Anxiety, Sleep, and Trying Again and Again…

When it comes to making positive, healthy, and proactive changes, please try again and again. Genuine and sustainable healing takes time. Trust the process.

Positive Reframe...

I have had a unique relationship with Anxiety my whole life. Anxiety had affected just about every facet of life, especially sleep. For as long as I could remember, I had trouble falling asleep. I would lie awake for hours worrying, and replays of my past experiences and decisions haunted me. In 2005, it got even worse; I would wake up in the middle of night and could not fall back to sleep no matter what I tried. I complained that it was my stressful job and my partner watching TV at bedtime. I desperately needed to sleep and wanted my job and my partner to change.  Anxiety continued to sabotage me. In order to get a peaceful night of sleep, I had to do the following:

Step 1: I had to accept that my job is stressful and that I cannot control other people’s reactions/behaviors.

Step 2: I had to take responsibility for getting my own…

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Victims, Bullies or Response-able?

I first wrote this blog in 2010 and sadly, more and more tragedies are on the front page…

It is bitter-sweet for me to read all the talk about “bullying.” Great that people are seeing that it is a serious problem, but I know like after Columbine, it will fall off our plate and another tragedy will take its place. I am tired of talking. I am sick of running into walls and double-edged swords. Emotionally, I liken going to school like heading into battle naked with no triage on site, and I went to a private school in a nice suburb.

bullies-are
Image by Lori Petro http://www.teach-through-love.com/

This is a typical bullying scenario through my lens: If an adult is sensitive enough and not stressed or distracted by other things and catches the barrage of insults, they will call attention to the Bully. The adult will threaten or cast some irrelevant punishment which will insult the Bully and add more pain to an already stressed soul. A soul who clearly does not have resources to cope and will take it out on another vulnerable soul. If the Victim gets any attention at all, it is to the tune of “Oh, don’t let it bother you” or “toughen up.” Then everyone is expected to get back to their task or whatever they were doing and pretend everything is fine.

The most heartbreaking part for me is that majority of people think we are “fine” and we getting what we “need.” We are not fine. The majority of our vital needs are neglected and abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed. I will read more headlines tomorrow about how could someone do this horrid act and how it came out of nowhere. I could reflect a truth yet the truth hurts and we are not allowed to feel pain or cry. Yet to feel compassion, you must heal, and to heal you must cry, or at least process through our negative thoughts and feelings but we are afraid to feel or share. So where does that leave us?… Sadly, on the front page again.

I plead for people to open your minds, your hearts, and your souls. Bullies aren’t born passing down abusebullies, they’ve been bullied. Social interactions and emotional intelligence amongst kids (and most adults for that matter) are atrocious. Yet, I am even more disgusted when I hear adults belittle and disrespect children on a constant basis. How can we expect kids not to bully when their instincts are perpetually defied and they are manipulated to meet the needs of whatever adult has power or control over them. And then when we are tired of fighting or nagging, we let media take over.

I have been just a guilty as anyone. I can cite many examples of my own hypocrisy and human errors. Our society is full of traps, luring us to fill someone else’s pocket and boosts another’s ego whilst draining our own soul. It seems we care more about how things look than how they feel. I am sick of putting my fate and my children’s future in someone else’s hands. I choose to act in every moment I am blessed with. I have made a conscious choice to stop (as humanly possible) reacting, shaming, blaming, yelling, name-calling, and choose to respond to others how I would genuinely like to be comforted when I feel hurt or stressed or upset, especially to my children. Their feelings, their suffering, and tears are just as valid as my own even though they are small and some of their plights may seem trivial. My favorite definition of “responsible” is being able to respond appropriately in any given moment to get vital needs met = response-able. My children’s’ souls, and everyone I engage with, are in my hands and I take this very seriously.

I don’t believe there are bad people, only people with less vital needs met and more pain to heal. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…

victim, bully, responsible meme

I recommend turning off media/technology for at least one hour before bed and read stories as a family. Take time every day to truly connect with your loved ones. Create your own healing rituals to get vital needs met.

