Shonelle

Kids Have Emotions Too

Our girls are successful because we make it our priority to be aware.
They demand our attention and love, especially in moments of uncertainty
Because they have emotions too Shonelle George

My daughter has not had the best digestive record. During this particular week, she did not drink as much water as I would have liked her to. Nor did she eat the fruit options I intentionally placed in her school lunchbox. Those fruits returned home uneaten and eventually found their residence in the trash. Would all the moms with picky eaters stand up!!!! Yup! I see you, sister mommies. I feel your agony, and most of all, I can relate to the stress associated with preparing great meals only to be met with “I want pizza for dinner.”

Being a picky eater comes with digestive issues like constipation. Starchy foods have no respect for your digestive system. Bread and rice have positioned themselves as my daughter’s bff. But they are not good for her tummy. Yet, she continues to keep company with them. During breakfast, for snack, and most frequently for dinner.

When she turned five, I began teaching her how to listen to her body. I told her to pay attention when her body does not operate normally. Our bodies belong to us, and very often, girls are not taught how to learn the intricacies of their bodies. The earlier we begin to teach them this level of self-agency, the more in tune they will become. Listening to her body allows her to notice when things are not functioning well; thus, empowering her to clearly articulate issues that may present themselves.

On this particular day, she had a bowel movement (BM) and as I was walking into the bathroom, she quickly reported that it was “not good.” Of course, I immediately rushed to look, and indeed it was not good, “it’s horrible I yelled.” What have I been telling you? You need more water and you need to drink those smoothies I make for you. You just don’t listen when I talk to you.”
In dismay, she bowed her tiny head and whispered under her 5-year-old breath, “that was insensitive.”

Wow!!! Talk about being put in my place. I felt crappy. I guess that mother of the year award was not going to happen.

As I reflect on this situation, I can’t help but think that my girl felt defeated even before I walked into that bathroom. She was fully aware that she had an issue and felt poorly about it. As her mom, it was my job to be aware and in  touch with her emotions because at that moment, she did not need my criticism. What she needed most was:

1. Comfort. It was my job to let her know that it was ok, and all was not lost. It was my job to tell her that she was not a disappointment or failure. At that moment, she needed me to remind her that tomorrow was available to restart. She needed to know that I could comfort her. Mommies, take a moment to reflect on some comforting things you can do
and say when your child expresses heavy emotions.

2. Loved on and hugged. That was a perfect moment for a hug. Present studies have determined that physical touch, like hugs, from people we love, activates the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is a “feel goo” hormone that sends messages to our brains when expressing feelings of happiness or pleasure. A hug is a form of physical touch that tells someone they are safe. As moms or caregivers, we want our daughters to know that regardless of how distressing a situation may be, they will always find safety in our hugs. Regardless of what mistakes they make, they will always be loved. They need to hear and feel this from us. Take a moment to reflect have you hugged your child
today?

3. Affirmation. At that moment, her feelings and fears were legitimate. She needed affirmation. She needed to hear that she was not facing this challenge alone and together, we would figure out a solution. She needed to hear how valuable she was, using words like, “I love you, we will get through this together, tomorrow will be a better day.”
Our words of affirmation produce positive reinforcement. Affirming her feelings with positive words will create a favorable outcome or response, thus strengthening her ability to feel less defeated when she does not believe she has lived up to her parents expectations (Scott et al., 2020).

4. Supportive Counsel. As her mom, I am responsible for providing guidance and support. It is my job to help her through difficult situations. A more helpful and supportive response offers her a chance to explore alternate options. Criticism is defeating, but support is empowering.

Regardless of what situations we encounter as parents, it is essential to remember that our girls thrive when we validate their feelings and emotions. They are successful because we make it our priority to be aware of what bothers, annoys, and distresses them. They succeed when we support, affirm, and love on them through challenges, disappointments, and mistakes. Our girls demand that we listen to them because they too have emotions.

 

References

Scott, H. K., Jain, A., & Cogburn, M. (2020). Behavior Modification. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29083709/

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Shonelle

What Are You Carrying?

Sharing how you feel with others is like unloading boxes

filled with bricks, you have been carrying all week.

