Guess What I’m Feeling?

“I waddled into my new classroom. My legs were shaking, and I was pretty much gasping for air. I pushed myself to the front of the room. The teacher asked me a few questions, but I just couldn’t answer them. I mean I could, but the answers were swirling around my brain and I just couldn’t catch them. I pulled my hoody over my head as far as it could possibly go. I wish I could shrink down to the size of an ant or run as fast as the speed of light so I could just get out of this classroom. Even if I can’t run as fast as the speed of light, if I did run out of the classroom do you think they would even notice if I was gone?”

Written by Misha Kalesiko, aged 9, Year 4.

My daughter recited this to me last night. She wrote it in class as part of an activity they were doing around emotions and expressive writing. The task was to choose an emotion or emotions and describe or express them, but without using the actual word.

I was quite awestruck when she shared this with me. Not only was what she shared beautifully written and expressed, she had committed every word to memory.

More than this, it impacted me powerfully for two other reasons.

Just yesterday, I had been running an online workshop during which we talked about techniques to manage and express emotions, and build emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. Key to this is our ability to accurately label and express what we are feeling. The simple exercise that my daughter did in class is a wonderful way to expand our emotional vocabulary and find ways to express our emotions.

On a more deeply personal level, this moved me profoundly. What my daughter wrote was a poignant account of the feelings of an introverted child who self-identifies as shy. It is a powerful reflection of the emotional landscape she traverses when she is at school where struggles to learn.

My daughter and I are both dyslexic. We both wear corrective “blue” glasses to assist us with our perceptual processing. My daughter, since starting school has found formal learning difficult and has come home feeling dejected and down because of her perceived inabilities in the classroom.

Yet, yesterday and for the very first time, she came home, and of her own accord, announced she had something she wanted to share. She sat tall, lifted her head high, and shared her beautiful piece of writing articulately and with confidence. She proudly stated:

“What I wrote was really good Mum.”

My heart welled with pride, and a deep sense of joy, to see her finally, and independently find a place in learning where she can feel so good about herself and her abilities.

By the way … can you guess the emotions she was describing?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Puzzling Times

I’ve often mentioned my love of jigsaw puzzles. Last night my partner and I finished a 6000 piece jigsaw puzzle representing one of the greatest masterpieces of the seventeenth century, Las Meninas  painted in 1656 by Don Diego de Silva Velazquez and now housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

As we put the last piece into place, my partner and I looked at each other with a twinkle in our eyes as a soft smile spread across both our faces. We stepped back to admire and enjoy the beauty – not just of the picture in front of us – but all the countless hours of quiet attention and effort we had put into piecing it together over the past two years.

And no. It’s not perfect. Our dog chewed on two of the pieces and three others are missing. Suspected ingestion by said canine. But even these imperfections I see with pride. They form part of the story of building this thing together.

What I felt was a wonderful warm sense of achievement and pride. But it was a quiet version of these emotions. A deep, anchoring feeling of satisfaction.

This experience also illustrates the importance of something called “savouring” – the act of stepping back and really being in the moment to enjoy or relish something – whether that be the moment of completion, the sense of achievement, or appreciation of oneself or another for efforts made.

Last night my partner and I sat back and savoured in all of these senses.

We reminisced about the day I opened the box and started sorting the pieces. Something that seemed an insurmountable task at the time. We laughed about the day my partner went to Bunnings to buy the wooden board to put the puzzle one. It was so big he couldn’t fit it in the car so he had to return to the store to have it cut in half. We remembered working on passages of the puzzle where we were convinced that we didn’t have all the pieces.

We also acknowledged one another’s efforts. My partner cracked the hardest parts of the puzzle through his consistent, calm countenance. Something I simply do not posses. Without his efforts the dog would not have formed, and the large monochromatic passages where every piece appears to be the same, would never have unfolded. They are all the result of his patient persistence.

We recognised the team effort too. Because we both have different strengths that we brought to the process. While my partner saw the puzzle in terms of the form and shape of the pieces, I have an acute eye for colour and texture. My close attention to these details meant I was able to sort and organise the pieces. A laborious step essential before any placement of pieces was possible.

