This year, I am working on short reflections, taking an inner path of peace and wellness instead of the traditional new year resolutions. I hope you enjoy them…
It is normal to feel abnormal from time to time. Fear and uncertainty are certainties in worlds that are broken and fragmented. What is needed isn’t more glue and duct tape but more compassion and softness for ourselves. Try the softer path versus the hard, logical road and see if your journey discovers new growth in the rocks and gravel you overlooked before.
Action Step: Reflect on your inner path. How rocky has it been? Where does it feel broken? What would the softer path look like for you? What will you find that you overlooked?
Take a Breath
Inspiration doesn’t always require perspiration, I am not against it; I have shed my share of it. Inspiration is “in spirit,” breathing hope in and releasing hopelessness. Pausing to feel the true self and letting go false. Allow new ideas to happen, without striving, with just the breath. Take another until there are several, like pearls on a string, shimmering in the light.
Action Step: Practice breathing more and stop trying to find inspiration and creativity. Let it find you…Don’t let the wait time increase your anxiety; start striving again. Take another breath and breath in the spirit, in-spire-nation.
Drinking is just the symptom of the bigger problem, the iceberg under the surface no one wants to consider. The yelling is just a sign. Overeating is just the frosty tip, the overspending, the overthinking, the over-everything, and excesses to mask the pain. Let’s start with a few ice cubes, drink a glass of chilled water, and talk about the stuff long buried. Aren’t we finally OVER IT?
Action Step: Assess how ready you are to be OVER It, whatever it is…What’s your first step for inner healing? Can you read a book, listen to a podcast, or talk to a therapist? Get out your journal, brush off the dust and start writing.
If you feel anxious from time to time, that’s completely normal. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, you may be tempted to seek some peace using prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs. These methods, though, inherently bring problems of their own.
The good news is you can get through anxious moments on your own without mind-altering drugs. Your worries can be transformed into peace with simple, natural strategies. One of these techniques is using prayer and meditation.
What are Prayer and Meditation?
Prayer is “a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.” It is the heart of practices in all major religions. When we struggle, we call out to God for strength, direction, peace, and healing.
Mediation is a form of prayer. It is a practice of training the mind by focusing on an object, thought, or activity, enabling the busy mind to be still and the stressed body to find rest.
Inherent in both prayer and mediation is the act of letting go of control or accepting that control is an illusion. The practitioners of Alcoholics Anonymous called this “acceptance” that they are powerless over their addiction and in need of a higher power.
Prayer and meditation differ because prayer is a form of communication, asking for help. Meditation concentrates on quietness and focus, without any criticism or judgment of others or self.
Research supports the idea that prayer and reduces the effects of anxiety and depression. In a 2009 report, researchers reviewed 26 studies that identified the active involvement of medical patients in private or personal prayer. The focus was not on the effect of being prayed for or on the usefulness of attending religious meetings.
The authors of the research review stated: “There is no evidence that praying is likely to be beneficial in the absence of any kind of faith and some evidence that certain types of prayer based on desperate pleas for help in the absence of faith are associated with poorer wellbeing and function.”
While both prayer and meditation can calm anxiety, it appears that prayer is more beneficial when connected to faith.
Meditation has been widely researched and it has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety, chronic pain, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It is considered to be a mind-body intervention that “eliminates the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.”
In addition, the emotional benefits of meditation can include:
Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
Building skills to manage your stress
Focusing on the present
Reducing negative emotions
Increasing imagination and creativity
Increasing patience and tolerance
There are various forms of meditation that involve guided meditation, mindfulness-based stress meditation, walking meditation, visualizations, and more. Technology is a big aid with various apps and online programs that can assist in meditative practices.
How to Get Started
You can start on your path to an anxiety-free life right away, and it all begins with a deep breath. Pull the air deep down into your diaphragm, and let it out slowly. Do this several times, and you’ll start to feel calmer.
Are you breathing effectively? When you take in air, if only the top part of your lungs expands, your chest rises and falls. When you live the right way – the calming way – your belly rises and falls, not your upper chest, because your entire lungs are filled with fresh air.