Removing the weight of that heavy emotion

frees you and gives you hope – Shonelle George

 

As human beings, we carry stressors that add to the physical weight of the things we are already juggling. The psychological and emotional weight of loneliness, childhood trauma, anxiety, depression, and hurt weighs on our well-being, often activating our stress receptors (Dhabhar, 2011). These stressors become a threat to homeostasis (balance between psychological and physical processes) and trigger internal and external forces in a fight or flight response (Chovatiya & Medzhitov, 2014). Once those stressors are unleashed and left unmanaged, they counteract the body’s healthy physiologic and behavioral processes responsible for developing optimal functionality.

Our bodies become storehouses for unresolved and dysregulated emotions.  When left unaddressed, these emotions can become toxic, chipping away at our physical and emotional stability. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered internally generated feelings of worry, fear, externally generated realities of uncertainty, and helplessness that unfortunately contribute to the growing psychological distress cases. The emotions we now carry due to this pandemic weight more than our bodies can handle. For many of us, the weight of our stress has become too burdensome to carry.

During these difficult times, it is essential to remember that our emotions matter and we are not alone. The following coping strategies provide practical steps to lessen the emotional weights we have been carrying:

  1. Self-Care. Two simple words that can profoundly transform our health. The concept of self-care intentionally requires us to put ourselves first. This can be difficult for those who are natural caregivers and nurtures. For the mother who has just given birth to a baby, or the person caring for a sick family member, putting oneself first seems selfish and impossible. However, the concept of self-care is the ability to find space within our daily activities to bring our bodies and minds back into balance. The weight of our responsibilities generates heavy loads for us to carry. Self-care activities help to reduce stress. It does not have to be extravagant or costly. Simple things like:
    1. reading your favorite book, diffusing calming essential oils
    2. with your feet elevated in a cozy spot, sipping on a drink of your choice,
    3. watching your favorite tv show or listening to music (uninterrupted),
    4. taking a bubble bath or extended shower (add scented candles for effect),
    5. getting a Mani/Pedi (try a different color), or a massage
    6. ordering in from your favorite restaurant

Your self-care activity is about spending intentional and uninterrupted time doing something that helps YOU care for YOU.

  1. Social Support. Social support during these times can be challenging. Thankfully, technology allows us to connect with the people who love and care about us. Perhaps scheduling a google hangout game night, Netflix watch party, Facetime, or Zoom call (for those dealing with zoom fatigue– this can be counterproductive so make it as light and non-threatening as possible) with positive friends and family will help stay connected while having fun. Any contact with cheerful and fun-loving supporters can boost your spirits and create the social engagement you need to improve your mood. Talking to someone you can trust, who loves and cares for you will also help you through difficult days. Social distancing should not be social disconnection. Scrolling through social networking sites is not the most helpful either; this can become depressing, distracting, and anxiety-producing. Monitor your exposure and focus on people who are positive and add value to your life. Connection with others allows us to thrive even in challenging times.

 

  1. Positive Thinking and Positive Self-talk. Our thoughts have power and give life to how we handle the stressors we carry. While we need to take time to process the realities of uncomfortable situations, staying too long in a place of negative thoughts paralyzes our ability to escape from the damage negative thinking creates. Positive thinking and positive self-talk provide liberation from those internal and external irrational and negative thinking. When you practice positive affirmations, they help improve self-confidence, self-efficacy and lowers blood pressure. Used as a stress management tool, positive self-talk, has been shown to lessen feelings of distress, negative thought patterns, and improve coping skills. Positive thinking and positive self-talk exercises include:
    1. posting your favorite quote in an area that is visible throughout the day
    2. repeating affirmations particularly when negative thoughts and emotions flood our minds
    3. taking time to laugh (watching or reading comedy)
    4. being kind and gentle to yourself
    5. reconnecting to our faith and spiritual sources of empowerment

 

In situations where you typically respond negatively, think about the positives and speak those positives affirmations out loud. You can say things like,

  • I capable
  • I am beautiful
  • I will get through this
  • This is hard but I have been able to survive before; I can do it again

Think of some more affirmations and write them down; when challenging situations arise, say them aloud and let them circulate in the atmosphere. Remember, positive thinking and self-talk give life and lessen the burdens of the weights we carry.

