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.
https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/

Nine things every parent with an anxious child should try.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

Cognisance coaching, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Building stronger connections with our subconscious mind and emotions.

Writing in a journal helps our conscious mind build stronger connections with our sub-conscious mind and emotions.  This helps us to sort through any mental clutter which may be upsetting our emotions and get in the way of our understanding and clarity.

Journaling is a great way for adults and children to “download” their thoughts and daily life experiences on to paper and then refer back to these thoughts later if they wish to for self reflection.  During the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training one of our modules covers the benefits of encouraging journaling as part of a children’s and teens mindfulness class.   We spend some time exploring creative ways of incorporating this theme into the structure of the overall class.

Like adults, when journaling, children need to be careful that they do not use their journals as a ‘negative dumping ground’ and ideally they should be encouraged to think about their feelings as either better or worse and not positive and negative.  Creating and decorating a journal with beautiful words and imagery can be very uplifting.  Writing in a gratitude journal can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what you are grateful for in that moment.

Journaling should not be confused with keeping a diary.  Writing in a journal could be viewed and approached as an opportunity for children to be creative.  If you are teaching meditation to children,  a journal can be a great space for participants to express their thoughts on how they felt about the guided imagery meditation or overall experience of the class they have participated in.   The versatility of keeping a journal means this activity can also be incorporated into many different areas of learning which includes subjects like math, science, social studies and english.

Here are a few journaling ideas for you to do at home, school or incorporate in to a children’s and teens meditation class:

  • Make, or decorate your own individual journals.
  • Use a “journal jar” and each week pick a “topic” to reflect on and journal about.
  • Use positive affirmations – it is a good idea as a group to come up with positive affirmations which turn daily challenges into an opportunity to look for a positive and empowering solutions.
  • Start a “feelings journal” – enabling children to identify their current emotions, draw a picture, write about it and then link it to the idea of “my personal weather report”. For example, stormy (angry), rainy (sad), sunny (happy).
  • Choose a feeling from a feeling poster or wheel and write about or draw about it and if it is a negative emotion look for the positive affirmation to “balance it out” and bring a positive aspect to it.

Encouraging children and teenagers to take a moment to move out of their “minds” and reconnect with their hearts through the process of journaling about what makes them happy, or grateful can be very therapeutic.   Writing or drawing in a journal can help them to channel their energy into something creative and enable them for that moment to focus on the positive, removing the tendency to focus on thoughts that create or encourage anxiety.

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.

 

 

 

Connecting to nature, mindfulness, stress management

Mindfulness and the anxious child.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological problems among children of all ages. Anxiety triggers the psychological and physiological fear response even when a child is in a safe situation and this is where chronic anxiety becomes problematic. Taking time out in nature is one way to help reduce anxiety and encourage children to re-connect with nature.

If a child is constantly feeling anxious, the body is constantly releasing adrenaline and cortisol to counter the effects of heightened adrenaline. 

The body eventually becomes used to this heightened feeling of unease and this becomes a new set point – a new normal.   Learning to be more mindful helps increase awareness of the thoughts and bodily sensations that are part and parcel of this mental fear.  The benefit of this, is that we can learn to recognise when we are feeling fear over an event or situation which does not need to be feared, before the fear really takes a hold and we are totally caught up in our cycle of anxiety.

A direct route into the present moment is through our senses, which is why as parents we should look at different ways of bringing awareness to our senses whilst continuing with everyday life. Remember that when we are being mindful and are in the present moment, at that particular moment…feelings of anxiety are not at the forefront of our thoughts.

Keep it simple; when you next go for a walk, start by noticing sights, sounds and smells.

In the UK we are enjoying Autumn.  The leaves are a fantastic display of light to deep oranges and fiery reds.  It is a very beautiful season.  To connect with nature and inspire some mindfulness you could take a country walk and pay particular attention to sounds you year, the  sights you see and the smells you notice.

Sounds in the environment.   Ask children if they heard that sound (bird, aeroplane, car, insect etc.) and start a discussion about the noise they heard.  If it was a bee buzzing, you could talk about the importance job bees have in nature.  If it was a car sound, you could ask them what car they think it might have been?  You could turn this into an opportunity to play a game where they close their eyes and try and hear as many sounds around them as possible.

Sights all around.  Life tends to flash past us as we rush around.  Helping our children become more aware of their environment and “seeing more” not only enhances their life experience, but can also protect them from danger (ie. being more aware when crossing roads).   Children (and adults) tend to walk around mindlessly – either rushing or daydreaming.   In either “mode” we are not aware of our surroundings.  When you next take a walk, ask your child what they see (it could be flowers on the side of the road or in the park, beautiful trees, squirrels, insects – or it could be litter).  Either way, start a conversation around what they see around them.