Avoid breathing from your upper chest only, and you’ll already be on the road to feeling calmer and less anxious. It’s a simple thing to do and a great way to get started. The more you do it, the more it’ll become automatic. Soon, you’ll feel calmer without even thinking about your breathing anymore.
Here are some other tips to help you feel calm while praying or meditating:
1. Use your breathing like a mantra. Inhale while you give yourself positive thoughts and feelings. Exhale anything negative you’re thinking or feeling. Breathing is the rhythm of life. Use it to your advantage. Use affirmative words or phrases, quoting scriptures or songs.
2. Pray or meditate at the same time each day. Spend a few minutes – it doesn’t have to be a long time – in quiet reflection. Say good things to yourself. You can focus on your health, finances, family, or anything you want to make stronger. Avoid negative thinking during this time.
3. Laugh. Try saying “ho, ho, ho, he, he, he, ha, ha, ha” and other silly phrases. When you do, you’ll start to smile, then grin, and then laugh for real! And when you’re laughing, you can’t frown or feel anxious! Laughter reduces the stress chemicals in your brain and increases the amount of oxygen flowing through your brain and body.
4. Find community. Join a church, take up yoga, or find a support group for anxiety. Many others share your struggle, and you can feel better about yourself and more in-tune with others when you share your feelings.
5. Savor positive experiences. You wouldn’t gobble up an expensive piece of chocolate you bought. You would savor it slowly, trying to get as much flavor and joy from it as possible before it is gone. When we do this with our positive experiences, no matter how small, our nervous system registers it and remembers it allowing greater capacity for calmness.
When you start your journey toward personal peace through prayer or meditation, don’t expect to conquer your anxiety in a day. It took time to get where you are, and it’ll take time to get back to where you want to be.
Every journey begins with that first step, and once you make it, you’ll be well on your way. Breathe. Laugh. Meditate or pray. Find time to think about and interact with others rather than concentrate on your worries. Rewire your nervous system through consistent practices of wellbeing.
What does it feel like when you notice your feet on the ground? What about your butt in the chair or the sunlight on your skin, or the wind on your face? Most likely, you weren’t noticing any of those things before I asked, right?
You are not alone. We seldom pause to get grounded and notice what sensory input is coming into our brains and bodies. We are detached walkers in the world, always focused on what is next. It is no wonder anxiety, and panic attacks are increasing at an alarming rate in the world.
Let’s take a moment and pause… Breath deeply in and out. Take stock of your five senses. Adjust your body to be more comfortable and Breath in and out again. Once more…
That might have been enough to settle you down a bit and allow you to feel more relaxed. The wonder is that it only took a minute out of your busy day…and you thought you didn’t have time for meditation!
Not having enough time is just one excuse for not pausing and breathing (what I call meditation). Another excuse is our uncontrollable mind. Our anxious thoughts want to wander constantly. It’s like a hyper toddler getting into everything and being totally unaware of the danger it keeps putting itself in. The reality is that everyone’s mind wanders. All of our thoughts move quickly and uncontrollably. Just like the parent who has to watch the busy toddler, you can parent your own thoughts and redirect them back to…the pause, the ponder the breath. Return to noticing the body. Notice even your thoughts and then go back to pause. Hopefully, you get the idea by now.
It is not the wandering thoughts we should be concerned about. Instead focus on the pause. The more you practice this, the more you will feel at peace. It literally retrains the nervous system and makes you more resilient.
>> Build a stronger nervous system with my “What the Hack? Learning to build a resilient nervous system” course at http://familyhealer.tv
Recently, I started using an acronym to help my clients manage anxious thoughts and emotions. It is P.R.A.Y, and it stands for…
P = Pause with a simple, deep breath. Close your eyes, rest your shoulders, stretch, and force your awareness to be still for the span of just one breath…and then another. Repeat as needed.
R = Reflect on what is happening in the now. Return to the now each time you wander to the past or future. What do I notice inside and outside of me now? Write it down if that helps, and it will. The training of the mind is hidden in this simple act of returning and reflecting. The more you have to do this, the more resilient you become as new neural networks are laid down. The nervous system loves habit, which is why it will resist breaking a habit.
