living life like a child

 

Being a parent has been an eye opener for me in so many ways. I have had the privilege of watching my daughter grow. It is amazing to see how my child views the world. Whether you are a parent or not, I believe we should all try to use a child’s lens more when living our lives.  This article illustrates the power and freedom of living life like a child.

WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE LIFE LIKE A CHILD

 

(1) Kids don’t judge

They look at everything with an open mind and heart. They do not have any preconceived notions or opinions. As adults, life has jaded us in many ways. It is understandable that our prior experiences have shaped our views. However, if we try to not judge a book from its cover, perhaps we can embrace new experiences and people rather than judge them.

(2) Kids are curious

Kids want to learn and understand everything around them. They ask questions because of a genuine interest in everything. Although trying at times, it is wonderous to see how much they want to learn. As adults, we often assume we have all the answers or don’t have the time or energy to seek out information. What if we took the time to discover why the sky is blue? There is so much each of us don’t know and imagine how much there is to discover.

(3) Kids have endless enthusiasm

I laugh as I write this one, because this is something that every teacher has said about Brielle. My daughter is excited about the simplest of things. A balloon! A box! Having a playdate (since COVID I think anyone would be excited about socializing, but I am referring to once upon a time when we could socialize without fear of a deadly virus)! Living life like a child means being excited about all that life has to offer. The little and simple stuff in life is not so little and simple to a child. I think we all could learn a thing or two about that.

(4) They are innocent and without prejudice

Innocence is a difficult subject for me. Some children have no choice but to lose their innocence at a young age for reasons beyond their control. I grew up in a toxic environment, and therefore didn’t get to stay innocent for very long. I am referring to children that grow up in loving, stable, healthy environments. Living life like a child means hatred and prejudice simply don’t exist to them.

I remember the first time my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair. She asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.

I realized that if I shied away from her questions or told her not to ask them, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray that differences are something to be disliked or feared.

I learned that people are happy to answer your questions if they are coming from a place of innocence. Brielle learned that some people aren’t able to use their legs the way that we do. She has since asked and learned about hearing aids, skin tags, Tourette’s Syndrome, muscular sclerosis, and autism.

I recall the first time my daughter met a person of color. She was very young and a man came to our house to do some construction. She said hello and immediately asked him why he was dark. He got down to her level, smiled at her, and told her that not everyone has the same skin color. He then told her that all those differences are what makes the world special. My daughter, wide eyed, nodded and took in every word. She then gave him a hug. I have never forgotten that moment.

My initial embarrassment that she asked that question turned into gratefulness. I was grateful that her innocence allowed her to learn something that I wish everyone knew and understood. I once again realized that my discomfort could have prevented her from such a profound experience.  The prevention of asking and understanding differences is what brews ignorance, and ignorance is what breeds hate. Living life like a child means embracing differences and not avoiding them.

(5) Kids find humor and joy everywhere

Living life like a child means laughing all the time. My daughter finds humor in pretty much everything. Her laugh is contagious, and I find myself laughing. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t burst into giggles or hysterical laughter. She finds joy and humor in the simplest of things.

My silly faces make her laugh, a chapter from a book makes her laugh, pumping her legs on the swings makes her laugh, and rolling down a hill makes her laugh. She sometimes laughs at her laughs. It isn’t a teasing laughter; rather, it is a laughter that comes from the heart. What a wonderful world this would be if adults laughed more at ourselves and found more humor and joy in life.

(6) Kids don’t care what others think

I am often self-conscious. On the contrary, Brielle laughs, shouts, giggles, dances, sings, and is herself without constraints. She lives her life like nobody is watching, and more importantly, she wouldn’t care if they were. Some kids are shyer than others. However, living life like a child means that when they are doing something, they aren’t worrying about what other people think. Imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we all lived like that.

(7) Kids love to play

Adults are consumed with responsibilities. Kids, however, play. They focus on having fun and enjoying themselves. Living life like a child means connecting with others and learning through contentment.

Understandably, kids are able to enjoy themselves more because of their lack of obligations. However, kids don’t feel guilty for doing things that make them happy. They don’t feel selfish because they take the time to do things that bring them joy. Adults (myself included) should take a page from the kid handbook and incorporate hobbies and other forms of self-care into our lives without guilt.

(8) Kids feel their feelings without reservations

When a kid is happy, it is obvious. Likewise, when a child is feeling frustrated, mad, or sad, their emotions come pouring out of them. Meltdowns and temper tantrums are common among young children because of their frustrations at being unable to properly communicate or express their emotions. Children want to share how they are feeling.

Adults, however, feel the need to often hold back our feelings. Many of us were taught at a young age that it is important to “be strong” or “not cry like a baby.” Those words shaped our perceptions and in turn, many of us grew up burying our feelings. Living life like a kid means that it is okay to not be okay. Kids will freely express their emotions without reservation. It is only when adults try to constrict those emotions that kids do otherwise.

I am certainly not saying that parents shouldn’t try to calm a child down when they are having a temper tantrum. However, if we take the time to understand why a kid is behaving a certain way or struggling, it will help them to be better equipped to deal with those emotions. Most importantly, teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to handle their feelings rather than sweep them under a rug encourages kids to continue to embrace their feelings.

Kids are authentic with their feelings and emotions. We should try to live life like a child and allow ourselves to feel more and restrict ourselves less. Life would be more authentic, genuine, and real if we all freely expressed ourselves.

 

 

Kids are an example of all the things we once embodied. Their innocence, curiosity, excitement, and pleasure in the simplest of things are a reminder of how much beauty there is in this world. If each of us made a vow to try to live life like a child, we would be opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities.

There is a lot of pain and cruelty in this world, and I am not suggesting that all bells can be unrung. However, there are things right in front of us that can bring us joy, if we allow ourselves to see it. We are no longer children, but we can try to view life through a different perspective.

Lay in the grass or jump in a puddle (it really is fun!). Sing your favorite song on top of your lungs. Learn something new. Take a moment to appreciate something simple, but that brings you joy. Try to be open to something without judging it first. Living life like a child will make us better adults and better people.

life through my eyes

I was asked by a reader named Sarah to write a post about life through my eyes. Although I welcome suggestions, this topic is one of the hardest ones I’ve ever had to tackle. I have written many posts about my struggles, but describing what life feels like for me is incredibly difficult to articulate.

I am very much an enigma. Although I have self-awareness up the wazoo, implementing that self-awareness is challenging. I have a strong sense of who I am, but I still struggle with codependent tendencies and seeking validation from others. My personality is one of an advocate (INJF),  and I will vehemently stand up for what I believe in. However, I am incredibly sensitive, and my feelings are easily hurt.  I know I am strong because I have survived a lifetime of abuse and trauma, but I still feel weak.

The truth is, we are all comprised of a series of contradictions. Our lives and experiences have formed and shaped our way of perceiving the world. For many of us, we are our own worst enemies. We go into the ring with the sense of self that knows better versus the self that is consumed with pain. Life through my eyes has been that constant internal battle.

LIFE THROUGH MY EYES

I spent my childhood in survival mode. As a victim of emotional and psychological child abuse and severe neglect, I grew up having no sense of safety or stability. I did not know what if felt like to be loved unconditionally. I was extremely codependent on my mother, who was my abuser. It was engrained into me that I was worthless, helpless, and incapable. Nothing I did was good enough to make my mother love me, so I concluded that I was broken and unlovable.  

This way of thinking was the voice of my inner child, and that way of thinking never went away. Our inner child is the child within all of us. It is based on the thoughts and experiences that took place during your childhood, pre-puberty. Every single one of us has an inner child. Your childhood will determine the perspectives, needs, and thoughts of your inner child. Due to my trauma and abandonment issues, my inner child views the world through a lens of fear, loneliness, and terror.  

For a very long time, my inner child was my primary sense of self.

It was hard for me to detangle who my inner child was versus who I was as an adult because my way of thinking never changed.  As an adult, I still saw the world through her eyes. As someone with C-PTSD and anxiety that is often debilitating, I still felt like a helpless, scared and fearful girl.

inner child

LIFE THROUGH MY EYES: MY ADULT SELF VERSUS MY INNER CHILD

Since I couldn’t save myself as child, I believed I could not save myself as an adult. I jumped from relationship to relationship, wanting the person to “save me”. I felt that I was not whole and could never be whole due to the damage done to me. However, I thought that if someone finally loved me, it could fill that void. The truth is that that void can never be filled by another person, and I kept experiencing that painful truth time after time and relationship after relationship. I was like a parasite by creating a sense of self and wholeness from another person. When the relationship would end, I crumbled along with it.

When my husband started abusing alcohol during my pregnancy, my inner child was up front and center. The man I had chosen to start a family with, the man who was supposed to love me, was not someone I could count on. I was alone again, but this time, I was about to bring a living being into the world.

