Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Mindful Approach to Reducing Stress

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

guest post by Padraig O'Morain, author of Daily Calm - 100 daily reminders to help you build the mindfulness habit

We all know a little stress can go a long way in pushing us to get something done - I wouldn't want to put my money on a football team that never felt stressed during a game, for instance - but we also know that prolonged and constant stress is bad for us.

So when you are stressed too much or too often  you need some simple ways to get yourself back into a more balanced emotional state.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Practicing Mindfulness and Compassion After the U.S. Capitol Attack

photo by Don Shin on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

The attack on the U.S. Capitol was a violation on so many different levels I don't even know where to start. This is not the venue for discussing the political implications, so I'll just mention that I lived in Washington, D.C. for many years and have a lot of memories of being at or near the Capitol. My husband and I went on an evening tour of the D.C. monuments on our first date. And we used to picnic on the Capitol grounds in those more innocent days pre-9/11 when it was also possible to stroll right past the White House gate. 

I know this has been a hard week for everyone. If you live with or work with kids, be sure to check out the links I posted a few days ago on Talking to Kids About the Capitol AttackToday I'd like to focus on the ways I've been practicing mindfulness and compassion. I hope some of these suggestions are helpful for you, and potentially also for your students and clients

Friday, January 8, 2021

Talking to Kids About the Capitol Attack: Resources for Teachers and Parents


photo by Don Shin on Unsplash

posted by Catharine Hannay, founder of MindfulTeachers.org

Like everyone, I've been feeling shocked and appalled by what happened at the U.S. Capitol a couple of days ago. 

I know many of you have been struggling with how to talk to your students or your own children about what happened. 

Here are a few resources that might help:

update 1/12/20: I also have a new post on Practicing Mindfulness and Compassion After the U.S. Capitol Attack 

Hang in there, everybody!!


Hope Lingers On, by Low Lily

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

4 Tips for Coping with Burnout and Exhaustion (guest post)

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay, founder of MindfulTeachers.org

guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies/Heart Spring Community for Helping Professionals

“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.” 
Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, p. 52

2020 was an overwhelming year for anyone who works in health care, counseling, or education. As committed as you are to your work, it can be challenging to keep helping others while also caring for your family and worrying about your own health and safety. (And ‘challenging’ is putting it mildly.)

When I first started writing this post, I was trying to figure out the best way to explain the differences between burnout and compassion fatigue; compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma; and vicarious trauma and empathic distress.

Burnout? Compassion fatigue? Empathic distress? Vicarious trauma, not to mention primary trauma? You’re likely experiencing all of those simultaneously, on top of sheer physical exhaustion. We can leave the nuanced distinctions for another day. 

Whatever specific issues you’re dealing with, here are four tips that can help you feel calmer in the midst of the chaos. If it seems appropriate, you might also want to share them with your patients, students, or clients.

You can read the full post at:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Let's Make This the Year of Understanding

Photo by nappy from Pexels

“Wage peace with your listening.”

from the poem 'Wage Peace' by Judyth Hill

by Catharine Hannay

You've likely heard the traditional story about the blind men and the elephant. In this version of the tale, no one can see the elephant because it's in a dark room:

"Those who wanted to know something about this exotic beast had to feel it with their hands. The first person went into the darkness and felt the elephant's trunk and announced, This creature is like a water pipe. The next person felt the elephant's ear and asserted, No. It's like a giant fan. A third person felt the elephant's leg and declared, That's not true. This animal resembles a pillar. A fourth person felt the elephant's back and concluded, Not at all. It's like a throne

Different points of view produce different opinions. If someone had brought a candle, they would have all felt like fools."

Melissa Pritchard, A Solemn Pleasure: Imagine, Witness, and Write, p. 163 

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers, but I have seen more parts of the 'elephant' than many people: 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Mindful Listening and Mindful Speech: Quotes for Reflection and Discussion

Photo by Christina@wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

posted by Catharine Hannay 

Here are a variety of perspectives on mindful speech, which basically means speaking (and listening!) with awareness and compassion. 

