Emotional Sobriety: 5 Tools For Self-Regulation

Angry Kid

Angry Kid (Photo credits: Giphy)

What is Emotional sobriety?

Is it perfection? Is it always feeling good or being happy, or optimistic? And what happens if you don’t meet perfection, or you have a bad day, feel anxious, angry, sad, or gasp, pessimistic?

 

Emotional sobriety is the ability to self-regulate– to self-soothe in times of duress. It is not a call to perfection. For an alcoholic, addict, or one with fragile mental health, learning to self-regulate is a foundational tool for their recovery and something they begin to learn in treatment. Therapists and counselors work tirelessly to encourage clients to begin the process of looking inward, learning to nurture themselves and hold space for the difficulties human beings often face.  Emotional sobriety is something that forms after the first stage of sobriety is attained. With it comes the ability to be present for your emotions and the ultimate goal is to become nonreactive. Sometimes, that may mean sitting with the discomfort of your emotions until they pass, and that isn’t easy.

 

Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D, author of Recovering Spirituality talks about Emotional Sobriety with uncomplicated clarity. In her Psychology Today blog “Stop the Self-Diagnosis,” she says, “Emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being ‘happy, joyous, and free’ all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like.” You can enjoy the rest of her article here.

 

Here are 5 tools for self-regulation that can help you with attaining Emotional Sobriety:

 

1. Take a time out: Walk away, take 10 breaths or 20 if you’re still heated. Do some work to ground yourself and come back to your body. When we are not regulated, we tend to be outside of our bodies, placing our hands to our bellies, or on the ground or on something solid can help remind us to be present.

 

2. Meditation: I often suggest that one practices what are called the brahma viharas (a Pali word–the language of the Buddha–which means “heavenly abode”): they are often referred to as the heart practices in Buddhist meditation. They include: Metta (lovingkindess), Compassion, Forgiveness, and Sympathetic joy  and Equanimity (the ability to be like a tree in the wind: fluid and non-reactive to the “weather.”).

 

3. Yoga: Yoga can be a workout or it can be what it was meant to be: a moving meditation. Trust me, if you are not breathing, and focused, you will fall over in your tree pose. Yoga will allow you to learn to recognize your reactions to discomfort and respond to them differently.

 

4. Take a walk or go on a hike: Just moving our bodies can help us calm down. A walk around the block can make sometimes get you out of your anger and despair.

 

5. Stop the negative self-talk: This one is tough. We tend to berate ourselves on a regular basis, “ugh, I’m so dumb,” “I’m fat,” “I can’t do this.” I could go on and on. Think about it this way, would you say that to someone you love? I didn’t’ think so.

6. Find and work with a therapist if you need to. A skilled clinician can facilitate a path to self-discovery, healing, and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist; if anything, it’s mental health insurance. Being human is tough work!

 

I leave you with one of my favorite stories, applicable to Emotional Sobriety and the work it requires to obtain:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

Which wolf are you feeding?

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Resolution, Schmesolution: Create a New Year Theme

© 2013 sarit z. rogers

© 2013 sarit z. rogers — all rights reserved

It’s that time: New Year’s Eve celebrations are upon us! For many, it’s the time of year often met with party plans and resolutions. Parties and resolutions together sound like a juxtaposition and affect some legitimate irony, but nevertheless, they go together for most people every 31st of December. However, if you are in recovery, have clearer eyes and hopefully a wiser mind, things might look a bit different during this time of year.

 

There are several articles offering tips and guidelines for setting up the “perfect” New Year resolutions, 0r embarking on a New Year cleanse, or signing up for a New Year workout plan. The one thing all of these have in common is the idea that you can and will actually commit to changing a bevy of major things just because it’s the New Year. Sadly, many fail or abandon those impassioned resolutions after a few weeks. One article in particular stuck out to me. This article suggests creating a theme for the New Year rather than a resolution. A New Year’s Theme! That is right in line with the New Year Intentions I have suggested in the past. Both of these, a theme or an intention, are something that can easily be created, worked with and maintained throughout the year. Rather than seeking perfection, or a grand, finite accomplishment, a theme or intention allows one to slowly change behaviors and invite the possibility of more long-term, sustainable changes.

 

What might your New Year’s Theme or Intention be for 2014?

