How to find your inner calm & calm down your kids?

Being With Strong Emotion Pema Chodron's strategies

What do you do to stay calm or calm down?   I’d love to know what works for you…..

I had to use all the mindfulness skills available to me earlier this week to keep calm….and then when I erupted (oops!) – to recover quickly!  No-one can push our buttons like our kids can – and it is often when we are tired, stressed – or need to get to work on time….that we are pushed to our limits!   As Jane Nelson says in Positive Discipline we are aiming for a general direction NOT perfection…so no point beating ourselves up when we revert to old ways….and instead we need to keep practicing and keep noticing the times when we remember our new strategies…when we find a way to stay calm or calm down!

For me what worked this week was:

  • breathing,
  • focusing on my feet,
  • saying to myself this too will pass,
  • looking outside to the view…
  • then doing some LOUD breathing out…
  • then when I did erupt (unfortunately!) keeping it to ‘I’ statements –  limiting the  blame and shame….
  • and afterwards giving both kids huge hugs,
  • apologising for my reaction,
  • talking about what we can do the next morning to prevent the same scenario from happening again….
  • and for me to identify that I need more self-care / me-time so that I have more reserves for handling BIG issues as they come up!

I am passionate about the need for all parents to understand emotions – how they work? how our brains process them? how kids develop emotional intelligence? How we can use mindfulness to find our inner calm and to help our kids to calm down too?

Here is a video I made for our recent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen group on how to deal with Big Feelings.

I’m so excited to have a *NEW* short online course ‘Understanding Emotions’ – you can work through it at your own pace, when it is convenient for you – there are slides , videos & reflective questions to encourage deep learning!  I highly recommend it,  you can free trial some of the videos here

I’d love your feedback!

Understanding emotions


Free Resource: If you would like FREE mindfulness prompts like the one above with strategies on how to deal with a STRONG feeling (yours or your kids) – please sign up at or for recommended mindful parenting resources go to


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Tuning in to our environment…

willy wagtail
Many indigenous cultures claim that it is important to listen to what the wildlife have to say to us… Since working in Central Australia – I’ve always felt an affinity with Willy Wagtails – yesterday as I was the sole person walking on the cold beach a Willy Wagtail came down to feed at the high tide waterline….I’d never seen one that close to the water before….and he wasn’t shy…he would flutter away just a few metres ahead of me and wait as if I was to follow him?
My mind was filled with work as I walked but seeing this Willy Wagtail made me pause – and then I remembered to ask ‘Do you have a message for me?” and I listened…and deep within my heart was the message: let go of work, pay attention to these beautiful surroundings and live a little, dance a little, just as this willy wagtail was keen for me to do!
It was a beautiful wake up call, and got me out of my headspace and into my heartspace – and I left the beach feeling really grateful to this cheeky bird for the interruption to my thoughts, for the bringing me back to the present moment, for the gratitude that welled up in my heart.
So I’m wondering, what is in your environment right now? What can you tune into? And what inner words of wisdom can you hear when you pause?
Cheers, Sara 🙂

Mindful Memories

bonnie baby 2
We are often told that mindfulness is about not dwelling on or ruminating in the past and about being present. Yet at times it is healthy to remember the past or plan for the future – as my mindfulness teacher would say ‘just do it mindfully!’

Today is my daughter’s 14th birthday and it has just been fantastic to revisit photos and memories, it helps to bring an enormous attitude of gratitude. Mindfully revisiting memories can also be very healing and it can help to develop perspective.

If you have a relationship that you are finding difficult or awkward it can be good to go back to remembering when you first met or when the relationship was strong. So often we can get really caught up in where that person/relationship is at right now….forgetting that within the other person is a vulnerable self just like we have a vulnerable self too. Revisiting positive memories can help us to relate to that person from a positive, caring mindset rather than the tight, irritated or defensive mindset we can find ourselves in.

In MindUP, a program in US and UK that is introducing mindfulness to kids in schools, they teach optimism and how to actively cultivate wellbeing.  One way they do that is to create a ‘Happy’ wall – where photos, and pictures of happy memories are hung, so that whenever you are not feeling so good you can remember that there have been many great times in your past.

In Steve Biddulphs book on relationships he talks about each memory in your relationships being a souvenier…a building block on which it was built. How lovely to go back and revisit some of those souveniers mindfully – being very aware of the emotions they bring up and even the lessons and the new perspective with which we can view that person / relationship.

Often when we change our mindset towards a relationship – the relationship changes – have you ever noticed that? Just switching my anxious thoughts of someone and what they may or may not say, to sending them loving kindness can help to change the interaction…

A beautiful meditation to free up our judgement of another is from Tara Brach:

I love how she talks about seeing that our defensiveness comes from our own vulnerability and by bringing kindness to the vulnerable parts of yourself you can then be open and give kindness to another….

