Dr. Nadia is a pediatrician, mom, yogi and shares her experiences with mindful living, holistic wellness, and conscious parenting. The blog, Mindful MD Mom, started as a way to discuss topics pertinent to the modern millennial parent, sharing her experiences as a doctor mom, and empowering others to find balance in this busy world.
Prevent Screen Time Meltdowns in 5 Easy Steps
by Roxanne S. Almas, MD, MSPH
Parenting in the Age of Screens I am reminded daily as a pediatrician and parent of the important brain development in early childhood years. To the developing brain, hands-on, unstructured, social play helps build language, cognitive, motor, adaptive and social-emotional skills.
So where do screens fit in?
We are still learning about the short-term and the long-term effects of excessive screen time use on children’s brains.
Many parents, including myself, are overwhelmed at how quickly screens have become a part of everyday life.
Parents are looking for strategies on how to approach their use. I see these effects in my exam rooms in my clinic. Conversations around how to manage behaviors and set limits are becoming more and more common.
Screen time Recommendations The American Academy of Pediatrics has specific recommendations around limit screen use based on the age of the child. Despite this, most children heavily surpass the daily recommended limits.
In my clinic, more than half of adolescents are reporting to me that they are on screens “all the time”.
Effects of Screen Overuse Excessive screen time has many negative effects on health and wellness. These include sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, misbehaviors, learning issues, and mental health effects.
Many children are becoming socially isolated, taking part in less family gatherings, participating in fewer household responsibilities, and are more distracted.
Though screens may seem like a quick and easy way to temporarily quiet a child, it becomes a source of tremendous stress. Families find it very difficult during transitions when phones are being shut off or unplugged.
The Brain on TV I often use the analogy of a water hose when describing the immediate effects of device use on the brain where in this case the water is dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter.
The massive surge of dopamine creates and maintains the child in a hypnotic state. The lights, the movement and the sounds from the screen all together keep the child’s brain fully engaged. As a result, the real world around the child no longer exists.
Every parent has observed this glazed-eye, zombie-like look in their child.
When it is time to shut down the device even with a warning, children naturally throw epic tantrums and full-blown meltdowns.
This emotional dysregulation comes from a sudden drop in dopamine thus putting the entire reward system to a complete halt. Just a few seconds earlier, it was getting replenished and strengthened.
As a result, the unprepared ‘reptilian’ brain, aka limbic system, takes over. The child is in complete disarray and is basically begging to be back in reward mode.
We are now in meltdown mode.
Preventing (and Avoiding) TV Transition Tantrums By being mindful of these neurological pathways, we can buildconnection and help our children through transitions and meltdowns.
Instead of a rapid and complete shutdown of dopamine, we can slow the release of dopamine and replace it with oxytocin, the connection hormone.
The 5 Minute Connection
I have put this into practice and it has been a game-changer in our home.
1. Before turning on a screen, I set rules and limits for the time. For example, one episode.
2. I ensure my kids understand the rules and limits by asking them to repeat them back to me.
3. Five minutes before the end of the show, guide them back to the “real” world by engaging with them either with words or touch. For example, sit next to them, give a hug or pat on the back, simple conversation related to what they are watching with genuine curiosity, etc.
4. Once they show me more eye contact, I shift their focus on to the next activity while still remaining connected physically and emotionally to them, increasing oxytocin.
5. Give kids (and myself) positive reinforcement. I take a deep breath, praise them for handling it well and myself for being intentional during those five minutes.
By turning down the water hose, we can prevent a dramatic drop of dopamine and replace it with another feel-good hormone, oxytocin. As a result, they still feel happy and connected even though the tv is off.
This approach has helped enormously in maintaining some degree of sanity in our home.
Mindful Connection is Key
Learning more about what happens in a child’s brain during screen time use has been incredible eye-opening to me.
Although we may have days where feel like screens have invaded our families and homes, we can empower ourselves. By setting clear limits and connecting with our children at key moments, we can enjoy screen time in a healthy way.
This is a brand new era of parenting and we’re trying our best. In the end, we are parents and we are above any device.
How do you approach screen time and related tantrums? Share your tips!
About the Author:
Roxanne S. Almas, MD, MSPH, is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician supporting families of children with special needs. She is a California native who now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children. She enjoys writing, cooking and gardening with her family. She is passionate about child development, physician wellness, and self-care for mothers.
Improve Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning in Kids with these Top 7 Mindfulness Must-haves
How different would your life be with less tantrums and meltdowns?
Would you like to effectively communicate with your child during times of big emotions while maintaining your own calm?
Would you like to stop yelling at your child and/or putting them in time outs that don’t really help?
How would you like to be able to travel more, go out to restaurants, sports events, and enjoy other activities without resorting to the ipad or tablet?
What if you could help your kids even as young as 9 months old to be more self aware and have better emotional regulation?
Though it may seem too good to be true, the answer to these questions can be found through mindfulness skills and social emotional learning. The beauty of these skills are that they can be taught at any age. In fact, the earlier, the better!
This post may contain sponsored products and/or affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission with no extra charge to you if you purchase through my links. See disclosure for more information.
