Teaching can be rewarding and fulfilling, but it can also be incredibly hectic and stressful. It’s no secret that teachers work long hours, are underpaid, and are often undervalued. Educators often neglect their well-being to provide the best possible education for their students.
However, taking care of ourselves is equally important, and one way to prioritize our self-care is by creating a Zen Den (also called a decompression room, peace corner, calming room, or teacher relaxation room) in our staff lounges. Teachers and other support staff need a place to go to take a quiet moment to rest and reboot.
It’s no longer a nice-to-have for teachers to look after their health and wellness. Making time and space for educators to take a break from the demands of teaching is crucial for themselves and our students. After a few moments in a Zen Den, we can calm our nervous system and then be ready to return to class.
One of our Kids Yoga Stories Ambassadors, Amy Ketner, who is a school counselor, emailed us this:
“I just attended a great Zoom workshop on SEL, and the school that was featured talked about an area they have for teachers called the decompression room—it’s similar to a calm-down corner for students!
It’s a small office area stocked with many of the same items—fidgets, calming music, water, coloring pages, etc.
The message is that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others!”
Today, we will discuss why it’s crucial for teachers to have a space where they can decompress during the school day and explore how to create a Zen Den that works for you and your school community.
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What is a Zen Den?
A Zen Den is a designated space in your staff room (or other available space for the adults at school) where you can go to take a few minutes to recharge and regroup during the day. It’s a space filled with calming activities that help relieve stress and promote relaxation.
Teachers can visit the Zen Den at different points of the day when they need a quick break. It could be just before school to take a deep breath to begin the day, at recess time to take a brain break from the morning’s lessons, or anytime they need a moment to regroup.
Why create a Zen Den?
Having a Zen Den in your school can benefit you in several ways. You will find that by providing yourself a quiet, safe space where you can step away to calm down, you can better manage stress, alleviate anxiety, and reduce tension.
It’s vital to prioritize your own well-being, as it’s for not only your benefit, but your students’ as well. By modeling self-care practices, you are teaching your students that they, too, are deserving of time and space to care for themselves. You might then create a calm corner in your classroom, as well!
How do you create a Zen Den?
A Zen Den is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all space. It can be customized to the needs of your staff community. It can be the size of your choice, depending on your space, and include whatever materials you would like, depending on your needs, your available resources, and budget.
To create your Zen Den, consider stocking it with calming activities like easy meditation books, adult coloring books, stress balls, or puzzles. Play some soothing music or nature sounds and introduce some aromatherapy with essential oils or candles. Add a small water fountain, some comfortable seating or pillows, and any personal items or mementos that make you happy.
Cassandra, our Community Manager here at Kids Yoga Stories, said this:
“We turned the staff room into a ‘cozy corner’ with a comfy couch and some mandala coloring pages on the table, and breathing exercises were posted on the bulletin board in the staff room.
Plus, we left sticky notes on the table for staff to leave notes of gratitude and shout-outs to each other on the bulletin board. We turned the space into a peaceful, quiet spot to be.
Originally, Zen Den was a recess club for students a few years before, and because of the effects the pandemic had on everyone’s well-being, the staff adopted the Zen Den too!”
Ensure to get feedback from the other school staff so that everyone has an opportunity to add their own choices. Your Zen Den is meant to be customized to the needs and preferences of your school staff community.
What you could put in your Zen Den
- Easy Meditation Books
- Adult Coloring Books
- Stress Balls or Fidgets
- Positive Affirmation Cards
- Soothing Music
- Essential Oil Diffuser
- Herbal Tea
- Meditation Cushion
- Comfy Couch
- Breathing Exercise Cards
- Small Water Fountain
Often, it’s not easy to carve out the time needed to fully sink into a calming activity like meditating or coloring. You may only have a few spare minutes or seconds between classes. That’s why it’s essential to keep your Zen Den handy and accessible. When you are feeling overwhelmed or need a quick break, you can quickly pop in and recharge in the stress-free environment you’ve created together.
Set up a Zen Den at your school!
As a teacher, you need to take care of yourself. In today’s fast-paced world, Zen Dens are becoming increasingly popular. Creating a Zen Den in your classroom takes relatively little effort and space but can have a big impact on your mood and stress levels.
By investing in your well-being, you are taking a proactive approach to promote a healthy and positive school environment, one that encourages students, colleagues, and administrators to dedicate time and space for themselves.
Let’s make decompression rooms the norm and create spaces of peace and joy that help all of us recharge and get the most out of each school day. Create an oasis in your school today!
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