Promoting Well-being, Resiliency, and Connection Tips

Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally.  We each need a variety of nutrients, needs, and level of stimulation/arousal to function optimally which is dependent on our upbringing, environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament as well as exposure to toxins or trauma.  When we are pushed out of our unique window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we are needing. In a state of overwhelming distress, we can’t connect our wise mind or truly move on.

We can promote well-being, resiliency, and connection by ‘tuning in’ to our stress signals, our needs, senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. Below are the key ingredients to empowering oneself and others to make conscious choices to get vital needs met. Understanding and following these will harmonize your connection to your mind, body, and heart as well as your relationships.

The crucial first step is becoming aware of stress signals and stressors. Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs often trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs) and are common stressors:

  1. Nutritients/Hydration (food, water, oxygen, sunlight)
  2. Sleep
  3. Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
  4. Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Safe, Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included, Soothed, Understood, and Seen
  5. Unprocessed stress/trauma (emotional, social and physical toxins such as negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)

“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham

stress-model

Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out? 

When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, everyone HALT(S) and reflects: 

Are we Hungry?

Angry/Anxious?

Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?

Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)? 

Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?

Get regulated together by getting vital needs met daily:

  1. Take deep breaths, Eat nutritious food & Drink water
  2.  Prioritize downtime, Rest & Sleep; Meditate, Slow down
  3. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temperature, turn off electronics, lower lighting or noise level, go outside)
  4. Increase production of happy, calming hormones by getting social-emotional needs met by doing rewarding, interactive activities such as smiling, silly faces, singing, listening to or playing music, respectful touch, hugging, playing games, dancing, exercising, attending social events, spending special one-on-one
  5. Process stress & release negative energy through sensorial activities like playing with play-dough or sand, drawing/coloring, exercising, writing, tapping (Emotion Freedom Technique), role-playing, visualizing safe/happy place, assertive & non-violent communication, reflective active listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathizing and collaboratively problem solve…the list is endless and unique to each individual and family

Now be solution detectives and find ways that make you and your loved ones feel safe, loved and calm…

When applying these new skills for understanding and processing negative reactions, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure connection in your mind, body, heart, and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process. You can do it.

Bright side..Resilience

Key Terms:

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences

Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met

Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming

Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and the production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/BSRC_Resilience_English_fnl.pdf

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/resilience/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/toxic-stress/

https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

http://lindagraham-mft.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Neuroscience-of-Resiliency-Interview.pdf

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/resilience/according-experts/resilience-development-importance-early-childhood

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

https://postinstitute.com/?s=stress+model

https://www.heartmath.org/

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/

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

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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as 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…

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.

Believe good intentions.

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 mind, body, soul, and relationships.

After receiving counseling and training in trauma and brain development, I discovered I was a highly sensitive person who experienced complex trauma. My central nervous system was also often in a hyper-aroused state. So along with having enhanced sensory sensitivity, I was hypervigilant and intensely surveying every environment I was in. I had a tendency to perceive stimuli as threats and had exaggerated reactions. I was able to pinpoint specific traumatic events that occurred during sensitive stages of my development and in my parents’ lives that I accepted that I was essentially born, wired in fear.

In 2010, when I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, overtired and not prioritizing my needs, I was constantly feeling triggered.  I was having strong negative reactions during my own children’s sensitive stages of development. Fortunately, I was aware of what was going on in me so I reflected further on what my biggest fears were. Then I came up with specific statements that targeted those fears and provided compassionate and trusting beliefs to filter the stimuli and my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator. I followed my impulse to take it down and scribbled down the following statements on it:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

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

Believe good intentions.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which I knew was happening when my children were upset or acting out and I connected to my “felt sense”. I would notice my chest tighten, heart racing, my body trembling and overheating, my voice tone shifting up, and negative thoughts flooding my brain. I would also take deep breaths and step outside for fresh air.

I refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their negative thoughts and feelings so that they could securely connect to their innate intelligence and shine through any negative stimuli. I loved the visual of the rainbow my son drew and reminded me how the sun shines through and creates a rainbow after a storm. Here is what this creation looks like… 

Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to believe when I got triggered. We all can get triggered and easily fall back to negative habits and reactions. The goal is to take responsibility for your triggers: Notice when you are getting triggered, what are you thinking, feeling, and doing; and what will you choose to do to get through it whith authenticity and grace. 

