Archive for February, 2015

Mindfulness: Out of Fear and into Growth

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Scott Stossel’s book, My Age of Anxiety, we are reminded how fear and dread can undermine our sense of stability. The nature of anxiety can be debilitating, ranging from obsessive rumination to panic attacks that are paralyzing.  Once upon a time, we had hoped, in the practice of psychotherapy that a change in thought patterns and self-talk could tame the beast of anxiety. Now we know there is more to the complicated cause of anxiety symptoms, including genetic predisposition.

We hold feelings of anxiety in our bodies, expressed in shortness of breath, racing thoughts, sweating, flushed face as well as headaches and stomach aches. Our autonomic nervous system has a mind of it’s own when it comes to random bouts of nervous expression, often seeming disconnected to the reality of our situation.  Sometimes, bouts of anxiety are related to a triggering event, such as a presentation or a social event whereby we are in the spotlight.  Yet, anxiety symptoms may also present without any obvious trigger.

We know medication might help, but it might not and it comes with side effects. We know that deep slow breath work and meditation helps to calm the central nervous system. This intervention requires the discipline of daily practice. In our hurried Type-A culture, there are few individuals who will devote to meditation and breath work over self-destructive quick fixes involving substances, such as sugary foods, drugs and alcohol.

Those who are prone to symptoms of anxiety need not be disillusioned with a belief they will be cured. Rather, the goal is to manage the anxiety in any fashion works for you. For some folks, significant changes in their overly stressed and pressured lives does wonders. Others need to be mindful of their daily care rituals, such as securing sufficient sleep as well as exercise and a healthy diet.

 

In addition to self care and slowing down, there is another significant factor at play for managing your anxiety and it is referenced as “attachment” in our literature. You can simply remember the word “love” and focus on being present in order to attach to the moment as well as to others in your life. What does this mean?

Think about spending your day with an intention to attend to only the moment you are in- the task, the colors, the smells and the immediate demands. Take it in with a grateful and faithful attitude. That means you will suspend the “monkey mind” that will try to seduce you back into wasting energy with worry and thinking ahead or behind your present moment.

Further, let go of regret and shame; forgive others and yourself and walk forward with presence.  Believe that you are okay as you are and believe you are where you are because it is the only place you can be for now.  And, contrived as it may sound, you can only be you, so it is worth dropping the dialogue in your head that might involve comparisons and strivings that set you up for shame, blame and insecurity.

 

I know this sounds hokey pokey, but we all know what it is like to sit in the drivers seat and just “let it be.” We have confidence within the light and energy that is only ours and no one else’s business. Try to reach in and trust that guiding voice and BE in the moment with YOU.  You owe no apologies and no defense to anyone. Stay in calm comfort and accept your situation. Resign to the lessons of the present life and hold an open heart of curiosity as you manage each moment.

Any signal of anxiety or nerves might be greeting with acknowledgement and calm breathing as you pause and listen to the lesson or simply wait for the surge of energy to move through you. Just observe the nervous feeling with less judgment and go get a hug or take a time out to go into a peaceful place and pause.  Do this mindfulness, with faith and a sense of grateful perspective IN ADDITION to slowing down your life and taking a nurturing approach to self and other[s]. See if you can bring it all down to a place of open love and calm presence as you meet life’s challenges.

Maybe we can all shift our energy and move out of the age of fear and anxiety which elicits defensiveness into the age of faith and care which elicits growth, creativity and healing.

 

 

 

What makes for a Successful Playdate?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Recently, a mom in my office was expressing frustration that her daughter, age 6, was refusing all efforts to set up a play date in their home. She commented that when there is a play date, her daughter does not want to share her toys. Playdates can be a bit embarrassing when your child is either unwilling to share or when a child becomes bossy, directing the play with respect to what the guest may or may not do.

There is a simple solution. When you hear it, you’ll know that you knew this all along, but perhaps losing site of boundaries and structure is simply easy in the face of our hopes for a well earned break!

So here are some tips for creating a successful playdate for ages 4-10, approximately.  Children younger than 4 need a parent present entirely to navigate the playdate. Children older than 10 typically have the skills to do all of these tips on their own with your support.

  • Arrange the playdate at a time your child is well rested
  • Take the time to discuss toys that are for sharing with friends and those that are not. Put the former away, out of site or play in a designated area with designated toys and games for this particular playdate.
  • Keep the time relatively brief, such as 90 minutes to 2 hours, tops, even if the children are doing very well. In this manner, they hold onto the memory of getting along and having fun, with a desire to do it again and again.
  • Be present. You do not need to be on top of your child, but it helps children to feel secure just knowing you are readily available and nearby.
  • Think and talk, in advance, with your child, to designate the play activity choices and a structure for the flow of the playdate, such as free play, then a building or art activity, then a snack and more free play.
  • For the free play, offer three choices. Include your child in the process of choosing and try to eliminate screens.
  • Yes, I know, kids today love screens, such as television and video games and all other kinds of apps.  However, really put some thought into securing good old fashioned connection involving make believe, games, spatial relationships and/or art.
  • Perhaps you have the time to be present to make homemade play dough or to set up the sprinkler, etc.
  • Whatever you do, plan it in advance. This kind of planning, helps secure your child and the success of the shared social time, taking out uncertainty and the greater possibility of power dynamics involving the need for direction.

Having said  all of this, are these tips necessary for everyone? Maybe not, but keep an ear out to collect some data during your child’s playdate. It is unlikely they will tell you about what you might consider inappropriate comments that underlie the need to secure direction and control.

Lastly, we are not talking about micromanaging or being too controlling. Find that lovely middle ground with some choices in place and the flexibility to alter them as deemed desirable or necessary. The goal is a successful give and take experience, and many children thrive a little guidance. Within that guidance, there is plenty of room for free choice and expression of play.