You may want to use them for personal reflection or for teaching classes in mindfulness or communications.
  • Depending on the age and interests of your students, you could either send them this whole list or choose a few quotes that seem most appropriate for your class. (When I was teaching college prep to international students, 3-4 poems or quotations worked well for a 50-minute class, with a balance of reflective writing and class discussion.)
  • Some people have a visceral reaction against either Buddhist or Biblical sources, so think carefully about which quotes are most appropriate for the context where you work.
  • Scroll to the end of the post for suggested questions to spark reflective writing or discussion.

The Importance of Weighing Our Words

"'Nice place,' said Phryne. 'Beautiful mountains.' She had learned on previous attempts at conversation in the Australian bush to speak slowly and use short sentences. She did not make the mistake of thinking the inhabitants stupid. It was just that they did not talk much and therefore liked to give each word its proper weight. [...] Words were seldom given the respect they deserved."
The Green Mill Murder, Kerry Greenwood, p. 128-129 

(The TV series 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' is very loosely based on this series of books by Kerry Greenwood. Phryne Fisher is outrageous in many ways but empathetic toward others and respectful of different cultures.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Finding 'Small Sparks of Cheer' During the Holidays

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

I'd been finding it hard to get into the holiday spirit this year. Then I got a couple of messages from my cousin and my sister that reminded me to pay attention to small moments of joy. 

Not to deny the many problems in the world. Not to repress the grief we feel over family members who've died and whose birthdays are in the next couple of weeks. Just to allow some space for appreciating positive experiences and moments of happiness.

My cousin said: 

I read Catharine’s blog post about self-care recently. Shortly thereafter, I got “these are a few of my favorite things” stuck in my head. I never counted the Sound of Music in my favorite movies, but I did watch it several times growing up.
Tonight I started listening to the soundtrack and was pleasantly surprised at how fun the first few songs are. 

I hope you’re finding small sparks of cheer too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

3 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety


image by paolo nicolello at unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

Do you remember the 'Weasley Clock' from the Harry Potter series? It was very convenient to know who was at 'work,' 'school,' 'home,' 'in transit,' and so on. But they gave up checking the clock during the Second Wizarding War because it just showed that everyone was in 'mortal peril' all the time. 

I can understand how the Weasleys felt. My family has been relatively unharmed from COVID-19 (at least so far), but we've had multiple deaths and hospitalizations over the past few years. Every time the phone rings, I assume someone's in the emergency room.  

While your circumstances are different from mine, you're probably dealing with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety these days, so I'd like to share with you some of the techniques that help me feel calmer and more focused.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

5 Self-Care Tips for Coping During the Pandemic

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

by Catharine Hannay

Lately I've been seeing backlash against advice about self-care for teachers. I can understand why it would seem insulting to be told to 'take care of yourself' when you're being hit from all sides by forces beyond your control. 

What most teachers are expected to do this year is not humanly possible. (If you don't believe me, see The New York Times' article 'Teaching in the Pandemic: 'This is Not Sustainable' by Natasha Singer.) 

I believe self-care means focusing on what you can control. In the midst of a crazy situation, do whatever you can to make things a bit easier on yourself, given the time and resources you have available. 

Here are a few suggestions that may help:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Practicing Gratitude During a Very Sad Thanksgiving


Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

It's two days before Thanksgiving, and like many of you, my husband and I are following COVID guidelines and not gathering with friends and family. 

This would be a very hard week for me even without the pandemic. I can't bake a pumpkin pie with my mom, since she died of brain cancer a few years ago. And I can't sit and chat with my aunt, who died suddenly last summer. 

While your circumstances are different from mine, I'm sure this is a challenging week for you, too. So I'd like to share some thoughts on practicing gratitude in challenging times.

This is adapted from a post I published in May. Remember May? Back when we thought we were nearly done with quarantine, and school would be back to normal in the fall?  (Is there a hybrid emoji that shows someone hysterically laughing or crying, but you're not sure which?)

Practicing Gratitude in Challenging Times