Changing habits is hard and scary; LOVE yourself and everyone else through it!

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

For more resources check out:

10 habits to strengthen parent/child relationship by Dr Laura Markham

FOSTERING EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT CHILDREN, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES by John Gottman 

Natural Born Bullies by Robin Grille

3 Steps for Parents from Nonviolence Activists

Heart Transplant http://vachss.com/av_novels/heart.html

 

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

A metamorphosis from a rag to Mother…

I was one of those girls who always dreamed of being a mother. I was the go-to babysitter for my 11 older cousins, five older siblings, and our community. I worked in daycares, schools, and specialized in child development, parenting, and marriage and family therapy when I got my Master of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies. After getting married, I even chose to wait five years before having a child to ensure we worked through major issues, that my partner and I were secure and ready to start a family and have a conscious conception.

During the process of defending my thesis, I discovered I was pregnant. We chose to conceive a bit sooner in our 4th year of marriage because I was greatly sensing that many of my clients, who were parents, were not buying my positive and non-punitive approach parenting. They didn’t think I could truly understand and advise as I was not a parent. I could see where they were coming from yet wanted to prove to them that it was not only possible but ideal, and of course, my partner and I were ready.

You could imagine my shock and dismay when after my son was born, I did not want to hold him. All I wanted was to eat my bagel, drink my smoothie and be left alone. They did bring him to my chest right away as I had asked and I could see the herd of nurses and doctors and my partner taking care of him so I knew he was alive and being attended to. I shocked myself again that when they asked if I wanted him in the nursery or in my room, I was going to actually respond with ‘the nursery’ yet my partner jumped in and said our room as he would stay there all night.

I am grateful my partner asserted himself and our agreed upon goal. I was also blessed that he had three weeks off of work for family-leave to take care of our son and me. For most of my son’s first year of life, I remember many times feeling numb, exhausted and negative. I could look at my son and feel empty. When he was calm and happy, I was too but babies have many more times of crying than not. The most positive feelings I had were more often for my partner as he was so helpful, sensitive, and watching him be a father made me love him more each day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was not all a bed of roses in the marriage department either. We told family, who mostly lived out of state, to come after my partner went back to work so we could bond as a family and spread out the support. When my family came to visit, my partner and I had a huge fight about me giving preferential treatment to my family compared to his family. It wasn’t pretty and extremely embarrassing for me as it ended with my partner throwing my breakfast, tea and all, at me in bed…Apparently, he was on his way to bring me breakfast in bed when I made an upsetting comment. Fortunately, my therapist skills kicked in as I worked very hard to empathize with his feelings and needs during a long, private conversation we had in our laundry room while cleaning the feta cheese omelet and tea off our bedding.

During this time, I was also training to be a doula and had to submit my birth story as part of training. They were taken back by how negative my story was and had concerns. Their response actually surprised me because I thought my story was honest and highlighted my gratitude for my partner which was very positive from my point of view. I had also suffered from major depression for at least a decade of my life so compared to my past, I was doing amazing and actually feeling quite decent, calm and very proud of my accomplishments. Sure, I still felt more like a rag than a mother but at least I wanted to live and knew things would only get better. I had come a long way in my healing journey. I felt like I was well connected to my thoughts and feelings like I was objectively witnessing this metamorphosis. I knew this transition would be hard and messy as raising a child is the hardest and least appreciated job out there so I expected and accepted this harsh reality.

I remember when my son was about 11 months old and I was changing his diaper before nap time. That feeling of being a rag, like my sole value is to be spit on, peed on, defecated on, and to be used at one’s disposal 24/7 to clean up everything, was particularly strong that day. Being nap time, my son was extremely fussy and resistant to going to sleep while I was overwhelmed and anxious about all the things I had to get done. Our clash of needs instantly brought rage and hopelessness to my being. I put him in his crib and stormed off to my room. I took some deep breaths, reminded myself that my partner would be home tonight and he would help me like he does so I can handle this. I felt calm enough to go back to my son to gently stroke his arms and face. I looked him in the eyes and could feel calm, joy, and love.