  1. Breathe. The respiratory system is comprised of a network of organs and tissues that help us to breathe. Taking deep breaths allows your body to exchange incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide. Taking slow deep breaths lowers or stabilizes blood pressure, reduces tension, and anxiety, particularly in stressful situations. Deep breathing also improves concentration and memory. By practicing slow, deep breathing, your mind will calm down, and your body begins to relax, returning you to homeostasis (balance). Paced diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is one of the easiest ways to produce a relaxation response, optimize breathing, and improve heart rhythm. Breathing enhances our capacity to manage stress. Here are some tips for practicing deep breathing:

 

  1. Find a comfortable place
  2. You can opt to play soft relaxing music in the background (but not necessary)
  3. Breathe in through your nose, allowing your body to fill up with air
  4. Breathe out through your nose
  5. As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower
  6. Visualize yourself breathing in a stressful situation
  7. Breathing out the stress while allowing yourself to let go of the things that weigh you down.

Breathing allows you to regain control. While there are some things and situations you did not have control of before. In this present moment, let your breath take control. Breathe in and allow your body to breathe out the stress, exhaustion, anger, hurt, pain, sadness. Focus on centering your thoughts on positive thinking. Regain control through your breath. Let the rhythm of your breath soothe you, ground you, affirm you, support you, and empower you. Stop now and breathe.

  1. Exercise/Physical Activity. Physical activity is a preventative measure used to decrease the development of premature diseases. Physical activity reduces stress, increases mental and emotional wellness, and regulates body function. The center for disease control (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic and anaerobic activity per week to lower the risk for diseases (CDC, 2020). Some medical providers even consider exercise to be a useful adjunct (complement) to antidepressant medication. With some level of supervision, both aerobic and anaerobic exercises can produce a good antidepressant response after some time. Simply put, exercise improves mood and holistic wellness. Exercise does not have to be intimidating. Walking in the park, jogging, lifting light weights, dancing to your favorite song (on repeat) can support your physical activity goals.

 

  1. Watch What you Eat. Your food habits impact your health and wellness. Foods high in sugars and carbohydrates make you sluggish and tired. Introduce healthier options into your meal planning. Foods rich in fiber, protein, and daily consumption of vitamins work to improve your energy and digestion. Consider replacing high carb foods with green and purple leafy vegetables. Drink lots of water, it is recommended that you drink half of your body weight in ounces per day (I know, insane right! But it works). Staying hydrated improves your body’s ability to function by flushing out toxins. Eating healthy also boosts your immune system and aids in disease prevention. You can snack but avoid options that are processed, high in sodium, sugary, and high in fructose corn syrup. Talk with your health care provider about healthy food options and vitamins that support immunity defense.

 

  1. New Day, New Skill. It is time to bring your creativity to the surface. That hidden talent you have kept locked away! It’s time to unleash it. That’s righ! Participating in skill-building and talent enhancing activities support holistic wellness and lower stress. Do it yourself (DIY) projects, baking, sewing, knitting, decorating, and space remodeling will help to keep you active. Harvard University has been offering free online courses, this may be the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill or trade.

 

  1. Reach Out for Help. Some emotional burdens cannot be managed on our own. If you are experiencing feelings of loneliness, sadness, grief, anger, distress, or unhealthy thoughts, please reach out for help. The following resources are here for you. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of you being able to complete your daily activities. Free and confidential resourcescan also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

So, as you reflect on the things you are carrying, remember, the healthiest you is the best you.  Allow yourself to carry healthy emotions, coping skills, and a positive outlook. As you look around, know that many of us are facing similar challenges, you are not alone. Your self-care does not have to happen in isolation. You can care for yourself while you are being cared for and supported. You can also care for yourself while helping others. The gift of self-care (yes it is a gift for those who have genuinely experienced it) is also a reflection of communal care, in that, we care for ourselves while caring for others and vise versa. Because together we will survive this!

 

For additional resources:

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health

 Want to find out your stress levels? Take this short self-evaluation. Find the Holmes- Rahe Stress Inventory by clicking here: https://www.stress.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/stress-inventory-1.pdf

 

References

Central for Disease Control. Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/index.html

Chovatiya, R., & Medzhitov, R. (2014). Stress, inflammation, and defense of homeostasis. Molecular cell, 54(2), 281–288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2014.03.030

Dhabhar, F. S. (2011). Effects of stress on immune function: Implications for immunoprotection and immunopathology. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 47–63). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Gold, P. W. (2015). The organization of the stress system and its dysregulation in depressive illness. Molecular Psychiatry, 20(1), 32–47. https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2014.163

Harvard University Free online Courses https://online-learning.harvard.edu/catalog/free

 

 

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