How could I be a mother on my own when I still felt so very much like a helpless child?

My husband turned to pills soon after he stopped using alcohol. He spent the first four years of my daughter’s life MIA emotionally. Even after he became sober, he struggled to use healthy coping mechanisms to deal with his pain and to communicate his feelings.  Meanwhile, I had a daughter who depended on me. I promised myself as a child that the cycle of abuse would stop with me.  Therefore, I knew I had to stop viewing myself as that lost little girl. After years of being abandoned by my mother, I came to the realization that I was guilty of abandoning my inner child as well in adulthood. I had to give myself the support and love that I hadn’t received as a child.

I now had my own little girl, and her safety and well-being were my responsibility.  

Having my daughter helped me a long way towards realizing that I had a sense of self separate from my inner child. It was my job to take care of my daughter and step-up as an adult. In doing so, I learned that I could stand on my own two feet. I had an obligation to teach my child that she is in control of her life and that happiness is in her own hands. Therefore, I had to start practicing what I preach.

I still vacillate between seeing life through the eyes of my inner child and the eyes of a woman who is a survivor. There are instances when I am triggered, resulting in me lashing out and feeling out of control. I know in those situations that that scared little girl within me feels frightened and scared, and that my inner child is reacting out of fear and feeling unsafe. I know my inner child is in survival mode because she had no choice but to do that growing up.

However, I am learning that through recognizing the needs of my inner child, I am showing her that she is safe.

inner child safety

By listening to her and honoring her feelings, I am giving her the love she needs.  She isn’t being abused anymore. She isn’t in danger anymore. There is an adult who can care for her, love her, and make sure that she is protected. After years of looking for someone to rescue me and my inner child, I am learning that I am the person that needs to proudly take ownership of that role. I am my inner child’s source of safety and support.  It isn’t easy to stare your pain and your past in the face, but I now know that my inner child deserves to be loved. I now know I deserve to be loved too.

I am by no means “healed”, and truth be told, I don’t I don’t think anyone is ever fully healed. 

We all have wounds and bruises. Some are merely knacks, whereas others are deep. Some are physical in nature, and others are invisible, but oh, so potent.  We are all damaged, but being damaged does not mean that we are broken. 

Living life through my eyes means that I will always struggle with anxiety. After being thrown out of my house from the time I was 8, I am very much shaped by the message etched into the recesses of my being that the outside world is a scary place. Although I am aware of why I feel that way, it doesn’t change those feelings.

As a result, I feel fear doing things on my own.

I feel tremendous anxiety making phone calls, going on errands, and even going to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up. Additionally, I do not drive on the highway and will try to drive somewhere in advance to make sure I know where I am going. I also have social anxiety.

That said, I have driven without practicing in advance when it is last minute, I have taken my incredibly hyperactive daughter on errands, and I have had in-depth phone calls with my daughter’s pediatrician.  Although I don’t think my fears will ever go away, I still try to face them. I will fight to be the best version of myself until the day I die.

I used to feel a lot of shame about my anxiety, and most people don’t know the extent of it. Outside of my husband and my immediate family, nobody knows that I have debilitating anxiety. However, I spent too many years feeling shame about those feelings and judging myself for it. I now know that my anxiety is a by-product of my abuse, but anxiety doesn’t define me. 

I spent too many years staying in inner-child mode, instead of incorporating her into my life.

There will always be someone who will judge me for my struggles. They won’t understand why a grown woman has these difficulties.  However, I also know that I am a warrior for getting up every single day and fighting. It is a daily internal fight to not allow my fears to define me. I fight daily to be the best mom, wife, and person I can be. I also fight daily to not let my past control my present and future.

There will always be things that others do easily that are incredibly difficult for me. I now accept that. However, I am determined to show my daughter that bravery isn’t measured by success, but in having the courage to face your fears and keep trying. It is a lesson I have to remember and implement every single day.

MY BALANCING ACT

my adult self versus my inner child

I now try to view life with a balance between grown-up Randi and inner-child Randi. My inner child will always be a part of who I am, but she isn’t all of me. I learned that it is not okay to stay trapped in the past, but I need to honor the feelings of my inner child and hold space for her. I am proud of my inner child, and I remind her of that daily.

My inner child is here to stay, and I now embrace her.

I am able to see the world through her eyes, while also noting when it is time for me to remind her that it is my job to step-in and protect her. I didn’t get the love I needed as a child, and there is nothing I can do to change that. However, I can now give that love to myself and to my inner child.  I keep that knowledge in my mind and in my heart as I view the world and my life through both pair of eyes.

five stages of the grieving process

Grief is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. Death is not the only factor that evokes grief and loss. It is important to understand the five stages of the grieving process in order to identify and process your emotions, as well as empathize with others who are grieving.

What Causes Grief, and is there a right way to grieve?

Grief is caused by a variety of circumstances, including the ending of relationships, illnesses, the end of a project or goal, or perceived or real changes in your life. This includes changing schools, locations, or jobs. The pandemic has caused social isolation and tremendous change for all of us.

The truth is, we are ALL grieving in some form right now due to the loss of our old way of life.

 “Everyone, from all walks of life and across cultures, experience loss and grief at some point” (psychcentral.com, 2021).

A psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross created the Kubler-Ross model, which is the theory of the 5 stages of grief and loss.  These stages were described in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.  Although Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ model was initially based off of working with terminally ill patients, it has been adapted to include all types of grieving and loss. The five stages of the grieving process are popularly referred to as DABDA.

the five stages of the grieving process

It is important to note that although she described 5 stages of grief, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people will experience only certain stages of grief, where others might experience all of them. The stages are not linear, so they can be experienced in any order as well. The extent to which you feel emotions and symptoms associated with grief will vary as well. Additionally, the amount of time in which you experience a particular stage and/or grieve in entirety will vary from person to person. In other words, everyone grieves and feels loss differently.

The Five Stages of The Grieving Process

(1) Denial

Denial is considered the first stage of grief, as it can initially help you to cope with your loss. It might be hard to fully comprehend and acknowledge. Denial and disbelief is a coping mechanism that allows the impact of the news to not happen all at once. Therefore, denying the news, feeling shocked, and going numb are common symptoms associated with this stage. Typically, this stage is about living in a preferable reality as opposed to the actual reality. Physical symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. This stage will end when the feelings that were being buried start to come to the surface (psycom.net, 2020).

(2) Anger

Feeling intense anger, frustration, irritation, and anxiety all encompass this stage of grief and loss. Pain from loss may result in feelings of helplessness, which then turns into anger. Those in this stage may feel angry at a person, a higher power, or a general feeling of anger. You might also feel guilty for feeling angry, which will make you feel angrier. It is also common to feel angry at the cause of your loss (webmd.com, 2020). 

Pain is the source of this anger and allowing yourself to feel this way is part of the healing process. Pushing your emotions aside will not allow you to grieve. Therefore, it is important to hold space for these feelings.

(3) Bargaining

This stage of grief takes place as a way of holding onto hope and trying to prevent a loss from becoming permanent. There are often feelings of helplessness and desperation. For example, a person may pray that they will be a better person, become more religious, etc. in exchange for sparing the life of a family member who has a terminal illness. You might also feel guilt as you think over if there was something you could have done differently to prevent this situation from taking place (psychcentral.com, 2021). If bargaining and circumstances don’t improve, it may lead the griever to experience denial and pain again.

(4) Depression

This is the stage when emotions are very raw as you are fully facing your present reality. You may feel heartbroken, intense sadness and despair, and fully realize the loss. Additional symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, hopeless, inability to get out of bed, and not wanting to participate in activities. Physical symptoms during this stage are changes in appetite and sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, easily distracted, isolation, and physical pain.

Remember you have people who care about you. Allow others to support you during this difficult time.

(5) Acceptance

During this stage the loss is accepted. That doesn’t mean you are happy about it; however, you accept and acknowledge your new reality. “Acceptance is more about how you acknowledge the losses you’ve experienced, how you learn to live with them, and how you readjust your life accordingly” (psychcentral.com, 2021).

Please note that you will still have bad days and may still experience anger, sadness, feeling heartbroken, etc. You may feel like you have accepted the loss at times and then move to another stage of grieving. Remember that grieving and healing are not stagnant.