The Mindfulness Mindset
As a mindful parent, you know that your kids are individuals who grow and develop at their own pace. There’s no one-size-fits-all story.
As parents, we are our kids’ role models, emotional coaches, teachers. For better or worse, we make an impact on the lives of our children.
After we are in the mindset of mindfulness, how can we help our kids with emotional intelligence and regulation of their social and emotional skills?
Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
Mindfulness is the practice of acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental manner. It is a skill that can be developed and practiced at any age.
As with any skill or talent, the sooner we can help our children learn something, the better they are at it. In the case of social emotional learning, these are skills that benefit everyone–the child, the parents, teachers at school, friends, etc.
This all sounds great, you may be thinking. But how am I supposed to help my child learn abstract concepts like mindfulness and social emotional learning if he can’t even speak well or tell me what he wants without a tantrum?!
How to Get Kids to Listen and Learn
As a pediatrician to many and mom of two strong-willed kids, here’s the deal:
Kids are active, imaginative, playful.
Attention spans are short because everything is equally exciting to them– from pebbles on the ground to water from the faucet to empty containers to cardboard boxes or the latest toy.
Kids need context in order to form concepts.
Time does not mean the same thing to kids as it does for adults. What does “hurry up, we’ll be late” even mean to them? They have no context and, therefore, no concept.
Receptive language skills (ie. understanding what you are saying) occurs early whereas expressive skills (ie. talking and language) comes later. This is why your child will still follow directions or get the toy you ask them to bring even if she can’t pronounce the words.
To keep their interest and attention and make it less stress for you, these childhood truths must be honored. In fact, you can utilize these truths to make life easier for you and your family.
Expert tip: Combine playfulness, creativity, fun, and movement in short bursts of time. These result in positive experiences for both kids and parents.
Yes, there are plenty of ways to parent. If you have a style that works for you and your family, that’s awesome! No need to change it.
However, if you’re experiencing more stress and anxiety than you’d like, then a mindful parenting approach can help. I’m all about making things easy and fun so I love this approach.
7 Mindfulness Must-Have for Kids
There are some amazing products, books, and games that teach these important skills through play based learning. After much research and product testing, my top 7 mindfulness products to help you and your child tune in to yourselves, acknowledge and identify complex emotions, and effectively and positively deal with them.
Time In Toolkit
Though time outs may work for some people, the rest of us find that time-outs for the child may or may not temporarily stop the offending behavior but usually causes more parental stress as we have to now handle an even a bigger melt-down. And the kid goes back to the behavior that put them in time out in the first place.
Because young kids are not able to process complex abstract concepts by themselves until they are much older due to immaturity of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for emotional modulation and regulation.
As I discussed in The Washington Post and Parents, there are other ways to positively handle tantrums and help the child learn from the experience. Instead of a time out, try a time in.
Time ins can help your child identify and work through the complex emotions in a healthy way.
The toolkit includes laminated posters to set up a Calming Corner, “What Can I Do?” activity mat set, My Feelings flashcards, and PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards. The posters are kid friendly and visually appealing. I like that they are laminated so it can be interactive for the kids and parents.
The toolkit is a great investment for anyone who deals with kids on a regular basis: parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, etc.
I recommend getting the entire toolkit as kids respond differently to different interventions. I like that there are different choices so that if your child wasn’t feeling on thing, you could try another. For example, if the calming corner wasn’t working, try out the mindfulness cards in a game.
Any of these products are great as a stand-alone purchase too.
Younger kids will pay attention to the faces more than the words on the cards. Older kids will benefit from the complexity of emotions as they too may be experiencing them but not sure how to convey it to parents.
b. PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards
Though I really liked all of the components of the Time In Toolkit, these PeaceMakers Mindfulness Cards were my favorite. Along with the variety of games and ease to carry, I love the positive affirmations to empower kids of any age. These are the kid game version of positive power phrases. And you know I love my power phrases!
The cards come with instructions for a variety of games from identifying animals to emotions to affirmations. The cards are colorful with simple yet visually appealing graphics. The cards are portable and would be perfect to take with you when in the car, at a restaurant, or traveling. Kids of any age would find them fun and interesting. My 2 and 4 year olds loved these cards!
2. Snuggle Buddies
These soft, plush stuffed animals are adorable, bright, and eye catching. Large enough to be huggable and/or double use as pillows.
An early introduction to mindful movement and meditation through age-appropriate and interactive adventure stories. Each book combines positive skills with mindful movement that kids of all ages and parents will enjoy.
As a yoga and meditation teacher, I practice these skills with my own kids. These books were a great addition to our practice. My kids loved the cute animal illustrations as well as the illustrations of kids doing yoga.
No matter how many times we read the books, my children would excitedly exclaim, “Mommy, look! The kid is doing the pose just like me!”
Even if you’re a beginner to mindful movement, yoga, or meditation, the cues in the books are clear, concise, and easy to follow.
Another great set of books that combines mindful movement and breathing exercises in a kid friendly way. A great way to start the morning, before school, add to routine to get kids moving and active without getting hyper, or wind down before bedtime.
