to teach them!

A third habit that is key to developing your mindfulness is learning how to let go of the things you have zero control over. There is so much that goes on around us and within us that we have no control over. What we do have control over is how we handle them and let them affect us. Take COVID for example, this is a terrible virus that has impacted our nation and our entire world and we are still learning about it and how it affects us. Can we 100% prevent ourselves from ever catching it? Absolutely not, however we can decrease the risk of catching it by following the guidelines that have been enacted by health professionals and officials. What we can control is how much of this virus we let affect us. You can let it instill fear into your heart and mind, you can completely ignore it like it doesn’t exist but we all know those two options are not of any benefit to our health, relationships and general well-being. What we can do is see it for what it is, and then act in the necessary manners to ensure that our risk for catching the virus maintains as low as possible. How can this help you as an educator? Well, one thing you all face almost daily is the interactions between yourself, the school you work in, the school district and with your students’ parents and their emotions regarding what they believe is in the best interest of the children. You have no control over how or if they will be accepting of your new flow, the lessons you give, the style in which you enjoy presenting it to them especially in this new school year under new formalities. People everywhere, including parents are on edge and have a guard up or are living in so much fear. Being aware of this you can emotionally reflect, re-frame and reconnect yourself to your students. And remove the idea that you are a failure as an educator and not take anything personally. Learning to acknowledge and then empathize with the parents in efforts to come to a healthy middle ground for the children and their future.

Now that you have some good key points in developing some mindfulness habits, it is also important to become aware of other tools for yourself in utilizing your mindfulness habits to facilitate your own healing and clearing of stress that
comes your way. As a massage therapist we take on a lot of what our clients come into session with. In our industry we refer to this as reverse transference. We become very skilled in processing this energy that was carried into us and release it away from ourselves so that we can treat the next client along with returning to our loved ones after work without taking home the added energy from them. The same thing happens to you as an educator. You take on a lot of the energy of the children, the parents, your coworkers and the demands from the state and district so you too must develop the ability to cleanse yourself of this before returning to your personal space and home. Here are few ways that you can help yourself unload this from your heart and mind.

Reflection is a great way to process what was presented to you so that you can acknowledge it for what it is and then allow yourself to let go of it. It’s important that we reflect on what we were presented with so that we can give it the attention it needs, find closure on it and then release it from ourselves. This includes anything you put on yourself, like internal shaming for how you handled something or a situation, along with any negative self-hate comments you made to yourself. Allow yourself to see your faults as lessons. Maybe you reacted to a situation in a way that now that things are calm you feel you could have done it differently, so take that as a note to self, so the next time that happens you can remember the better tactic to handling the situation. Also, allow yourself to forgive yourself of the negative self-hate or shaming you created and may have ruminated on in your mind. It’s ok to say to yourself “I’m sorry I thought you looked fat after eating lunch when I looked in the mirror in the bathroom today, you are not fat, you are beautiful!” Then hold your hand or hands on your heart and say to yourself “I forgive you”. I know it can seem so different to do these things, however, they truly hold some amazing power and in time you will start to feel how powerful this skill is and your body will show you! You’ll have less pains, less headaches, higher stress tolerance, more patience, more awareness and then the people in your life will see it too and want to know your secret!

Meditation is another method of gaining some healing from the day. I like to recommend that my clients create a meditation space within their home. A place that has a special feeling to you, a beautiful view, some plants, a small fountain or a beautiful picture of a scenery that you love. This will be your power space where you get to meditate and feel safe to do so. Now, after a long day of work and
home life duties give yourself that time to sit in absolute stillness, truly quiet the mind and let go of everything that feels heavy. This is a beautiful way to clear your mind of everything you had to deal with, which in turn really allows you to reach a level of rest in sleep without those thoughts keeping you up at night. Now, not everyone can instantly become meditation pros, it takes time, practice and patience. So, allow yourself to start with only 2-5 min a night, then work yourself up to 10 minutes, then eventually you’ll be able to do it longer and longer. What you practice grows stronger. Now that you have some tools for your mind lets take a look into some tools for your physical well-being.