Healing our triggers often takes time so be compassionate with yourself as you go through this process. The ability to even notice your triggers and negative reactions is progress even if you cannot stop them yet. Awareness is first to step so when you catch your stress signals or negative reactions, do something nurturing, breathe, and love yourself through. I like to remind myself how it takes an average of 21 times to repeat a new behavior before you make a positive, secure connection in your mind, body, soul and in the relationship itself. The deeper the issue, the more times it takes. Do your best to celebrate each step, embrace your fears and choose love. Today is a present, open it with grace, joy, and curiosity.

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you ❤   

Debra Wallace MS LMFT Wecounsel Online Profile

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. The 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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed marriage and Family Therapist in the state 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

I discovered this book when my second child was about 2 years old. It gives concrete and simple examples of how to talk to your children about profound spiritual lessons. The Seven Spiritual Laws (from child’s point of view) are as follows:

  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. Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.
  6. Enjoy the journey.
  7. You are here for a reason.

These are amazing laws to live by. 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.” ~Deepak Chopra

Click the link for my favorite writing on children…“On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

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. The 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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA.

Children are sages…

After observing and working with hundreds of children as well as having my own, I have discovered:
1) Children are sages. They are naturally present and connected to their innate intelligence as well as have less negativity and filters that block their senses or distort their perceptions. They are also operating at different brain frequencies due to their developmental stage.
 
2) Due to their heightened sensitivities and lack of filters, any negative energy directed at them is often perceived as threatening and often unconsciously labeled as “YELLING at them” because that is how it feels to their being. This will naturally trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses (fight doesn’t kick in until about age 2).
 
3) “I’m bored” typically means that they are experiencing negative or uncomfortable feelings that they are unaware of and cannot identify.
 
4) “It’s weird” usually means that are aware of some negative or uncomfortable feelings but don’t know what they are or how to describe them.
 
5) All negative behavior comes from a state of stress and/or unmet need. Most often they are physiologically or emotionally uncomfortable and unable to identify or communicate their feelings/needs, as well as lack the skillset to get their needs met effectively. Even if they should know what to do because you’ve said it 100 times, when triggered into a state of stress, they are unable to access that part of the brain till they feel calm and safe.
 

meditation

Please treat children how you wish you were treated when you were young. It really makes a difference as you are programming their brains for love or fear and what is done to them, they will do to society.
 
Check out my post summarizes common stressors and Enriching Resiliency & Connections as a family.
 
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. The 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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA and provide online counseling at WeCounsel.com
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How couples can thrive through parenting…

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely valid, and you did the best you can with the resources you have.  You need to make decisions that are best for everyone involved based on your unique situation. I also know the reality of high-conflict marriages and domestic violence, and how even more devastating this is, especially for children. In fact, it is common for men to start to become physically abusive when their partner first becomes pregnant, so of course, divorce is sometimes the safest and healthiest option. Yet this does not excuse the reality that far too many of us have not had enough positive role models nor been taught the skills needed to process negative feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and events as well as promote emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and non-violent communication. So my intent here is to give a personal example of how these skills helped me in hopes of helping others…

Having a baby is a huge shock to any relationship. Even the healthiest of relationships will have issues. It is emotionally and physically taxing and stressful on levels no one could ever fathom. Not to mention that relationships within themselves have their own stages of development as well, so after the honeymoon stage it is like you enter an infancy stage within a committed partnership.

All negativity comes from a state of stress and unmet needs. When we feel fear (like afraid we will never get a good night of sleep), our stress response gets triggered causing us to unconsciously react with either fight/flight/freeze or with behaviors we learned in past within similar situations like with our own parents. Thus our worst thoughts, behaviors, and feelings will likely be triggered during this intensely critical stage of development and naturally wreak havoc on any relationship. A recent study found that having a baby caused significantly more dissatisfaction than divorce, unemployment, or even death of a partner.

I experienced this first hand in my marriage and we even made a conscious choice to be married for five years before having our first child. I was a child of divorce and wanted to ensure my marriage was secure and healthy before having a child. Even with a Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies, the birth of my first child triggered intense insecurity and turbulence. I suffered post-postpartum depression, and my partner and I had many ugly, combative, disconnected, stressful times that lasted months and even years on some issues. I would wonder how we ever got along and can we do this… forever!?

