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Try-It Tuesdays

The activities for Try-It Tuesday are to help with being mindful of your surroundings, your body, and your feelings.  What is going-on right at that moment?  What can I do about it?  Being mindful is about using our focus to help calm ourselves and moving forward with our day.
Tuesday, June 2nd:   Tense and Release
When our emotions are in a heightened state our whole body can feel it.  Helping to relax the body can also help to relax the mind.  Tensing and releasing muscles is one more method to help us become more aware and mindful of ourselves, our bodies.  As you tighten or squeeze each set of muscles, try to concentrate all of your intense feelings in that area.  As you slowly release the muscles, also blow out your breath like you are blowing away pieces of what is weighing on your mind, in your thoughts.
* Find a comfortable spot to sit or lay down (this can be done when all alone or surrounded by people, you may even be at school or work)
* Start with your feet - squeeze the muscles in your feet for 5 seconds and then slowly relax, then repeat (try wiggling your toes as you release your muscles and your breath)
* Move to your calves - squeeze the muscles for 5 seconds and slowly release, then repeat
* Next are your thighs - squeeze the muscles in your thights for 5 seconds and then slowly release, then repeat
* Move on to your hips and buttocks - squeeze your muscles for 5 seconds and slowly release, then repeat (it may help to straighten your legs to help squeeze these muscles)
* Focus next on your abdomin and chest - squeeze all of these muscles for 5 seconds and then slowly release, then repeat (make sure to focus on blowing out your breath as you release your muscles here)
* Pay attention next to your hands and arms - make your hands into fists and draw your arms close to your body as you squeeze your fists and arms for 5 seconds and slowly release, letting your arms and fingers dangle by your sides, then repeat
* Almost there, focus now on your shoulders - raise your shoulders and squeeze those muscles for 5 seconds and then slowly release, lowering your shoulders and rolling them backward and forwards a couple times, then repeat
* Finally, move to your face - scrunch your face muscles, squeezing for 5 seconds and slowly release, blink your eyes a few times and stretch open and close your mouth, then repeat (You can repeat the whole thing in reverse to help further relieve tension and stress.)
* When you have worked through your whole body, take a slow deep breath in to the count of 5 and slowly blow out to the count of 5
- Adapted from Big Life Journal
Tense and release of muscles can be used in most places.  You do not have to be alone and in your bed.  The idea is to take a moment to focus on yourself to help relieve intense feelings and thoughts, helping produce a calmer state to gather ideas and create a more positive outcome.  We may not have control over what is happening around us, but we do have control over how we respond to it. 
Tuesday, May 26th:   Go on a Safari
Go outside and walk around the yard.  Let all your senses soak in what is around you.  Think about what you see, hear, smell, taste, and can touch.
What do you see - trees, grass, flowers, rocks, insects, animals?
What is the weather like?  What do you see in the sky - sun, clouds, blue, grey, raining, dry, humid?
What are the things you hear - wind rustling the leaves, dog barking, cars driving, birds tweeting/singing, water bubbling/rushing, insects chirping, gravel crunching under foot, thunder, rain hitting the ground, people talking?
What can you smell - flowers, grass, dust, earth, rain, cars, a pool?
What tastes does being outside remind you of - grilled food, ice cream, watermelon, roasted marshmallows? (These are some of my favorites.)
What can you touch - leaves, tree bark, flowers, rocks, insects, animals, rain?  Pick one and really study it in your hands.  What does it feel like - soft, rough, silky, hard, squishy smooth, wet, dry?
"Going on Safari" can happen outside, in your house, in your car, and even in your classroom.  Using all of your senses when you are in a space can help to calm you when having unsettling feelings.  Finding the things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch helps bring you into that very moment and away from what is troubling you.  Once feeling more calm, you can better approach what is troubling you and find or get help to find a solution.
If you plan to go on a safari, you can print the following page, or create your own!
Tuesday, May 19th:   Your Beating Heart
Lets test how our heart beats are connected to our breathing.  Lay down and placebreathing one hand over your heart and one hand right above your belly button.  Do this for one minute.  What do your heart beats and breathing feel like?  Are they fast or slow?
Now, stand up and jump up-and-down or do jumping jacks for one minute (I recommend setting a one-minute timer).  When you are finished, stay standing and place one hand over your heart and one hand right above your belly button.  What do your heart beats and breathing feel like?  Are they fast or slow?
