… AKA – How to keep your cool as you’re learning about the newest school initiative! LOL 

What are the first things that pop into your head when you reflect upon the question, “What stresses me out?”  

If you’re being honest, one of your top answers might be, other people! … Working in schools, the adults might stress you out, and the students might stress you out!

… I know! You might be wondering if you picked the right field to work in?! Don’t worry. You did. But let’s get curious …

Upon reflection, we know that saying other people stress us out, isn’t the whole picture. In fact, it’s only a small part because it’s actually our perception of the experience that’s creating our stress reaction. 

… and to really understand our own stress reactions, we must look beyond other people. We must move from “deflective awareness” to “reflective awareness.” 

Deflective awareness means keeping our energy and attention focused outside of ourselves. Reflective awareness means turning our energy and attention towards ourselves. 

As we engage in reflective awareness, we’re not blaming ourselves for our reactions … we’re simply trying to better understand them. The more we understand our reactions, the more options we create for ourselves.

Let’s look at an example …. Think about a time you’ve been in a group and felt stressed by one person. You might have thought to yourself, “This person is really stressing me out!” 

Another option is to wonder, “What about this experience feels stressful to me?” 

As you get curious and tune into your experience, you might notice that your heart is racing, that your foot is tapping, and that you just want to get up and move. You’re feeling your face get hot as your stress is turning into anger. You take a deep breath and focus on rhythmically moving your feet as you make your exhale longer than your inhale, and feel your heartbeat slow down a bit. As you continue to breathe, you stay curious about this experience. Then it hits you that you feel devalued by what this person is saying! 

Let’s keep going … Now imagine the person that you perceived as stressing you out is talking about the latest school initiative that you’ve been asked to implement. As you’re listening to them speak, you don’t believe they truly understand how you do your job. You don’t feel they’re asking you to do something realistic or important … It makes so much sense that you would feel stressed because you feel devalued!

Here’s the thing – deflective awareness keeps us in a state of blaming someone else for our experience; reflective awareness allows us to explore our experiences and gives us a choice about how we can respond. 

But you might be asking, “Where do I start in developing this skill?” When you find yourself blaming others for how you feel or react … 

  • Stop, take a deep breath, and get curious…
  • Notice what is happening in your body at that moment. 
  • Keep breathing and let your body tell you what you need to do to feel more regulated.  
  • Stay with it, and ask yourself, what is true for me right now in this experience?

* I’m feeling___, I’m thinking to myself___, I’m remembering___. *

The person you’re listening to didn’t “create” these feelings, thoughts, or memories. They were already there and the experience prompted them to come to the surface. Deflective awareness keeps them in place to come back another day; reflective awareness helps us begin to work through them, so they don’t continue to control our behavior.

Engaging in reflective awareness is a life skill that takes practice, AND it helps us maintain health and balance in our lives!

In friendship, 💛



Judy Norman and Lisa Dion cofounded the Synergetic Education Institute, the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute’s sister Institute in 2022. It’s all about supporting educators, school counselors, and other professionals who work in and with schools by bringing a Synergetic approach to learning (… and regulating) into schools. 

Would you like to learn Synergetic Play Therapy? Join us for one of our level 1 Introduction to Synergetic Play Therapy programs, online or in person. Discover more about this program here