Anxiety management, Meditation facilitator training, Meditation home practice, Meditation teacher training, mindfulness, stress management

How busy is busy?

“I am so busy”, or “I am too busy” are statements you will probably hear at least once a day.  But are we just busy being busy?  And how busy is busy?   Is being busy just fashionable or do we feel that we are expected to be busy?  Are we defining our worth by how busy we are?

I was talking to a past student of the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator programme earlier today about how healthy and essential it is to take a step back and slow life down a little.  We both agreed on this simple question “how we can know who we really are, if we are rushing through life and not giving ourselves enough time to reflect on where we have been, where we are now and where we might want to be going?”

Children learn by example, which can create some hilarious moments.  Think of the toddler who picks up a toy phone loudly announcing “hello, hello, I am too busy to talk now!”  or the three-year-old who struts around the room flinging a scarf around it’s neck loudly exclaiming that it is in a rush and cannot find it’s car keys.  How many of us can recognise ourselves in these role-play moments?  Hilarious yes, but not so hilarious if you are that busy throughout your life well into adulthood and dashing around your house frantically seeking the car keys and flinging your phone around, shouting commands at it saying you are too busy to speak now is part of everyday life…. and your normal way of being.

Eventually all this dashing and flailing about is going to lead to feelings of stress and then develop into anxiety.

Now might be a good time to create low stress environments for yourself and your children.

Here are some basic ideas to think about;

  • To start with do not over schedule yourself or your children.
  • Ask yourself and your children which activities bring you all joy and stick to the activities which are having a positive emotional and psychological impact on your lives.
  • Make sure family downtime involves relaxing and chatting to each other.   Staring at the TV might not be good enough down time.
  • Make sure you all get enough sleep.  Tired grumpy children, lead to tired grumpy parents and vice versa.
  • Eat well and healthily and the occasional chocolate treat is good too.  I met a mum once who was so strict she banned her child from eating chocolate!  That would be devastating in my household.
  • Listen to what your children are saying.  This goes back to sitting and chatting to your children.
  • Take the time to talk about what you like and do not like about life right now.  If you all share your perceptions on things you will all understand each other better.

Remember that in order to take care of your children you must take care of yourself. 

With this in mind, the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training programme starts with looking at what stress is and the development of your own meditation practice and then move on to how you can share these skills with children and teenagers.

If you would like to know more about developing your own meditation practice and how you can live life mindfully on purpose follow this link.

Anxiety management, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Managing your reaction to your child’s mood when it turns stormy.

Helping your child learn to recognise the feeling of “oncoming anger” and teaching them to deal with their anger healthily will have many benefits not only for the child but for the whole family.

When children learn how to manage their angry outbursts they will learn to solve problems and cope with their emotions in a balanced and safe way.   It is a good idea to explain to children that anger is the problem, and it is not them that is the problem.  You could give the anger a character, or name and ask your child to draw what they think this angry character looks like.  Ask them what colour he/she would be, what kind of face would they have, what specific features will the “angry character” have and what have they decided to call him/her?   Anger need not be a character; it could be a volcano or a raging sea, it could even resemble a weather pattern such as a tornado or wild storm.  With your child, think of some creative ways to describe and depict anger and if you can aim to make this amusing, it takes the edge off.

The way you respond to your child’s anger will influence how they continue to respond and feel about their angry outburst.   Talking to your child and identifying early warning signs that an outburst might be near will be very helpful and help your  child to recognise what triggers them and how to manage there reactions, or if they can, avoid the trigger altogether.  Encourage your child to walk away from their triggers or get them to do simple things like counting to ten or taking three or four belly breaths.  It is worth remembering that children model our behaviour, so this is good advice for us too.

Positive feedback is important, so it would be helpful to praise your child’s efforts to manage their anger even if they really struggle to manage how they feel and still end up erupting like a volcano. This will build your child’s confidence in the battle against anger. It will also help them feel that you’re both learning together.

Anger can rise quickly and can be a frightening and unsettling experience even for the angry person.  As frustrating as it can be to have to deal with adults and children who regularly display angry behaviour, patience and perseverance and a big dose of loving kindness can go along way to helping them get to grips with this unruly emotion.


Anxiety management, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Parenting an anxious child.

It can be very disconcerting for parents when they are faced with an angry and distressed child, especially if you cannot see what could be causing so much distress.

