Have you heard this phrase, “You can’t control how another person reacts, but you can control how you react?” Easier said than done—but it IS possible!
I know how hard it is to stay cool when others around you are melting down or freaking out. Really, I do—I have the hole in my laundry room wall to prove it. As a psychotherapist with anger management tools, I was shocked how hard it was to stay calm when my young children were blowing their tops. I think they missed that section in the anger management books.
I am presenting at a conference in Mississauga, ON in the first week of October called BlissDom Canada. This is a weekend to connect/learn with others to find your own bliss in the work and home worlds. Leading up to this conference, I was thinking about what “finding my bliss” really means to me, and realized it means guarding my self-care and following my anger plan to make sure I keep an even keel when people around me are not. Toddlers aren’t the only ones who tantrum when they are exhausted and mad!
These are the steps I, and my clients and workshop attendees, have found helpful in keeping calm.
Be your own exhaustion police.
If you continually have a furrowed brow and feel drained, ask yourself what you need to actually stop being exhausted. I needed to stop trying to squeeze things into every minute of every day. I was amazed how much I could get done in four minutes—except that meant I had no minutes to just take a breath, and more importantly, to RELAX. Good scheduling is the key here: make a schedule that you can stick to which has space for work, fun, exercise, rest, partner, friends, kids, and chores.
So this leads me to the next point…
Make sure you have rest time built into each day.
Get off the treadmill! Pay attention to when you are “racing somewhere” or “in a hurry.” Put some breaks into your day so you can recharge. It only takes five minutes of putting your to-do list, work, or mobile device down to do one sun salutation or ten deep breaths to feel better. If you do have a mobile device, don’t pull it out every time you have a moment. For example, if you are waiting at a red light, standing in line at a grocery store, or listening to someone on the phone, resist the temptation to use your mobile device. If you continually move from one thing to the next with no pause in the middle to take a breath, you can wear yourself out.
Be aware of your own anger.
Do you notice when you are mad? What do you do with that anger? Many of us do things that do not help the anger process. For example, instead of noticing when I was mad, I would shut down and huff around, ready to snap on anyone that came in my way.
The first step to processing anger is to be aware of it and actually say out loud (or in your head, depending on where you are), “I am angry right now.” The next step is to identify what you are angry about. Take a moment to tell yourself what is pissing you off.
The third step is to ask these questions:
“What do I need?”
“Who do I need to talk to — and what do I need to say?”
“Do I need some help — and from whom?”
The last step is to take action to answer those questions. I find writing in a journal or talking out loud to myself in the bathtub helps me answer those questions and come up with an action plan. I am not afraid to seek the help of colleagues if I feel my anger is huge, has roots in old stuff, and needs some help to move. Thoughtful awareness of anger helps process it rather than allowing it to linger and cause havoc.
Create an “anger plan” for yourself and your family members.
This is a plan outlining the steps you will follow each time someone loses their cool around you or when you are about to lose yours (parents of toddlers, I know your pain). A CALM response is always the BEST response.
Here’s a little bit of brain information for you: reacting to something or someone with shouting, hitting, shaming, etc comes from the back part of your brain (I call it the “freak-out zone”), whereas thoughtfully responding with rational comments comes from the prefrontal cortex area which is behind the forehead (I call this the “check-in zone”). Taking a moment to breathe will make the shift from reacting to responding. The reason I mentioned self-care and fixing exhaustion first is that it is easier to make the shift to the check-in zone when we are rested.
Most of the time, unless your child or partner is on fire or bleeding profusely, things that make us mad are not a true emergency. Hit the pause button to give you time to remember that you have an anger plan, and to follow the steps.
An anger plan is best if age-appropriate, strengths-based and person-directed. Use your strengths to create steps to calm yourself down. I’ll share my steps, which are simply: Stop, Drop, and Roll. I use these key words to remind myself to:
1. Stop talking
2. Drop into a chair or drop my hands down to my side if there aren’t chairs around, and
3. Roll in some big breaths.
I also talk to myself a lot like this, “Come on sister, breathe. Think.” I can actually feel myself shift out of my “freak-out zone” and the rational thought kick in. I find this so amazing!