So it seems one small project can bring so many meaningful experiences, lessons, insights and of course, rewards and results.

I share this story today because it’s a lovely reminder of the many, varied, and small things we can do to bring calm, channel our focus, and also create some sense of stability and structure, especially when we find ourselves in particularly puzzling times.

In particular, it’s a great example of the power of defining projects and working towards goals.

When we define and then work towards a goal, no matter what that goal is, we create the opportunity for ourselves to feel a sense of progress as well as that wonderful sense of achievement that comes with completing a project, achieving a goal, or working on something in partnership with someone over a period of time.

We are living in puzzling times amidst a pandemic with no easy end in sight. There are few tangibles to give us concrete answers to navigating what are truly unprecedented events for us in our local communities, and as global citizens.

What my puzzle reminds me of, is the importance of finding things to focus on and creating projects to build towards, in spite of the difficulties that surround us.

By creating our own tangible goals and objectives – no matter how small – we are establishing the opportunity to put in place more concrete, actionable strategies that can help us to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity around us. This also helps to anchor, ground and calms us.

When we identify things that we can focus on and work towards, quietly putting each puzzle piece in its place one at a time, we find ourselves moving forward too, one step at a time.

Strangely enough a picture begins to emerge. One that we’ve created. Our own story.

What picture are you creating?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Application or Instant Gratification

Application Gratification.

The incessant drive for instant results

The incessant drive for instant results

When we go to school, we’re encouraged to apply ourselves. After all learning happens through practice, exploration and application. When a student applies him or herself, they uncover their potential, hone their skills, build their abilities and experience achievement.

For this we praise and celebrate them.

In equal measure however, we shake our heads when we see our youth so driven by instant gratification.

Fast food, fast friends, fast media all create an immediacy that is easy to like, yet hard to detach from.

When fuelled too much, it fosters destructive behaviours and poor physical and mental health.

My daughter will never know, nor tolerate, television as I knew it when growing up. As a child who has grown up with iPads, Netfilx and iView, she has zero tolerance for adverts and knows there are gadgets and apps that enable her to watch what she wants when she wants. Television has no appeal. Why on earth would she wait for a set day of the week or time in the day to view her favourite show when she can view it now.

Much about the way we all operate facilitates and reinforces this. I don’t have to wait to get to the computer to check or manage emails, they’re right here on my phone. Too busy to make dinner tonight, easy, hop online and place an order and it will be there when you get home. Wondering what Jo’s been up to lately, simply check her Facebook feed.

So while we desire and praise application, much of our way of being rewards and reinforces instant gratification.

This same dichotomy permeates the workplace.

I’ve had countless conversations with clients who struggle with the demand to be agile, responsive, flexible, do more with less, fail fast and grow even faster. Everything is urgent. It’s necessary and its needed now.

At the same time we want engaged workforces – teams with deep expertise, applied capability, and positive attitudes and behaviours who contribute meaningfully to a dynamic culture, build great places to work, and help us become great organisations to deal with.

The inherent tension between responding to the multifaceted pressures of market forces, shareholder demands, customer needs and team dynamics leaves many of us feeling pulled in all directions, energetically depleted and mentally frazzled.

Like instant gratification, an emphasis on urgency and instant results has its destructive side. Driving a rate and pace of work that is fundamentally unsustainable, it critically undermines longer-term culture shifts and can reduce engagement initiatives to mere lip service.

Engagement and culture take time to build. They require clear vision, alignment, ongoing reinforcement and application of the behaviours and ideals we say we value. It takes practice and patience as the journey unfolds, connections form and something bigger than any one individual evolves.

The benefits of a longer-term focus and sustained application are clear. Yet finding ways to foster this is the eternal conundrum, especially in environments where instant results, instant gratification, have become the norm.

Operating in an industry where reactivity is common, pace is frantic and expectations are high, the team at one of M.A.D.’s clients walk this tightrope daily. Since commencing weekly Work and Wellbeing sessions with us in October, they’re realising the benefits of slowing down.