Most children have occasional tantrums or meltdowns and may sometimes lash out if they’re frustrated, but when children continue to have regular emotional outbursts, it is usually a symptom of distress and children who seem angry and defiant on a regular basis may be suffering from anxiety. The first step to helping your child manage their anger is for you to understand what could be triggering their outbursts.

If your child is suffering from anxiety,  they may have a hard time coping with situations that cause them distress which may result in them lashing out when demands at school or at home put pressure on them that they feel they can’t handle.  In an anxiety-inducing situation, your child’s “fight or flight” instinct may take hold and they may have a tantrum or refuse to do something to avoid the source of acute fear.

Activity:   It might be helpful to keep a journal of the times when your child has an outburst or expresses that they are feeling angry or anxious.  Also note down what they were doing before the outburst or what they were planning to do prior to their unhappiness.   By jotting all this down, it should help you put together an emotional map of what might be triggering their outbursts, which will eventually help you to help your child recognise when a problem might be about to occur and they can be better prepared to manage their emotions before they are triggered.

Here are a couple of useful links relating to parenting an anxious child:

What to do and not do when children are anxious.

Nine things every parent with an anxious child should try.

Anxiety management, Connecting to nature, Mandalas, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Meditation and ADHD

The brain is the most complex organ in the body and has approximately 100 billion neurons, which are nerve cells.  These neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals.  Between the neurons are chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that trigger responses in the transmitting and receiving neurons.  It is the neurotransmitters which are at the root of ADHD, as these messengers do not go where they are supposed to go and they often react erratically.  When acting erratically, they either cannot bridge the gap between the neurons, take too long to convey the signal or they connect the wrong two neurons. This is what leads to ADHD behaviour.

Recent research has shown that mindfulness training can be adapted for people who are diagnosed with ADHD and in trials mindfulness training has been shown to improve the concentration levels in individuals with ADHD, as well as children without ADD/ADHD.

If you have already worked with children or have your own children/grandchildren then you will know that anything that encourages children to self-regulate their sometimes unsettled emotions is a very helpful skill,  especially so in a formal  classroom environment where one child’s unsettled emotions can set a few of the other children off as well.

If you follow this  link , you can read a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies which discusses the effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and simultaneous training in mindful parenting for the children’s parents.

With a few small modifications to some of the mindfulness exercises, like starting a meditation practice by meditating for shorter periods of time and practicing mindfulness exercises which use visual aids (many individuals with ADD/ADHD are visual learners), mindfulness can be enjoyed by children with ADHD and be of great benefit to them.

Here are some simple mindfulness exercises you might like to try:

To introduce mindfulness to your family or children at school ask them to sit quietly and try to observe the following:

  • Sounds in the environment.
  • Details of their breath.
  • Body sensations, for example a sore foot, uncomfortable shoulder, or aching stomach.
  • Looking closely at their immediate environment. What do they see now, that they may not have seen before.

Introducing mindfulness to your home environment has to be approached in a unique way as unlike adults, not many children will just sit down on a mat, close their eyes and start focusing on their breathing bringing their awareness to the present moment.

Activities which require movement such as yoga or tasks which focus on the five senses are all appropriate means of teaching a child to be more mindful.  Guided meditations such as the body scan are all helpful in teaching individuals to live in the present moment and be more aware of how they feel and how their feelings and reactions to stimuli will impact the word around them.  Remember to keep this shorter for more energetic children.  They will not want to sit or lie down for long.

Other ways of cultivating mindfulness in children are, practicing a musical instrument, reading a book and doing artwork.

Colouring mandalas or pictures from a colouring book are great ways to be mindful.   These activities are considered mindful as they require the individual to be “focusing in the moment”.  If your child prefers building things then building with lego, or building something outside in nature, like a hide, or mandala made out of items found in nature can also add an element of adventure as they run around looking for the correct materials to build with.

Do you remember this game from your childhood?  I do!

Memory game  – noticing the finer details.

Select a number of objects which you can lay out on a tray.  Ask the children to memorise the objects for a minute and then close their eyes, whilst you pack the objects away.   How many objects can they remember? Can they describe the objects in detail – colour, size?

This memory game will encourage children to focus and pay attention to things in detail as opposed to just casually noticing something and not really noticing the finer details around them.

It is worth remembering that mindfulness is an enjoyable and natural skill and we need to provide the right environment and encouragement to the children in our lives to enable this skill to develop. 