Fortunately, we have made it through the trenches and, we not only survived, we thrived. When I reflect on what motivated me to work through the hardships, four reasons come to mind: For one, I have a core belief that committed partnerships are good for us and more love and support children are raised in, the better for all humanity. We are biologically wired to be in relationships and committed partnerships provide consistent opportunities to meet vital needs for our wellbeing.

This second reason is, unfortunately, fear-based and not what I would hope to be a motivating force but I’m honest so here goes: Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would have felt absolutely ashamed to even utter the word “divorce.” If I can’t make it work, then who can. If I divorced, it would even shatter my core belief in the former. So back to my first reason, I was determined to make it work because I knew it would be worth it and everyone’s well-being will be better off in the long run.

Number three, I cannot stand hypocrisy so I practice what I preach thus upon great reflection and introspection, I used all the skills I tell my clients: I remembered what attracted me to my partner, all his amazing traits, his dreams, and the core beliefs we shared. These things were still present, they just got lost in the 24/7 demands of parenting, dirty dishes, diapers, bills, the battle for sleep, and work.  When I focused on the good and where we agreed, conflicts would end sooner with more understanding, and life just seemed to flow and become more joyful.

The final motivating force came when I was reading the book Living, Loving, Learning by Leo Buscaglia who specializes in Love. He shared this quote:

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” ~Erica Jong

I realized that I needed to take responsibility for getting my own needs met and it wasn’t fair to put so much on my partner. I really put myself in his shoes and I could see he was suffering too. I realized we both had many negative feelings and unmet needs but that we had very different ways of processing and getting our needs met. I was taking a lot of frustrations out on him and there was so much that I wasn’t doing that he’d like more of yet he would rarely complain about. I could see he was working just as hard as I was although it appeared through my stressed-out-resenting lenses that he had it easier and was doing much less.

I have been counseling couples since 2001 and I hear countless stories of how the demands of parenting trigger parents into adversaries instead of partners. The good news, parenting does not have to be so destructive and dissatisfying. It actually can be a great opportunity to connect, grow and be a source of nurturance, support, and joy. Acknowledging and validating each other’s efforts, feelings, and needs seem to soften us. When you feel supported, secure, and understood it became easier to give each other the benefit of the doubt, love and trust each other through the hardships instead of blaming, criticizing and fearing the worst.  When tension arises now, we have a new set connecting rituals, positive core beliefs, a well full vital needs being met, and resources to tap into. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the seeming endless cleaning up of bodily fluids and messes, the absolutely no privacy, it really does get better and you start to see the brilliance in your children, your partner and even yourself.

I often wonder what if my parents took responsibility for their own behaviors and found non-violent ways to resolve their issues. What would I have gained instead of needing to clean up from the destruction and healing the deep wounds that still disturb me from their high-conflict marriage and divorce? Now, the plus side was I gained intense marriage and family therapist training in real life well before my time thus have a ton or personal insight and empathy. Yet, I have also found that if relationship pain is not healed, then similar negative patterns of interaction will likely reappear in many aspects of your life and in your next relationship, after the honeymoon stage of course. And you still have to co-parent for the rest of your children’s lives no matter what. Then you’ll likely have to deal with the unprocessed pains of potential new partners on top of the added stress of being a single parent. I know the lure of having freedom and space from conflict and the negativity of your partner feels utterly dreamy, yet there truly are positive ways to get both needs met and create freedom and peace within your relationship. A 75-year long study on what men need to be happy confirmed that memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength and that marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.  A study regarding women’s wellbeing and increased marital satisfaction was highly linked to her partner’s level of caregiving during the transition of parenting. I believe your wellbeing and family are worth it.

Here are some links easing the transition to parenthood:

Click link Steps to healing conversations to the handout I developed to transform your conversations from hurting to healing.

https://www.gottman.com/about-the-bringing-baby-home-program/

https://ellytaylor.com/about-the-book/

http://www.mindful.org/save-marriage-parenthood/

You can learn more about me and my online therapy services at WeCounsel

Please take wonderful care of yourselves and each other,

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. The 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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA.