Eventually, you will remain in this stage for longer periods of time and move forward with your life. You will figure out a way to live life with this loss. At this point you will start to reach out to friends and families, be more involved in activities, and you will start to feel more hopeful (www.betterhlep.com, 2020 ).

acceptance is acknowledging your new reality

Additional Stages of The Grieving Process

There are current adaptations of the 5 stages of the grieving process. The 7 stages of grief are an extension of the original with overlapping stages ( www.betterhelp.com, 2020). Similarly, there is no order to these stages:

  • Shock and Denial– feel shock and inability to grasp reality
  • Guilt and Pain– experience feelings of heartbreak and emotional pain as well as grief
  • Anger and Bargaining– feel anger and also try to bargain for a different outcome
  • Depression, Reflection and Loneliness– reflect upon the loss and feel depressed and lonely
  • The Upward Turn -grief starts to become more manageable and less difficult
  • Reconstruction and Working Through -start to set realistic solutions and work through changes due to this loss
  • Acceptance and Hope– accept circumstances and begin to feel a sense of hope about the future

When to Seek Professional Help

If your feelings of depression are getting worse, you have thoughts of harming yourself, or you are turning to drugs or alcohol to numb your feelings, it is important to seek professional help. This can be done in the form of a support group or seeking out a bereavement counselor. Both of these can be sought out online.

Coping Strategies for Loss and Grief

coping strategies for loss and grief

Although you should not rush or force your way through grieving, there are things you can do to help yourself during the grieving process:

(1) Practice self-care

Pick something that you feel comfortable doing during this difficult time. Whether it is exercise, mediation, or pursuing a hobby, focus on implementing things that will improve your emotional and mental well-being.

(2) Reach out to others

Do not isolate yourself. Whether it is talking to a friend or joining a support group, do not deal with loss on your own. Speak with others who can empathize or who can offer additional insight and support.

(3) Create small, attainable goals

This enables you to feel a sense of accomplishment and responsibility for your life while allowing you to grieve and process your loss.

(4) Give yourself room to heal

Understand that grieving takes time and moving through your grief is the only way to get passed it.

(5) Avoid harmful behaviors

Do not turn to unhealthy behaviors to deal with your pain.

The Grieving Process

Grief is not a one-size-fits-all process. It is an individual path, and it is one that has no rhyme or reason. There is no valid or correct way to grieve. However, understanding these stages of grief enables you to understand your grieving journey. Allow yourself to mourn in whatever way that you experience your feelings of grief and loss. Recognize and hold space for your emotions, give yourself the support you need, and remember that healing takes time and patience.

I hope this information is helpful and provides you with support. If you know someone who is grieving, remember that the most important thing you can do is to let the person know you are there and willing to listen anytime.

 

how to treat yourself with kindness

We try our best to treat others with kindness, and we teach our children to treat others with kindness. However, how often do we treat ourselves that way? For many, we are our own worst critic rather than our greatest source of comfort and support. As a result, I am sharing with you 18 ways to treat yourself with kindness.

18 Tips and Strategies To Treat Yourself With Kindness

 

(1) Challenge negative thoughts and feelings

It seems like such an obvious thing, but avoiding self-criticism is something that so many of us struggle to actually implement! We often find ourselves falling victim to our inner critic, who is a master at telling us that we are stupid, worthless, and failures. Our inner critic is formed from painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes towards us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts and behaviors towards ourselves. This continuous way of thinking becomes the story we tell ourselves.  In turn, these negative beliefs are the lens in which we interpret ourselves and the world around us. We fall into the vicious cycle of confirmation bias – we seek things to confirm the story that we tell ourselves. If we believe we are failures, we will naturally view the world in a way that confirms that belief.

How do we stop this? By challenging the self-criticism and negative thoughts. Replace the negative beliefs with positive ones. Challenge the story that you tell yourself. The next time you tell yourself that you are a failure, stop and think if that is indeed the case. Change your confirmation bias by pretending you are opposing counsel and remembering about all the times you did something that was difficult. Think about examples of your accomplishments and goals that you have achieved. Replace your self-criticism and negative thoughts with kindness and self-respect. Speak positively and compassionately to yourself, and tell your inner critic that you appreciate its intentions, but you are going to take it from here. 

(2) Positive affirmations

I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. Write down a list of things you like and believe about yourself (or want to believe about yourself). Include all positive qualities and attributes. However, remember to primarily focus on who you are as a person rather than how you look. Whatever negative stories you tell yourself, write the opposite in an affirmation. For example, if you have a negative belief that you are unlovable, write positive affirmations such as, “I am loveable just as I am.”, “I deserve love.”, and “I am loved.”

be kind to yourself

Make a commitment to yourself to say positive affirmations daily. I think saying them aloud in front of the mirror is a great way to reinforce these affirmations (huffpost, 2016), but there is no right or wrong way to do this. The important takeaway is that these positive affirmations should be used to help you to believe in yourself and help you change the way you talk and view yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, and you will start to believe the things you are saying.

(3) Prioritize yourself

Treat yourself with kindness by putting yourself first. You are important, and you need to start valuing yourself. That means implementing a self-care routine and setting boundaries. We all have limited time, but even ten minutes a day dedicated to caring for yourself will do wonders for your mental wellness as well as self-esteem. By scheduling time for self care and setting and maintaining boundaries, you are telling yourself that you matter and respecting yourself.

Ask yourself what you need and what type of care you need every single day, and make sure to take the time to give it to yourself. Check out my worksheets on self-care and my boundaries worksheet for step-by-step instruction and examples of each.

(4) Accept that mistakes are inevitable, and you are not perfect

As humans, we are all fallible. Imperfection is inevitable; judging yourself for your mistakes is not treating yourself with kindness. Instead, try to create small, realistic goals that set you up for success (healthshots.com, 2020), and remember to acknowledge and praise yourself along the way. If you set a goal and it wasn’t achieved, remind yourself that you did not accomplish this goal YET. By including the word “yet” in the statement, you are giving yourself space and time to achieve your goals rather than criticizing yourself and interpreting it as a failure.

(5) SElf-Acceptance

We all have visions of how we want our lives to turn out and what we want to achieve in the future. Often, life does not work out the way we anticipated. Our individual journeys are comprised of a series of curveballs, and all we can do is play the hand we were dealt. Accept what is out of your control and focus on what is within your control. Treat yourself with kindness and respect while holding space for growth.

This applies to us and our healing journey as well. Accept all parts of yourself by remembering that each of us are works-in-progress. We can always strive to be better and do better, without setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves or expecting perfection.

(6) Be your own friend

The standards, words, and thoughts that we have for our friends should set the precedence for the standards, words, and thoughts we use for ourselves. Give yourself empathy, compassion, and understanding just as you would a friend. The next time you are harsh with yourself, ask if you would react the same way if these circumstances applied to a friend. Treat yourself with kindness by being your own friend, avoiding self-criticism, and respecting yourself. 

(7) Discover what brings you joy

Do things that make you feel happy and content. Even if it is only for a few minutes each day, make sure to discover and take time for your hobbies. Whether it is listening to music, reading a book, or painting, invest in your own self-happiness.

(8) Be your own advocate

Encourage and motivate yourself daily. This also means recognizing that everyone needs support. Reach out to others and ask for help if needed. Just as you would fight to get support for your child if it was needed, fight for yourself.

(9) Surround yourself by people who love you unconditionally and treat you well

Others treating you with kindness is not a substitute for treating yourself with kindness. However, if you want to respect and care for yourself, you cannot be around people who do not appreciate you and treat you badly. Set boundaries to ensure healthy relationships, and distance yourself from people who are toxic. Defend yourself and speak up if you are not treated in a way that aligns with your values and beliefs.

(10) Give yourself the validation you seek from others

It is natural to want others to acknowledge and support your feelings. However, you must learn to get that validation from yourself first and foremost. Otherwise, you are opening the door to codependent behavior and seeking reassurance from others rather than giving it to yourself.

A way to learn self-validation is through journaling. Write down your thoughts, feelings, challenges, and any behavior that makes you feel guilty. Also, write down your accomplishments and things you feel proud about.

Practice mindfulness by taking time to acknowledge your feelings, good and bad.  In order to validate the negative feelings, normalize them instead of judging yourself for what you are feelings. For example, if you snapped at your child, remind yourself that everyone feels frustrated. Then, take time to give yourself support for the negative feelings/actions. Write down ways you can comfort yourself. For example, remind yourself that it is understandable that you snapped due to feeling overwhelmed (thehealthy.com, 2017). The next time you feel overwhelmed, perhaps you can try to practice breathing or taking a break. Remember to not judge yourself, but rather to validate and support your feelings.  As long as you aren’t acting abusive, you need to understand that you are human and are doing the best you can.

(11) Discover your own love language 

love language

Knowing your love language and your partner’s love language is crucial for your romantic relationship, but it is also a great way of showing kindness to yourself. Remember to speak your love language to yourself. For example, if your love language is words of affirmation, remember to tell yourself on a regular basis that you are doing a great job and that you appreciate everything that you do.

(12) Take care of yourself

Just as you should practice self-care for your mental well-being, it is necessary to take care of yourself physically. Make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Treat yourself with kindness by looking out for your health.

