Covid-19 – The Rezl Initiative:  Get the Rezl app FREE – to reduce anxiety and stress

As the World Health Organization officially declared the covid-19 virus a “pandemic”, cities across the world are implementing preventative measures such as self-isolation, restricting movement, social-distancing and better hygiene to try to mitigate the number of cases.

This is creating fear and anxiety… and may even lower peoples’ immune systems.

The Rezl Initiative:  Get the Rezl app FREE – to reduce anxiety and stress

In response, Carina Sciences is making its Rezl app available FREE to those worried by the situation or even those in isolation.

Rezl uses Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy which is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and enable you to deal with stress, challenges and uncertainty.

Rezl is an app for Android  and iOS phones that builds resilience. Our resilience helps us respond to challenges and setbacks, enabling us to focus on the things we wish to achieve in our lives.  Research shows learning to be ‘mindful’ can increase our resilience in a lasting way.

For more information about Rezl please watch this video

We are making 2000 FREE licenses available right now. Hurry to claim your free Rezl app.·

For a free Rezl app, email

You will then receive instructions to install and activate the Rezl. · Use of Rezl is anonymous but we may send you a short questionnaire in a few weeks so we can improve Rezl and provide better help to people in the future. Thank you and we wish you well in these difficult times.

Take care of yourselves.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C)

I have been looking at the research showing the impact of mindfulness programmes for highschool students.

There is a good summary on the Forbes website here: “Science Shows Meditation Benefits Children’s Brains And Behavior”

The piece highlights the research cases to demonstrate the impact of mindfulness programmes for kids:

Increased attention – Studies have shown that it can help kids concentrate.  Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) has also been shown to help improve attention and behaviour problems, and reduce anxiety in kids who started out with high anxiety levels. A study  showed, that in boys with ADHD, it significantly reduced hyperactive behaviours and improved concentration..

A bump in attendance and grades in school  –  scientific evidence, suggests that meditation in schools helps improve the things that school officials like to see – grades and attendance. A study found that mindfulness helped kids during high-stakes testing, by reducing their anxiety and boosting working memory.

A reprieve from outside trauma – Not all problems faced by kids are from within the schools. A lot of kids are dealing with major stressors at home. Mindfulness has been shown to help kids who are dealing with stressors.

Better mental health – A study  of MBCT-C showed the children who started out with high anxiety had reductions in anxiety symptoms at the end of the 12-week treatment. Another study found that an afterschool program consisting of yoga and meditation helped kids feel happier and more relaxed.

Self-awareness and self-regulation – Mindfulness is intimately connected to self-awareness (it’s almost the definition of it), and this extends naturally to self-regulation. That is, if you learn to be more aware of your thought processes and reactions in the present moment, it follows that you would be more in charge of your emotions and behaviors.  And the research has backed this up: one study found that kids who learned mindful awareness practices had better executive function (see previous blog post here) after eight weeks of training twice a week.

Social-emotional development  –  A study found that a social-emotional learning program coupled with mindfulness was more effective than a classic “social responsibility” program in several measures. Kids demonstrated greater empathy, perspective-taking, and emotional control, compared to the control group.

Yet, in addition to the wellbeing and the behavioural benefits, there are the academic performance benefits.  The UK’s Mindfulness in Schools Project provides link to  paper by Professor Katherine Weare of the University of Southampton who reviewed the research in support of the claims above (here) – affirming the positive impact of mindfulness on depression, anxiety, stress and the avoidance of self-harming and eating disorders; and the improvement of cognition and concentration… leading to better grades.  It seems a no-brainer.

Let’s look at a study by  University of Cambridge (Ref The lancet Public Health, Dec 2017):

At Cambridge University they measured the mental wellbeing of over 1000 students and then gave half of them an 8 week mindfulness course.  They measured the stress levels of the students prior to any training and then during their exam periods.