1. Setting Priorities We have to actively consider our priorities and make that the basis of how we allocate our time and energy. We must also realize that priorities shift and change in different phases of life. We must be willing to change accordingly. Read more on living your life with intention.
Time does not exist in a vacuum and something will fill it. If we are not actively choosing how we spend our time, we will find ourselves spending time on things that don’t promote our long term or short-term goals and/or don’t match our priorities.
This will in turn lead to lack of fulfillment and burn-out.
When I find myself spending a lot of time on something, I periodically assess how it is affecting me in 3 key ways: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I also make sure it doesn’t negatively affect my top priorities at that time. I am careful what I do with my time so it doesn’t just get sucked up elsewhere or wasted.
2. Organize Systems & Delegate Responsibilities
The challenge is often how to handle the obligatory and often unpleasant things that fill our lives. For me, those are things like cleaning bathrooms, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and mail. I am sure each person has their own unique list.
When we develop systems that we can modify and tweak, chores will take less of our precious time. This is more effective than just resigning to doing it the arduous way and hating every minute. Try different methods and see what works best for you.
Here are a few of my examples of ways to organize tasks and prioritize what is important to me.
Example 1: Organize Mail
So much mail!
I try not to bring the mail inside until I have gone through it once. My garbage and recycling bins are outside so I can stop there and drop off the junk mail before coming in. I also don’t empty my mailbox at times when I don’t have the energy to address what’s inside it.
When it comes to mail, a big challenge is determining what needs to be saved and how to save it. I have a desk drawer with hanging file folders and file away paper under certain subject headings. Sometimes I take pictures of documents and save them in a reference album in my phone.
Example 2: Delegate & Outsource Laundry
I delegate laundry which saves me a lot of time every week. I have a lady who helps clean my house and does the laundry. She gets it washed and folded. The kids do their part of their chores and put away their clothes.
Less laundry means a little more time for me to dedicate to something else. For me, this means fitness and exercise. Without the extra help, I would have a much harder time being able to fit these activities into my day.
If there are tasks you can delegate or outsource, do it. You can use the extra time towards activities you care about and improve your overall well-being.
We must actively evaluate the way we use one of our most precious commodities: our time. It is, after all, a finite resource. We can’t rewind it, multiply it, or reuse it.
It behooves us to develop a process to evaluate where our time goes each day, each week, each month. By making sure it is filled with things that match our current priorities and goals, we can improve our spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.
Do you believe in doing it all? How do you organize your time to make the most of your busy schedule? Share your tips!
Rand Diab, MD is a board-certified comprehensive ophthalmologist practicing for over 15 years. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and 3 children. She loves family, friends, and fitness. She shares her passion for patient education on her website and her life experiences on her blog and social media.
Sometimes the way we bring up our own children reflects how our own parents raised us.
For example, if your parents were strict, you may be strict with your own children. In the short term, strict parenting may give rule-abiding children. However, the children may follow rules when parent is present out of fear but maybe not when you aren’t around to enforce them.
On the other hand, children that are raised in a very strict environment and too many rules tend to be more rebellious. A study done by the University of Hampshire also showed children with controlling parents are also more likely to be delinquents when they are older.
Talking about your own childhood can help identify why you behave a certain way towards your own child. It can shed light on your reactions in stressful times, during tantrums, or how you approach discipline.
As my husband and I reflected on our childhoods, we realized pros and cons to the way we were raised. My childhood was very happy but full of rules. My husband’s upbringing was more free; however, at times could be chaotic and messy.
By being mindful of our varying experiences of childhood, we agreed to pick and choose parts of each experience. For example, we would have a few important house rules—such as kids cleaning up their messes and being respectful of each other—but we would be flexible when other things come up.
Figure out your parenting style
The first step is figuring out what is each partner’s parenting style. As mentioned above, reflection on your childhood can be a start. Taking a quiz can help you to evaluate your own parenting style.
Once both partners have a general idea of their parenting styles, discussions of parenting goals can help.
Being on the same page with your partner helps raise children in a consistent way. Otherwise, children learn to behave differently with each parent. We all the cliché, “if mom says no, go to dad!” Well, if both parents are on the same page, kids can’t play one against the other or find loopholes.
How to set parenting goals?
Sit down with your partner and make a list of all the things that you want to achieve as a parent. These may include raising a kind child, passing on family traditions, having a respectful and secure home environment with open and honest conversations.
My husband and I decided together that our main mindful parenting goal is to bring up independent, ambitious, caring, happy, and well-grounded children. We want to nurture their belief system and encourage them to be ambitious with their dreams. Another important goal is that our kids be happy and grounded.
By setting goals, we are able to see how our parenting styles can affect our kids’ behavior and responses.
This doesn’t have to be a one-time discussion. It can grow and evolve with time.
Be ok with flexibility
While trying to figure out parenting style(s), try various approaches to see what works for you and your family. Feel free to prioritize and reprioritize parenting goals as the child grows older.
If your current parenting style causes stress on you and results in misbehaviors and rebellion, it may be worth trying to do something different.