Right from the get go they found our 30-minute sessions each week helped them to energise and focus. Over time they have reported greater individual self-awareness and better teamwork and collaboration.

This is exciting. Sustained application of some simple practices over a period of time enables people to better deal with the daily demands of a hectic workplace. Such practices better equip them to respond flexibly while staying focussed on what’s most important.

So while the juggling act doesn’t necessarily change, our engagement with it does.

When we take a relatively small amount of time each week to apply ourselves to a practice of quietude and patience, our ability to move more effortlessly from one state to another, self regulate, and channel our energy to where it matters most improves exponentially.

Interestingly, application helps us to be more discerning when it comes to instant gratification.

Perhaps its worth slowing down in order to speed up. To find out how, contact us at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madmindworks.com

katherine.mair@madmindworks.com

Our Future Is Now.

Our Future is Now.

Our Future is Now.

There are some alarming statistic floating around about the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our younger generation, our future.

When it comes to the Physical Health of young Australians;

  • 30% of 5-24 years olds are Overweight or Obese (that rate is even higher for 12-24 years olds). This is amongst the highest in the world and increasing at one of the fastest rates (we rank 14/16 against OECD countries on this measure).
  • Studies have also shown that children whose parents are obese or overweight are far more likely to be obese and overweight.
  • 10% of 0-14 year olds have Asthma. We also rank poorly at 14/16 on this measure compared to other OECD countries.
  • 66% of 15-24 year olds do not meet National Physical Activity Guidelines with 57% of them sedentary or engaging in low levels of activity.
  • 95% of 12-24 years olds do not meet Australian Dietary Guidelines.
  • The proportion of 12-15 years olds whose teeth are decay free is on the decline with an estimated 45% of children aged 6 and 39% of children aged 12 with Dental Decay. We rank just 12/31 against OECD countries for dental decay.
  • The incidence of Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in children and youth across the board (Type 2 diabetes is related to lifestyle factors).

Children and young people who have poor physical health are more likely to develop health problems and conditions such as obesity have been linked to psychosocial issues including social isolation, discrimination and low self- esteem.

If we consider other Mental Health factors the emergent picture of our future is less than idyllic;

  • One in 4 young Australians currently experience a Mental Health Condition.
  • One in 6 young Australians currently experience an Anxiety disorder.
  • One in 16 young Australians currently experience Depression.
  • Prescription of drugs for ADHDs is on the rise. In 2011 and in NSW alone, over 20,000 children and high school students had been prescribed ADHD medication. This number includes over 1000 children under the age of 6.
  • Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians accounting for the deaths of more young people than car accidents. We rank 20/33 for youth suicide rates against other OECD countries.

These statistics are sobering indeed.

Evidence suggests that half of adult mental health conditions emerge by the age 14 and three in four by the age of 24. 

In other words, our future is now.

If we are able to establish healthy patterns in our youth, we set them on the right track for life. These developmental years offer a crucial window for establishing a foundation for ongoing mental and physical health and wellbeing.

It is encouraging to know that there are a plethora of tools and techniques readily available and eminently teachable to help our youth address these challenges and build a brighter future. Now.

The paradigms of yoga and mindfulness draw on a vast array of tools that can help our youth:

  • Re-establish balance,
  • Foster connection and self-respect,
  • Introduce them to the joy of movement,
  • Encourage them to make healthier choices,
  • Build their confidence and esteem,
  • Increase their self-awareness, and
  • Give them tangible tools to more effectively self-regulate.

These tools include physical postures and sequences specifically designed to build strength, flexibility, balance, proprioception and body awareness along with stimulating and supporting optimal function of the circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, and digestive systems.

Other powerful tools include the learned control of breath to self-regulate – whether that be to calm or energise – along with exercises in concentration, discipline, mindfulness, meditation, positive thinking and relaxation.