The Halloween Dread Reframe

(I wrote this blog in 2015)

Every Halloween, my son wants to make his own costume. The therapist and educator in me absolutely loves his initiative, determination, creativity, high standards and resourcefulness The mom in me gets triggered and dreads this. All I see are the barriers, the frustrations, hard work, messes, costs, and disappointment. It happened again this year where he feels my dread and it brings him down. I know it is not fair so as I practice what I preach, I chose to ask my son this morning as I was acknowledging how he was right about feeling my resistance, “How are we going to open this day with joy and curiosity?” I then reframed our day by stating, “I am very curious how we will get this all done and I look forward to the joy my son will feel when his costume is finished.”

I am happy to report that after great effort, we have a 5 foot Salamence costume all ready to be painted and fully assembled in time for Halloween and my son is already filled with joy with the progress. He even volunteered using his own money for the expenses, made the shopping list, went to the store and did most of the work. Salamence and cheetah (2)Here is video of his costume:

Clink link to see video of a past creation that fortunately his father helped him with: Spinosaurus Son

Here is a link to Parenting Resources on topics of Halloween:

https://parenting.nytimes.com/feeding/halloween-candy-rules?http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/search/site/halloween

Happy Halloween!!!

P.S. My son also learned valuable lessons which he was able to express through processing and tears. He worked so hard on the costume, yet he encountered many frustrations and disappointments (many which his father and I had foreseen yet didn’t tell him). He says next year he will choose an easier costume and help his sister with something special as he was so appreciative of her support and realized all the drawbacks to huge costumes.

The Roughhousing Trigger

A Positive Reframe I have had to work on is the trigger I have when my children are roughhousing and my daughter gives a blood-curdling scream even when she is having fun. I know and believe in the importance of roughhousing (see link below) yet have also suffered the harsh reality of aggression and violence. As their energy intensifies, I feel terrified and quickly jump to needing to defend and protect which sends a negative and mistrusting message to my son. As I am well aware of this negative cycle, in these moments I am choosing to focus on the strengths of my family by saying:

“I do not need to worry. I have raised two sensitive and caring children who have many skills to handle and resolve conflict.”

I’ll be honest, I do have to say it often yet It is amazing how quickly if transforms the energy. The situation went from triggering a negative reaction which was aggravating and draining for all to a conscious response that builds trust and is nurturing. This seemingly simple change in perception creates a trusting and positive experience for the whole family.

http://theartofroughhousing.com/science/

P.S. I am also very grateful I read the book Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I am utterly amazed by how loving and genuinely caring my children are together.

http://www.fabermazlish.com/pub_viewer.php?Siblings-Without-Rivalry-How-to-Help-Your-Children-Live-Together-So-You-Can-Live-Too-4

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Five steps to a Positive Reframe

We are all doing the best we can with the resources we are aware of or have access to. Negativity (ie. negative emotions, unhealthy habits, tension, conflict, symptoms, disease) often comes from a build-up of unprocessed stress, perceived threats (real or imagined), unconscious negative core beliefs, toxins and/or unmet needs. You need to take a time to process, nurture yourself and send positive messages to your body, mind, heart, and relationships in order to connect and heal.

Here are five steps to a Positive Reframe:

1. Breathe

Take a deep breath, preferably in through your nose (3-4 seconds) and out of your mouth (5-8 seconds), repeat 3 times as needed. Breathing is like pressing the reset for your central nervous system getting oxygen to all your cells, calming you down, connecting to your heart and body whilst empowering your wise mind. Your breath is also the only automatic nervous system function that you can control. Click here to see a breathing exercise video I made.

2. Give yourself permission

Give yourself permission to just be and feel whatever you are experiencing with compassion, non-judgment, and curiosity. 

Notice what are you feeling? … angry, afraid, sad, frustrated, embarrassed, conflicted, confused, hurt, mistrusted, insecure etc…

Notice sensations in your body, where do you feel tight or heavy? cold or hot? shaky or stiff?       

What are you needing?…safety, honesty, connection, support, understanding, trust, security etc… Here is a link to Non-Violent Communication NVC Feelings and Needs short list

All feelings and needs are valid. Even though thoughts and emotions seem very real, they are not always true. Give yourself permission to step back, take a break or say “No.” Listen to your heart and do what feels right for you in that moment.

