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Mindfulness/SEL: awareness of neural states

The focus of mindfulness/SEL for the past couple of weeks has been developing awareness of neural states. This is foundational to cultivating mindfulness - as creating this awareness is simply (or not so simply) tuning in and noticing what is happening in the body.


We played with the Zones of Development model, specifically the comfort, challenge, and danger zones. We focused on how these zones differ for everyone, depending on the situation. We will be adding another layer to this model next week. 


Your children have been building more awareness of these three zones, what they feel like in them, and situations they have experienced that relate to each zone.


Zones of Emotional Development:


Comfort zone (green): is when we feel relaxed and at ease. Their nervous system is regulated.


Challenge zone (yellow): I like how it’s referred to in the book Nature-based Therapy as the growth/groan zone. With this zone, there is activation – a threat or challenge is ahead, or they are experiencing. There are heightened physiological symptoms with this, which can feel like anxiousness, frustration, or excitement. But it is manageable.

We expand our comfort zone as we navigate the challenge zone.


Danger zone (red) can look like “rage, overwhelm, explosiveness, fear, panic, and lack of self-control” (N. Harper et al. 2019). They no longer have access to the problem-solving part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex.


We will continue to explore these zones as a community. They have been particularly applicable during overnight field trip season, where the Challenge Zone is intentionally woven into part of the curriculum. 


How does this apply at home? It can be as simple as when they look cozy, ask if they are in the “comfort zone.” The same goes for moments when your child is excited or nervous; asking if they feel in the challenge zone can help build awareness. While in the challenge zone, we want to be aware of edging too close to the danger zone. Accessing mindfulness tools can help them stay in the place of growth rather than becoming overwhelmed.


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