Each of these tools comes with an enormous variety of techniques that are simple, accessible to anyone, easy to learn and readily transferable to daily life. And systematic research is starting to confirm their efficacy;

  • Yoga helps lower performance anxiety and significantly reduces the incidence of anger, depression, general anxiety and tension among music students (Khalsa 2005 and 2009).
  • Regular yoga practice has a positive impact on concentration, cognitive development and academic performance (Peck et al 2009).
  • Yoga is effective in promoting relaxation in children and adolescents with recurrent headache (Fury and Kedia 2013).
  • Yoga offers a gateway to a more active lifestyle for sedentary and obese youths (Hainsworth et al 2014).

The simple, accessible and teachable techniques of yoga and mindfulness have the potential to make a profound impact.

Our Future Is Now. What are we waiting for? Lets get started.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

RESOURCES:

Health & Wellbeing

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. Young Australians: their health and wellbeing 2011. Cat. no. PHE 140 Canberra: AIHW.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. A picture of Australia’s children 2012. Cat. no. PHE 167. Canberra: AIHW.

The Wellbeing of Young Australians – Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth

Mental Health

Beyond Blue – The Facts

The Mental Health of Young People in Australia, Sawyer et al, Mental Health and Special Programs Branch, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000.

The Rising Rate of ADHD Drugs for Kids

The Increasing ADHD Drugging of Australia’s Children

Parental Influence on Food Preferences

Obese parents increase kids’ risk of being overweight

Parental influence on children’s food preferences and energy intake

 

Mindfulness Makes an Impact in the Classroom.

How can you be more present with what you do?

How can you be more present with what you do?

It’s inspiring to see just how much research has started to emerge about the impacts of mindfulness in both the work and educational settings. This article from the Garrison Institute provides some fantastic insights into how teaching teachers to be mindful has real impacts on their ability to provide emotional support, but also their overall effectiveness in the classroom.

Much of this relates to self-regulation. Mindfulness practices cultivate an ability to self-monitor and then to self-regulate. When we do this we foster and build greater Emotional Intelligence and the ability to respond to situations and others with less reactivity and greater equanimity.

It makes perfect sense that if we can be more present in a situation, then we are better able to control our reactions and manage our responses to that situation. With this comes an enhanced ability to connect with others, along with improvements in the overall quality of our interactions, and the outcomes that result from those interactions.

To explore how you can adapt more mindfulness tools into your classroom or workplace, contactus@madmindworks.com

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Shifting the Needle on Mental Health

The Benefits of Yoga

The Benefits of Yoga, Sydney High School, August 2015 (M.A.D. Yoga Report)

Over the past three months we’ve been teaching a weekly yoga classes with a group of teenagers at a High School in Sydney. Students were primarily female participating in 11 weekly yoga classes based on carefully planned M.A.D. yoga sequence that included:

  • Mindset
  • Physical Postures
  • Concentration Exercises
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Relaxation
  • Mindfulness Techniques

We surveyed the students at the end of the program to gain some insights into their impressions of the effects of yoga and mindfulness practice immediately after class, but also more generally in their life and over time.

While results were overwhelmingly positive across all key factors, the areas where the practice had the most impact were unequivocal. Students who practice yoga experience very real shifts in their Emotional Self Awareness and ability to Regulate their Emotions as well as positive impacts on their overall Mental Health.

Yoga and Mindfulness are fundamentally about helping people to tune into themselves. Our results here demonstrate that yoga definitely does help young people become more aware of, and able to regulate their emotions with 77% of students reporting that at the end of their yoga practice they felt more emotionally in balance, and as a result of practicing regularly 71% reported that they were more aware of how they feel. Moreover, 77% also reported that they paid more attention to how they respond to others.

When it comes to Mental Health, the results were even more positive. At then end of their yoga practice, 94% of students reported feeling relaxed and 88% reported feeling calm. Longer-term effects on mood and outlook were also very encouraging with 65% reporting their overall outlook was more positive and 71% reporting that their overall mood was more stable. 70% felt like they had choices while 65% also reported that they could calm themselves when feeling anxious, worried or stressed as a result of practicing yoga regularly.

Not bad for just 11 yoga sessions.

Imagine what could unfold with continued practice!

M.A.D. Yoga would love to help you bring these benefits into your workplace, university or school. to find out how, why contact us today. www.madyoga.com.au

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator