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7. Befriending the Difficult

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1 7. Befriending the Difficult
Teachers’ Notes © Mindfulness in Schools Project, 2013

2 Lesson 7 – Befriending the Difficult
Objectives For pupils to: Understand stress: where it comes from, why it is necessary, how it works and the potentially harmful effects. Identify and draw their “stress signature” - where in the body do they feel stress? Learn to respond rather than react, by ‘turning towards’ and ‘being with’ difficult emotions. Lesson Flow Bad things happen. But can you respond, rather than react? We can’t avoid bad things happening But our minds can often make things worse We can train ourselves to respond rather than react Explain stress and what it does to us Stress is programmed into us by evolution. It is helpful Explain fight or flight But constant stress can be damaging. Explain harmful effects Play shockball Induce ‘boundaried’ stress via a game like shockball Constantly remind pupils to turn towards body sensations … and to ground themselves by dropping attention into the lower half of the body …and breathing with or into these sensations Pupils draw their stress signature Ask pupils to draw their stress signature. Where exactly do they personally feel stress? Home Practice Resources The Guest House Shockball

3 Schwierigen Momenten freundlich begegnen 7. Stunde
Last week we learned to look at the thoughts passing through our minds as traffic, with the bigger ones being like “thought buses” that take us for a ride. This week we explore even more powerful things: strong emotions – and how we can learn to work skilfully with them.

4 Difficulties happen to EVERYONE.
No-one’s life is straight-forward and easy, despite what we may be tempted to imagine. Our life is not uniquely flawed. Difficulties in life are not somehow a mistake. It’s not that life is meant to be easy, but somehow goes wrong. Difficulty is an integral part of every human life. Stuff / “Shit” happens! [If you’re unhappy with the language on this slide please let us know and we can send you a ‘safe’ version which says “stuff happens”. However, we’ve found the humour and tone of this slide tends to be enjoyed and appreciated.]

5 Bewusst handeln Automatisch reagieren!
The question is: when stuff happens, are we going to react or respond? [Refer back to Lesson 4. Check that they understand the difference]. Given we KNOW that stuff will happen, the whole quality of our life depends on whether we react to it or can learn to respond. We can so easily make situations much more difficult for ourselves by being reactive to them… by letting our anger, or our worry, or our fear and anxiety take over and make things even worse.

6 Stress The last lesson was all about not being reactive to difficult thoughts. This one is more about not being reactive to difficult emotions. Let’s take the example of stress.

7 In welchen Situationen erlebst du ?
Stress In what situations do YOU feel stress? Please look up lesson 7 in your booklets and answer the question by listing some of the key situations in which you tend to feel stress. Exams? Music / drama performances? Arguments at home? Difficult friendships? Too much homework?

8 Die Auswirkungen von Stress auf deinen Körper
Die Sinne werden schärfer. Die Zeit scheint sich zu verlangsamen. Bessere Durchblutung der Muskeln. Sie spannen sich an, um bereit für schnelles Handeln zu sein. Hormone werden freigesetzt. Sie machen das Blut „klebriger“, damit wir nach Verletzungen weniger Blut verlieren. Das Herz schlägt schneller und der Blutdruck steigt, um uns auf Höchleistung vorzubereiten. Wir fangen an zu schwitzen, was uns kühlt und es schwerer macht, uns festzuhalten! They could read the details either to themselves or round the class. Wir atmen schneller, um das Blut mit Sauerstoff zu versorgen und so bereit für Kampf oder Flucht zu sein Die Verdauung wird unterbrochen. Blut wird von den inneren Organen zu den Armen und Beinen umgeleitet. Es kann sein, dass wir den Drang verspüren, Blase oder Darm zu entleeren. Das macht uns leichter und wir können schneller laufen.

9 Wie wirkt Stress auf DICH?
In deinem Körper? î In deinem Geist? î So what happens to you when you get stressed? We can notice that stress affects BODY, MIND & ACTIONS – you could remind them of the hot cross bun model from lesson 3 linking THOUGHTS, EMOTIONS, BODY SENSATIONS & BEHAVIOUR in feedback loops. Please list in your booklet some of the effects that you notice that stress has on YOUR body and actions. What does stress feel like in the body? Auf dein Verhalten? î

10 Langzeitauswirkungen von Stress…
Kopfschmerzen, Gefühle der Verzweiflung, wenig Energie, Traurigkeit, Nervosität, Wut, Reizbarkeit, mehr oder weniger essen, Konzentrationsstörungen, Gedächtnisprobleme, Schlafstörungen, psychische Störungen (wie Panikattacken, Angststörungen und Depression) Gehirn und Nerven Akne und andere Hautprobleme Haut Muskelschmerzen und Verspannungen (besonders im Nacken, Rücken und in den Schultern), erhöhtes Risiko einer verringerten Knochendichte Muskeln und Gelenke Being constantly stressed, constantly primed for fight or flight has wearing, damaging long-term effects on our bodies. Here are some of them. There is lot of text here, but this serves the purpose of making the pupils aware of just how many long term effects there are. Usually it is easier to project these effects one by one and let them read quietly as you click through. Das Herz schlägt schneller, der Blutdruck ist erhöht; Risiko für erhöhtes Cholesterin und Herzinfarkt Herz

11 Langzeitauswirkungen von Stress…
Übelkeit, Magenschmerzen, Sodbrennen, Gewichtszunahme Magen Erhöhtes Diabetesrisiko Bauchspeicheldrüse Durchfall, Verstopfung und andere Verdauungs-störungen Darm [Continue.] Bei Frauen – unregelmäßige und schmerzhaftere Perioden, weniger Lust auf Sex Bei Männern – Impotenz, reduzierte Spermienzahl, weniger Lust auf Sex Fortpflanzungssystem Reduzierte Widerstandsfähigkeit gegenüber Krankheiten Immunsystem

12 Many of the ways that stress affects our bodies are programmed into us by evolution – they evolved to help us deal with daily threats such as [CLICK] this sabre-toothed tiger! They were life savers that enabled us to “Act smart without having to think smart [which takes longer].” They prepared us for FIGHT or FLIGHT – for physical action that uses these stress hormones and burns them up. [If you are comfortable with the physiology and neuroscience of fight/flight then this might be a good moment to explain.]

13 The problem is that it tends not to be sabre-toothed tigers requiring a very physical response that most of us face these days. Exams, difficulties at home, difficult relationships, body image, these are all modern day sabre-tooth tigers, they are all ‘threats’ which activate our built-in survival mechanisms. [CLICK] No physical burn-up of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These built-in survival mechanisms were designed to fuel physical action (fight or flight) – increasing the heart rate, pumping blood to the major muscles etc. – but modern urban life is much less physical. Dealing with modern stresses triggers mental activity rather than physical. We therefore don’t tend to spend and burn up our stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in fight or flight. Instead, they end up getting stored in our bodies, rather than expelled. They accumulate over time and increase our baseline levels of stress, leading us frequently to over-think and ruminate. [Refer back to lesson 3.] [CLICK] No camp-fire time We also live much more fast-paced lives than our ancestors, that provide much less chance for rest and recovery [around camp fires!] than their lives did. The result is that our bodies rarely get the opportunity to rebalance themselves. There are many consequences of storing up all these stress hormones. One of them is that modern, urban people [especially] tend to live their lives in a perpetual state of stress, even if it’s low- level. Maybe you feel this at school sometimes with constant talk of exams, performance, homework, university targets etc. etc.; maybe you see this in your parents and others around you.

14 Wo spürst du Stress im Körper
So the objective of this lesson is to help you become aware of where exactly in your own body you tend to feel and even store stress. In your student booklets you’ll see this outline of a person, and by the end of the next exercise I’d like you to be able to draw on your ‘person’ where it is that you feel the physical sensations of stress.

15 Ich habe keinen Säbelzahntiger
aber ... Now ideally I’d bring my sabre-toothed tiger into the lesson and induce stress in the class in that way. But unfortunately I don’t have one of those with me today. However… [Notice immediately how the atmosphere in a room can change, and over the next few slides constantly bring the class’ attention to what they are noticing in themselves moment by moment.]

16 I do have a way of inducing electric shocks!
We’re going to look at what stress feels like by threatening you with some small electric shocks. Already, just with me saying this, can you feel any changes in your body? [Discuss] In the following exercise you are partly acting. You can buy these ‘shockballs’ in Amazon or in a toy shop and the shock they deliver is tiny. However the aim is to induce some stress and to provide a safe, boundaried, practical opportunity for pupils to observe their stress signature and to try out some of the skills they’ve learned in the course for relating differently to stress. In summary, you are doing three things: Inducing stress by creating a playful sense of uncertainty and anxious anticipation Getting them to notice exactly where they are feeling this in the body Giving them an opportunity to practice using strategies to deal with it Having said all of the above, make sure you check to see if there is anyone who might not be able to play for medical reasons. Of course, another approach is to have no batteries in the ball at all, so that the whole thing is a risk-free fabrication!

17 A few details to check before we begin properly… [So, here you are ‘winding them up’ a little.]
Please could you put up your hand if you are not yet 14? When we begin, if you have epilepsy or a heart condition please could you observe this exercise rather than take part. Just observe any changes that are taking place in your body after I’ve said these things. Any change in heartbeat? In your breathing? Observing these in David Attenborough mode, with curiosity, with kindness, with patience. [Discuss] Get out the shockball and show them. Again, ask them what they are noticing in themselves. You can add to the atmosphere by turning down the lights so that they can see more clearly the red glow of the ball when it gives a shock.

18 Wende dich den Stressgefühlen zu. Erlaube den Gefühlen, da zu sein.
A few words of advice before we begin Turn towards the feelings of stress, in other words, make friends with them. Observe them like visitors in your body, guests that have come to see you. Observe them using David Attenborough mode. [CLICK] Notice how the boy is looking at the snake with real curiosity, turning towards it with a kind of fearless interest. Don’t try to avoid these feelings of stress. They are completely natural. Allow them to happen; don’t resist them. Stress happens. If you resist it, you add to it. By allowing it and accepting it, you won’t be feeding it. Allowing it also enables you to begin to understand it, and by understanding it you will loosen its grip on you. Erlaube den Gefühlen, da zu sein.

19 Atme mit den Gefühlen. It’s all about your relationship with these physical feelings. Remember the tiny tinglings we observed in Lesson 4 when we were eating something we didn’t like. Breathe with the feelings, or even breathe INTO the feelings and breathe out from them too. Somebody once said “What you can breathe with you can be with”. It’s not always easy. [CLICK] This woman may be very afraid but you sense that she is trying to be with the experience and breathe into it as best she can.

20 Mit anderen Worten… In other words take the time to .b
START THE SHOCKBALL EXERCISE HERE. Let’s begin, though, by getting into a large circle. If anyone, at any time, feels uncomfortable with this exercise then simply move to the side of the classroom and sit quietly observing. Mit anderen Worten… In other words, when you feel the stress [CLICK], .b it. Feel your feet on the floor and breathe. Ask them all to stand completely still in the circle whilst you get out the shockball. Maintain silence as best you can or they can get very excited. Best to try to do all of this very gently, very purposefully, encouraging them to be in their own bubble for the time being and not to distract each other. All their attention should be on their own movements and feelings. They are putting themselves under the microscope. As we stand here, letting your eyes rest on the floor in front of you, begin by just settling into this current moment. Feel your feet on the floor. Become aware of your breath. Notice whatever feelings are in your body. Notice in particular any signs of stress. [Discuss] We’re going to play catch with it, and it goes off randomly every 10 or so seconds, so it’s a bit like playing hot potatoes. We pass it around between us and one of us will catch it when it’s in shock mode. When you catch it you have to hold onto it for 1 second (count 1 – 2 out loud). You can’t just bounce it back like a volleyball. Do a practice round, and then go round the group one by one and ask, where in their bodies they feel the stress. Encourage simple answers: “legs”, “stomach”, “shoulders” etc. This is the point at which they can decide whether or not they actually want to take part. Ask everyone in the group to face outwards. Then, ask them to turn to face the centre once more if they want to take part. If they don’t want to take part that is fine as it will already have been a useful learning exercise. Those who don’t wish to take part step outside the circle, sitting on a desk or standing just on the edge of the group to watch and continue to observe their own sensations.

21 Automatisch reagieren
Der Schockball steht für all die schwierigen Ereignisse und Erfahrungen unseres Lebens… …und die Wahl: Automatisch reagieren Of course, this lesson isn’t really about the shockball, it’s about something much more than that. The shockball stands for all the difficult experiences of our lives and how to respond, rather than react to them. oder Bewusst handeln

22 Campfire time Make a play of turning the shockball on very carefully.
Now 30 seconds of silence, again paying attention to what is happening in you. Paying attention to your hands, for instance, what is happening there? What is happening in your body right now? What sensations? What thoughts? What feelings? Just observe whatever is happening, practising opening up to these experiences rather than pushing them away, accepting that this is what stress feels like. Maybe using a .b to resource yourself if needed. Begin the game… pause intermittently for periods of observation. Go round the group once or twice, but Don’t play for too long or it can hijack whole lesson! Campfire time Having brought the class back to their seats… Let’s think of this as campfire time now. How does it feel to have experienced stress? Is there any residue in the body? What does the body feel like as it begins to unwind? If there are sensations of discomfort around still – aches, sweatiness, tension – not only noticing these sensations but softening and allowing them to be here? Can you breathe with these sensations as you feel them? Can you practice staying really alert as your body begins to re-balance itself? Depending on how long you have, you might extend this into a more substantial FOFBOC.

23 Das Gasthaus (von Rumi)
Begrüße deine besonders schwierigen Gäste mit If there’s time, it is well worth reading the poem ‘The Guest House’ by the great C13th Persian poet, Jellaludin Rumi. It’s printed in the Student Booklets. One way to read it is to do so round the class, changing readers at the end of each sentence. It may be helpful to read it back to them yourself at the end of this process so that it can really sink in. What for you is the most important and helpful line in this poem? What advice does Rumi give about how to relate to thoughts and moods? In effect, what he is recommending is that you turn towards these difficult guests: .b –ing them, so to speak, by breathing into them and ‘being with’ them. [CLICK] This is not easy, though. It feels so un-natural precisely because it is going against a million years of autopilot!

24 7-11 FABGAS Übung der Woche 10 Sek 1 Min 2 Min 5 Min 9 Min 15 Min
For your home practice this week please do your very best to do at least one practice, of your choice, before the next lesson. Please write this down in your homework diary [for example]. Make a heartfelt commitment to do this either every day, or even only once, even if only for 10 seconds! We’ve done lots of different practices, each one lasting for a different length of time, and I don’t mind which one you do. You could do one 7-11 the day before our final lesson, lasting only 10 seconds [CLICK] You could count the number of breaths you do in a minute, either once or every day [CLICK] You could do a 2 minute challenge [CLICK] Or sit quietly watching thoughts come and go for 5 minutes [CLICK] Or do a FOFBOC, with our without the sound file, which is less than 10 minutes [CLICK] Or a Beditation of a similar length [CLICK] If you’re really up for it then try sitting like a statue for 15 minutes. [CLICK] And if you REALLY want to learn fast, do this every day! All the research says that the more practice you do, the more you benefit, BUT there is no point in vowing to do something that is unrealistic.. I look forward to hearing how you get on when we have our final lesson, next week. 5 Min FABGAS 9 Min 9 Min

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