A = Accept and Affirm what you reflected on. Accept what is happening without judgment, expectations, or resentments. I don’t have to like it. Say to yourself, I accept this “thought”, “feeling”, or “sensation.” Next, create an affirmation about what you want to believe or experience instead. It won’t feel true to say “I am confident and joyful” at the moment, but the more your repeat this affirmation, the more your emotions will go along with it. You are creating space for new thoughts and feelings that your nervous system was filtering. This shift from acceptance to affirmation will start to transform our mental states.
Y = Yield to the freedom of surrendering expectations, resentment, fears, and forgive yourself or others. This is actually the most challenging part. You have to walk out what you just affirmed over your life. Live an “unoffendable” life by continually for-giving back all the negativity life hands you. You have to forgive yourself for not being perfect, making mistakes, being discouraged, or hating yourself. One definition of yielding is relinquishing possession of something. That means that negative something you have been gripping so tight. It might also mean saying “no.” It could be simplifying your schedule. You know what it is…and it is time to let it go.
Invite Ron to speak at your organization or event on trauma-informed care today. Call 805-709-2023 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parenting Without Tears, Fears or “Rears”
by Ron Huxley, LMFT
Do you know Rudolph Driekurs? If you have ever taken a parenting class or read a parenting book you might. He was a child psychiatrist and parenting educator that wrote several books on how to change challenging behavior problems. What was unique about Dr. Driekurs is that he did it without punishment or rewards! He believed that behavior is driven by the need for social connection and feeling inadequate or not “fitting in” is what fueled a child’s misbehaviors. He concentrated on what he described as the 4 goals of misbehavior.
Here is a list of some of Rudolph Driekurs most important parenting tools and ideas:
Mutual respect based on the assumption of equality, is the inalienable right of all human beings. Parents who show respect for the child–while winning his respect for them–teach the child to respect himself and others. Equality in this sense is treating each person with respect and integrity, no matter what their age. This also leaves room for parents to be in charge and to set some non-negotiable rules and limits, but to do so in a respectful manner.
Encouragement implies faith in and respect for the child as he is. A child misbehaves usually when he is discouraged and believes he cannot succeed by useful means.
Feelings of “security” are highly subjective and not necessarily related to the actual situation. Real security cannot be found from the outside; it is only possible to achieve it through the experience and feeling of having overcome difficulties.
Punishment is outdated. A child soon considers that punishment gives him the right to punish in turn, and the retaliation of children is usually more effective than the punishment inflicted by the parents. Children often retaliate by not eating, fighting, neglecting schoolwork, or otherwise misbehaving in ways that are the most disturbing to parents.
Natural and logical consequences are techniques, which allow the child to experience the actual result of his own behavior.
Natural consequences are the direct result of the child’s behavior.
Logical consequences are established by the parents, and are a direct and logical–not arbitrarily imposed – consequence of the transgression.
Natural consequences are usually effective. However, when they are not effective or consequences are too far in the future, use logical consequences.
Logical consequences can only be applied if there is no power contest; otherwise they degenerate into punitive retaliation.
Acting instead of talking is more effective in conflict situations. Talking provides an opportunity for arguments in which the child can defeat the parent. If the parent maintains a calm, patient attitude, he can, through quiet action, accomplish positive results.
Withdrawal as an effective counteraction: Withdrawal or planned ignoring (leaving the child and walking into another room) is most effective when the child demands undue attention or tries to involve you in a power contest. Often doing nothing effects wonderful results.
Withdrawal from the provocation but not from the child. Don’t talk in moments of conflict. Give attention and recognition when children behave well, but not when they demand it with disturbing behavior. The less attention the child gets when he disturbs, the more he needs when he is cooperative. You may feel that anger helps get rid of your own tensions, but it does not teach the child what you think he should learn. Keep your emotions out of the situation.
Don’t interfere in children’s arguments. By allowing children to resolve their own conflicts they learn to get along better. Many arguments are provoked to get the parent involved, and by separating the children or acting as judge we fall for their provocation, thereby stimulating them to fight more. However, if children are hurting each other, your intervention is necessary.