(13) Embrace your differences

Instead of looking at your differences and insecurities as something to be ashamed of, what if you embraced them? Whether it is the unusual way you laugh, your unusual sense of humor, or the freckles all over your face, remember that differences are what make you special.   

(14) Focus on your strengths

Make a list of things that you like about yourself. Include all accomplishments, acts of bravery and perseverance, and anything that is a source of pride. Also list traits and qualities you appreciate about yourself. Look at this list often, and keep adding to it as needed. Whenever you are feeling badly about yourself or are treating yourself harshly, look at this list as a reminder that you deserve to treat yourself with kindness. This list is who you truly are, and that person deserves to be treated well.

(15) Don’t compare yourself with others

It is fine to look at others’ accomplishments and appreciate them. They can be used as inspiration, but they should not make you feel like you are lacking. Every person’s circumstances are different, and comparing ourselves to others is a game we will never win. Success is subjective and we all have our own pace and way of achieving it (healthshot.com). The only person we should strive to be better than is ourselves.

(16) Give yourself physical reassurance

Treat yourself with kindness by giving your feet a massage, give yourself a hug, or hold your own hand (thehealthy.com). Remind yourself that you are your own source of comfort.

(17) Meditation

Repeat a kind mantra to yourself or listen to a guided meditation to treat yourself with kindness. Meditation “teaches your brain to be more compassionate and soothing throughout the day, even at times when you are not actively meditating” (thehealthy.com).

meditation is a key to kindness

(18) Understand that change takes time

This new way of treating yourself is going to be a work-in-progress, as it’s hard to learn how to change. Instead of getting mad at yourself or judging yourself, remember that treating yourself with kindness means accepting that you will mess up. You may take two steps backwards after you take one step forwards. That’s okay. Pick yourself up and try again. 

 

 

Learning to be kind to yourself means accepting that like everything in life, you will fall down and have to get back up. It is up to you whether you fall down and kindly dust yourself off, or if you fall down and yell at yourself for falling.

Don’t forget to share this post with someone in your life who deserves to treat themselves with kindness! <3 

 

things i wish i knew before becoming a mother

There are so many times I’ve thought to myself, “I wish I had a crystal ball so I could know the future”. However, when it comes to motherhood, I wish I had a time machine so I could talk to the version of myself before I became a mom. That woman (aka me) didn’t have a clue! For those that are navigating the intricacies of motherhood, this post is for you. Here are the things I wish I knew before becoming a mother:

THE 15 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I BECAME A MOTHER

 

1. You can never be fully prepared to be a mom.

Sure, you can have the basics like a crib, changing table, and diapers, but the true complexities of motherhood? No way. You can read every baby and parenting book out there, take every course, and speak to every mom, and you still won’t be prepared.

I don’t say this to freak out any mothers-to-be.

I say this because parenting isn’t one-size-fits-all. Every kid is different, and the moment you think you’ve got the parenting thing under control- BAM!- something new happens. Your kid is always changing, and their preferences and needs will change. What worked today may not work in a month (or even tomorrow, as is usually the case in my household). The only way to be a mom is to actually be a mom.

I was one of those pregnant women that thought I could study my way into motherhood. I did well in school by studying, so why not apply that same principle into motherhood? So I read. A LOT. Guess what? Those books didn’t prepare me for the helplessness I felt the first night when I tried every technique I read, and nothing would make Brielle stop crying. I had to figure out what worked for her, and that took trial and error and a lot of tears (on her part and even more so on mine). Motherhood is a constant work-in-progress.

2. Parenting is HARD. SUPER HARD.

It is the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining thing you will experience in your life. It will test you in every way possible, and it requires endless patience.

I wish I knew before becoming a mother that parenting will always be a challenge. I thought that taking care of a newborn was the most demanding thing, until Brielle became a toddler. Then she became a little kid, and I had a whole new set of challenges. Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.

3. Parenting is the biggest responsibility you will have in your life.

Being responsible for the well-being of another human being is a privilege, but is an overwhelming responsibility. It is one that should be taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you should feel you have to do everything right (because that is impossible), but it does mean that the precious life of an innocent child is in your hands. It is up to you to do your best to guide that child into a self-sufficient, well-rounded, kind, compassionate adult.

4. You will love your child more than you ever knew was humanly possible.

love your child more than you will ever know

I know I’ve probably terrified many new and expecting moms with the first three. However, of all the things I wish I knew before I became a mom, this one matters most.   The love you will feel for your child is immeasurable. You will feel like your heart actually grew because you won’t understand how it is possible to love that much.

I want to clarify something though. You know those movies that show moms feeling this instantaneous love the moment they hold their child? That is simply not the case for all moms. Hormones are soaring, you’ve just endured pain that can only be described as torture, and some women struggle with postpartum/peripartum depression (PPD). Just because you don’t feel that kind of love at the beginning, doesn’t mean you won’t.

When I had Brielle, I was overwhelmed.

I was in complete shock (she came 6 days early), and I was in a panic.  I looked at Brielle and I felt connected to her, but a part of me also wanted to run. FAST.

I remember hysterically crying to my father-in-law 3 weeks after I gave birth. My husband had to go back to work when Brielle was 1 week old, and I couldn’t get Brielle to stop crying (she had acid reflux, had her days and nights mixed up, and she had a set of lungs on her. She actually made herself hoarse on many occasions). I was sad all the time, I wanted my old life back, and I felt guilty and like a failure for feeling that way. I was too overwhelmed and depressed to fully grasp the extent of my love for her, but once I did, WOW.  

5. Educate yourself about postpartum depression.

I wish I knew this before I became a mother because I would have recognized the symptoms. I was extremely depressed for many months at the beginning of Brielle’s life. Some of it was due to my husband’s lack of presence, some was due to the challenges of being a new mom, but a lot of it was hormonal. Had I spoken to my OB-GYN or a mental health professional about it, my quality of life during all those months would have probably been a lot better.  

“Peripartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite…Peripartum depression is different from the “baby blues” in that it is emotionally and physically debilitating and may continue for months or more. Getting treatment is important for both the mother and the child. ( Psychiatry.org , 2019). Please know that there should never be any shame about seeking help if you are struggling.  

6. Privacy is a thing of the past.

Once you have a baby, time to yourself is limited. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom without my little bundle of joy accompanying me. She would cry hysterically if I wasn’t within her view at all times. My body was no longer just mine. I had a baby come out of me, and she was now breastfeeding around the clock. Although I wouldn’t take back those times with her for anything in the world,  it was a huge adjustment. I was being touched, vomited on, and producing milk constantly. Even when your baby gets older, your kids will still be all over you, and you will often have an audience in the bathroom.

7. Self-care and boundaries are crucial.

You can’t set boundaries with a baby, but you can implement a self-care routine for yourself. I wish I knew before I became a mother that it is crucial to practice self-care.  Parenting is demanding, and you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Figure out a time to Implement self-care.

It can be when the baby is napping or when your husband is with the baby. It can be when the baby is in the playpen. Don’t take it for granted, as it is easy to overlook it with all of life’s demands.

When your child gets older, continue to practice self-care. Remember that looking out for your mental well-being is a priority, no matter the age of your child. You can also start to state boundaries with your children such as, “I don’t like when my arm is grabbed.” or “I will be able to help you in five minutes.” Your needs matter, and it is up to you to verbalize them. Obviously, boundaries have to be set with children based on their age and ability.

8. Remember who you are separate from being a mom.

I wish I understood the importance of this before I became a  mom. For a long time, I completely neglected my identity besides being a mom and wife. I am a Stay-at-Home-Mom, and those responsibilities completely enveloped me and my identity.

Hobbies and other things that bring you joy should be done daily, if only for a few minutes. There should be time for YOURSELF and who you are as a person, separate from your family roles.

9. You will not enjoy motherhood all of the time.

I feel that so many moms believe they are supposed to soak in every moment of motherhood. There are times when that is not the case. I don’t relish when I am trying to get something done and my child is screaming for me. My daughter having a meltdown is not something I find enjoyable. I don’t soak in when my daughter refuses to listen to me or acts disrespectful. I can love being a mom without loving every moment of motherhood. It is so important to know this before becoming a mother.

I’ll take it one step further. There are moments that I miss the freedom that comes with not having any children. When my daughter was first born, I missed it like crazy. However, that does not mean that I ever regretted being a mom. There is not a single moment when I felt that way. I always love my daughter, and I will always choose her. I can miss and occasionally look back wistfully at my pre-motherhood life and still not want to trade being a mom for anything in the world. You can feel both, and that IS OKAY. That does not make you a bad mother. It makes you human.