Physical & Nutritional Support for Success

Physical activity is an incredible way to gain some amazing endorphins while keeping your body healthy and strong! Going to the gym, attending a group class are great ways to get active with others as a support group. Now of course we are living under new guidelines with COVID and limiting your own exposure to others can definitely put a damper on this idea. So, creating a good routine for your body and with the time you have is essential to maintaining health and function for longevity. Keeping it simple is key! You don’t have to create this hardcore routine, just some small things to help you get moving! Simple things like, walking for 10 minutes 3 times a day, doing some simple body weight things, utilizing bands or some weights at home can be easy to do and not have to take your whole morning/lunch/evening away from you! There is lots of great ideas out there online for you to take advantage of, videos you can watch. You are always invited to reach out to myself and join my MMM Weight Loss Warriors private Facebook group where I post up daily workouts and challenges or attend any of the amazing fitness small group classes available at my clinic in my Mindfulness Classroom. The important thing to remember is that the better your muscles, lungs and heart can function the more energy and sustainability you’ll have in your everyday work load along with your mental ability to handle life as it comes at you. You’ll also find that you’ll have more energy to keep up with your students during activities and lessons and you won’t feel as drained by the end of the day.

Nutritionally, it’s important to remember that what we eat will play a role in how we feel. When you eat good whole foods, you tend to feel better internally. Your digestive system is happy and when that is happy the rest of your body just feels good and your mind can think clearly. Ever notice when you eat lots of processed foods or lots of high sugary foods you feel sluggish and unmotivated? This happens because your body is fueled by low nutrient dense foods which typically begins to bloat you up and then you get uncomfortable and then eventually your left feeling frustrated with how your clothes fit and your energy is low and you start to begin that internal shaming and self-hate pattern. Eating a well-balanced diet of good whole foods are ideal in maintaining a good healthy digestive system, clear mind and energy to get through you day and work load. If you ever feel like you need some support or direction feel free to reach out to me for a simple nutrition plan designed to help you get a good kick start into a healthy eating plan for the school year. With so many diets out there, it can be overwhelming to know what direction you should take and even more importantly what direction your body will love you for the most. The key thing is to remember that there is no such thing as a one size fits all diet or nutrition plan, learning to eat for your body function is what you need to embrace. Exercise and nutrition can definitely be incorporated and encouraged into the classroom to support your students to eat healthy foods and get moving more all while having fun in the process! There are some great resources at the end of this paper for you to consider.

A third aspect of exercise and nutrition is the importance of fluid intake. When we get busy doing life, teaching, going on errands to even doing things around the house it’s easy to forget to stop and drink some water. Physiologically our brain needs water to function just as much as nutritionally. When we go about our day with little to no water it can play a significant role in how we process mental arithmetic, determining logic and timing, it can impair short-term memory loss. As a bodybuilder, I have experienced this significantly when competing on stage. Not only am I depleted of the necessary fats for brain function, the dehydration aspect needed to display the muscles also had some notable impacts on how my brain functioned. After being through this personally and understanding physiologically the effect I have become an advocate for drinking water! The effects can play a significant role in your own ability to make judgements on the task at hand, remembering the flow of your day, details in the lessons and activities you designed for the class, to even how you handle confrontations from parents and your fellow coworkers.

Now we have our lovely masks that we must wear everywhere we go, and we know we need to limit touching our faces or messing with the masks, this now becomes another variable in forgetting to drink water regularly. Ideally it is recommended that we drink 8oz of water 8 times a day. Now this does need to be adjusted compliment your current day. Higher temperatures outside, increased physical activity and a combination of both are in need of more water so increasing your fluids can help you stay hydrated and functioning in what you may be doing for that day. Ways that you can help yourself increase water intake can be really simple. Setting a timer on your phone to remind you to drink water can be a great way to grabbing your attention. Another simple thing can be wearing a bracelet or some colored loosely fitted rubber bands on one wrist then as you drink an 8oz glass you then move one of the bands to the other wrist, then you’ll have the visual aide to help remind you of when you last drank that 8oz of water. Another indication that you need more water is paying attention to your bathroom frequency and color of your urine. If you are hydrated your urine should be very pale yellow to clear, if it is super vibrant or has a strong odor it may indicate that you may dehydrated. Another factor to think about is when you are dehydrated more often than you are hydrated you can be over stressing your kidneys and developing kidney stones, along with depleting your other digestive organs from allowing you to process foods efficiently leading to more uncomfortable feelings such as constipation. So, drink up for your body and your mind! Next, I will share some other great tips in helping you utilize tools to help distress your students in the class on days when the kids are all feeling overwhelmed emotionally and needing some support along with gaining the necessary tools to recognize, self-regulate and overcome these struggles.