Many parents lose their tempers and yell at their kids only to find it really doesn’t help. Read more on why yelling is more detrimental than helpful. If you’re a yeller, give yourself grace and work on finding alternate ways to get the same message across.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to raising a happy child, especially as they are changing as they grow older.
In fact, you may find that your parenting approach needs to change to fit the child.
By approaching parenting mindfully, we realize that parenting is about balancing two different people’s past experiences, current expectations, and adjusting it to fit the unique personalities of the kids.
Raising children is a learning experience and it helps to work with your partner as a team.
Good communication, mindfulness, and flexibility can be very helpful in order to reach a happy parenting balance.
How do you find balance with your partner in parenting? Share your tips and experiences!
About the Author:
Jennifer Montaine is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, OR. When not writing she loves exploring nature with her two young children and traveling further afield whenever possible.
When it comes to an uninterrupted night’s sleep, a cloud of elusive mystery surrounds it. Many families, including ours, struggle at bedtime with their baby insomniac. Commonly known as “bad sleepers”, most kids find novel ways to be emotionally allergic to sleep.
These kids, including my own, do not follow ‘the rules’ to sleep uninterrupted all night, every night. If baby Sam on GoT can sleep through White Walker battles and in the frigid cold of the North, why can’t mine sleep in their comfy beds?!
Right. Well, real life is not as portrayed on television.
Both professionally and personally, I have found that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to bedtime. Not even between two children in the same family.
Questions: why does our collective perceptions of bedtime conflict with the reality of bedtime?
Do our expectations around sleep negatively affect our experience?
Do we need to readjust our current way of thinking about sleep expectations?
What’s a sleep deprived parent to do?!
What Sleeping Like a Baby Really Means
Ah, to sleep like a baby!
People commonly use this phrase to describe restful, uninterrupted sleep. I am curious if the person who came up with this phrase spent any time with an actual, real life baby. For if he had, this phrase would never have come into our lexicon.
Countless parents–doctor moms included—feel various levels of shame, guilt, inadequacy that there is something wrong if their child is not sleeping through the night from a very young age.
The expectation is that babies and kids “should” sleep all night every night.
As a pediatrician and a mom in the parenting trenches with you, let me share a truth. Kids do not sleep uninterrupted through the night. It is a developmentally incorrect expectation. Yes, they will sleep at some point but not in the early years.
In reality, sleep can be disrupted by many factors: travel, transitions, new sibling, illness, school, developmental milestones, lifestyle, inconsistent bedtime routines, screen time, etc.
The conflict of expectation and reality plays a major role in the nightly frustration and stress for both parents and children.
The Truth about Sleep
The majority of children will wake up because that is what babies and children are wired to do.
Breastfeeding kids need to wake up every few hours to feed which in turn stimulates mom’s milk production. Skipping nighttime feeds give mom’s body the signal to decrease milk production. It is a demand-supply system.
Babies who are formula fed may sleep slightly longer but still need to wake up to feed.
Waking up regularly is actually a protective measure for babies. According to Pediatrics, “[t]he ability to arouse is critical physiologically, and a leading hypothesis is that failure to arouse makes an infant vulnerable to SIDS.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children shares that “[b]abies do not have regular sleep cycles until about 6 months of age. While newborns sleep about 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep 1 or 2 hours at a time. As babies get older, they need less sleep. However, different babies have different sleep needs. It is normal for a 6-month-old to wake up during the night but go back to sleep after a few minutes.”
You read that right: only 1-2 hours at a time!
So, if your baby is sleeping more than a few hours at a time, she is an exception as rare as a unicorn. The majority of your friends who are parents are probably not experiencing a similar blissful sleep experience.
Instead of asking whether her baby is sleeping through the night yet, offer to babysit so your sleep-deprived friend can get some rest.
Fact: even adults struggle with sleep. It is an acceptable variation of the sleep experience.
So why isn’t it accepted for kids? Do we set our expectations higher for our kids than we do for ourselves?
Expectations Affect our Perceptions
Our assumptions and expectations of a situation play a major role in our overall experience.
When our expectations start to match the reality, our overall experience becomes much better. When expectations are unrealistic, the same experience becomes stressful and frustrating.
For example, knowing that a child will probably get up multiple times a night as developmentally appropriate, the parents can plan accordingly and set realistic goals of what they can achieve when the kids are asleep.
Then, when the kids sleep for much longer increments of time, is a cause of celebration as they exceed expectations. If the children wake up, no problem, we expected that to occur. It becomes a win-win situation for both parties.
Our unmet expectations are a major source of discontent and unhappiness.
This seems like an obvious statement, right? However, applying this to real life is much more difficult.
Child Development and Sleep
In terms of child psychology, Erik Erikson describes the first stage of development is trust vs mistrust.
This stage starts in infancy and “…the infant is uncertain about the world in which they live. To resolve these feelings of uncertainty, the infant looks towards their primary caregiver for stability and consistency of care.
If the care the infant receives is consistent, predictable and reliable, they will develop a sense of trust which will carry with them to other relationships, and they will be able to feel secure even when threatened”.
For a baby or young child, this translates to ‘when I cry, will someone come get me? Can I trust that my caregivers will return to take care of me or am I all alone?’
