Understanding meltdowns and how we can calm ourselves & our kids down…

 

For me understanding how our brain processes emotions, the triggers for the fight, flight or freeze responses in myself and in my kids has transformed my life!  I have also seen it transform many parents lives in coaching or in workshops as they understand that their child’s emotional brain is still developing and the ability to put the ‘brakes’ on is not yet mature.

Once we understand how the brain works – (in video above with this model of the Brain In the Hand by Dan Siegel) then we can begin to understand our own emotions and understand our child’s emotions.  What is the first sign for you that you are getting annoyed / irritated?  What is the first sign in your child?  What about for nervousness and excitement?  The Emotional Thermometer (in video below) is one of the best tools for developing awareness and understanding of emotions – a very important part of emotional intelligence.

Once we have this understanding and our kids have this understanding then we can begin to learn some mindful calming strategies – from simple 10 second activities to longer 5-10 minute activities suitable for young and old!

If you would like to learn more on the emotions and on calming strategies check out the NEW Understanding Emotions Online Course with short videos that you can access in your own time at your own pace and begin learning the skills needed to teach yourself and your children how to regulate emotions.

Which tool would be helpful in your house – the Flipping The Lid Brain in the hand model or the Emotional Thermometer?

The reality of school mornings (sigh!) and the need to breathe…

I’m wondering what mornings are like at your house? Yesterday was an absolute classic – with my twins (and me!) getting used to a new bus routine and earlier start time…for high-school.  With lots of opportunities to practice (sometimes without success!) mindful breathing!

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I began by meditating on my balcony, calming my mind and preparing myself for a peaceful Monday morning… (I can do this now my kids are older!)

I walk back into the house to find two kids still fast asleep despite the bus leaving in 40 minutes…
I wake them gently, calmly, glad I meditated..
I make 4 sandwiches virtuously – this is unusual for me as normally the kids help themselves to the lunch ingredients so less food is wasted…
So far so good,

Phil leaves early for work and all is well…
Someone yells there is no hot water – thank goodness it is a hot day and I make a mental note to get that fixed, but not to worry about it now, or even this week!

Kids groan and complain that there is no cereal despite there being 4 open boxes of different varieties on the bench – turns out that even though they went to Coles with their Dad on the weekend no one bought the cereal they like?

I breathe and begin to braid my daughters hair, a special request

Then youngest son takes too long in the shower, eldest son grumpy and yelling, youngest son calls out for a towel, no-one helps, I yell ‘you’ll have to get your own towel’ but in his wisdom he hops back into shower!

Eldest son gets louder and grumpier, and thumps on bathroom door!

I knock on door and shout loudly about 2 more people needing to still have a shower, the need to save water etc – and the door opens – he has found a towel in the bathroom (there all along!) and is now getting out…I loudly suggest please never have two showers in a row again!!!
I breathe but teeth gritted, calmness is evapourating…
I remember I’m out of my toasted muesli and unwisely I begin making this…
Then remember orthodontist appt for two children at lunch time and search frantically for paper and pen to write school notes and realise I will have to reorganise my whole entire day to fit this appt in… and cancel yoga 😦

I breathe…

Then I find youngest son, sitting in wet towel at the computer with 7 minutes to go until the bus leaves….I am no longer calm, I deliver an exploding lecture, I unplug computer in a rage…

And then I remember to breathe…

Two kids leave in good time to catch the bus, but I remember I haven’t said goodbye to one so shout out ‘fond’ farewell from front door that neighbours could hear!! And send a virtual hug!
Youngest son comes upstairs breathless, seemingly dressed, we hug, he thanks me for lunch, all is forgiven, I hug him tight and wish him well.
He races up to the bus…fingers crossed he’ll catch it.

I realise I have overcooked the muesli but it’s saved in the nick of time, thank goodness
Eldest son leaves on his bike, showered and peaceful, again thank goodness.

I breathe…
And I turn to face a tsunami of lunch / brekky stuff left out on the bench, discover the bathroom has been flooded from the earlier shenannigans and clothes are left everywhere…

and it’s only 8:08am!!!

I sigh, I breathe, I feel like going back to bed or at least meditating again to regain some of that calm but instead the day begins and I breathe and breathe and breathe as I regain some order both inside and out…

Phew!!

Anyone else have something similar happen at the start of the school or preschool year??

The need to re-treat ourselves…

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One thing I am always amazed by is that when I go on holidays I become suddenly so much more aware of just how stressed I am – my body tense, my mind on hyper-alert, my heart all armoured up.  And it is only as the holiday progresses that time slows down, my body unwinds, my thinking slows and becomes more in the present moment and my heart becomes open with love and softness to what is happening here and now.

I was fortunate enough to have 10 days on Rottnest Island, WA this January, camping, riding, snorkelling, creating and reading with my family….no power, no cars, no outside world intrusions….and it really felt like a retreat.