Enjoy revisiting some happy memories mindfully 🙂 Sara

Mindful Gratitude #2

Joy quote

‘Joy & Gratitude can be very vulnerable & intense experiences.  We are an anxious people and many of us have very little tolerance for vulnerability.  Our anxiety & fear can manifest as scarcity.  We think to ourselves:

  • I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won’t last
  • Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster’

Brene Brown The Gifts Of Imperfection, p77-85

Woah,  this really resonated with me when I read it this weekend!  Following on from my last post re: gratitude, I’ve been actively practicing gratitude for a few years now – yet I can totally relate to the fear and anxiety as Brene writes above.

Brene writes that as a Mum, the fear of something terrible happening to her children prevented her from fully embracing joy and gratitude.  Have you ever had that where you are feeling joy watching your kids and you feel so grateful and then you feel fear – ‘this is too good to be true, how would I cope if something happened to them’ and then you spiral away from joy and gratitude to fear and anxiety?  I certainly have!

Brene writes ‘Until we can tolerate vulnerability and transform it into gratitude, intense feelings of love will often bring up the fear of loss’.  

‘We’re afraid to lose what we love most and we hate that there are no guarantees’. 

‘We’re wrong.  There is one guarantee: If we’re not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times’.

She goes on to share the idea that if we let go of the concept of ‘scarcity’ – e.g. not enough sleep, not good enough Mum, not enough money, not enough time and instead discover the mindset of sufficiency – – enough sleep, enough love, good enough Mum, good enough moment, enough time, we can see that ‘Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are’ (Marianne Williamson).

In Brene’s interviews with people who had experienced extreme trauma she reported ‘the memories that they held most sacred was the ordinary, everyday moments….their most precious memories were forged from a collection of ordinary moments and their hope for others is that they would stop long enough to be grateful for those moments and the joy they bring’.

It definitely gives you pause for thought….this moment right now is good, and the next moment, and the next!  If we broke our days down to moments – there are 1000’s of ordinary moments that are GREAT, and if we paused, possibly joyful and something to be grateful for! – yet we can often allow one not great incident to colour our day.

So be conscious today – when are you able to be thankful for an ordinary moment and let the joy bubble up and be grateful for it (e.g. holding your child’s hand, hugging them goodbye, sharing a laugh) – and when do you feel vulnerable and the fear kicks in?  Brene’s strategy in the vulnerable moments that I love and am now going to use is to say to yourself or out loud ‘I feel vulnerable and I’m grateful for….’

What are you feeling grateful for right now? What’s your favourite daily ordinary moment that you can pause a little longer in and relish a little more?





Mindful Listening

Mindful Listening Quote (2)
Take a minute to reflect on how it feels to be really listened to, and how it feels to be only partially or hardly listened to! Start noticing today when this happens….and then begin to notice when you really listen – and when you don’t… I thought I was a good listener until I did this exercise!
So how do we do Mindful Listening?…I believe we can use any strategy we have that can help us to come back into the present moment; I like to use these strategies from Russ Harris, ACT Mindfully (below).
 MINDFUL LISTENING instructions (2)
The trickiest bit with Mindful Listening though is to remember to gently come back to the present moment – how often do our minds stray to unrelated topics or planning or dreaming or if the discussion is emotional we can stray to forming our defence or analysing what is said instead of just listening… even with practice I can still go a whole day forgetting to mindfully listen!
I remember being shocked when I heard Billy Joel say in an interview that he might be playing to a crowd of 1000’s and they are singing along joyously and his mind will be thinking of the sandwich he’ll have off stage – so it’s normal for all of us for our brains to wander…it’s just that we know we get so much more out of life when we are back in the present moment…
So what will you use this week to help you to mindfully listen – at work, at home? Who do you find easy to listen to and why? Who do you find really hard to listen to and why? And when is the best time for you to listen and when is it hard?
Some strategies I have used is to massage my hands as I listen – it helps to keep part of my brain focussed in the present – perfect for work meetings or when feeling stressed or having an emotionally charged conversation!   Sometimes I need to let my kids / partner know ‘now isn’t a good time’ can I listen in 15 minutes, in 1 hour, tomorrow….
Ruby Max (Mindfulness for the Frazzled) focusses on an aspect of the person’s face very mindfully – I’m not sure if this could count as staring though?
In my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course my mindfulness teacher ran an exercise where we had to listen for 4 minutes without saying a word to someone. This seemed intimidating for both the speaker and listener but we all found that some issues were completely resolved in that 4 minutes with someone’s complete attention yet no interruption, no questions! I have used this in highly charged conflict situations to say – you have your 4 minutes uninterrupted and then I’ll have my four minutes – and when you do that you are forced to hear out the other person’s point of view and really hear what they are trying to say rather than reacting in anger to their first sentence!
So give it a go.    What you have noticed about yourself as a listener and what will you aim to do this week…