Not mastering this stage leads to increased separation anxiety, clinginess, fear of being alone, acting out more for attention, mistrust in the world around them.
Kids do not have a sense of time like adults do. Each separation—including nighttime separation—is a separate event and a new source of psychosocial stress.
Cortisol and Sleep
An interesting study monitored babies’ cortisol stress hormone levels in responsive parenting styles vs cry it out (CIO). The babies with a responsive style showed cortisol levels normalizing. CIO babies had high cortisol levels throughout. Even when they eventually stopped crying, levels were as high as they were when they were crying.
There is a misconception that the baby stops crying because he is fine and is now “trained”. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
What’s the point of asking and crying for someone who isn’t going to show?
The babies eventually quieted but measurements of cortisol levels showed they were still silently stressing.
The babies didn’t stop because they adjusted. They stopped crying because they gave up.
Hm. Interesting, yes?
Understanding normal child psychosocial development and cortisol response with various sleep approaches is informative.
The child wakes up and cries at night because it is a normal way to test their trust in their world (ie. caregiver). Viewed this way, the current sleep perceptions promoted in the media and among parents are not only incorrect but potentially detrimental to the child in the long run.
Dealing with Night Awakenings
The night awakenings truly are a phase if handled in a supportive and age-appropriate way.
When sleep and bedtime become associated as a negative and stressful experience, night awakenings will continue to occur well into school age and beyond.
Kids need to feel sleep is safe and stress-free to fall asleep and stay asleep. They need the security of knowing that when they need something (day or night), their parent(s) will respond appropriately.
Sleep associations are formed at an early age.
As parents, we can readjust our expectations. Instead of expecting babies and young kids to sleep all night without waking, let’s accept that they will wake up. And when they do, we will be there for them.
When our expectations match our reality, we can be fully present and offer parental support, even if it is to gently pat their backs or hold them as they fall back asleep.
Expert tip: please don’t let the phase of nighttime awakenings make you doubt your ability as a parent. Don’t compare your experience to the all-night sleeper. Do you best to make sleep a positive experience for your child. He will be sleeping soundly soon enough.
Read more on how we sabotage parental confidence and how mindfulness helps the parenting experience.
Choosing a Sleep Philosophy
So, what if you’ve tried some ways and had unsuccessful results? Does that mean you have scarred your child for life? Are you a terrible parent?
No, you are not a terrible parent. The fact that you realize that your child’s is stressed and not responding well is insight and that is good.
Parenting is an experience that you are learning alongside your child. It’s a team approach. Use your knowledge and experience with your child to see what works and what doesn’t work.
Keep safety in mind, follow your child’s cues, discuss with your pediatrician.
Eventually, you will find an approach that works for your child and your family.
You got this!
Is bedtime a struggle for you or your family? What helps and what doesn’t? What sleeping tips you know now that you wish you knew before?
Stay tuned for Part #2 of Mindfulness & Sleep: How Lifestyle Affects Sleep
7 Ways to Increase Productivity by Staying Present
We are caught up in the business of being busy. Somewhere in the paradigm of success, it was decided that being busy means productive. Over-scheduling has become the norm and every minute is accounted.
However, being busy for the sake of being busy is neither productive nor healthy.
Goals need to be manageable and achievable. Otherwise, it is easy to get overwhelmed or lose interest. By using the SMART model for goal setting, we can set ourselves up for success.
Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time Bound.
2. Pockets of Productivity
Plan your day with pockets of productivity in mind. Aiming for hours of uninterrupted free time can be unrealistic because, well, life happens. However, pockets of 30 minutes to an hour a few times a day is manageable. It is during these pockets of time I squeeze in self care, read a book, yoga, brainstorm, plan future goals, etc.
3. When Working, Keep It Low Tech
With unlimited information and data at our fingertips, it is all too easy to get distracted by our phones, computers, ipads, tablets, etc. However, mentally shifting gears too often can really break our flow of thoughts and creative energy.
In fact, research shows that Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes which is about 80 times a day! Apparently we can’t go longer than 4 hours before we start feeling the stress of cell phone separation.
Instead, it is a necessary part of wellness and mental health. Instead of making it another thing to cross off the to-do list, seamlessly insert self care into your daily morning and/or evening routine.
Mindful movement with yoga, meditation, stretching, dancing, or working out can boost endorphins and uplift mood. Keeping a gratitude journal increases awareness of the abundance around us.
7. Create the Life You Want by Prioritizing and Reprioritizing
By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own. –Mark Victor Hansen
Creating the life you want is easier than it seems but we must take the time to decide what kind of life is the right one for us. Otherwise it is easy to fall into cycles of negativity, feel stuck, discontent, or straight up confused.
Having a game plan on how to tackle time management, minimize distractions, and increase focus prevents goals and dreams from getting lost within the mental clutter. I find that writing ideas on paper moves abstract thoughts into actionable items and easier to refer back to them later.
I recommend regular assessment of goals and/or bucket lists. The key is to routinely prioritize and reprioritize as necessary. Then, see if your current actions align you with your overall goals. Otherwise, much effort and energy is expended without ever moving in the direction of ultimate goals and aspirations.
