Calming Down...

I had a participant in one of my classes bring up something that I think we all struggle with.  She said that so often she loses it with her kids and then it is so hard to come back down and get calm.  She feels like she spends so much time feeling angry at her kids.  The first thing I did when she shared this was to ask the class, "Does anyone else feel like this?"  Nearly all the hands went up.  As parent, we so often feel like we are the only ones who feel the way we feel...  Like we are the only ones making mistakes.  It was a relief to everyone in that room to know that so many others felt the same way...

I was glad that this mom had the courage to bring this up.  Anger and moodiness are things that I struggle with every day.  In Positive Discipline we call it "flipping our lids."  We lose our prefrontal cortex abilities of self control, problem solving, and empathizing (among other things) and instead are victims of our mid- brain, triggered by our emotions and memories.  As I have written before, this can be a really tough place to be.  And yet, so often we sink into this place and get comfortable, deciding that everyone else should feel as bad as we do.

You know what I'm talking about, right?  The I'm mad at you but instead of working it out I am going to huff and puff so you feel as bad as I do mentality...  If I could get back the time I have spent settled into this unproductive, totally irrational headspace I could go on a month vacation!  And it really works cyclically, doesn't it?  Because sure enough we do make the people around us feel bad - mad at us or bad about themselves...  And does anyone do well when they feel bad?  Can we get out the door, have a nice family meal or get any chores done?  Uh, no.  Instead, we have a house full of grumpy people, mad at each other, stomping around.

What a waste of time.

So what do we do?  The mom from my class wasn't sharing that she was enjoying the time she was spending with her lid flipped.  She was asking the group what to do to not feel like that anymore.  How do we take ourselves from that place of emotion and memory to the place of self control and solutions finding?  There are lots of answers to this.  Many I wrote about a few months ago in a post called "Moody Mama."  Basically we need to decide that we want to shake it off.  We need to take a few seconds to reflect on how we are feeling, notice where we are at - sometimes that alone will help in the journey back to the functioning brain.  Just starting with "whoa, my lid is flipped" is a start.  Notice it, name it, and decide to do something about it.  The more often we decide to do this, the easier it is to do.

I have mentioned the fabulous book I am reading called, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.  Today I read about calmness and it brought me back to the mom that had asked about how to come down and get calm...  Brown writes, "I define calm as creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity."  She mentions psychologist and write Harriet Lerner, who says, "Anxiety is contagious, but so is calm."  

"Anxiety is contagious, but so is calm."

Isn't this so true???  We freak out, and everyone around us does to...  We stay calm and often that is enough to keep everyone else in their functioning brains.

I am seeing this work with my kids.  They know that I can spin out into a meltdown, they have seen it plenty of times.  What I am finding is that when I choose calm, which is often preceded by a deep breath and a few seconds of centering silence, they are recognizing the work I am doing.  They see that I am choosing calm over freaking out.  They see that and they are encouraged by it.  I am noticing that the kids are starting to choose calm.  Not all the time, but more and more often...

Brown writes about practicing calm, "Unless we had calm modeled by our parents and grew up practicing it, it's unlikely that it will be our default response to anxious or emotionally volatile situations."  This is not easy work, but I owe it to myself, to my family, to continue to do it.  What a gift it would be for my kids to develop calm as their default response to challenging experiences!!!

Because, we all do better when we feel better...  Really, it's true.

Smiles ~ Casey