When I am calm, I enable myself to use all the communication tools I have learned and make sure I don’t let my mad turn into mean. This allows me to deal with the situation effectively without hurting my kids or husband (I coach my kids to do the same).
If you would like to know more about the session I am presenting at BlissDom, please click here to visit the BlissDom webpage. I also will post more about this and my free parenting help on my facebook page.
Photo: flick creative commons romano carrattieri
For more articles, tips, and tricks to help you get organized and make the most of your blog and business visit our BlissDom Canada 2014: How Do You Find Your Bliss? page.
Membership Has Its Perks!
Here’s a little sleep quiz:
1) Do you know the number of hours of sleep that teens need to function properly and for good health?
2) Do you know the number of hours of sleep most teens are actually getting?
3) Do you know why most teens are sleep deprived?
3) They have mobile devices/laptops/computers in their bedrooms overnight.
When parents bring teenagers to me for psychotherapy, one of the first things I ask about during the initial interview is the amount and quality of their sleep. I do this because I have learned that the majority of the teens I see are chronically sleep deprived, and this compromised state is wreaking havoc on their emotional stability, behaviour, patience, and ability to focus. Their relationships, school marks, and health are suffering. Toddlers aren’t the only ones who get cranky when tired!
Recent studies identified that teens are sleeping fewer hours as compared to 20 years ago, and showed that 60 percent of teens will keep their cellphones in the rooms and respond to a text a night. CBC Health Reporters spoke with Dr. Indra Narang of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and posted an informative article and video about the findings. Please click here to read the CBC interview with Dr Narang, and also look to the bottom left of the banner picture to watch the interview video.
What does this mean for parents? It is critical that we be the keepers of our teens’ sleep. Here are four suggestions to help your teen sleep better:
Sleep routines are not just for little ones. Having regular lights-out and get-up times (even on the weekend) helps create good sleep hygiene.
Consider the things you can do to foster a good sleep space. Have the temperature in the home lower at night, remove as much clutter from the sleeping space as you can, keep the lights low (nightlights are okay), and noise off. Many families find having white-noise machines in the hallways do help improve sleep.
Establish a time when ALL members of the family will turn their mobile devices off (studies suggest at least an hour before bedtime is optimal) and remove them from the bedroom. In the case where a cellphone has to be kept on as an emergency contact source, put the as phone far away from the bed as you can. Some families have a “device bin” where all mobile electronics get placed at night for safekeeping. Another suggestion is to have all the devices in a central area like the kitchen, plugged in and recharging.
Turn off the Internet connection at night. Many new devices like iPods do have messaging functions, and teens will chat with their friends through wifi/wired Internet even if they don’t have 3G/4G capabilities on the device.
I will be writing a full post on this point alone so please check for that in the future. Many teens have very little down time between classes, sports, activities, friends, and homework. Talk to your teen about his or her schedule and make sure there is space for rest and fun. *I will be addressing what to do if the school is issuing an unreasonable amount of homework.
If you are having battles with your teens about any of the above, it is time to resolve the battle and be firm. For those having trouble getting teens to follow the house technology rules, I suggest popping over to my Facebook page where I regularly suggest help for parenting teens. I also posted more information about technology boundaries in this previous article.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons Samantha Grierson
Thursday, September 10, 2015 is World Suicide Prevention Day. This is an initiative held on the same day each year by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization. Their goal is to raise awareness that suicide is preventable, and to improve education about suicide to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
From press release on World Suicide Prevention Day:
"September is Suicide Awareness Month, and Facebook’s Help a Friend in Need guide contains many valuable resources available to Canadians.
