A woman squats next to an elementary-aged child's desk. It looks like she is speaking to him softly. He and most of the surrounding kids have their heads on their desks and look peaceful. Photo credit to Lynn Johnson

Photo credit: Lynn Johnson

For me, stress plays out like this – poor sleep, an eye twitch, a hot ear, and blotchy skin.

What do I do for a living? I teach stress management and mindful practices and have for more than two decades. “We teach what we need to learn.”

I fall asleep just fine, then the battle begins – I wake only an hour after my head hits the pillow. Then I toss, turn, and process my to-do list for hours. During my second and third awakening, I check the clock and wish my time away. Is 4:00AM a respectable time to get out of bed? Phew, 3:30AM seems close enough! So, I get busy on my list, only to tire by 7:00AM. Stress wins all too often.

Usually, before losing sleep, I get the eye twitch or a red-hot right ear (strangely not the left). My belly used to be my body’s warning sign of stress, but most recently my skin blotches instead. My body seems to ramp up the intensity of the signs until I pause and pay close attention.

We humans have this amazing system that detects internal overwhelm. A system that tries to protect us from threats, whether from inside or outside. Our bodies lead by our nervous systems.

And when I do notice these trends and I do acknowledge the signs I can more clearly recognize the behaviors many fall into to soothe or numb. We can get good at ignoring, isolating, and powering on. We might self-medicate with substances or get caught up in routines that distract us from reality.

I then remember even brief times of ease, joy, and connection. Times when I could find people and practices that support. I can make time to pause, exhale to empty a few times, and reassess my own needs.

Recognizing my need for change and having found practices that fit me, has helped.

My challenge is to stick with what works, rather than get too busy to pause and too overwhelmed, that I feel nothing I do will create an impact.

Let’s encourage each other to have hope. Hope that even during these busy holiday times, we can pause, notice the signs, and find support.

About the Expert

Wynne Kinder, MEd has supported teachers and students through her program Wellness Works in Schools for more than 20 years. She guides teachers, students, and parents in managing stress and increasing their locus of control. Informed by science and experience, her trauma-sensitive program offers choice-based, mindful practices and social-emotional content that are increasingly relevant in today’s challenging world. Wellness Works in Schools consists of a team of professional educators who help create a sustainable, healthy, and resilient school cultures.

Ms. Kinder’s work has expanded to include 30 regional districts and reached millions of kids through her GoNoodle channels. She teaches educators in graduate school and has written curricula / classroom manuals as well as engaging books for children: CALM – Mindfulness for Kids and I Am – I Can: 365 Affirmations for Kids.

This post was originally published by WGAL TV 8 on www.wgal.com and sponsored by Donegal Insurance Group as part of the Mental Health Moment campaign. We thank WGAL TV 8 and Donegal Insurance Group for their support of prevention and mental wellbeing in our region.