10. Motherhood will give you strength you didn’t know you had and make you feel fears you didn’t know existed.

I lived in New York my entire life (with the exception of living in NJ for a year) and moved to another state because I felt it was best for my daughter. People literally took bets on when I would return to NY because I am such a creature of habit.  I argued with every member of her student support team to get her tested and have an IEP created (and I am an introvert and have social anxiety). Additionally, I dealt with my husband’s addiction while taking care of a newborn and raised her by myself because it was what I needed to do. I am capable of things that I probably wouldn’t be capable of otherwise because of my love for my daughter. She is the reason why I strive to be the best version of myself.

Alternately, she is the reason why I fear so much. You don’t know the meaning of worrying until you have a child. I worry if she knows how much she is loved and how my choices will affect her. I question if I am doing it all wrong. No matter her age, I will always worry.

11. Your child will teach you more than you teach your child.

It is a parent’s job to teach and guide their child. However, Brielle has taught me far more than I could ever teach her. She taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. She taught me how to be a better person. My daughter taught me the importance of working on myself to be the best mother I can be. She taught me that perfection is an illusion. Brielle taught me what matters most in life. She taught me how strong I really am, and how powerful a mother’s love truly is. Most of all, she taught me that I can be the kind of mother she deserves, regardless of the fact that I didn’t have that kind of mother myself. She taught me that I get to make my own present and future regardless of my past.

12. You will see beauty and joy that you didn’t see before.

Getting to view life through the eyes of your child is the most amazing gift and privilege. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and so I cherish this even more. Seeing my child smile and hearing her laughter is a blessing and one that makes every difficult moment of parenting worthwhile. It is a gift that I will never take for granted.

13. You will struggle.

motherhood is overwhelming

This is something we all experience, and I wish I knew this before I became a mother. There will be times when you will want to draw the covers up over you and hide. You will feel overwhelmed, sad, and/or a plethora of other emotions. People experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiousness, fear, etc. Having a child doesn’t make those feelings go away. You have an added stressor now that you have a child. Motherhood is a struggle in of itself, and when you add that to the revolving door of responsibilities, it amplifies those emotions.

It is okay to struggle. It is okay to not always be okay. You are not superwoman. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is be honest that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. Show your child that life can be rough and don’t pretend that you’re always okay. Model healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with your struggles and to teach your child healthy ways of dealing with life’s obstacles.

14. Motherhood can be isolating

I felt very lonely when I became a mom. I didn’t have any friends with newborns, and there weren’t any groups for new moms in my area.  Moving to a new place without a support system made it even more isolating for me. I have heard countless stories from moms who felt extreme loneliness after having a child. “Surrounded by new life – screaming, crying, unappeasable new life at that – can be far from the idyllic picture of new motherhood often portrayed. It can actually be an incredibly lonely and isolating time in a mother’s life. For many women the postpartum period can be a time of hardship, confusion, drastic change and intense loneliness” (CT Examiner, 2019).

15. Your priorities change.

Having a child really does change everything. Every decision you make, every action you take has an effect on your child. It is no longer just about you. Your child needs to be your number one responsibility and your priority.     

I wish these were things I knew before I became a mother. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and I would have understood that it was okay to struggle. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but is not for the faint of heart. Grasping the complexities of motherhood is what allows mothers to truly embrace it. It is only then that we can accept it fully, with all its dips and peaks.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a mother? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

implement healthy boundaries

Boundaries. A word that holds so much importance, but is so often misunderstood. The reality is that implementing healthy boundaries is crucial for your mental health. Additionally, they allow you to have healthy relationships and protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Importance of Implementing Healthy Boundaries for Your Mental Health

Boundaries have a bad rap. People feel uncomfortable with the idea of setting boundaries. Additionally, they feel boundaries are giving ultimatums or telling people what to do. The truth is, without boundaries there is likely to be burnout, anger, and resentment. You cannot have a healthy relationship without implementing healthy boundaries. Period.

Boundaries allow for healthy relationships because you are deciding what is best for yourself. In other words, you are focusing on your identity and not holding yourself accountable for others. Equally, others are not responsible for you. This prevents codependency and other unhealthy or toxic behaviors.

Setting healthy boundaries allows you to prioritize your non-negotiables. This in turn promotes putting your mental health and wellness first. Boundaries are a necessary form of self-care. In order to love yourself, healthy boundaries are needed.

Recognizing Healthy Versus Unhealthy Boundaries

As explained above, implementing healthy boundaries allows for improved mental wellness and promotes healthy relationships. That said, not all boundaries are healthy. A boundary is unhealthy if you keep a distance from others to protect yourself from getting hurt, are afraid to say no, and/or accept disrespectful behavior or comments that don’t honor your core-values and needs. Unhealthy boundaries also take place when too much personal/private information is shared, you rely on others’ approval before making decisions or stating an opinion, and/or your sense of self is based on how others treat you. “In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship” (positivepsychology.com, 2020).

HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

setting healthy boundaries

Now that you have a better understanding of why healthy boundaries are crucial, the next question is how to set boundaries.

Here are things to keep in mind to implement healthy boundaries (psychcentral.com, 2016):

(1) Tune into your feelings and ask yourself what you want and need from your various relationships.

This includes romantic relationships, friendships, children, family members, and co-workers. What goes on in these relationships that makes you feel resentful or uncomfortable? Those are likely the things that require boundaries.

(2) Figure out what your core values are.

In other words, what matters to you most? What are your non-negotiables/limits?

(3) Examine your current boundaries (if any), if they need to be applied to other relationships, or if they don’t accurately reflect what you need.
(4) Start small.

Pick something that isn’t as stressful for you to set, and then work your way up to more difficult boundaries.

(5) Make sure to clearly communicate your expectations.

You want to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.

(6) Do not apologize for your boundaries and try to be as concise as possible.

It is not necessary to go into great detail and justify yourself. You can state why the boundary is important to you. However, boundaries are not asking for permission. People don’t have to agree with your boundaries, but they do need to respect them.

(7) Remember to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable or to prevent a violation of your limits.

Alternately, be respectful of other people’s needs and if they say “no” to you, as long as they are not violating your boundary in the process.

(8) Try to keep the focus on yourself and your needs rather than focusing on what someone else’s actions.

For example, “I will not pick up the phone after 10pm” rather than saying, “Stop calling me so late.”

(9) Consistency is everything.

Don’t set a boundary unless you are going to follow through with it.

(10) Remember that setting healthy boundaries may be uncomfortable to you at first.

You might feel guilty about setting boundaries. You may feel that you are hurting someone’s feelings or are being disrespectful. Change is hard, and your hesitancy is understandable, especially in environments that don’t embrace boundaries. For some, lack of boundaries is all that is known.  It might be an adjustment, but with time, it will get easier.

(11) Prioritize yourself.

Remember to put yourself first. Additionally, be mindful of your well-being to set and maintain boundaries. Remember that implementing healthy boundaries is for your mental health and will improve the quality of your relationships.

Types of Healthy Boundaries

healthy boundaries for your mental health

Setting boundaries will vary based on various relationships (coworker versus spouse), but all relationships need each of these boundary types (mindbodygreen.com, 2019).

Physical Boundaries

This incorporates your need for personal space, whether or not you want to be touched, and your privacy.

Examples of physical boundaries are:

“I need 30 minutes to myself after I get home from work.”

“I don’t like kissing in public.”

“This room is off-limits for other people.”

“I don’t tell my daughter to hug people. That is her choice.”

Intellectual Boundaries

This refers to your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is making sure that you are heard and that your ideas are respected, even if they vary from others. It also means stating when you feel comfortable or uncomfortable discussing something.

Examples of intellectual boundaries are:

“I don’t like discussing politics.”

“I think it is better to discuss this when the kids are asleep.”

“We have different opinions, and I’d like to be able to state mine as well.”

“I won’t continue this conversation if I am talked over.”

Emotional Boundaries

This is respecting your feelings, what you are willing to share, and when you are willing to share personal information.

Examples of this are:

“Are you able to talk? I am struggling right now.”

“You seem upset, but I am upset too. I need a few minutes to calm down before we sit down and talk about this.”

“I don’t need you to agree with my feelings, but I do need them to be listened to with empathy.”

Sexual Boundaries 

This encompasses all aspects of sexuality, including consent, respecting different preferences, and limitations.

Examples of this include:

“I will only have sex with a condom.”

“No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that with you.”

“Please keep your hands to yourself.”

“I am not in the mood for that tonight.”

 “I really like __________. Is this something you’d feel comfortable doing with me?”

Material/Financial Boundaries

This refers to money and materialistic objects. Setting expectations for what is yours financially, what you feel comfortable sharing, and how your items should be treated all encompass this boundary type.

Examples include:

“I am not able to loan you money.”

“If you borrow my car, I want it returned in the same condition in which I loaned it to you.”

“I lent you my dress, and it was returned with a stain. I will not loan it to you again until it is taken to the dry cleaners.”