Children are very distracted by how busy our lives are with televisions and radios blaring, traffic noise, constant talking, phones ringing, text messages, Facebook and various other app notifications going off and noise in general.  If you live in a city and you sit quietly for a moment, notice just how many different noises you can hear.  Our lives are filled with noise.   All this noise makes it more difficult to stay focused and comes between our natural ability to be focused on real life.




Anxiety management

Frazzled at work? Overwhelmed at home?

Feeling a little frazzled at work, or worse, feeling completely overwhelmed? I believe stress in the workplace has reached epidemic proportions. Everyone I speak to is stressed and very anxious at work. And I mean everyone.   I have yet to speak to someone who feels they are coping well whilst running on this speedy treadmill called life.

In a work context, workplace stress I feel, is largely due to the volumes of information we are having to cope with.   Volumes!   Volumes of work which are being created because in society there is a need to grab as much information as possible as fast as possible and quite literally we are being completely overloaded.   There is also a fear of disseminating information, as once an email has been sent, that’s it!  It’s gone and heaven help you if you have made any errors.  How many of you check, double check and triple check your emails for fear of making an error?   Just reflect for a moment on how anxious that might make you feel.  Some people thrive in an environment where they feel overburdened, as it gives them purpose, but for the vast majority of us, we just don’t want to drown in a sea of information.  Add to this, bad communication, constant interruptions, lack of leadership or direction, staff shortages contributing to ever increasing workloads and, those one or two people that just drive everyone else up the wall.  You can easily see why people feel drained and uninspired in the workplace, bringing that overwhelm home with them and in the worst cases, develop serious mental health issues.

In light of it being World Mental Health Day today, I decided to research the internet this afternoon on topics related to mediation in the workplace.   I came across a number of articles on the subject, but noticed regular mention of how meditation will make staff more productive.  There we go again… more work, more speed of delivery, more stress.  I wander how many companies would like to adopt meditation and mindfulness in the workplace to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve their workforce’s overall mental health and well-being as opposed to viewing meditation as another life skill to increase productivity.   Agreed, better focus and productivity are a by-product of meditation, but shouldn’t we look deeper than that to prevent overwhelmed individuals from completely burning out.

We all need time to clear our “head space”, we need time to think and cultivate our responses, we need calm, clarity and connection.  Where is the time to take a breath?

Unfortunately for some individuals, this state of “frazzle” spills over in to home life.  When some parents come home unable to cope anymore, they let their frustrations loose on other family members.  This is where I start to feel uneasy.  As a person who has experienced the onslaught of this type of negativity in my own home and for a long time had to keep calm, reassuring my child that it was OK, the person coming home and doing the shouting was just shouting at life, and not actually at us, it is not surprising that over time I have developed a passion for encouraging more mindfulness in the home.

Agreed, it must be tough if you have the kind of personality which needs to let off steam (regularly), but it is worth remembering that children will just see or hear the shouting.   They are often too scared to realise it is a parent’s bad day at work and their need to vent at anything or anyone that might be around to listen, that is the reason behind the shouting.

At the end of the day, that parent is shouting and sounding frightening.

It was through personal experience and dealing with a “shouter” that I reflected on the training course I was writing and realised that the modules I had been writing and teaching for Level 1, were ideal for family life if parents could take a little time out and develop the essence of mindful living within the home.  Level 1 is informative and full of practical tips to help families ease mindfulness into daily life with the minimum of fuss.

If you or someone in your family is feeling a little frazzled by life right now, you might want to consider taking some time out and sign up for some mindfulness coaching.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and benefit from mindfulness coaching.



Anxiety management

How do I know if my child is stressed?

It has been reported that more than 70% of children 10yrs and under have sleeping difficulties attributed to feeling stressed. That is a lot of children who are not getting enough good quality sleep. Research also suggests that higher divorce rates, concern about the environment and less face to face social connectivity is contributing to the stress children (and adults) are experiencing.

Children are developing physically and emotionally and although some stress is part of their learning experience there is a point at which prolonged stress can become harmful to children emotionally and can lead to serious health problems.