When I do this activity, I can feel my heart beating quickly in my chest and I am breathing much faster.  Just like we can do activities that speed our heart rate and breathing, we can also do activities that slow our heart rate by slowing our breathing.  Exercising can definitely increase our heart rate but so can intense emotions.  When we get upset, frustrated, anxious, and angry our heart rate goes up  and our muscles get tight.  To help our body and mind feel better, we can slow our breathing to bring our heart rate down down arrow and relax our muscles.
I introduced bubble breathing to you a few weeks ago.  Another mindful breathing technique is dandelion breathing.  Imagine yourself in a peaceful field holding a white fluffy dandelion (you can close your eyes, or not).  Take a deep breath and slowly blow out like you are trying to make all of the fluffy seeds fly through the air.  Keep one hand right above your belly button so you can feel your belly push out as you take deep breaths and your belly pull in when you slowly blow out.  The field is full of dandelions - continue taking deep breaths and slowly blowing the seeds into the air until your heart rate calms and your body feels more relaxed - 5 times, 10 times, or maybe more.  Focusing on your breathing can bring your heart rate down and helps to direct the focus away from the intense emotion that was being experienced.  Once calm, you can better approach what was troubling you and find or get help to find a solution.
Tuesday, May 12th:   Calm Down Jar
Having something to focus on when we are having feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, and sadness can help to alleviate those emotions.  Something that has been helpful to children are Sensory Jars.  They can be made with many different types of materials.  I really enjoy ones that are made with glitter!  You can follow this link for 6 Ways to Make a Calm Down Jar or follow the instructions below. (Parent assistance is recommended due to potential mess and for safety due to the hot water, super glue, and hot glue.)
* 1 clear plastic container - cleaned (sturdier plastic would be less likely to puncture/crack but any would work)
* hot water (75%)
* clear school glue (25%)
* glitter (fine and tiny shapes work best)
* liquid food coloring (optional)
* super glue
* hot glue
* 4 cup measuring bowl and whisk
After cleaning your container (we don't want mold) fill it with water and pour in the measuring cup to find out how much liquid it will hold.  Then remove one quarter of the water.  (If the container holds 16 ounces, you will remove 4 ounces of water.)  The water needs to be hot, so either hot tap water needs to be used or it needs to be microwaved - this is to help combine the glue.  Whatever quarter measurement you removed, add that back in as clear school glue.  (If you are using a 16 ounce container, you will add 4 ounces of clear school glue to the 12 ounces of hot water.)  Mix this combination with the whisk while the water is still hot.  Add in glitter and mix well.
I used 1 tablespoon of glitter for 16 ounces of liquid and then added a couple pinches of small shaped glitter to make an I-spy effect (small shapes used for manicures seem to float well).  If using the shapes, clear or translucent glitter for the base allows for the colored shapes to be seen.  A single drop of food coloring can also be added - see the green peanut jar below.
Carefully pour the mixture into your container - make sure to scrape in all of the glitter.  Add the cap tightly and give it a test-shake.  (You can make adjustments of more glue or hot water before permanently sealing the cap.)  Remove the lid and allow the mixture to cool. (Wipe the inside of the lid and the threads on the outside of the container while waiting.)  Once cool, use super glue on the threads inside the lid and scew onto the container immediately.  Then use hot glue around the outside seal of the lid.  (A tight and permanent seal is necessary so an unfortunate mess is avoided!)
Shake the jar, and as you breathe slowly, focus on the glitter as being your swirling thoughts that need to come to a rest.
Glitter Jar
Tuesday, May 5th:  Bubble Breathing
Being mindful of your breathing can help you calm down when you are upset, frustrated, and anxious.  There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is Bubble Breathing!
Imagine that you are outside blowing bubbles...  As you listen and watch the video, focus on the moment you are in.  How are you feeling right in this moment?  Imagine that you are one of the bubbles floating in the air.  As you slowly breath in and blow out, feel your body relax.  Try to imagine being as light as a bubble blowing in the breeze and shimmering blue and purple and pink in the sunlight.  Imagine what is bothering you being as light as the bubbles and floating away.  Keep bubble breathing and hopefully feel a little more lifted!
Watch another video about bubble breathing: Bubble Breath from GoNoodle
- adapted from Lindsay Ponce, Friedberg Elementary School Counselor