Mindfulness Activities for Anxiety

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Anxiety is a very real issue for kids today. This lesson discusses mindfulness activities that can be used for students who struggle with anxiety in school.

Anxiety in Kids

When kids are anxious in school, it can cause lots of different problems in the classroom, including classroom disruptions and learning difficulties. Getting students to focus on something other than the stressors or triggers that set them off can reduce anxiety. There is a specific form of therapeutic meditation, known as mindfulness, that can help with that. Mindfulness exercises are designed to refocus attention on the present and increase awareness of thoughts, sensations and environment. In this lesson, we'll explore some mindfulness activities that can help students of any age manage their anxiety.

Sense Activities

Mindfulness activities that engage the senses can help students focus their attention on the present.

Scent Activity

If you can get your students to associate a specific scent with being calm, you can elicit a conditioned response every time you introduce students to that the scent. Make this process fun for students by turning it into a classroom activity. Start by introducing a single scent into your classroom. You could do this with a scent jar, candle, essential oils, or another product. Choosing natural scents that are known to have calming or clarifying properties, such as lavender, lemon, or peppermint, is a good idea. Ask students to close their eyes and smell the scent. Then, ask them to sit and breathe calmly and quietly. Do this for one minute each day. Eventually, you should be able to just utilize the scent without requiring closed eyes or meditative breathing. Keep in mind that not every student will like every scent; you may have to adjust the scent to please your class or to be sensitive to students with issues like allergies or asthma.

Sound Activity

You can introduce sound and music as a mindful activity by bringing a CD to class. A CD with nature sounds, like a babbling brook or chirping birds is a good place to start. Ask students to listen to the CD and identify each individual sound they hear. You can have the make their guesses out loud or on paper. The important thing is that they focus on what they are hearing rather than their anxieties. This activity can be used with the whole class or an individual student (wearing headphones).

Tactile Activity

Tactile sensations are a great distraction and can help create calm. You can introduce tactile activities into your classroom by creating a large book, much like a scrapbook, that has different pieces of materials that students can touch. Some example of materials that work well include velvet, satin, faux fur, silk, or anything soft and nice to feel. This book can be kept on a shelf so students can access it whenever they feel anxious. During the first couple of uses, you may want to talk the students through the textures, commenting on softness or silkiness, depending on the material. Ask the students to close their eyes and run their hands over each piece lightly so that they can really explore how each piece feels.

Sight Activity

Although most mindfulness activities require students to close their eyes (because sight can be so distracting), there are sighted options that work well. One of the best, is having a student stare at a flame as it moved and crackles. A candle works well for this. Have the student focus solely on the flame and point out how it moves and shivers in the air. Ask the student to breathe slowly while staring at the flame to help them calm their anxious mind. Keep in mind that fire is dangerous. You should do this activity with an assistant in the classroom to make sure everyone is being safe or use a flame on a TV screen or computer screen.

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