As someone who has been an optimist for many years, always found something of value in my struggles and challenges and began each day from a place of gratitude, I was completely lost when my world slowly began shrinking, from having the freedom to travel anywhere, take in a movie, dine out, visit with friends to being afraid to step outside my own front door.
Some days, I was too terrified to leave my house. My husband the HVAC essential worker took over the family shopping because it became too stressful for me.
Like so many of you, my calendar was overflowing with exciting, momentous occasions that were postponed or indefinitely put on hold.
Life has been as surreal as the Star Trek episode when the Enterprise was shrinking to just a handful of the members, and Dr. Beverly Crusher saved the day when she solved the mystery of to her genius son Will’s worm hole science experiment gone awry that altered time and space.
Not in my wildest dreams could I cook up this dystopic, sci-fi thriller that has become our new reality.
How many weddings, graduations, and showers did you have to cancel when the world hit the pause button?
“So, how do you move forward and pretend that everything is the same, when you know deep down inside, it never will be? ”
How do you take back control of your life?
Because like you, I felt like a victim of my circumstances beyond my control. Then, I began to spiral down, sunk a little lower every day.
The slump was so big and so tall, I could not figure it out, there was no way at all, borrowing a Seussism from The Cat in the Hat.
What got me out of my slump? What stopped me from burying myself in Zoom professional development classes was finding moments of joy and exhilaration that seeped in through the cracks, and I discovered a powerful personal development tool that anyone can learn at any age that grounds you, improves your focus, productivity, and responsive approach to daily drama, especially for 24/7 parents of young, rambunctious children.
In fact, my journey back to emotional wellness began with my first mindfulness class for educators taught by Alix Lauren Cozen, the Senior Early Childhood Professional Development Instructor at FirstUp.org, formerly the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, Pennsylvania’s foremost resource for early childhood educators and Bari Koral, kids yogi and an award-winning children’s recording artist.
Koral’s songs and approachable yoga and mindfulness curriculum are used on a regular basis around the world. She is considered a pioneer in the world of kid’s yoga. To date she has presented to over 50,000 teachers on how to incorporate yoga into the classroom based on her beloved songs and activities.
So, what is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing,” explains Cozen, “and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
She says it begins with listening to our thoughts. “Mindfulness means paying attention to something in a particular way, observing without judging yourself or others or the environment,” adds Cozen. “It’s really a matter of creating a sense of peace, even when you feel uncomfortable, worried, or anxious.”
Ideally it will become “a daily practice that can be used to experience tranquility, calmness, and connection, a toolkit that you could use before you overreact to stress that will support many aspects of your personal and professional life. “
Mindfulness could be as simple as “a mindset shift from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this” explains Cozen. “
How does daily mindfulness help when things are coming at you fast?
Cozen believes that deep self-care and mindfulness practices are the keys to boosting emotional resilience. That’s what she attributes to her ability to bounce back quicker, see things objectively, and take better care of herself and her family when COVID struck.
That’s why both Cozen and Koral have dedicated their lives to working with teachers and parents to bring mindfulness curriculum to schools and homes because research shows the correlation between how breath work, meditation, yoga, and deep self-care impact children’s ability to bounce back from crisis.
“We want to reach children early,” Koral points out, “so we can give them the tools to be present, overcome negativity, be resilient, be able to use their breath for calm and focus. Just like learning a new language, it’s much easier to pick it up from a much earlier age. “
It’s also important to understand the bias that our brain has toward negative self-talk. In his New York Times best-seller The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield indicates that “people talk to themselves 50,000 times a day, and according to psychological researchers, about 80 percent of the time it is negative.” But then he goes on to explain how mindfulness can counter that.
“So, it’s really helpful to have the tools to understand how the brain works, adds Koral, “then we can navigate into a calmer more peaceful place,” before latching on to our negative thoughts.
- Discover your Superpower
Do you ever say aloud or think? ‘ I’m not good enough! I’ll never get it right! or, I’m not good at this!‘
If you’re aware of how you speak to and about yourself, then Cozen says that “positive self-talk could be your super-power” because if you catch the mean self-talk before negative thoughts gain momentum that will shift your perspective and outlook which impacts behavior.
2. Counter negativity with the “5-1 Rule“
“When something good happens, Cozen says,” hit the record button.” It takes five positive things to counter one negative, so hold on to what feels good in your body. When you think about it, consider where it feel good in your body. When we fill up our reservoir with good things, it’s harder to knock us down.
3. Reframe and turn around negative thoughts: Ask these 4 Questions:
- What was I just thinking?
- Is it true?
- Do I know for a fact that it’s true?
- Where would I be without that thought?
4. Check in with yourself
Pay attention to what you say by checking in with yourself throughout your day. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Ask yourself how you feel? Koral goes one step further, she says ask: Where in my body do I feel this emotion?
5. Koral’s Guided Meditation: Notice How You Feel
- Find a quiet space.
- Close your eyes or softly focus and take three slow deep breaths.
- Think about a time when you’ve fallen short as a parent.
- Be aware of any areas of discomfort and apply a soothing gesture, just like you would if your child were upset.
- Self-soothe by placing your hands over your heart or belly, cupping your hands over your face, or giving yourself a hug
- Say: “I love my children with all my heart and give to them in so many ways.”
- Let your words linger until your body softens.
6.. Breathe to Heal
When Cozen walked us through Max Strom’s Breathe to Heal technique also called 4-7-8. Many of us reported feeling less overwhelmed. I was as though a brain fog had lifted.
- Inhale: 4 seconds
- Hold: 7 seconds
- Exhale: 8 Second
I believe that the greatest gift we can give our children is to love, accept, and honor ourselves, with the understanding that we will always be a work in progress—and teach them to embrace their imperfections and humanity.
“These are little people with big emotions,” Cozen reminds us,” that are looking for us to be the calm in the storm.”
If you liked this article and found it useful, then please comment and share with your network. What are your parenting challenges and small wins?
I would love to share your family’s journey back to health and well-being!
Is your family thriving or slumping? Have you shifted from just getting through your days to finding pockets of happiness and things to be grateful for every day?
If you feel that you have a creative way to empower families, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, so I can share it with this audience, and then we can lift each other up on our journey to being whole again.