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At the start I was worried about would we have enough to do??  By the end, of the 10 days, I didn’t want the holiday to finish and we still had so much to gently explore!!  Funny how fast paced our world can be that we can’t imagine slowing life down so much that all we need to think about is what to eat and which beach to visit and that fills the day beautifully!

This got me thinking about the idea that a retreat is really an opportunity to re-treat ourselves.   It is so much easier to be mindful on a retreat….to really be aware of our thinking, our stress levels and what we really need.  On a retreat it is easier to listen to our intuition, to feel deep gratitude and to feel at one with the world….although it can take a little while to settle our thinking, worrying, planning minds and process all that we have stored up in our bodies since the last retreat!

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So my intention this year is to attend 3 whole day retreats, to book in for a week long retreat and to plan some more holiday retreats for my family…knowing just how important it is.  Now is the time to book them in before the year gets too busy or I forget just how important they are to me.

So what are you going to do to re-treat yourself this year?  What can you book in?

Finding Self-Compassion

Small changes seem to bring BIG changes if we can just persist and practice enough…

It is amazing to me when things start settling in – first we understand a concept with our minds, and then over time as we practice,  we understand it deeply with our hearts – and then the real change happens…   In my experience real change happens faster when we involve the right side of our brain and our subconscious and art journal / sketch / doodle responses and bring in visualisations / meditations.  Slowly for me have I been learning self-compassion…

self-compassion-book

I’ve been lucky this year to do Brene Brown’s Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course and Kristin Neff & Brene Brown’s Self-Compassion course- both online:  http://www.courageworks.com/shop/classes/self-compassion-with-kristin-neff-brene-brown and Tara Brach & Jack Kornfiled’s incredibly in depth Power Of Awareness online mindfulness course http://www.soundstrue.com/store/power-of-awareness where self-compassion is a key component…

We all have that inner critic, that war within ourselves…sometimes without us even being aware of it. The expectations we place on ourselves can be unrealistic and unachievable and we can be constantly beating ourselves up for not being better, perfect…

When I find myself getting highly critical of my loved ones then I know I’m being even more critical of myself!  Kristin Neff talks about how we are so much kinder and more compassionate to a best friend or child than we are to ourselves in the same situation yet it is very hard to express authentic compassion to others if we cannot express it to ourselves.

For me the journey of reducing this intense self-criticism began when I first became a Mum almost 18 years ago and had post natal depression.   I needed to let go of the ‘perfect’ should messages and give myself permission to have a messy house, look messy and have a messy garden and be tired and grumpy sometimes!   Since then it’s like I’ve needed to peel back the layers – uncovering other aspects of being too harsh on myself that I didn’t even know were there!

In the Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course a powerful exercise is to find photos of your younger self and write down messages of self-compassion…it was very healing to find teenage photos and remember all of the angst and instead write with empathy, understanding, kindness and gentleness…as you would to your own child who is struggling.

Then in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion course I learned that there are 3 core components to self-compassion:

  1. Mindfully notice that you are at war with yourself
  2. Realise our common humanity – we are ALL imperfect, we are all struggling on some level, we are all on a journey
  3. Offer words of kindness, and explore how to actively nurture yourself…

If you think about it this is what we would offer a friend or a child – we would

  1. Notice they are struggling
  2. Empathise and offer that reassurance – ‘it can be difficult’
  3. Offer words of kindness and give a little nurturing

As Brene Brown puts it when we are truly compassionate for another human being it brings out our best selves – yet often the same scenario for ourselves and we treat ourselves worse than anyone else!!  We would never say to someone else what can go through our own minds!

So I have been art journaling and reading and meditating on this topic for a few months now…practicing….and then just recently I was at war with myself.   I had good intentions to change my life for the better but my inner critic was LOUDLY saying ‘give up, it’s not worth it, you don’t have the will power, you’re not strong enough’ And the debate in my head was so unpleasant I wanted to give up JUST to silence the inner critic.

But then I remembered – self-compassion! I noticed and labelled what was going on….’I’m at war with myself’ – just doing that made it a little easier to breathe…then I was able to place my hand over my heart and breathe into the feeling and recognise…’gee it’s tough sometimes to be human, to have all these choices, to make a change for better’….then I remembered times in my past where it has taken at least a year to make one small change to the point that I can easily do it daily … and I was able to offer some kind reassuring words…

And just that small moment – resonated through my life to be a BIG shift – all week it was easier to make the change, all week I was kinder to myself…  So it took awhile for the info to go from head level to heart level but when it did – it was a beautiful moment!

I’m wondering if you have experienced something similar?  Or if you would like more self-compassion in your life?

I’m excited that we’ll be reading and discussing Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff as part of our online Mindfulness Book Club in February 2017.   We’ll also practice some self-compassion exercises and if you live in Port Macquarie then we’ll meet in person to discuss and practice… I’m really looking forward to it!