Still gazing and warmly engaging with my son, my train of thought then drifted to my mother who did not have a husband who would come home and help her. Yes, he worked and provided money, shelter, and food yet never changed a diaper for six kids. My mother did it all. If she could do it, then I could definitely do it. There was also a current news story about a mother who killed her two children in a town near my hometown. The news started to rehash the story about Andrea Yates and how could mothers do this to their own children.

It was at that moment and for the first time in my life, I had complete empathy for those mothers. Here I was so full of resources and support yet just a moment ago, I had so much rage in me because my baby is crying at me and I could not stop him. The negative thoughts that flooded my body like “What is wrong with me that I can’t comfort my child?!” Even though my logical and wise mind knows he’s only a baby and this isn’t a personal attack on my abilities, all I could feel was inadequate, desperate, alone, and rage. Had I not had so much recovery time, resilience, support and positive coping skills, I could have easily hurt him on many occasions. I can only imagine what these women have lived through… what their relationships were like with their partners and family, … and what unprocessed trauma was tormenting their psyche and connection to body, heart and wise mind?

As a person who is passionate about cultivating healthy relationships, maximizing human potential, healing transgenerational trauma as well as prioritizes taking responsibility, self-inquiry, and reflection, I have been able to pinpoint the trauma and adverse childhood experiences that influenced my depression, my negative core beliefs and reactions as well as connect how they were negatively affecting my attachment and relationship with my son. As well-educated and empowered I was for my son’s birth, I was sadly triggered in the hospital environment and was easily persuaded to accept interventions I did not want. This set off a cascade of medical interventions that lead to a 53-hour excruciating labor and delivery 2.5 weeks earlier than expected. Yes, I know, many mothers have it worse and I should be glad my son was healthy and alive as I have had subsequent miscarriages and a stillbirth so that is painful on so many other levels. Regardless, our bodies react to pain in the same way and all we need is to perceive a threat to our wellbeing to trigger fear and a stress response. Based on my past, I got triggered which shut down the connection to my heart and wise mind when my son was born. Food and rest were all I wanted because I had not eaten in days and endured the most physical pain and exertion in my life. I was in survival mode.

After having a supportive, positive homebirth with my daughter where I did not feel fear, I noticed how alive, connected and joyful I was within my own being and with my daughter. This stark contrast made me realize that I likely had postnatal depression and anxiety with my son. Fortunately, I also had safe places to process my pain and have forgiven myself as well as applied my positive trust-based and attachment parenting to my relationship with my son. Every past relationship pattern can be healed in safe, nurturing, and responsive relationships today. He will be 14 is a few weeks and he is the most compassionate, responsible, and honest teenager I have ever known. Our relationship is a resource in my life.

So for all those parents who didn’t seem to believe me that you don’t need to punish children and that you can be kind and respectful to get them to cooperate, I am happy to report that my son is my living proof. I admit, what I did learn and did not truly understand before having children was utterly how demanding, exhausting, and challenging parenting is 24/7 thus I gained a ton more empathy for parents, especially mothers. You certainly cannot do it alone and you need as much non-judgemental and compassionate support as possible as well as prioritize your wellbeing. Keep doing things daily that nurture yourself and bring you comfort or joy no matter how small they may seem. There is also no one way to parent. It is best to connect and trust your heart and listen to your wise mind.