Launched last year with Kids Help Phone and long-time TSN host and mental health advocate Michael Landsberg, Help a Friend in Need provides simple, practical tips to youth ages 15-20 for identifying potential warning signs in online behavior that a friend may be thinking of suicide.
Online sites like Facebook are extremely relevant to the current conversation around suicide prevention, because it’s often the place people go to express their emotions and put out a cry for help – and where, tragically, we discover the signs too late."
Suicide is the second highest cause of death for teenagers in Canada. Most of the teens that have committed suicide had a diagnosable mental health illness, like depression and anxiety, or had substance abuse issues.
Parents have a critical role in suicide prevention. As suicide most often happens when a person is overwhelmed by emotions and does not feel their life will get better, teaching parents some important concepts can greatly reduce the chance of their child feeling her life is not worth living. There are several risk and protective factors outlined in this brochure. I strongly suggest taking the time to read through these to understand the biophysical, socio-economic, and environmental factors that parents can mitigate.
In this article, I will focus on the relationship factors that parents have the greatest impact on. Parents can help lower suicide risk by paying attention to the following:
In young children. Learning about emotional awareness and how to offload intense feelings is important for parents and their children to help promote good mental health. As a psychotherapist and parenting educator, I see how often our generation of parents struggle with this personally, not having learned our own “affect management.” This term refers to the processing of strong feelings in a safe and caring way (without hurting ourselves or another).
This is a concept that requires more information than I can provide here, so I will recommend the book PEACEFUL PARENT, HAPPY KIDS by Laura Markham, PhD for learning more about how to coach ourselves and our children through intense feelings.
In school-aged children. As children grow, the complexity of their life and stressors also grow. Parents can help by having a keen eye on their children, and using empathetic open-ended questions to learn more about how their child is really doing. Kids at this age will still open up and share their hearts, so it is very important that parents take exceptional care of that heart. Any judgment or invalidation when your child shares a feeling, can teach that child that coming to you hurts, rather than helps. Be a shoulder to cry on and an ear to hear.
In teens. The teen years are fraught with issues stemming from poor self-esteem, feeling different, hormonal influences, trying to become independent, and the complexity of managing people both in person and online with potentially immature communication skills. Connecting with your teen, and continually being there for him/her significantly helps reduce suicide risk. Teens need your help and guidance, but they also need to know that when (not if) they make mistakes, you will not “kill them” but rather be rational and a good problem solver. If you would like some help in that department, I suggest reading this article I wrote earlier about connecting with your teen. Become an expert of your teen. Have a keen eye for when her mood changes, or when she is struggling.
For all ages. Children have unique, lovely personalities trying to shine through. When a child feels completely heard by her parent, she will continue to open up and risk speaking her truth. If a child loses trust in her own parents, and feels they are not a source of strength and reason for her, she might turn to her peers or become isolated. Keeping a child’s heart open is a significant suicide prevention tools.
The final factor for parents to consider in helping suicide-proof children at any age is what form of discipline is used. Parents need to use alternatives to harsh discipline to facilitate the growth of empathy and emotional regulation skills in their kids. A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal put a spotlight on understanding that harsh verbal discipline (shouting/ yelling) does as much damage to a child’s development as hitting does. When a parent continually scolds a child, is hard on them, or hits them, that child has a low chance of learning how to manage big emotions — because the parent is not demonstrating that he is able to do that himself. I recommend the book IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU ONE MORE TIME… by Amy McCready to learn alternatives to harsh discipline.
I continually post free parenting resources such as the ones listed in this article on my Facebook page, if you would like more information. In addition to the links above, here are some suicide information/ prevention links that I strongly suggest keeping saved and reading in order to protect your children:
More Suicide Resources on many topics from SuicidePrevention.ca
This Thursday September 10th at 8pm, light a candle and place it near a window to honour someone who has taken their life or survived a suicide attempt. I will be lighting my candle for Lisa Gibson.
Photo from iStock.com