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More Info: https://www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/mindfulness-book-club

or you can join us on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/littlemindfulmomentsbookclub/

 

 

 

Setting Deep Inner Intentions for 2017

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I have been continuously amazed at the effectiveness of setting an intention, developing a vision board, using affirmations, sketching a vision, setting a goal etc for me and for my clients since setting out on my life coaching journey in January 2015 .

The way I can best explain it is that when you are pregnant you suddenly notice pregnant women and babies everywhere; when you are about to buy a blue Mazda you notice blue Mazdas everywhere whereas before you were oblivious to that information!

Our brain chooses what to focus on and ignores the other 1000,000 bits of information coming in every second (just so we can function!!).  Fortunately, we can begin to program our brain to notice what we want to focus on and that is where the magic happens!!

‘Where attention goes, energy flows(Tara Brach)

We can choose whether to focus on the negative, what is NOT working….or we can choose to focus on what we want to create, the positives we want to bring into our life! We still need to acknowledge and sit with what is not working – but we can learn to do that in a proactive, healing way and not in a negative spiral, ruminating way… And then just by seeing, hearing, feeling cues of the future we want to create we begin to notice in our life new stimuli and new ways of creating the future we want…to me it still feels a little bit like magic – and I wish I had learned more about this years ago.

This year I was lucky enough to use Leonie Dawson’s Shining in Life & Shining in Biz workbooks and diary http://leoniedawson.com/ – where you acknowledge all that happened the year before, you plan for the year ahead and then you check in each month – what are you grateful for? What have you achieved? What will you do for you?  What is your intention for the next month?

Even though there were a series of weeks without checking in I am amazed at how much has happened this year that in January I set out to do!!!  I loved these workbooks so much I pre-ordered my 2017 copy and have them ready to go – they are colourful, they keep all your dreams, intentions & goals in one place & I can’t recommend them enough!! Perfect for dreaming in the Christmas to New Year break and starting with some of those new years resolutions….

shining-in-life-and-biz-workbooks

Tied in with these workbooks I also frequently make vision boards / mind maps, use daily affirmations, see my coach and use art / doodling to really help my subconscious brain access and work through the intentions I am setting…and I am so grateful that so much in my life is happening right now because of these intentions…

 ‘Plant seeds of deep intention and little by little things change’. Jack Kornfield

For me the most important thing we all can do is to focus on what sort of person we want to be and what we want to do in this world rather than what we want to own or have (see Brian Payne’s Goal Mapping).

To do this we need to set deep inner intentions…tune into our inner compass / heart wisdom and work out our deepest values and if  we are living by them? If not what are the obstacles?  And what can we do to live more by our values?  This is often a core part of coaching sessions – and for me it is a question I revisit daily….the way I want to live might not be reflected by what I actually do in the day….and it is powerful to keep coming back to my deepest intentions.

It’s a little bit like my parenting journey – every day I set the intention that I will be kind, calm, patient, loving, nurturing, strong when I need to be in a respectful way…and each day I have times of being able to do this and I also times of reverting back to old ways.   It’s impossible to be perfect, especially if you are having one of those days and you are tired and stressed!!  But if I look back over the last 18 years – then I truly have changed the way I parent just by setting the intention….even if I’m still not perfect every day !!

Heart Over Mind

One reason why I LOVE mindfulness is because a big focus is on cultivating more loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, equanimity….and being mindful allows us to pause and be present, to really notice ‘what really matters to me?’ what is in my heart and to set an intention of what we want to bring more of into our life that day.

Mindfulness also gives me a chance to experience and practice forgiveness, loving kindness in meditation which then helps in bringing in into everyday real life!

As Brene Browns frequently says all we can do is aim in the right direction, we may never get there!! We are human, we’ll make mistakes and we won’t be perfect but we can aim in the direction that feels right!

This is why I LOVE the idea of setting deep intentions as the main way to set a course for our lives!  Specific goals can then come out of this….

So this coming year, 2017, I am running a series of monthly Heart Intention 2017 sessions where we will reflect on and share the future we want to create, what we have enjoyed and what we are grateful for this month and what we are ready to let go of….and in each of these monthly sessions we will do 2 mindfulness exercises and reflect on our deep intentions and draw them into a mandala; with each month having a slightly different flavour.  I can’t wait!  These sessions will work in beautifully for anyone using the Shining Workbooks (although not essential to have these) – and they can be accessed live and online.

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More info  here at http://www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/heart-intentions-20171

So I’m curious – what has worked for you this year to follow your heart, your inner compass?  What has eventuated that has surprised you?  And what are your intentions for 2017?  What tools can you use to keep them front and centre in your life?  I would love to know.

x Sara 🙂

PS The mandala above is A Flower Of Life mandala I made last week to celebrate and invite in more abundance – a lot of fun to make!