“Wise cultures are child-wise, and child-wise cultures do everything they can to ensure the mother and baby get off to the best start in the first 3 years of life. They understand the health of their culture depends on it…If the baby has a bonded relationship with mum, he grows heart-brain connections for the highest human qualities and so can make peaceful relationships with everyone in the group.” ~Pennie Brownlee, Dance with me in the Heart

Here is a video on creating secure infant attachment

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be experiencing signs of postnatal depression check out the following links:

8 Little-Known Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartumprogress.com

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/postpartum-depression-and-the-baby-blues.htm

7 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Disclose Their Scary Thoughts

And Dads can get it too: https://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency room

Call 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA https://www.crisistextline.org/

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

 

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

~~~Go with the flow ~~~

“The simple phrase Go with the flow is actually very significant spiritually. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared that life is like a river – you cannot step into it in the same place twice. Existence is always new, yet we are tempted to be bring old reactions to it. When we find ourselves resisting anything – which basically means saying no – we are usually trying to impose an old belief or habit on a new situation.

The law of Least Effort bids us to recognize the newness of life by allowing it to unfold without interference. It tells us to be in the moment, to look for Nature’s help, and stop blaming anyone or anything outside ourselves. In the flow, spirit is already organizing the millions upon millions of details that uphold life – from the infinite processes needed to keep a single cell alive vast intricacies of evolving universe. By connecting the spirit, we ride this cosmic organizing power and take advantage of it.”

From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfilment by Deepak Chopra

This book gives concrete and simple examples of how to talk to your children about profound spiritual lessons. The Seven Spiritual Laws cited in the book are:

  1. Everything is possible.
  2. If you want something, give it.
  3. When you make a choice, you change the future.
  4. Don’t say no – go with the flow.
  5. Everytime you wish or want, you plant a seed.
  6. Enjoy the journey.
  7. You are here for a reason.
These are awesome laws to live by though I do believe that there are certain times to respectfully say “No” especially when you are giving yourself permission to follow your joy and flow. As you practice, you’ll be able to discern the difference. These principles have been unfolding in my life, especially on my parenting journey. My children are my greatest inspirations for living a life full of love and joy. Chopra’s explorations and insights are consistent with my research and experiences in human development and wellbeing.
A parent isn’t an authority. You and your child are both souls; you are both embarked on a journey of soul making…every family is a communion of souls.

Self-Regulation VS Co-Regulation or Both?

Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have a unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally. Dependent on our environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament, exposure to toxins or trauma, we each need a variety of nutrients, needs met, and level of stimulation/arousal to function well. When we are pushed out of our window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we perceive we are needing. The body will actually shut down certain functions based on how vital the functions are to staying alive under the current conditions we are perceiving.

You may have heard the term self-regulation which refers to being able to control oneself in order to find balance and calm within our internal and external systems. When it comes to emotions, self-regulation often means having the ability to:

1) Notice and identify that you are having an emotional reaction;

2) Know that the emotion signals a need;

3) Express needs and emotions in respectful, clear, and direct ways;

4) Manage emotions in a productive way that you start to feel calm; and

5) Be emotionally, physically, psychologically calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected in times of stress.

These abilities are aspects of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). When it comes to children, I believe there are some big misconceptions about self-soothing and regulating emotions which are causing our society great dysregulation and devastating negative consequences, like domestic violence, crime, child abuse and neglect, epidemic levels of drug abuse, bullying, and suicide.

For one, children under the age of three cannot emotionally self-regulate as the co reg Dr Shankerdevelopment of brain functions that even allow for this ability do not come online until age three. Secondly, the ability to self-regulate is actually first developed through the process of co-regulation, especially from conception to age seven. Co-regulation means having the consistent and dependable presence of a caregiver who can self-regulate and is safe, nurturing, and responsive, especially in times of stress. Thus to learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, we need someone to reliably soothe us during our most critical, sensitive, and distressing times of development. Sadly, many caregivers don’t have the skills themselves to emotionally self-regulate so they react negatively to the child who has less ability to process and cope. A third misconception occurs most often when kids appear to be self-regulating and controlling themselves, yet what is likely happening is that they have learned to shut down connection to their own emotions and needs and are complying out of fear of upsetting caregivers or others.