What tips help you increase productivity? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Wanting to add a little lightness and inspiration to your day? Here are some positive mindfulness tips for a quick pick-me-up.
1. Embrace the fullness of an experience
Life is not perfect and perfection need not be the goal. How about aiming for an enriched life, memories, and experiences? Stress, challenges, happiness, sadness, joy, anticipation—it’s all part of the spectrum of living. Encourage experience instead of stagnation helps us grow and evolve. Read more on letting go of perfection.
He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter. – John Burroughs
2. Just Be
There is a lot of pressure to be a lot of things, including being happy. So much energy is expended to convey that sentiment. But why? No sentiment is inherently better or worse than any other state of being. So, instead of trying to change a current state of being to fit what you ‘should’ do, try to just be.
Make happiness part of the journey, not the final destination. This season, just be. Whatever you are, it’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok.
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for. –Epicurus
3. Appreciate the world around you
Look for the beauty and inspiration in simple things. The cloud pattern in the sky, the colors of a beautiful sunset, the delicious taste of the food you are eating, etc. Allow yourself to enjoy the moment.
From wonder into wonder existence opens. Lao Tzu
4. Invite wonder and curiosity into your day
Talk to someone who haven’t spoken to before. Read the first book that catches your eye. Ponder the meaning of an inspiring quote. Ask questions. Allow your mind to wander. Read the meditation on thought.
You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things. -Nate Berkus
5. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
We really are our harshest critics and cause ourselves unnecessary stress by constantly policing and judging ourselves. Instead of criticism, acknowledge your feelings and experiences without judgement. Practicing mindfulness meditation allows us to get back in touch with ourselves.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance. -Eckhart Tolle
6. Compliment yourself
You do a lot of things well. Give yourself credit.
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. -E. E. Cummings
7. Move with intention
Our movements and actions affect our energy. Mindful movement—exercise, stretching, yoga, or even walking—makes helps us bring awareness back into ourselves.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. -Thich Nacht Hahn
8. Enjoy eating again
Food is sustenance, not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Those words are judgements and they deprive us of enjoying what we are eating. Of course, make healthy choices but in moderation. Give yourself permission to enjoy the bounty of the holidays.
The Elimination Diet: remove anger, regret, worry, resentment, guilt, and blame. Then, watch your health and life improve. – Charles F. Glassman
9. Cultivate gratitude
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not of your past misfortunes, of which every man has some. Charles Dickens
Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace to today, and creates a vision for the tomorrow. -Melody Beattie
When you feel that nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you. –Lao Tzu
10. Let every day be a learning experience
The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. So, give yourself permission to feel the feels and experience the experiences.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. -Denis Waitley
How do you invite inspiration to your day? What things bring you joy? What’s your favorite quote? Share with me!
We’ve all been there. One moment feeling like the boss that you are; however, in another moment feeling inadequate, confused, hesitant, angry, or any combination of negative feelings.
In a word: disempowered.
It is in these difficult moments that our emotions go autopilot. We end up reacting often out of proportion to the situation. The aftermath is usually a variation of guilt, sadness, shame, etc. We regret how we behaved. We (hopefully) accept our part in the conflict, apologize, and make up with whoever we were in conflict.
However, it becomes a problem if every time a disempowering situation occurs that we react out of control, lashing out in anger, or cruelty in words or actions.
Over time, the apologies get old and relationships become negatively affected. In some cases, irreparable damage can occur.
If we can learn to bring ourselves back into a position of empowerment, we can prevent ineffective cycles of communication and reactions. We can train ourselves to respond instead of react.
The unfortunate situation is that many of us never really learned how to make positive mind shifts in high pressure or high emotion situations. So, the negative reactions we had as a child tend to show up even when we are adults.
This is especially pertinent because as parents, we often live in high pressure and/or high emotion situations as we navigate parenthood. The early years of parenthood are the toughest. Lack of sleep, inability of our children to communicate verbally, tantrums, work pressure, lack of self care, parental burnout, etc.
Parents, do any of these sound familiar?
Do you ever feel like you’re having a power struggle between you and your child?
That you say one thing and they defiantly say no or ignore it completely?
Do you often say or do things that you wish you hadn’t?
Are you concerned that your bond with your child may be negatively affected based on your interactions?
Do you often worry that you are not a good parent?
So how to respond instead of react? Why is this important?
Respond instead of React
When we are not aware of our triggers and/or don’t have a game plan for how to respond in disempowering situations, much can be said and done in a reaction of negativity that we may regret later.
A few times in the course of a life may not be a big deal but unfortunately authoritarian parenting cycles can continue and have negative results later on. Read on more on various parenting styles.
It’s ok to feel (insert emotion) about this situation. I acknowledge it but I choose to be calm
I am calm.
Breathe. Focus on the breath
I am in control of myself.
I will radiate love even though I do not feel like it.
The kids are not trying to annoy me on purpose.
They are unable to express what they are feeling but I can help us get through this
I am a great mom/dad and this situation does not make me any less of an awesome person.
My kids love me and look up to me.