Time Boundaries

This includes how you use your time and how much time you spend with others or doing things. You need to prioritize your time and who you spend it with.  This is necessary in order to set and maintain healthy boundaries for mental wellness. Failure to do so will result in overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed.

Examples of this type of boundary are:

“I can only stay for 20 minutes.”

“I have other obligations, so I can’t volunteer for this event.”

“In order to spend uninterrupted time with my wife, I do not talk on the phone after 8pm.”

 

 

Implementing healthy boundaries for your mental health is not optional. It is crucial for your mental, physical, and emotional wellness, and for any type of relationship. This should be considered a part of your self-love and self-care practice. Just as you cannot pour from an empty cup, you cannot prioritize your needs and limits without setting boundaries. 

Only you can determine what boundaries to set, and what happens if those boundaries are not respected. Depending on severity, it may vary from reinstating your boundaries more assertively to ending a relationship. Show compassion for yourself as you learn to implement boundaries, and remember that it is necessary to respect the boundaries of others as much as others should respect yours.

 

anxiety coping tool

A Great Anxiety Coping Tool 

I got a DM from a woman saying that she loved my writing and asking if I was interested in hearing about a product. To be honest, I’ve turned down previous affiliate marketing offers in the past and was prepared to do it again. However, she caught my attention when she said that this was her daughter’s product and that it was a coping tool for anxiety. 

Now I know you may not know this, but I have a slight interest in advocating awareness about anxiety.

Okay, I see your mouths dropping; perhaps it is more than a slight interest. As an anxiety sufferer, and as a mother to a child who has bouts of anxiety, I feel awareness about it is crucial.

Therefore, I figured I had nothing to lose by getting some information about it. The truth is, she had me as soon as she said, “My then 10-year-old daughter has anxiety and wanted to help others.” My hesitation about affiliate marketing with a company went out the window as I heard about what this girl is trying to accomplish. Hook, line, sinker. I get to spread awareness about anxiety and promote a product to manage it, while supporting this amazing girl? That’s something I will proudly stand behind.

Without further ado, I am excited to introduce you all to SUNCards! 

SUNCards are a deck of cards developed by a girl named Eva. She started struggled with anxiety when she was 8 years old. When she was 10, Eva worked on a school project called Children Helping Our World. It tasked them to create a nonprofit that could be led by kids that would improve the world. Her parents encouraged her to think about her own life experiences to come up with an idea for the project. Her idea was to help other kids who are anxious and scared by teaching them tips and tricks to help them get through tough situations. That’s when SUNCards was born.

SUNCards uses evidence-based strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, positive psychology, and random acts of kindness to help kids cope with their anxiety. Even though this product is directed towards children, adults will also be able to appreciate and use them as well. The cards say they are useful for anyone ages 4-104.

SUNCards is the 2020 NATIONAL parenting project award winner. Each deck comes with 50 cards. There is a lovable monster on each card, and the cards contain three different styles:

Sunshine Cards 

There are 20 total sunshine cards which have positive sayings and confidence building affirmations.

Action Cards 

There are 28 action cards which have helpful techniques to help kids manage their anxiety and/or refocus on something positive instead of their anxiety, worry or trouble.

Spread the Sunshine Cards 

There are two in each deck and are intended to help you with random acts of kindness.

How to use SUNCards

*IF YOU CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES BELOW, IT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE LINK TO PURCHASE THE CARDS!

If you are feeling anxious, you select an Action Card and use the technique.

There are many different types of actions the cards tell you to take, such as “Relax and take 10 deep breaths. Deep breaths calm you down,” “Find distractions to take your mind off of your worry. Play a game, read a book, find a friend,” and “When things get overwhelming, take a moment for yourself. Put everything else aside and focus on what makes you happy,” among many others. You may find that multiple cards will be the way to relieve your anxiety. Also, depending on the circumstances, what works for you in one situation may not be what works best in another. 

affiliate marketing company action card

Select an action card and practice the technique. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the cards and also help you to determine which cards will work best for you. In order to increase the effectiveness of the cards, it is suggested that you use these cards to practice coping skills when you are not feeling anxious. Learning new tools is a process of trial and error, and practicing will allow more awareness and capability to calm yourself.

Once you are calm, select a Sunshine Card to give yourself a boost of confidence for a job well done.

You can also use them any time you are feeling down and are seeking positive affirmations. Some of my favorite Sunshine Cards are: “Being scared is not a bad thing. It just means that you are about to do something super brave,” “Your anxiety doesn’t define you. Be the person you are meant to be and happiness will find you,” “If you fall back one day or your path gets blocked, you will not be stuck forever. Keep moving forward,“ and “It’s OK to not be OK. Just know that it will get better.” 

sunshine card

What truly warmed my heart is that Eva has partnered with a few non-profits and instituted a “get a deck, give a deck” program where for every deck purchased, another one is donated to a non-profit to help kids. In August of last year, she was able to donate over 1400 decks to non-profit organizations.

Not only are the cards useful for your children, but you can feel good knowing that by purchasing a deck you are allowing a child to receive a deck who couldn’t afford to have them otherwise. All children deserve tools and support to cope with anxiety, and Eva is helping that happen.

HOW I USED SUNCARDS WITH MY DAUGHTER

I used these cards with my daughter to see how they work firsthand. The other day she came to me scared and anxious that she lost costume jewelry I had given her. 

It had belonged to my grandmother, so she was very anxious that it was “gone forever”.

There are many techniques I normally use with her when my daughter is feeling anxious, but this time I pulled out the SUNCards. She selected several action cards and implemented the different techniques. In this particular situation, the technique that worked best for her was the action card to replace her thought with another thought, which helped change her feelings. The card looks like this:

change thoughts to feelings

When I asked her how she could change her way of thinking about losing the jewelry, she paused for a few moments, and then said, “It is somewhere in the house. It will turn up.” Once she changed her thoughts, she felt reassured and started smiling.

Best of all, she changed her perspective about it on her own.

That gave her a huge sense of accomplishment. We then did a breathing exercise suggested on another action card.

anxiety coping tool

When she felt better I had her select a Sunshine Card. She beamed when she read the one that said that nobody in the world is like her.  Instead of a snowball effect of worry and panic, these cards brought her empowerment and comfort.

affiliate marketing company positive affirmation

Although these cards and no techniques are a replacement for professional treatment, this deck is helpful for kids of all ages. They are small enough to be portable, so kids can take them with them and pull them out anytime. I like to think of them as a portable anxiety security blanket. They are easy to use, have great suggestions, and teach self-awareness and acceptance. I highly recommend them, and I think they are a useful anxiety coping tool no matter the level of anxiety.

If you would like to purchase a deck of cards, click on the picture below:

anxiety coping tool

I can’t wait for your kids to try this great anxiety coping tool for children and adults!

how to cope with anxiety

Learning how to cope with anxiety is necessary for all of us. There are numerous ways to reduce anxiety whether you have occasional bouts of anxiety or suffer from an anxiety disorder.  If you missed the first article that discusses tools to manage anxiety click here. This article will discuss a variety of other suggestions for anxiety relief and management for children and adults.

Challenge Your Way of Thinking to Help Cope with Anxiety

Anxiety takes place in the mind as well as the body. As a result, it is helpful to notice your thought patterns when you feel anxious and try to adjust/challenge your thinking when necessary. This is helpful to manage anxiety whether you are an adult or child.

Practice self-kindness

It is crucial to not judging yourself for how you are feeling. This will cause a spiraling effect that will only intensify the anxiety. Therefore, when you or your child are feeling anxious, say phrases out loud or to yourself as reminders that it Is okay for you to feel anxious. You can also say aloud things that you like about yourself. Phrases can be “I know I feel anxious, but I am trying my best”, “It is okay to feel anxious”, and “I am brave”.

Facing fears

  1. Those that struggle with making mistakes or the unfamiliar will avoid situations or activities out of fear of doing something wrong or not feeling prepared. Challenge your fears or your child’s fears by asking what the worst thing is that will happen in the situation. If it is making a mistake, remind yourself or your child that mistakes are part of life. If it is a fear of not participating in an event perfectly, counter the fear of making mistakes with missing out on an opportunity to do something enjoyable.
  2. Remember that being brave is not a lack of fear. Rather it is being afraid and doing it anyway. When my daughter is anxious, I remind her that anxiety is okay. She cannot control how she feels, but she can control her actions.
  3. If you have a child that is anxious, make sure to point out when you are anxious about facing your fears. Model your bravery so that your child sees that facing fears is something we all have to face.