How stress affects the mind and body

When the mind perceives itself to be in a stressful situation, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered.    The body responds with fast shallow breathing, muscles tighten and the heart pumps faster as adrenaline circulates throughout the body affecting every organ. These feelings are also referred to as “fight or flight” and are more appropriate when faced with a tiger in the wild, than a bad day at school or in the office.  Unfortunately, in our modern society, individuals have become so accustomed to feeling stressed, that their reaction to “less physically dangerous stressors such as a boring or busy day in the office or at school” is perceived as strongly as the fear they would feel if really faced with the tiger.  The problem with this, is that the body becomes so accustomed to operating in this heightened “state”, that it settles at a new “set point” and this level of stress is then the new norm.

To reverse these effects, the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered,  creating a restful and calming response as the body reacts with slow deep breaths and the slowing of the heart rate.  Digestion once again becomes active and the immune system is less strained.

So how do I know if anyone in my family is stressed?  

If an individual suffers from stress real or perceived, it can result in the following:

  • anxiety disorders
  • depression
  • lack of sleep
  • nightmares
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • emotional detachment from friends and family
  • irritability
  • memory loss
    …and any number of other mind-body disorders.  Stress can also result in individuals becoming addicted to substances.

Emotions are triggered by the central nervous system.  Often when children are faced with a stressful situation they react by either feeling fearful, angry or experience bouts of crying.

Here is  a simple  five minute relaxation technique – even a young child can do this.

Here is something simple you can easily practice at home to help you and your children relax and help reduce that overwhelming feeling of being stressed.  It might help if you record the script below onto your phone to play it back, so you can relax and join in as well. If you choose to do this, remember to record yourself speaking lowly.

  • Find a comfortable place in which to lie down.
  • Close your eyes and take a couple of moments to see how your body feels. Check your breathing – are you holding your breath or breathing normally? Can you feel any tension in any part of your body?
  • Allow yourself to let go of any worries. Breathe naturally.
  • Starting with your feet, focus your attention on your feet only and notice how they feel. Taking a deep breath, tense the muscles in your feet – hold it – and then release as you breathe out.  Breathe naturally.
  • Now focus your attention on your legs and nothing else. How do they feel?  Breathe in as you squeeze your legs and release the tension in your legs as you breathe out.
  • Continue in this way, tensing and relaxing the buttocks, stomach, hands, arms and shoulders, back and face. Take your time.  Try not to rush through it. Once you have practiced this a few times you may not even need to listen to the script.
  • As you work your way through this exercise you are learning how to focus your attention and by focusing on the different body parts  you are encouraging the muscles in the body to relax. Once you get the hang of what you are doing, you may replace your verbal script with  some relaxing music.

Try this relaxation technique for a few days or a week and then let me know how you get on by commenting below.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.


Anxiety management

Roaring out your anger

We have all experienced those days when anger and frustration well up inside our bodies.  We feel our breath shorten, our muscles tense and we have this great desire to roar loudly in absolute desperation at how irritated we feel.   If you have ever seen lions in the wild, they seem completely chilled out, lazing around in the shade under the trees, but then they also have the luxury of venting or roaring from deep down inside their bellies, indicating to everyone else in the wild that they are there and they feel like making a big noise.

So how can we and our children also make a “big noise” without terrifying the neighbours?   One of my favourite breathing exercises to teach during children’s yoga and family yoga classes is the lion breath.   After the children and sometimes the adults have decided it might not be too embarrassing to practice the “lion breath” they embrace it with all their might.   The lion breath is a wonderful way to release all that pent up frustration and anger from the body and it is fun too.  This breath strengthens the diaphragm and also connects us to our inner strength. We often end up laughing hysterically after a few rounds of lion breath, which is a great thing, as laughter really is the best medicine for any imminent temper tantrum.

So next time you or your child feel like bellowing or roaring in frustration at life’s challenges, why not give the lion breath a go.  Follow these simple steps and feel your anger melt away.  Then enjoy a good laugh.

  • Sit in hero’s pose – sitting with your legs and feet tucked under your bottom
  • Place your hands on your thighs or the ground in front of you
  • Close your eyes and image you are a fierce lion
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose
  • Breathe out through your mouth with your mouth wide open and sticking your tongue out towards your chin at the same time open your eyes wide!
  • “ROAR” as you breathe out.
  • For extra fun roll your eyes up towards the ceiling. You are sure get a good laugh from your children, dissipating all their anger and helping them relax.

As a parent you might be thinking that you do not want to make an “actual roaring” sound.  But fear not, the action of breathing out a big breath and releasing all the tension from your body will create a big enough sighing noise which will still impress your roaring cubs.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

lion breath