After the training,  “Mindful Group” showed lower stress levels: –

  • They were a third less likely to  less likely demonstrate stress levels above the threshold normally seen as meriting support.
  • Their stress levels at exam time peaked at levels that were actually below those before taking the course! Suggesting that the mindfulness training had  a long lasting effect to increase their resilience against stresses.

“The evidence is mounting to show that that mindfulness training can help people to cope with accumulative stress.   It appears popular, feasible, acceptable… and without stigma.”  – Professor Peter Jones (Neuroscience, Cambridge University).

So what exactly is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C)?

MBCT-C is a psychotherapy for anxious or depressed children adapted from MBCT. The primary aim is to improve affective self-regulation (= retraction to events and emotions)  through development of mindful attention and decentring from thoughts and emotions. The program consists of 12 weekly therapy sessions lasting 90-minutes, conducted individually or in small groups of 6-8 children. Activities are designed to be engaging and developmentally appropriate for children ages 8 to 12.

MBCT-C is described in the book “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Anxious Children: A Manual for Treating Childhood Anxiety” by Randye J. Semple and Jennifer Lee.  The scheme applies the ideas of MBCT in a way that is suitable for children through fun thought exercises and activities –  it includes actives to be done with the family in the home… though please note that the foreword makes it clear then such a programmes.

I hope more schools and colleges will embrace such MBCT-C programmes – not just for those kids with poor wellbeing… but for all pupils.


Mindfulness for Teaching Staff

According to some well known newspapers,  whatever is wrong with society… obesity, teenage pregnancy, drugs, drinking, homophobia, racism end even a lack of resilience… it’s always down to education… and to teachers.

Most teachers I know are stressed by the relentless stream of government driven changes in education, the need for schools to be excellent (…ofsted) or to produce the right GCSE results to inch up the league tables – the possibility of failure may cause pupils to vote with their feet and with them goes the funding… and the lower the funding then the less money to pay for resources and classroom support…. leading to an even bigger workload for the teachers.

It is not surprising that the government’s Teacher Wellbeing Report  (July 2019) shows that  teaching staff and education professionals have the highest rates of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the UK. The report shows that  “While teachers love their profession, enjoy teaching and seeing pupils flourish, the negative elements outweigh the positives. Staff are suffering from high workloads, a lack of work-life balance, access to limited resources and a perceived lack of support from senior leaders, and this leads to poor occupational wellbeing for many teachers.”

The report goes on to say that Despite the positive feelings towards teaching as a vocation and towards their workplace, many teachers believe that the advantages of their profession do not outweigh the disadvantages and that their profession is undervalued in society.”

So teachers are demoralised and feel undervalued – …that they can never be “good enough” – if a friend was saying these things then we would take them to the doctors!

The key points from the report state:

  • Workload is high, affecting work–life balance
  • Staff perceive lack of resources as a problem that stops them from doing their job as well as they can
  • Poor behaviour is a considerable source of low occupational well-being, and teachers do not always feel supported by senior leaders and parents with managing it
  • Relationships with parents can be a negative factor and a source of stress
  • Educators feeel they do not have enough influence over policy, which changes too quickly
  • Educators also feel that Ofsted inspections are a source of stress
  • Findings on overall support from senior leaders are mixed
  • Staff need more support from their line managers

Now clearly some of these issues are related to funding and resources – yet so many of them are related to the emotional impact of the education system on its employees.

It seems essential that more needs to be done to support the wellbeing of our teachers… and to help them to deal with their mood, anxiety and self-esteem… and to avoid taking the issues so personally.