What is that smell?   Admittedly some smells are not that great.  But if you are smelling pollution in the air, then it does give you an opportunity to talk to children about looking after the environment.  On the other hand, you could bring your child’s attention to the smell of any beautiful flowers you are walking past, or the smell of rain in the air.

When encouraging children to be more mindful, make a game of it and approach the mindful activity playfully.  Children may not want to be told that they are about to go out on a mindful walk and that the idea is that they pay attention to the world around them.  Cultivate their awareness in a gentle way so that they do not feel they are being observed or having to do something which reminds them of a school project.   Your child might not appear to be paying that much attention to sights, smells and sounds around them, but on a deeper level they are noticing and will be connecting with nature.  The more you walk outside and the more fun you make it, the more likely they are to take notice of life around them and may even point out things you are not seeing, hearing or smelling.

This week, before it gets too chilly out there, enjoy some walking in nature.

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

being-mindful-in-nature

 

stress management

Stress and today’s children

Don’t you wish that as a child you were taught practical ways of managing every day stress like dealing with frenetic classroom environments, bullying at school, overwrought teachers, busy and agitated parents, exams at school and potentially an abundance of extra-mural activities?  If we had been taught these skills would our own children be less stressed now?

For most children today, stress is a big part of everyday life as they need to cope with our fast paced, media orientated world and pressure from schools to participate in a long list of extra mural activities.  Along with parental and peer pressure, some children burn out.

Society places more value on “doing” as opposed to just “being”. Modern society judges all individuals on the quality of their wealth and status, with very little regard for a person’s physical, emotional or psychological health.  Our fast-paced life dominated by racing from one commitment to another, makes it very difficult for us to be fully present at any one time.  Instead of being mindful of what is happening in our lives we rush around and live life “mindlessly”.

There never seems to be any time for quiet reflection or “taking a breath” and I often hear children complain about having to rush from one activity to another, never having enough time to relax, play, or just “be”.

According to several new studies, the average child today is more stressed and anxious than their peers who were treated for a variety of psychiatric issues in previous generations.  The findings 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 becomes harmful to children (and adults) and can lead to serious health problems.

Stress becomes a problem when it is perceived as a normal way of “being” and the child or adult finds themselves constantly living in emotional distress.  They have become so conditioned to feeling constantly stressed that this becomes their new “norm”.

Your child could be suffering from stress if they experience the following:

  • Constantly thinking they feel hungry (although do bear in mind growth spurts which cause hunger).
  • Experiencing or say they are experiencing explainable pain, especially if they have seen a doctor but aches and pains continue on a long term basis preventing your child from attending school or mixing with their peers.
  • Sudden development of shyness and loss of confidence in a child, especially if they are usually quite outgoing, sociable and confident.
  • Excessive emotional reactions like sudden temper tantrums and unexplained bouts of crying for no apparent reason, especially if they haven not reacted much like this before.
  • Noticeable intellectual impairment such as lack of concentration and the ability to retain information, especially if this has not been a problem previously.
  • Development of sleeping disorders.  For example; all of a sudden your child refuses to go to sleep (almost as if they know as soon as they go to sleep they are heading towards the next day which they feel they cannot face), or they toss and turn all night and then cannot get up the next morning.

You know your child and as the parent are the best person to detect if something does not feel quite right with your child.   You will have that little inner voice or gut feeling  that will hopefully alert you to your child’s stress levels.   Throughout our lives, both children and adults will have periods of un-ease, where we do not sleep well, we lose our appetite, we eat too much, we don’t feel like going to sleep or we want to sleep all day due to fatigue.   But the important thing is to learn how to be aware of how we are feeling.  So if you are not feeling that great, that is fine if you are aware of it, take notice and take care of yourself.  In other words you are mindful of how you are feeling now and through that knowledge will hopefully make some changes so that you feel better.

Our world is busy, loud, frenetic  and at times feels awfully frantic, but it is also beautiful and full of wonderful places to escape to for some peace and quiet. As the adult in your home, you need to step back and be aware that children get very overwhelmed very quickly (as do we) but they have not yet got the experience and have not yet developed the skills necessary to cope with all this “busyness” and therefore stress can take a hold.  It is up to us to look out for them in this regard and teach them the skills they need to cope.  Skills which are simple and easy for the whole family to learn.  You can follow this link to learn a simple breathing exercise. Just Breathe…

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