Needing someone is normal and expected based on our biology. Human beings are wired to be in relationship and connect. As humans, we function better when we are surrounded by others who are calm and nurturing. This is why family, communities and committed partnerships that are consistently safe, loving and trusting are huge resiliency factors and cultivate optimal growth and well-being. Realistically, life will always have stressors and filled with big conflicting emotions so it is advantageous to have reliable safeguards.

Even when the presence of a safe, trusting relationship is established and secure, and one can self-regulate well, any new variable or stressful event out of one’s window of tolerance would still require the presence of another to help calm our central nervous system, regardless of age and ability. Children are constantly being exposed to new experiences and information so they need this reliable presence in order to integrate the experiences and information into their mind and being. Considering the alarming rate at which information is streaming at us and how fast technology is advancing, the risk of being pushed out of our windows of tolerance and not getting our vital needs met is extremely high and constant.

Think about when you are in distress, do you prefer your partner or support persons to minimize, react negatively or abandon you in your distress? Or do you get calmer faster when at least one person is there who is calm and trying to understand you, who is validating and supporting you through? … It amazes me how few adults realize that when they react negatively or how dismissing their children’s negative emotions, that this signals their own dysregulation and tolerance level. How can one expect a child with less experience, skills, and resources to regulate themselves especially when they are feeling the added distress of their caregiver? An angry or upset caregiver is perceived instantly as a threat to a child as their livelihood depends on the mood and presence of their caregiver.

Most of our problems come from having an experience that is confusing, overwhelming, conflicting and we have no safe places to process the negative energy, related emotions and thoughts. The negative energy and tension build up, then we’ll end up we acting it out or shutting down. Not getting our vital needs met, like having food, water, fresh air or not feeling safe or connected to others, as well as lacking skills leads to a build-up of stress and trauma.  Most don’t even realize they have a homeostasis or what they need to function optimally let alone be able to communicate those needs to others so we keep getting stuck in deregulated states and create negative feedback loops within our bodies and relationships. We get overwhelmed by big conflicting emotions and stressors, can’t access our resources and default to hyper- or hypo-aroused state which causes more negative emotions and stress, feeding a vicious, depleting cycle.

To stop the cycle, try taking a few deep, controlled breaths now…Notice what you are thinking and feeling…What sensations do you notice in your body? There is no right or wrong way here, just notice what comes up for you. After taking sometime noticing what you are thinking, feeling and sensing, next visualize a time or place you last felt really safe and happy… Go through all your senses: what do you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste at this special safe/happy place? Notice where you feel sensations in your body while visualizing this safe/happy place?  This exercise will naturally stimulate your parasympathetic system, eliciting a relaxation response so try this next time you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. When feeling calm, take consistent steps to fill your life with safe, nurturing, joyful and trusting relationships and environments because, on the bright side, we can learn to self-regulate no matter how old we are or how negative our relationships have been.

To learn more about my online services, please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at WeCounsel .

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you connected and full of joy.

blog signature

“A healthy, balanced life requires connection and community, as much as self-regulation and autonomy. Seeking soothing in sorrow, or validation in victory, invites those around us to share their wisdom and love. Like the mother/infant loop, we give and receive regulation when we’re in caring relationships with others. Co-regulation is what makes love, and the world, truly go around.” ~Alexandra Katehakis

If you’d like to learn more about self-regulation, here are some more resources:

Self-regulation doesn’t exist!

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?

Calming together: The pathway to self-control

7 more myths about self-regulation

Why-self-regulation is most important thing in world

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-differentiation-why-it-matters-in-families-relationships-0831174

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

New filters to live by…

Positive Reframe...

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy and curiosity.

As human beings, we are constantly absorbing stimulation from all our senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, sounds, and intuition). In order to function efficiently, our brains filter the stimuli to prioritize and respond. Our initial filter is to determine if the stimulus is a threat. If we perceive a threat, then our stress response system kicks in and we react to protect ourselves. There are more steps that occur instantaneously in this complex process. Yet ultimately, the presence of a calm, nurturing, and safe person and/or connection to secure, positive beliefs and memories can stop the stress response from taking over. Thus promoting resiliency and more positive, secure connections within our…

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