 

Kindness: The wonderful quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You can choose to practice random and not so random acts of kindness throughout the year. Make it a year of being kind when you might otherwise be gruff. Invite some personal curiosity and investigation about what it might be like to respond to difficulty with kindness instead of anger or fear. It’s an interesting one to work with, but everyone can be kind and deserves kindness in return.

 

Mindfulness: Also looked at as keen “awareness,” mindfulness is an astute awareness of reality and the present moment.  It is an acknowledgement that things are just as they are in that moment. If you make mindfulness your New Year theme, perhaps you will begin by investigating the contemplative practices of meditation and yoga. Or perhaps it might mean choosing not to use your cell phone when you are walking around and instead bringing your awareness to your surroundings and becoming more present. It might mean driving without the radio on, or not always having your cell phone nearby. It might mean eating dinner without the television on so you can be more present with your family. Remember, it is not about perfection; this is a practice.

 

Wellness: If you are desirous of changing your health or the way you eat or the amount of activity you engage in, this is a wonderful theme. You might do this by ruling out meat for one day a week, or by eating more greens. You may choose to limit your caffeine, or cut down on your cigarettes or vape pens: eventually you may even quit! You can increase your wellness, that healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, even if you start small. In fact, small changes over a long period of time have a longer lasting effect.

 

Movement: Increase your physicality in 2014. You can start with walking more or riding your bike. If you usually drive to the corner store or to a meeting that’s only a mile away, try riding a bike once a week! The more you do ride your bike or walk, the more it might become a habit. Honestly, there’s no concrete rule about how long habits take to form or break. Instead, look at this as small opportunities for personal change.

 

Service: Make 2014 your year of being of service! Take a commitment at a meeting and keep it for a year. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Volunteer at an animal shelter once a week. Find a cause you believe in and get involved in raising awareness about it. Being of service is the fulcrum of recovery; “We can’t keep it unless we give it away” is one of the most-often repeated sayings relating to being of service. Write it on something you can always see to remind you to get out of yourself and into action.

 

No matter your theme or plan, the New Year is a time of reflection and growth. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past year so we can grow into the new one. May you ring this New Year in with self-care, compassion, kindness, and great joy. We wish you a wonderful New Year celebration and look forward to celebrating and growing with you in 2014.

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8 Ways to Kick Stress to the Curb

This is what might happen if you go on a photo...

Stress can be really high at this time of the year. Family reunions aren’t always easy, money can be tight, and if you are newly in recovery, the temptation to imbibe is high. The reality is, stress if everywhere no matter the time of year; it’s how we manage it that makes the most difference. Developing quality coping skills is an essential piece to managing stress. Here are 8 tools to help you manage your stress and have fun while doing it!

 

1: Create some healthy rituals: take a bath before bed, do yoga or meditation in the morning before you start your day or before you retire at night.

 

2: Get outside: take walks, go on hikes, do whatever you need to do to get some sunshine (even in December) and absorb some of that healthy Vitamin D. If going outside isn’t an option (say, you are in Maine and there’s an ice storm!), adding plants to your home or workspace can elicit a similar sense of calm and reduce stress.

 

3: Do something that is relaxing and which allows to turn off your head: do a puzzle, knit or crochet, read a book, draw, go surfing or skiing. Essentially, do something that focuses doing something with your hands or body.

 

4: Use positive imagery or meditation to ground (stay connected):

 

A: Check in with your mind and body and visualize a safe space where you are rooted to the earth, and connected to your breath and body. Find an image that is soothing for you and breathe into that heart space.

 

B: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart: breathe into your hands for a minimum of 3 cycles of 10 breaths.

 

5: Exercise: go for a run, walk, or hike. Take a spin class, or go to yoga. Get your endorphins going. You’ll be amazing at the stress relief you find!

 

6: Breathe. Take long, deep breaths. The longer your exhale, the more efficient you are at activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Try this: breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 5.

Do this several times. In layman’s terms, the parasympathetic nervious system is what calms you down. It is essentially the emergency medical technician of your nervous system. The best thing about the breath: It’s portable, you do it all the time, and it’s easy to use.

 

7: Have a dance party.  Put on some silly tunes and rock out in your kitchen, or living room, or wherever the mood strikes you. The goofier, the better.