Correct extreme thinking

People with anxiety tend to imagine wort-case or what-if scenarios. Therefore, when there is a situation that is causing anxiety, try to reimagine a more realistic portrayal. For example, if a child is afraid of failing, remind your child that they have studied very hard. They may not get a perfect grade, but remind them that they are prepared. If you are anxious about a big meeting, instead of thinking that nobody will like it, remind yourself that you worked hard. Some people may not like every part, but that is not the same thing as every person disliking your entire presentation. Remind yourself or your child of the number of times that things have worked out okay in similar situations. “Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fear helps train the brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts” ( webmd.com , 2017).

Brainstorm

Anxiety often occurs due to a feeling of lack of control. a) If there is a situation that is causing anxiety, try to think of things you or your child can do to feel more in control. “If your child gets anxious about intruders, make shutting and locking their bedroom window part of their night-time responsibilities” (healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au, 2020). b) If there is a scary situation that doesn’t have an immediate solution, try brainstorming how to break down the situation into smaller chunks. Create mini-goals that will allow you to eventually reach your ultimate goal. For example, if your child is afraid of riding a bike, first have your child watch other kids on their bikes. Then have your child stand next to his/her bike, then sit on the bike without pedaling, then pedal for ten seconds while holding the bike, etc. This allows time to feel more comfortable with the situation.

Worry box

  1. I do this with my daughter at night when her anxiety makes it challenging for her to sleep. I created a “worry box” that she puts all of her worries into when it is not the right time to think about them. She visualizes what the worry box looks like, imagines opening it up, and then lists her worries aloud one by one. When she is done saying everything, she then imagines putting all of the worries into a box and putting a lock on it. She then throws the box into the ocean, over a mountain, out of an airplane, or buries it underground. When I can’t sleep, I run a mental list of worries in my head, imagine putting them in a box, and I imagine putting them somewhere I can’t reach.
  2. Determine in advance an appropriate time to think/address concerns. That way the anxiety isn’t being dismissed; rather, it is being set aside for a designated time. Try to schedule a time daily that you or your child (or both) can address your concerns. Set a timer for 15 minutes to journal or draw whatever is on your mind. When the timer is up, it is time to stop.

Have difficult conversations

If you have a child that has concerns about big topics, such as death, allow them to come to you with any questions. Talk through their concerns and be honest, while putting things into perspective. If you have a fear of something, do your research and be willing to have an honest conversation (with yourself or find a friend to talk to) that can help you to see things in a more realistic/clearer light.

Stay organized

Take control of your stress by making sure to prioritize your to-do list. Don’t procrastinate, and make sure to schedule your tasks so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Help your child to stay organized by creating a schedule with time left in to take breaks.

Prioritize mental health

  1. Make sure to set boundaries so you don’t take on more responsibilities than you can handle. Remember it is okay to say no, and remind your child to be honest so they don’t feel obligated to participate in activities if they have other things they are juggling.
  2. Incorporate self-care into your daily routine and/or your child’s daily routine. 
  3. Practice anxiety reducing strategies daily and model them for your child so they see healthy coping strategies.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Management

breathing exercises for anxiety management

People tend to take short, shallow breaths when they are anxious. There are many types of breathing exercises that are meant to invoke relaxation by slowing and deepening the breath. These exercises can be used by adults and children:

4-7-8 Breathing

Inhale for 4 seconds through your nose, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds through your mouth. If this is too difficult for your child, you can count aloud while your child breathes or do this alongside your child. An alternative is having your child inhale for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, and then exhale for 3 seconds.

Deep belly breathing

Inhale while filling your stomach with air and then let the air leave your stomach while you exhale. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8 or instead concentrate on slowly and evenly inhaling and exhaling. If helpful, you can think “in” during inhalation and “out” during exhalation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This is a favorite of mine for stress relief. It involves tensing and releasing your body from your head to her toes. To do this, inhale while tensing/contracting the body part, hold it for 8 seconds, and then exhale while relaxing/releasing the body part. Start with your feet, and work your way upward to the calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest/neck area, arms, hands, and then face. At the end tense everything at the same time, hold, and release.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Take an inhale and then exhale for as long as possible while vibrating your lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound.  According to Neurosculpting Instititue, “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

Aromatherapy is Helpful to Cope with Anxiety

Essential oils and scented candles both promote relaxation and relieve stress (healthline.com, 2018). Children can benefit from aromatherapy as well, but consult with your child’s pediatrician first to ensure proper usage.

Some of the ones most associated with promoting calmness are: 

Sleeping Through Anxiety

Sleep and anxiety are interconnected. Anxiety disorders can cause insomnia, and lack of sleep can worsen anxiety and emotional health. “Strong evidence indicates that sleeping problems are not only a symptom of anxiety. Instead, sleep deprivation can instigate or worsen anxiety disorders “ (sleepfoundation.org, 2020). My daughter and I both suffer from sleep problems, and I discuss numerous solutions to aid in sleeping here.

Get the most use out of these anxiety reducing strategies

  1. Remember that as with most things, there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. What works well for one, may not be the strategy of choice for another. There will be trial and error as you see which strategies work best for you and/or your child.
  2. Don’t assume that if something doesn’t work the first time (or as soon as you try it), that means that it won’t be effective. Allow the chance to acclimate to these practices. Keep track of their effectiveness by rating how you feel on a scale of 1-10 (1 being least anxious, and 10 being most) before and after. Try each a few times and see if the numbers change to determine whether it is a strategy to add to your tool box or not.
  3. Become familiar with how to do these strategies (i.e., practice doing them) so that you able to utilize them fully when the need arises. Try using them when you aren’t in distress so they are familiar when necessary.
  4. Utilize these strategies as soon as you feel anxious. It will make it harder to alleviate your anxiety if you wait until it escalates to try and manage it.
  5. Try to focus on sensations rather than feelings. If you focus on your anxiety, it will only make you feel more anxious. Try focusing on the sensations or facts rather than your emotions.

I hope these suggestions on how to cope with anxiety are helpful. Please share this post if you know someone who is struggling with anxiety! Don’t forget to ask for help from a professional if your anxiety is interfering with your quality of life.

 

tips and strategies to reduce anxiety naturally

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. Below are numerous tips and strategies to help reduce anxiety naturally in both children and adults. These strategies are useful whether you experience occasional or frequent anxiety.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no substitution for seeking professional help to manage anxiety disorders. However, these strategies can be used in conjunction with therapy. To gain further knowledge about anxiety, previous articles address various emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and different types of anxiety disorders.

10 Grounding Techniques For Calming Down Quickly

Grounding techniques are practices to help you focus on the present moment. This is helpful for anxiety and any type of distress. It is particularly useful in those that suffer from PTSD and Panic Disorder. There are a variety of grounding exercises that can be implemented by both children and adults:

(1) Repetition of Phrases

Repeat something over and over when you are trying to anchor yourself.  An example is, “My name is _________. I live in _____________. The weather outside is ______________. The time is _____________. “ You or your child can make a list of such phrases in advance, and pick phrases to say aloud when feeling anxious. You can keep saying different phrases on the list or the same phrase until you feel less anxious.

(2) Label items in categories

Choose a few categories that you can easily list, such as types of animals and favorite desserts. You can either mentally or verbally list as many items as possible from those categories.

(3) Recite something

Pick a favorite poem, song, or lines from a book that you know. Either say it aloud or to yourself, while focusing on each word.

(4) Recall details 

Take a photograph, drawing, or piece of art and stare at it for a few seconds. Then look away and say as many details about it as you can recall. This can include remembering where you were when the picture was taken, what you were wearing when the picture was drawn, or any other related details.

(5) Numbers

Some examples include reciting the multiplication table, adding different numbers together, or counting by 3s. The types of math can vary based on age and ability. For example, a younger child can count until 5 several times.

(6) Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method 

This is one of my favorites as it incorporates all your senses, really helping you to stay grounded in the moment. Look around your surroundings and use your senses to list things around you, working backwards from 5. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.

(7) Put your hands in water

Put your hands in a bowl of cold water, allowing yourself to focus on the sensations of the water on different parts of your hand. Leave them in there while you concentrate on the various sensations. Then take them out and put them in a bowl of warm water. Focus on how the various temperatures feel differently on your hands. Continue to switch them back and forth.

(8) Pick up different items around you 

Notice the texture, shape, weight, smell, colors, or any unique features about each item. How does it feel in your hand? Try to be as specific as possible when labeling their features.

(9) Hold a piece of ice or put a cold pack on your head

Notice the sensations in your hand or face, again being as specific as possible.  Notice how the sensation changes as the it melts or becomes less cold. Putting anything cold on your head “triggers the vagus nerve that turns on all rest-connect nerves” (Kate-Cohen Posey, 2016).