3. Process

We need to take time to consciously & actively PROCESS negativity. Too often we get use to relying on our default defense mechanisms, we ignore, dismiss, avoid, run, hide, blame, fight, or numb ourselves…Negative events, feelings, & thoughts then accumulate affecting every part of our life. Find safe ways to reflect on and process your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and events… like what happened right before feeling a wave of emotions and disturbance? Did you notice any stress signals in your body before reaction? What reoccurring thoughts or feelings keep coming up? What is the earliest memory you have of a similar event, or feeling this way or thinking these thoughts? What needs do you wish were met then or what do you want to believe about yourself now?

Engage in an activity that lets you process as well as creates a sense movement and feedback like talking with someone you trust, go for a walk, journaling, feel your heart beating, hug a friend, paint, play music, dance, exercise… the list is endless and unique to each individual.

If you do not have time to fully process triggering event, disturbing emotions or thoughts, at the very least, visualize putting them in some sort of imaginary container (i.e. treasure, chest, suitcase, jar), then put your hand on your heart and take at leat three deep breaths. Or you can visualize your favorite place to be like where you feel most safe, happy, and free to be you. Go through all your senses while visualizing this place…What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?

If still feeling too overwhelmed (unable to calm down or focus) do a neurovascular hold by placing one palm of hand on your forehead and the other palm of the hand at the base of your neck and take more deep breaths and holding for 3-5 munites.

4. Affirm* what is or you wish to be true

Take time to visualize and feel what you wish to be experiencing. Was there a time when what you are wanting did happen? Notice how good and true it feels. What positive thoughts came to mind? You can also create personal affirmation statements in the present tense about your abilities, intentions, and desired outcomes. Repeat affirmation statements on a regular basis especially when under stress and triggered. 

“A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, it’s positive, it’s present tense, it’s visual, and it’s emotional.” ~ Stephen Covey

Examples:

“I can handle this.”

“I choose to make positive healthy choices for myself and/or family.”

“I chose a supportive partner and we are both willing to work towards our shared goals.” 

“I can help my kids feel safe by being present and responsive to their needs.” 

“I can find a way to express myself and get my needs met.”

Click here for an example of my personal affirmations…

all is well quote meme

*Initially, saying affirmations may feel awkward or uncomfortable or untrue. I have found that the more uncomfortable it feels, then the more likely this is an area that needs our attention. I suggest to still try saying it or create a new one that feels more comfortable and appropriate.

5. Express Gratitude

Yes, life is filled with uncertainty and negativity yet I have found that difficult times have immense value in our lives and create opportunities. It is easier to see the bright side when your suffering has been genuinely acknowledged and processed fully which are achieved through the first four steps. If your struggling to find anything to be grateful for, then go back through the steps. Take time to discover ways to appreciate the hidden value for yourself, loved ones, job or current stressor. For example getting sick gives you an opportunity to stay in bed and rest which you may not have weaved rest time into your life. Focus your attention on what you feel blessed for and what you want more of like what brings you feelings of joy, peace, connection, and clarity. This becomes more beneficial practiced daily.

I believe that we are all born inherently good and connected to our innate intelligence which is love-based. Those who seem “bad” have more pain to heal, toxins and stressors to process, and vital needs to meet. We have good intentions yet we are often thwarted by our internal suffering, our fears, and negative reactions. Every interaction is an opportunity to nurture, heal and grow. Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you. ❤ Debra

If you’d like support, clients can find me at https://portal.wecounsel.com/directory/positivereframe

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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. The 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,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Earth Day is every day…

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach one day, where we had cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her “no”? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions,then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be, yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snapshot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary-eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take responsibility to make it beautiful.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Jane Goodall

Negative thoughts and the gift of rising again

One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty/shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through much of my life and often triggers me into a dismissive reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted our attempts. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stresses.

After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way and that I will keep working on improving myself. I then shared a story of how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise.  I was reminded how blessed we are that *God gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are really just symbols of the gifts God gives us everyday. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.

My son immediately said “Thank You,” gave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He began to hug and say “thank you” to all the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft  blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc.  I then read him some stories, the last one was being I Believe In Me. Listening, holding a safe place, using respectful touch, and acknowledging feelings allows negativity to process which naturally leads to calming down and making new connections. The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note.  I wish every one to see the beauty and miracles given everyday and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.

Deep breaths and baby steps,

~Debra

*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.