 

8: Say “No.” You don’t have to always say “Yes” to someone’s request. If your plate is too full, say “No”! Creating those boundaries will lesson your stress. You can only do so much.

 

Be kind to yourself this holiday season and beyond and Kick Stress to the Curb. As the Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”

 

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Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

Angels. #lovemore #santamonica #homeless #beki...

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.

 

How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.

 

Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:

 

Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?

 

Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).

 

1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.

 

2. Buy a homeless person a meal.

 

3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.

 

4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.

 

5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.

 

6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.

 

Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.

 

Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.

 

These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.

 

So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.

 

 

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Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

© sarit z rogers

© sarit z rogers

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.

 

In a therapeutic environment such as Visions, we address more than substance abuse and mental illness; we are facilitating the excavation of trauma and creating safe boundaries. It’s important to maintain awareness around our own sense of boundaries and how execute them. Asking ourselves these questions and contemplating the answers through talking to our peers and writing them out will help you discern where you may need some work, and where you are strongest:

 

  1. What does it mean to set boundaries?
  2. Is it hard to say “no”? If so, what does saying “no” feel like?
  3. How do I feel when my boundaries are crossed?
  4. What is my reaction internally and externally?
  5. Am I afraid to set boundaries? Why?
  6. What is my history around setting boundaries?

 

As clinicians and teachers, it’s imperative that we know and understand where our weak spots are so we can work on them. For some people, it’s not uncommon to wait until someone pushes us to our edge before we set a limit. The desire to please others or to be liked plays a part here, and our own backgrounds and upbringing will also effect how we interact with others. Perhaps we come from a family where hugging and touch is part of the norm. It may be natural for us to reach out and hug someone when they are suffering, but it’s not always appropriate.

 

Hugging a client may be a violation of a boundary, but if the client has been traumatized in some way, they may not know how to set that boundary. Likewise, if a client persistently tries to hug you, you have to maintain a firm boundary so they learn to understand what is and what is not appropriate. I was volunteering at my son’s school recently, and a kid came up and hugged me, not wanting to let go. It was a child I don’t know and it was a clear violation of my boundaries and the school’s rules. I gently moved away and held a boundary with this child until he moved on. Teens look to us as examples to learn from and to emulate. If we don’t show strong, safe boundaries, they won’t be able to either. Understand that the boundaries we create encourage freedom to be who you are while creating a safe container for healing and recovery.

Respecting boundaries applies to parents too. If the family dynamic has been compromised, parents have to work to rebuild a healthy and safe family structure. Creating solid boundaries is key in that process. Adolescents love to push buttons and stretch boundaries; they are smack dab in the center of their individuation process. That doesn’t mean you, the parent, have to give in. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence, and when it’s said with certainty and conviction, it makes all the difference. A wishy-washy, non-committal “no” may as well be a “maybe” or a “yes.” Poor limits leave room for negotiation where there shouldn’t be.

We all have a part to play in creating safe limits whether we are parents, teachers, or clinicians. Kids, in their infinite wisdom and testing behaviors, demand strong limits, whether they admit it or not. Boundaries create safety. They provide defined parameters in which to develop and grow. So as much as a teen may push, inside, they really do respect a firm “No” and a defined environment.

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The Benefits of Blending School and Treatment

There is tremendous value in blending school and treatment. Many clients come to us

1960s School Uniform

(Photo credit: theirhistory)

having fallen off-track in their education as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues. There may also be undiagnosed learning disabilities that need to be addressed. Falling grades and school pressure can create another layer of stress and panic for a teen. When an adolescent comes to treatment, it is our responsibility to provide them with both treatment and educational support that fosters an environment of safety and encouragement around learning and healing. At the same time, providing school and treatment simultaneously allows us to notice where an adolescent needs extra support so we can provide that client with adequate educational and clinical support.

 

I looked to Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, and Joseph Rogers, our Educational Coordinator at our Outpatient Day School for some insight and perspective, particularly since they each see both sides of the education/treatment pendulum. Daniel sees our clients from their initial point of treatment, while Joseph spends time with our clients during their aftercare process. Both of them promote and create foundational pieces to add to the bedrock of an adolescent’s recovery; they invite curiosity about learning, provide support during times of difficulty, and provide individualized methods of teaching to facilitate and nurture a healthy outlook on education.