(10) Focus on your body

  1. Concentrate on how your body feels from your head all the way down to your toes. First, do this sitting, and then try it again standing. You can raise and lower your feet on the ground, wiggle your hands or your arms, and/or cross and uncross your legs. Notice how each body part feels when you make those changes. Also pay attention to feelings such as your hair on your back, your glasses on your nose, or the feeling of your clothing on your body. 
  2. Notice how your body feels when you stretch or move each part of your body, from your toes to your face. You can rotate, wiggle and/or flex your body, focusing on each part as you do so.

Additional grounding exercises besides those in this post may be found here.

Diet and Supplements Are Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally

diet helps to reduce anxiety

Watching what you eat and consuming certain supplements are beneficial for reducing anxiety:

(1) Limit your sugar intake

Research has shown that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings and impact temperament (webmd.com, 2017)

(2) A diet that contains vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein may benefit those with anxiety.

Chemicals in processed foods may cause mood changes in some people (healthline.com, 2020).

(3) Limit caffeine

Caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness in some people. Try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake and see if it improves your anxiety symptoms. Remember that there is caffeine in chocolate, so be mindful of whether your child has caffeine in their diet as well.

(4) Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes

Alcohol can become abused if used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, so do not rely on alcohol to soothe your nerves. Similarly, smoking can worsen anxiety over time and “research also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety” (healthline.com, 2020).

(5) Supplements can help with anxiety reduction 

Please consult your child’s doctor before giving any supplements to children.

(6) Probiotics have also shown benefits in reducing anxiety

Check with your child’s doctor before giving any probiotics to children.

Exercise to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

(1) Moving your body is a great way to relieve mental stress

When you get your heart rate up, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood. Find something you and/or your child enjoys doing such as running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, swimming, playing sports, or riding a bike. Do this regularly as it is great for your physical health as well as your mental health.

(2) Meditation

A main goal of medication is to practice mindfulness, which is staying focused on the present. This is a grounding technique, and one which relieves stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. It is important to note that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. I like to repeat a phrase in my head to keep me anchored while I inhale and exhale. There are many YouTube videos that provide various options to help you or your child meditate.

(3) Yoga

Restorative poses are yoga poses that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps elicit a relaxation response. You can google “restorative yoga poses” to see a variety of options, but a favorite of mine is Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose.  To do this pose, you lay down on your back on a floor or bed and put your hips as close to the wall as possible. You then elevate your legs by putting them up against a solid object, such as a wall.  Your body forms an L-shape. Place a towel or blanket under your pelvis to elevate your hips for further benefits. You may also place a pillow under your head if you prefer. Focus on your breathing or listen to relaxing music. Stay in this position for 10-20 minutes depending on age, comfort, personal preference. This is something that children can easily do as well as adults.  

Journaling for Anxiety Relief and Stress

journaling for anxiety relief

Journaling is a great way to handle stress. It is an outlet which allows for insightfulness and introspection.

(1) Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, where they write/draw what they are grateful for daily

This allows them to focus on the positive things/people/circumstances in their life that they can remember when feeling anxious.

(2) A journal may also be used to list positive affirmations daily (e.g., I feel anxious, but I am not anxious. Being anxious does not define me.)

You can also list/draw things you like about yourself as reminders for when you feel anxious.

(3) Another/additional option is to put down on paper what you feel stressed about

This provides a healthy outlet of coping with anxiety. It can also help identify a pattern of thinking or way of thinking that isn’t helpful, allowing an opportunity to adjust your perspective.

Children should be encouraged to journal as well. They can either draw or write in their journal depending on which method is preferred/age.

There are some great journal options here, here, and here.

4 Important Anxiety Reminders

(1) There are MANY different strategies and ways to alleviate anxiety

There are so many, in fact, that my next post is devoted to an entire new list of tips and techniques to manage anxiety in both children and adults! 

(2) Remember that anxiety is experienced differently for everyone

What works for one person may not work for another. Also, what might work for you or your child in one instance may not be as effective another time. Experiment with various strategies so you have options.

(3) Remember that it takes practice and patience to figure out what techniques or products are the best for you

(4) Lastly, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others

My hope is that these tips and strategies will be beneficial, and that this post can help spread awareness and support! 

 

causes of anxiety

Anxiety is a topic that needs more awareness and understanding. There are currently 40 million adults and 4.4 million children who have anxiety disorders (cdc.gov, 2020). I discuss the definition of anxiety and its various symptoms here.  This article will focus on the causes of anxiety and different anxiety disorders in children and adults.

WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?

causes of anxiety

It is important to understand that people experience anxiety at various times throughout their lives. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a person’s ability to function.

(1) Genetics

There is a genetic factor to anxiety. Just as a person may have a history of cancer in the family, it is possible to inherit anxiety as well.

(2) Learned Anxiety

Children can pick up on the behaviors and feelings of other people. As a result, they may inherit those feelings. For example, if a parent is afraid of dogs and reacts anxiously whenever a dog is present, the child may start feeling anxiety around dogs as well. “Children can pick up anxious behaviors from being around anxious people” (nhs.uk).

(3) Pressure

If a child feels constant pressure to perform a certain way in school or sports, they may develop anxiety. Similarly, if an adult feels constant pressure (e.g., at work or financial), this can trigger anxiety.

(4) School related issues

Bullying and a lack of friends in school may result in anxiety.

(5) Loss

This includes the death of a loved one (person or animal), as well as divorce

(6) Unstable environment

Examples include constant fighting in the home, lack of consistency due to frequent moving, and/or frequently changing schools

(7) Abuse/trauma

This includes neglect, abuse, and/or witnessing or involvement in a traumatic event.

(8) Health

Having a serious illness or injury in an accident can cause anxiety.

(9) Comorbid conditions

“If a child has ADHD and/or autism, they are more likely to have problems with anxiety” (nhs.uk). The misuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol may also cause or increase anxiety. Additionally, “people with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder” (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

(10) Unknown

There are simply some people whose personality makes it more likely that they will develop an anxiety disorder. For instance, some people have a higher tolerance to stress. On the contrary, others are more prone to anxiety.

TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN AND ADULTS

anxiety disorders in children and adults

There are various anxiety disorders in children and adults.  Additionally, each disorder has different characteristics. This information should give you a fuller understanding of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When someone talks about having chronic anxiety, this is what they are typically referring to. For instance, children and adults with GAD experience anxiety about a variety of things (e.g., performance in tasks, relationships with others, and daily life situations). As a result, it is anxiety “that is nearly constant and disproportionate to its causes” (additutdemag, 2018).

Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Intense fear about social situations is the hallmark of social anxiety. This includes avoiding social situations, worrying about an upcoming event, not participating in events, difficulty making friends, and avoiding or extreme discomfort when having conversations. It is important to note “some people might exhibit symptoms in only one type of situation, whereas others might experience multiple symptoms in various social situations” (additudemag.com, 2018).

Panic Disorder

Those with this disorder experience panic attacks and extreme terror that comes about unexpectedly. It is characterized by chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, feeling faint, and dizziness.  A child is diagnosed with panic disorder “if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks-which means they come on suddenly and for no reason- followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or ‘going crazy’” (adaa.org, 2015).

Separation Anxiety Disorder

It is part of typical development to feel anxiety when separating from a caregiver between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Additionally, children often feel anxious separating from a caregiver when getting dropped off at a new school or environment.  Separation anxiety disorder mostly presents in children between the ages of 7-9. It is characterized by intense and excessive anxiety about being away from home and/or being separated from a parent or caregiver. This can include anxiety that something is going to happen to their loved one while they are away.  

Selective Mutism

This anxiety disorder is associated with a consistent failure to speak in certain social situations. A person with this disorder will freeze around particular people or events, but will speak freely when not triggered.  “It usually starts in adulthood, and if left untreated, can persist into adulthood. A child or adult with selective mutism does not refuse or choose not to speak at certain times, they’re literally unable to speak” (nhs.uk, 2019).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder that involves constant thoughts, actions, or impulses that are in intrusive.  As a result, there is a need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An extreme fear or anxiety after a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, being hyperalert/hypervigilant, and avoiding situations that are similar/reminders of the event.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Although this is not an anxiety disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is closely related to PTSD.  C-PTSD is a result of prolonged or repeated trauma, and it includes the symptoms of PTSD.  As a person who has C-PTSD and chronic anxiety as a result, I feel it is important to include this. I will address C-PTSD and its complexities in a future article.

Specific Phobia

An intense fear of a specific object, thing, or place. Examples include a fear of spiders, heights, or the dark.  A person with a specific phobia tends to avoid the source of their anxiety. “Unlike adults, they [children] do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational” (adaa.org).

When to Get Professional Help

when to get professional help

It is important to see a doctor if you or your child have anxiety that is interfering with any aspect of your life. Additionally, seek professional help if there are any other mental health or physical concerns. It is important to understand that anxiety can worsen without proper treatment.  Please do not assume that things will get better on their own. Being proactive is the best thing you can do for yourself or your child.(