Why is this situation bothering me?
Let me take a minute to check in with myself
What is my child trying to tell me?
We are all struggling in this moment. I will extend grace to myself and my kids.
I got this.
I love this person. I am not trying to attack him/her. He/she is not my enemy.
I am safe.
We can disagree and still love each other.
I cannot control this moment but I can control my reaction and response.
I will use this challenging moment to model the appropriate way to handle stressful situation
This is a temporary situation but my words have a lasting impact
My kids are learning from me. I can show them how to deal with this in a positive way.
Maybe my child doesn’t even know why she’s upset. I can offer my support.
We will get through this together
I find taking some slow, deep, mindful breaths very helpful. In fact, taking time to breathe activates the parasympathetic nervous system, slows down heart rate, and gives feeling of calm. Then, I give myself a positive power phrase to focus on as I breathe.
After a few cycles of breathing and repeating positive power phrases, mindful shifts will occur as one moves to an empowered state.
I choose my response and I choose calm.
When I am able to calm myself, I am able to come from a place of compassion and grace. Read more on how I handle tantrums and how it can be a learning experience for both kids and parents.
Even if I feel initially feel upset or stressed in a situation, I have practiced these strategies to the point it is second nature now. In fact, I still surprise myself at how calm my voice sounds in the midst of a stressful situation with my kids.
It is humbling to recognize that if I am feeling so upset internally, how much harder it must be for the child who neither has the awareness, the brain development, or the verbal capacity to share the intense emotion.
Makes you feel for the kid, no? Like, poor baby is really struggling right now. So, how can I help you and myself get through this?
Negative or positive, we truly are control of the outcome of a situation through the use of our emotions and perspective. Acknowledging, processing, and accepting our own state of being makes all the difference.
By using power phrases and shifting to an empowered parent mindset, challenging situations become much easier to handle. With just a little practice, reactions change to conscious responses. And, it becomes a matter of seconds to go from annoyance and impatience to a mindset of compassion and kindness.
After all, we already have the love in our hearts. We just to access that love for ourselves and others in challenging situations.
What tips help you in challenging situations? Do you use affirmations or power phrases? If so, which ones? Would love to hear from you!
So there I was feeling confident about my super mom immune system strength despite being around sick kids either at home or on the job. As a pediatrician, illness greets me every shift and I’ve been coughed on, vomited on, sneezed on—-you get the picture.
Despite the job hazards, I had managed to stay illness free. That is, until this week.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission with no extra charge to you if you purchase through my links. See disclosure for more information.
Now, I have just a viral cold which means my feeling of unwell can last anywhere from a few days or up to 2 weeks. We’re on day #3 so far.
My little cold is coupled with the worst thing ever for a mom: laryngitis.
That’s right, my voice can barely get over a hoarse squeak. If I strain, it is a loud whisper at best.
Expert tip: if you do ever get laryngitis, try to avoid whispering as it strains the vocal cords. As a result, takes longer to get your voice back. I can attest to this both personally and professionally.
When Mom Needs a Sick Day
As we know, for us moms there are no sick days.
I was expecting it to be a complete sh*tshow as my hubs works during the day and since I could barely talk, how were our days going to go?
I was concerned. How will I manage tantrums? How will naptime go? How can I mom without a voice???
But since I couldn’t really talk above a whisper, we all just dealt with life and its chaos as it came.
Did tantrums occur? Obviously.
We live in the real world and my kids are four and two years old. Read more on my approach to tantrums as a learning experience for the child and parent.
Did I deal with tantrums differently? Yes.
Lots of positive nonverbal support by serene-ish smile, sitting close, getting to their eye level, expressing empathy with facial cues, gave hugs when they were winding down from the tantrum. Lots of mindful breathing. Sometimes making silly faces and speaking with the classic squeaky yet froggy voice of laryngitis made us all laugh and diffused the situation. Read more on mindful parenting tips to start today.
The most challenging aspect of laryngitis is definitely the inability to verbally communicate. Without full use of my voice, nonverbal cues are watched more closely. Cuddles and smiles from me became even more important. The kids realized that mommy isn’t feeling well and were actually pretty accommodating.
They did better than I thought. They improvised, showed creativity, and empathy.
‘Mommy’s voice is not feeling well’, my four year old reported to her two year old sister. ‘I get tea’, she rushed off and grabbed her toy teapot.
Momming under the weather
I wasn’t able to converse much but could still participate in the activities. Just being there seemed enough for the kids.
So far, it’s going better than I thought in terms of dynamics. I’m ready to get over this cold and get my voice back.
In the meantime, I’ll change from one set of pjs to another and remind myself to just relax and let my body do its thing.
My hubs is taking care of bedtime. We’re enjoying not having to cook and getting take out instead. I can’t think of a better time to let go of perfection, be gentle with ourselves, and roll with what life gives us instead of viewing it through an unrealistic view. Read more on the perfect filter and we need to stop using it.
By doing less, we give opportunity to our family members to work on their skills: nurturing, taking care of chores, etc.
You don’t have to do it all.
Chores can wait.
Pjs are the best.