 

Daniel gave me some wonderful insight when he said, “School is important for treatment success; when a resident can stay on track (or in many cases gets back on track) they will have a stronger foundation for their aftercare. School can be a big stressor, so if school can work with treatment, we feel residents will be better equipped to leave Visions and follow their academic path. Additionally, doing well in school tends to be a source of self-esteem for adolescents.  We want our clients to feel good about learning. Many of our clients come into treatment hopeless. It is our goal to help them see the intrinsic value in education and to guide them toward a meaningful life.”

 

Joseph gave us similar insights, which also help identify the continuum that occurs with school and treatment. He said,  “The practical piece of joining treatment and education is having the benefit of rolling enrollment – clients can enroll at any time, increasing their opportunities of getting back on track. Additionally, students may not be emotionally able or prepared to go back into a normalized educational setting. Having them in a setting that is therapeutically structured for their safety gives them the chance to practice their new behaviors before they go back to their regular school, and because we have clinicians on staff, we can react to and notice a change in behavior quickly and effectively.”

 

We understand the importance of creating a therapeutically alive and nourishing environment for our clients and their families. Placing school in the treatment arena allows us to support our clients at optimum levels, and it provides a multi-level aspect to the healing process. Blending school and treatment from the residential and outpatient perspective is a necessary stone in the path to wellness. It is beneficial to the adolescent, building confidence and self-esteem, and it is advantageous for parents to see their children simultaneously succeed in their education and in their substance abuse and mental health treatment.

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Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness

Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.

 

What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.

 

Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:

 

By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.

 

Practice Joy:

 

Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.

 

Practice Gratitude:


Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.

 

Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.

 

Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!

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Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

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Gratitude for the Thanksgivukkah Holiday

Calendar Confusion (5774 / 2013) ...item 5.. T...

Thanksgivukkah? Yes, that’s right, there’s a rare convergence of two holidays happening this week because of a rare occurrence in the lunarsolar Hebrew calendar, whose dates reflect the moon phase and solar times of the year. I am definitely intrigued by the meshing of Thanksgiving and Chanukah and have been creatively thinking of culinary ways in which to blend the two. Pumpkin-pie cream-filled donuts and latkes are definitely entering this once-in-a-lifetime menu of obscurity.

 

Thanksgiving and Chanukah are holidays that encourage togetherness, and for both of these celebrations, gratitude is the main dish served. Additionally, these holidays invite the possibility of family gatherings. For some, this is exciting and long awaited; for others, it’s tantamount to walking into Mordor. Honoring either of those situations, and the feelings and sensations that arise is going to be key in navigating the holiday.

 

If you are freshly in recovery from mental health issues or substance abuse, and your trauma is in your face, being gentle with yourself is going to be imperative. Honor what you need, how you feel, and create some healthy boundaries for yourself. If going to a particular family member’s house is too triggering, see if you can go to a friend’s house or maybe invite friends over and make your own wild adventure of a meal.

 

If you are the parents of a child in treatment and this is your first holiday together, try to come into it with an open heart and mind. It won’t be easy for any of you, but there is a clear opportunity to create healthy, healing familial change. Both holidays are tied together with the idea of unity, togetherness, and community. Taking baby steps to develop new traditions can be eye opening and fun.

 

We are all grateful for something. Start making gratitude lists and checking them twice. Gratitude lists can be simple, complex, silly, or serious. Gratitude is gratitude and Thanksgivukkah is a perfect opportunity to get grateful.  Chanukah celebrates the miracle of light and the miraculous fact that a day’s worth of oil lasted for 8 days. Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest. Both of these conjoined make for a celebration of epic gratitude. Yes, epic. Mixing traditions and discovering their similarities is pretty darn cool.

 

So, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week or Thanksgivukkah, use it as a time for reflection on community and gratitude. You never know what nuggets of wisdom or moments of awakening and change will arise.

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Art: A Healthy Outlet for Difficult Emotions

Art Therapy 5 centsArt is a wonderful outlet for your difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration. You don’t have to be Basquiat or Banksy, Ruth Bernhard, or Diane Arbus, Steinbeck or Tolstoy; you just have to be yourself. One definition of art is: “works produced by human, creative skill and imagination.” In other words, your options are limitless.

 

Earlier this week, I wrote about self-regulation and self-care.  Finding your artistic outlet is a wonderful way to self-regulate.  So, what will it be?

 

  • Are you inclined to write? Start a journal. Or write a short story or poem.
  • Is painting your thing? Maybe start with a skeleton of an idea (a feeling, smell, site, or sound) and let your paintbrush or fingers lead the way.
  • Maybe music is your emotional salve. Play for the sake or playing, or sing for the sake of singing.
  • Perhaps photography moves you. Make a random list of things (pirate, horseshoe, laughter, etc.) and go on a photo adventure to find those things.

 

All of these artistic endeavors create space within. Allowing yourself to be creative is a great way to get out of your head and into your heart. Creating art is a magnificent, non-verbal way of processing feelings that can otherwise be too big.

Susan the Art Lady guides and encourages our kids to get into their “art brain,” so to speak, and some of the pieces I’ve seen as a result of their creative sessions have been phenomenal. It’s amazing what happens when we let go. It’s inspiring when we can set aside our judgments of others and ourselves and feed that energy into creating something that is uniquely ours.

 

So as we continue this path of self-regulation and self-care, we can add art to our list of resources. There’s something truly wonderful when we access our right brains and relinquish some of our control. There’s infinite healing in paint, in light, in putting pen to paper, and in a coloratura. Art is part of heart, after all.

 

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Helpful Tools for Self-Regulation

Calm Lake

Calm Lake (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Developing tools for self-regulation allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive. Self-regulation will increase our ability to navigate difficult situations or work in challenging environments.  Self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When someone is dysregulated, they are disconnected. One of the steps to self-regulation is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. Think of it this way: When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.

 

Often times, parents have a tough time regulating their emotions. Imagine this: your child has done something infuriating—perhaps he’s lied, or she’s ditching school or doing drugs—and you respond by yelling. You are frustrated, and perhaps even triggered. You are dysregulated. At this point, you are ineffective in your parenting and your kids are apt to be dysregulated as well. You are essentially communicating with metaphorically closed fists. Stress and trauma both send the sympathetic nervous system into the fray.  However, self-regulation will engage the parasympathetic system, which is the body’s natural way of applying a salve. Your action here is to take a time out. Get yourself to a quiet space so you can begin to self-regulate.

 

The three main tools of self-regulation are:

Grounding, Resourcing, and Orienting.

 

Grounding allows you to reconnect with your emotions and physical sensations. Paying attention to your feet on the floor, or placing your hands on something solid can help you get back into your body. Taking deep breaths while you are doing this can help you track the sensations mindfully. Taking a time out when you are dysregulated is the first step to getting grounded.

 

Resourcing is the way in which you ground. We all have resources within us or outside of ourselves. Resources are tools with which we can reconnect with ourselves. For example, breath can be a resource. Your hands on your belly or lap can be a resource. Your pet can be a resource. A resource is something that helps you feel good when everything around you is dismal.

 

Orienting is a way of checking in with your surroundings. When we are not self-regulated, we check out. It can be a very disembodying experience–one that feels determinedly unsafe and out of control.  So when we orient, we do so by consciously noticing our surroundings: looking around the room, noticing where we are, where we are sitting, et cetera.

 

All of these tools help us self-regulate and all of these tools can be taught to our kids regardless of their age or stage of development. In very young children, it starts with self-soothing and bringing awareness to feelings. As kids get older, the language can shift and become more detailed. Being a teen is frightening developmental state; they experience life more intensely because of where they are developmentally. Teens can learn to slow down. Count to 10 before you respond to something provocative, or take a deep, mindful breath. You may find that what you thought you had to say changes. You may discover that what you need to say comes out softer and kinder. Using your breath this way is a means of grounding and resourcing. When we do this, we are developing skills to be in relationship with our impulses and feelings. By reinforcing this awareness, we gain opportunities to change.  Self-regulation is a doorway to self-care. In caring for ourselves, we can more aptly care for others.

 

Parents, you can act as the conduit for this shift. Your kids want to learn from you, even as they push away. By developing these self-regulating tools yourself, your kids may follow. Teach by example, not by hard hands. By doing so, you will no longer communicate with closed fits; you will communicate with open palms and an open heart.

Read this for inspiration:

Getting to the Root of it All – Hala Khouri, M.A.

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