De-stressing Techniques in the Classroom

Just as adults get stressed, children also feel stress. The only difference is they may not be able to recognize that is what is going on nor understand what to do about it. Some signs that can indicate if a student is feeling overwhelmed by stress can include; difficulty in staying focused, understanding directions or the task at hand, writing is really dark and lots of erasing on the paper, and displaying a shorter temper or irritability when interacting with their peers. Just like adults can get so overwhelmed by what’s going on that we fail to comprehend what it was we were trying to do. The same can happen to children, however they may struggle with how to communicate their needs, this so it can be easy to overlook the initial signs and before we know it, we see them react or retract by showing lack of motivation to participate to even isolating themselves from the class. Some physical signs of stress may be evident in their work, they may write really dark in some areas that could be indicating some stress or frustration. This is often coupled with lots of erasing, indicating they are doubting themselves to the point that they are feeling frustrated, which often makes them write darker or scribble more. Allow them the opportunity to recognize and name their feelings of frustration followed by a supportive response and helping them find their calm and regain focus. Just as it is important to help them to recognize and identify a wide range of emotions, it’s just as important to draw attention to the successful opportunities they have in managing their overwhelming feelings, calming themselves, and asking for help. It is definitely powerful to celebrate the positive things.

Breathing techniques are another great way to gain a more balanced mindset with your students. Performing a group breathing moment can allow for everyone to feel connected and return to center together. Point out the tension in the room and engage with them, let them feel it. Put them through some slow breathing holding their hand on their heart, holding their hands together, or even hugging themselves. Even group stretching following the breathing can get them all back on the same page together which will allow for more students to be focused on your lessons and their learning. This will also help with building community in the classroom through the sharing of experiences and breath. A great example of this flow of energy and connection is much like water. Together the water moves and flows about. Sometimes it can be steady and still, and other times it can be rough and chaotic. But even water after being chaotic can return to stillness and easy flow. Like the feeling after a big storm comes calmness and this too can be the same for you and your students and the classroom itself. It’s really a beautiful feeling! Next, I’ll walk you through some additional strategies to help you feel more productive with your other duties as an educator. You know, the work that no one ever sees you do that is so valuable and needed.

Work Productivity through a Circuit Flow Structure

Next, I want to discuss the work that you do outside the classroom. The paper work, the grading papers, the entering grades, the correspondences and collaboration between other educators and support staff, counselors, your administrative team along with the district and state itself. This is the work that you may find yourself just getting through without thinking about how your body and mind are processing this. For example, grading papers, you may find that fitting this into your day includes siting on the floor using your coffee table, while your spouse sits on the couch and you both try to watch your favorite show. Or trying to do this and cook dinner and do laundry and take care of your pets or lawn. It can be overwhelming and the positions you put yourself in these times can start patterns in your body that you may not be aware of. For example, sitting on the floor by the coffee table. This concept I am going to walk you through will become a valuable tool as you progress through the year, along with aiding in transition if we find that we have to return to the online schooling from home as we did at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

One thing I tell my clients who are educators is to set up a circuit style work flow. So, much like you would do a workout circuit of various exercises, in this set up you will create stations in your home. One station will be papers to grade. Another station will be your computer to enter grades. Another station will be another window on your computer to do your correspondences and email chats. In conjunction to these stations you are to set up a few other stations that include things like laundry, dishes, areas in your home to do body weight exercises or stretching, playing with kids, playing with your pets, doing something in your own back yard to even a walk around the block and starting dinner. Now, I recommend
you do is set a timer allowing yourself to work on your job duties for 30 minutes to an hour max. When your timer goes off, move to do one of the other stations that are part of your home life for a brief 15-30 minutes. Then, return to your job duties for another 30 minutes to 1 hour and repeat! This set up will not only allow you to get things done for work, but it will also allow you to feel productive in your home life duties as well. Just think, you could be finished with work and have a clean house, dinner ready and your body and mind in a happy place! Doesn’t that sound amazing!?

Several of my clients that have utilized this structure have seen amazing results in their life and productivity in their job!

Resources & Links for Support

Here is a list of resources that you can utilize for yourself as you navigate life through this next school year!