Mindfulness in a nursery – creating calm, not joining the chaos

We all bring our lives to work sometimes – the stress, the anxiety, worry and often bad mood too, but what if your ‘office’ is a room full of babies and toddlers, looking to you as their role model for behaviour and social cues?
Leaving your homelife at the door on the bumblebee coat hook is essential – but how do you do it?
Here at KTB, Mindfulness is our super power and is having a huge effect on our productivity, happiness and capabilities.

Working with children is wonderful – we see them learn, flourish, master and communicate; every day gives us rewards when we see their development, but running alongside the amazing moments is a day job that’s quite stressful, and coping can sometimes be a struggle.

Research* has shown that 78% of education staff have experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work; a rise in workplace stress for the third year running, taken from a sample of 3019 education professionals.

It’s an area that needs attention but it’s not just because of the job; workplace stress or culture – people are finding life in general tough. We hear on the news about the rising crisis in mental health and part of our role as an employer is to support where we can.
Monthly mindfulness isn’t teaching our staff how to do their jobs or how to look after children. What mindfulness is giving us, is the back-office function – the ability to learn about ourselves, our boundaries, others’ boundaries, reactions, triggers, coping mechanisms and the ability to reflect – on how our behaviour, language and attitude affects ourselves, colleagues and our young charges.
Mindfulness is here at KTB to take us strongly into the future as a resilient workforce, an empathetic workforce and a place where you are supported.

Working with Nick Buckley since 2018, we offer our staff monthly mindfulness sessions, held straight after work here at the nursery. Nick supports us to put the techniques into practice, to make the best use of them for ourselves and at work too.

He said: “It’s wonderful to see a local company embracing staff wellbeing with a future aim in mind. There’s a lot of mindfulness going on in the corporate world but quite often, it seems to be to tick a box, to say it’s happening or cover off a wellbeing week. Here at KTB, we’re working towards an end goal of more resilient staff and a better working environment for them, but more importantly, the children, who are influenced every day by the environment they’re in.
“21st century living is hard and for some people, coping with it is very difficult. There are so many micro-stresses, which just didn’t exist a few decades ago, when work was more manual – even running a home required a degree of physical activity – but today’s lifestyle is sedentary.
“24hr access to phones and emails, being permanently contactable, social media and the competition and comparison culture that brings – all require skills to cope.
“These skills need to be taught – we don’t just know them and at KTB they have taken on the responsibility to do this to make the workplace better but also to give some really useful life skills to their employees too.”

Our monthly sessions help us to consolidate practice and sustain all the benefits. The first half of each session takes us right back to basics – breathing, being aware, slowing thoughts and learning how to be mindful.

We reflect:
How have the previous session’s teachings been used since last month?
Did you slow down, breath and focus?
Were you more thoughtful, less impulsive, more reflective?

Sometimes, we’ve totally forgotten to do anything, but this is normal – change can take a little time!

Nick also says that the best mindfulness is social – sharing experiences together which at KTB really does work, because sometimes, issues arising in the work day often get talked about a mindfulness sessions.
Staff say: “Remember this one for mindfulness.”

We have been given access to guided mindfulness practice recordings by Nick, which we were asked to find 10 minutes a day for – when we wake up, get home, or are going to sleep; whenever we feel we can slow, focus, and breath for these precious 10 minutes in today’s busy world. Over time, the mindfulness techniques rub off on the children – they too learn to slow down, take their time and focus more, because that’s the behaviour they’re seeing around them.

Since the first sessions took place, nursery director Katie Ballard has seen a very positive change.
“Mindfulness has taught us to communicate our feelings with each other, and to recognise how we each feel as we come into work.
“We don’t function at the same capacity each day – sometimes we are very motivated and sometimes, something may have happened that takes our focus away, leaves us vulnerable and even a bit snappy.
“It’s helping us to recognise how we feel ourselves but also be more aware of others too.
“For example, it’s common at work to have a moan if someone’s a bit grumpy or off with you, but rather than let that kind of situation fester, we acknowledge it and help that person, by arranging the work tasks so that they have a less challenging day, or just being aware that a change in behaviour is OK – we can support each other, knowing that this support will be here for us on our off day too.”

One way we support each other is to create a gap in-between what’s happened and our response. We might step away, or a colleague may step in, and it’s this ability to see what needs to happen than makes such a difference.
We take a moment to think, assess and then make a decision on what to do next, which falls outside of the common knee-jerk reaction that can lead to more difficult situations.

Using the techniques of mindfulness is not only doing our staff good, but also the children too – because they see behaviour and mindset to copy for themselves. *The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019, carried out by Education Support.