Winter is here. That long stretch before spring and vacation has begun. It is easy for students and staff alike to feel drained, burned out and exhausted. It is incredibly important that we take care of ourselves, so we can provide the best service and support to our students, teammates and co-workers.

Two of our staff members, Josh Tingley, an Impact Manager at City Year Boston, and Mariana Schmalstig, an Evaluation Analyst at City Year Headquarters, share how they use mindfulness to recharge and motivate one another this time of year.

Josh: Hi Mariana!

Mariana: Hi, Josh! What's up?

Josh: Oh you know, winter is coming and I'm definitely feeling the drain at service. What have you been doing recently to take care of yourself?

Mariana: Great question! Have you been practicing mindfulness lately? Maybe you should take a quick brain break. Remember:

Mindfulness quote by Jon Kabat Zinn

There are a lot of ways you can do that!

Josh: Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I just feel like I don't have the time to meditate or take brain breaks.

Mariana: Why not try this to start? Save this gif to your phone, and when you need to take a quick break, sync up your breathing with it!

Cultivating mindfulness in the workplace and classroom

Josh: That is so simple. I just tried it and it was really nice to step outside on my break and do that for five minutes. What else can I do?!

Mariana: You should check out this resource online. This resource online is pretty great, too.

Josh: Thanks! Small world – but I just saw something about "Mindfulness Mazes.” I actually made a walking labyrinth for my church as my Eagle Project for Boy Scouts. I love to keep a paper labyrinth in my bag to trace my finger on when I'm sitting in a meeting or a training. It really helps me focus. This is my favorite one:

Cultivating mindfulness in the workplace and classroom

Mariana: That's a great idea! When I'm stressing over all the data I need to process, I use this Bell of mindfulness app on my computer to remind me to get back into my body, take a breath and focus again on the task at hand.

Josh: I just added that Bell to my computer; seems like a helpful reminder on those days where I'm staring at my screen too much. You keep reminding me of some of the things that I'm seeing one of my partner teachers do with the class. Have you heard of Class Dojo or Go Noodle?

Mariana: No, but I just checked them out and I wish I had that growing up.

Josh: Yeah! Some of our students really enjoy the "focusing" exercises, and it is a fun way to resettle into the classroom after Lunch to get ready for our afternoon of learning!

Mariana: I'm glad to hear that you find those activities useful for our students. Creating a culture of mindfulness in your classroom can really benefit students' learning journey.

Josh: I learned a lot from your presentation over the summer about creating a culture of Mindfulness at City Year, on our team and with our students. The positive benefits of increasing happiness, healthiness, compassion, productivity and focus are so important this year and beyond!

There’s no wrong way to practice mindfulness. Each of us has their own way of reconnecting with the present; it's a matter of finding what works best for you personally. Remember, all that matters is that you make the time and space to recharge and take care of yourself, so that you can continue being the best friend, colleague and mentor possible. 

Cultivating mindfulness in the workplace and classroom

Mariana Schmalstig and Josh Tingley are members of the cyMindful community at City Year’s headquarters in Boston. They lead weekly mindfulness sessions and provide trainings and resources to staff and AmeriCorps members across the City Year network. 

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