I've just finished reading an excellent book called Resilience by Eric Greiten, a former Navy Seal. He wrote a series of letters to a former comrade who had returned from service and was suffering from PTSD. The book is a powerhouse of timely advice on how to live a meaningful life that anyone could benefit from. I know that I did.
I wanted to write briefly today about one of the very practical pieces of advice he offered. It is to do with breathing, which is something that we all obviously do but don't probably think about too much. Here's a quote from the book that gives some basis for the technique that I'll describe soon:
“Becoming aware of our breathing and taking control of it when we need to is one of the most powerful ways to take control of ourselves, especially when we’re afraid... Of course, people who will not make the effort to control how they breathe have little hope of taking control of larger things. If you won’t exercise enough discipline to slightly alter just once in a while the thing that you do thousands of times a day, then you will not have the discipline to change the course of your life. But if you do learn to control your breathing, you will have gained experience in how to control what you can control. If you do learn to bring awareness to how you breathe, you are likely to bring awareness to how you live.”
4, 4 for 4
The technique is as follows:
Sounds easy right? That's because it is. It's simple and therefore easy to implement when you most need it throughout the day (some days you'll need to do it more than others - you know the ones!).
How does this apply to teaching? Well, I've been trying it between lessons recently. Teaching, if you're doing it right, takes a lot of emotional energy. We have to deal with a variety of different personalities, learning needs and inter-personal relationships on a daily basis. I've found that in order to ‘reset’ at the end of a lesson and to prepare for the next one, doing this simple breathing exercise has helped a lot. I feel more relaxed and have a clearer, more focused mind.
There are probably lots of things that you could do in place of this exercise. Maybe you already do. Let us know in the comments about what you do to unwind and refocus.
Also, if you get the chance I highly recommend reading the aforementioned book. It will likely change your perspective on a lot of things and I think that it has some really sound, practical wisdom to offer for us to integrate into our own lives and to hand on to our students.
If your interested in reading the book you can find a link to The Book Depository where you can purchase it with free shipping world-wide. I'm not affiliated in any way, but this is where I bought my copy.