Last year, when we were developing the rezl toolbox sessions to help people deal with pressure and stress, we listed the types of  situations that can cause people to feel stressed:

  • We may have too much to do – and feel overloaded…   working long hours…   
  • We worry that we can’t get things done in time – or achieve the quality we want – and we may feel that we will “let people down” by not delivering on our promises.
  • Or it may be that things are not going as we wish  …that we feel we are continually failing … and we may start to become desperate to turn things around    
  • We may have pressure to succeed …where we feel we are failing to meet “the expectations of others”…. or to meet our own expectations.
  • Or we start to fear being held responsible (….justifiably or not…) and feel ourselves becoming defensive.
  • It may be that our recent performance has left us feeling judged as incompetent; we may feel humiliated.
  • And sometimes, we may get stressed, when we face difficult challenges or issues  that we fear we can’t resolve at this moment and so we feel anxious.

(NB: we address an approach to all these things within the toolbox session.)

It seems to me that most teachers I know will be stressed by pretty much all of these dynamics.

Where “resource issues” are in play, and teachers feel overloaded with work,  then even the most conscientious teachers may start to feel that that they can’t “achieve/deliver the quality that they would wish– and this feeling is especially stressful.

Meanshile Ross McWilliam, founder of MindsetPro, and Claire Kelly, director of curricula and training at Mindfulness in Schools Project have published an article saying that schools and colleges should engage with mindfulness programmes  in order to ensure that they support their beleaguered staff

They say It’s important to be aware of mental health; self-esteem, confidence and resilience are key components which underpin positive mental health and from which good mental health and wellbeing can be grown and nurtured. How do we take personal responsibility for this, and what can senior leaders do to nurture this desired outcome?”

They go on to suggest that research indicates that the regular practice of mindfulness can help teachers and senior leaders experience a reduction of stress, fewer sleep difficulties, increased emotional self-awareness and compassion and greater potential to create positive changes both in and out of the classroom. … and that this will be good for staff and for the students.

I looked at some of the research in a previous blog post about the positive results of providing such mindfulness programmes to education workers:

Studies had  found that academics are often isolated and anxious, in a system they feel is driven by financial targets – and that 55% of higher education professionals describe themselves as stressed and nearly 40% had considered leaving the sector in the past two years as a result of health pressures.

Yet research by K Weare  of University of Exeter highlighted evidence on the impact of mindfulness on the wellbeing and performance of school staff:

  • reductions in stress, burnout and anxiety, including a reduction in days off work and feelings of task and time pressure,
  • improved ability to manage thoughts and behaviour, an increase in coping skills, motivation, planning and problem solving, and taking more time to relax.
  • better mental health including less distress, negative emotion, depression and anxiety.
  • greater wellbeing, including life satisfaction, self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-compassion and sense of personal growth.
  • increased kindness and compassion to others, including greater empathy, tolerance, forgiveness and patience, and less anger and hostility.
  • better physical health, including lower blood pressure, declines in cortisol (a stress hormone) and fewer reported physical health problems. 
  • increased cognitive performance, including the ability to pay attention and focus, make decisions and respond flexibly to challenges.
  • enhanced job performance, including better classroom management and organisation, greater ability to prioritise, to see the whole picture, to be more self-motivated and autonomous, to show greater attunement to students’ needs, and achieve more supportive relationships with them.

Further,  a 2019 paper from Bristol University demonstrated that mindfulness-based interventions contribute to the overall educator wellbeing and this may increase students’ sense of connectedness to teachers without themselves undergoing any intervention:

  • lower levels of perceived stress
  • reduced sleep difficulty
  • higher levels of mindfulness
  • increased self-compassion
  • better emotion
  • Improved students’ sense of connectedness to teachers

I am certain that mindfulness really can really help to address the stress and anxiety of education workers; and colleges and schools must to introduce such initiatives.  They make fiscal sense (reducing absenteeism and staff turnover), educational sense and fulfil the moral obligation to their stressed-out staff.

And don’t underestimate the impact on the “connectedness of teachers to students – how can we expect depressed, anxious teachers to be inspiring motivating and encouraging to their students?  Surely the enhanced wellbeing of staff must drive better academic results.

In my next post -I will look at the impact of mindfulness programmes on the kids themselves – improvements in behaviour, mood, mental heath… and academic results.