Fighting requires cooperation. We tend to consider cooperation as inherent in a positive relationship only. When children fight they are also cooperating in a mutual endeavor. Often the younger, weaker child provokes a fight so the parents will act against the older child. When two children fight, they are both participating and are equally responsible.
Take time for training and teaching the child essential skills and habits. Don’t attempt to train a child in a moment of conflict or in company. The parent who “does not have time” for such training will have to spend more time correcting an untrained child.
Never do for a child what he can do for himself. A dependent child is a demanding child. Children become irresponsible only when we fail to give them opportunities to take on responsibility.
Overprotection pushes a child down. Parents may feel they are giving when they act for a child; actually they are taking away the child’s right to learn and develop. Parents have an unrecognized prejudice against children; they assume children are incapable of acting responsibly. When parents begin to have faith that their children can behave in a responsible way, while allowing them to do so, the children will assume their own responsibilities.
Over-responsible parents often produce irresponsible children. Parents who take on the responsibility of the child by reminding or doing for him, encourage the child to be irresponsible. Parents must learn to “mind their own business” and let the child learn from the logical consequences of his own behavior.
Distinguish between positive and negative attention if you want to influence children’s behavior. Feeling unable to gain positive attention, and regarding indifference as intolerable, children resort to activities, which get them negative attention. Negative attention is the evidence that they have succeeded in accomplishing their goal.
Understand the child’s goal. Every action of a child has a purpose. His basic aim is to have significance and his place in the group. A well-adjusted child has found his way toward social acceptance by cooperating with the requirements of the group and by making his own useful contribution to it. The misbehaving child is still trying, in a mistaken way, to feel important in his own world. For examples a young child who has never been allowed to dress himself (because “the parent is in a hurry”), who has not been allowed to help in the house (“you’re not big enough to set the table”), may lack the feeling that he is a useful, contributing member of the family, and might feel important only when arousing a parent’s anger and annoyance with misbehavior.
The four goals of misbehavior. The child is usually unaware of his goals. His behavior, though illogical to others, is consistent with his own interpretation of his place in the family group.
Attention-getting: he wants attention and service. We respond by feeling annoyed and that we need to remind and coax him.
Power: he wants to be the boss. We respond by feeling provoked and get into a power contest with him–“you can’t get away with this!"
Revenge: he wants to hurt us. We respond by feeling deeply hurt–"I’ll get even!"
Display of inadequacy: he wants to be left alone, with no demands made upon him. We respond by feeling despair–"I don’t know what to do!"
If your first impulse is to react in one of these four ways, you can be fairly sure you have discovered the goal of the child’s misbehavior.
A child who wants to be powerful generally has a parent who also seeks power. One person cannot fight alone; when a parent learns to do nothing (by withdrawing, for example) during a power contest, the parent dissipates the child’s power and can begin to establish a healthier relationship with him. The use of power teaches children only that strong people get what they want.
No habit is maintained if it loses its purpose, its benefits. Children tend to develop "bad” habits when they derive the benefit of negative attention. If crying or tantrums gets children what they want, they will continue to use those “bad” habits. If they don’t work, they quit using them.
Minimize mistakes. Making mistakes is human. We must have the courage to be imperfect. The child is also imperfect. Don’t make too much fuss and don’t worry about his mistakes. Build on the positive, not on the negative.
A family meeting gives every member of the family a chance to express himself freely in all matters of both difficulty and pleasure pertaining to the family. The emphasis should be on “What we can do about the situation.” Meet regularly at the same time each week. Rotate the leader. Keep minutes. Have an equal vote for each member. Only bring those concerns to the family meeting, which are negotiable. Require a consensus, rather than a majority vote on each decision. Some family rules are non-negotiable. Perhaps explanations or reinforcement of a rule would be appropriate.
Have fun together and thereby help to develop a relationship based on enjoyment, mutual respect, love and affection, mutual confidence and trust, and a feeling of belonging. Instead of talking to nag, scold, preach, and correct, utilize talking to maintain a friendly relationship. Speak to your child with the same respect and consideration that you would express to a good friend.