I didn’t realize how much talking I actually do in a day. Also, talking less was kind of nice.
We can still communicate well without using words.
I didn’t realize how active I usually am and that I probably don’t rest as much as I should. Being sick is humbling and reminds me of my humanity, that there are so many things I can’t control, and just to go with it.
When things don’t go as planned, it’s an opportunity for creativity.
We don’t give our kids and families enough credit. They will step up when we don’t try to do everything.
(This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission with no extra charge to you if you purchase through my links. See disclosure for more information. Please note these are recommendations of what I found useful. There is no obligation to purchase any of these products.)
Mindful conscious parenting is my personal favorite way to approach parenting.
Because no matter what your style, it becomes unique to you and your family and makes it an overall positive experience despite all the struggles that we all face in one way or another.
Parenting is the ultimate equalizer as no one is spared from its twists and turns.
However, mindfulness encourages presence and allows one to acknowledge and accept our thoughts without judgment. Conscious parenting empowers parents to recognize their role as facilitators to help their kids thrive in their environment and parenting becomes a loving team approach between parents and kids.
So, integrating these two concepts to the parenthood experience takes the pressure of parenthood off the shoulders of parents. These pressures include being the perfect parent, feeling like one has to know everything all the time, being the expert of your family, etc.
Here are 7 tips to help when you are stressed (in no specific order).
1. Be mindful of your own triggers
We all have buttons that when pushed elicit not-so-pleasant responses and emotions. Often times we are unaware of those things but find ourselves reacting in predictable patterns on ineffective communication and/or ineffective parenting.
By being mindful of our triggers, we can use each day as a way to learn more about ourselves. Ask yourself, why did I react like that? What was I feeling when I did that behavior or had that response?
Be prepared for some real life revelations. You may be surprised at how much of your own experiences and childhood resurfaces. This is the basis of mindful meditation and loving-kindness meditation which is allowing yourself to acknowledge and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Being aware of our own triggers can be very helpful especially when our own mini-me’s are having their own strong emotional outbursts in the form of tantrums. Read more on my approach to tantrums and how it can be a learning experience for both the child and the parent.
2. Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing, inhaling through the nose and slowly exhaling through mouth, helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). In turn, the PNS slows down the heart rate, brings down stress levels, and actually gives a feeling of calm.
It’s a great stress reduction strategy and there are many types of mindful breathing. Read more mindful breathing here.
There are some days where this mom takes A LOT of these mindful breaths. With a preschooler and a toddler, mindful breathing is my go-to technique to quickly recenter, acknowledge my own frustration, remind myself that we are trying to the best we can, and it will be ok.
3. Model the behavior you want
Managing emotions and responding to a situation instead of reacting to a situation is hard enough as an adult. For kids, it is even more difficult for kids whose cognitive development is not even fully matured. Read more on kids’ prefrontal cortex and their developing brain.
Young kids do not know how to modulate and regulate their emotions. They’re not trying to manipulate you or be annoying on purpose. They really don’t get it.
More than words, kids observe the world around them and respond to the nonverbal cues: facial expressions, tone of voice, volume of voice, etc). This is one of the main reasons that yelling at kids really does not work.
Children hear the volume but not the words that are being said.
Instead, get down to their eye level, talk in a soft voice, and model the behavior you want. Over time, this has the most positive effect on behavior as well as the parent-child bond.
What about the behaviors of older kids, preteens, teens?
As they get older, kids notice when parents use the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ approach. They will eventually come to the conclusion that because the parents don’t practice what they preach, clearly it’s not that important. So, negative behaviors will continue (ie. yelling, interrupting, critiquing, passive aggressive behavior, etc).
So, if something really is important, reflect it in your own behaviors and be a role model.
4. Apologize when you mess up
We parents are not infallible. We have our off-days too. However, if we react in a less than ideal way, we need to address it. Otherwise, we inadvertently send mixed messages to our kids who view our behaviors as the ‘appropriate’ way to deal with a situation.
‘Earlier today I lost my temper and yelled at you. It’s ok to be angry but it’s not ok to yell. I’m sorry’
Being a parent does not make it ok to model negative behavior but expect perfection from our children. If we can’t do it, they definitely can’t either.
No one is perfect. Not us, not our kids. We are human. And it’s ok.
5. Show that being human is a good thing
Having emotions is awesome! Experiencing the range makes us human and not emotionally stunted. Emotions help us experience life with all of our senses and processing and brings a richness to what would be otherwise dull.
We can help our children learn how to appreciate and acknowledge emotions without a label (bad/good), that it is ok to have emotions, and what is an appropriate way to regulate and respond those emotions.
“It’s ok to be (sad/mad/cry/angry). We all feel like that sometimes. But it’s not ok to (hit/bite/throw things, etc)”
“I feel (sad/mad/frustrated) right now so I am going to take a deep breath right now. Want to take a deep breath with me?”
“What can I do to help?”
“Sometimes I feel (insert emotion) when I am (hungry/tired/etc). Are you feeling any of these things?”
“Help me understand what you want/are trying to say. I want to help.”
6. Recognize when you are reaching your limits
Awareness and acknowledgement without judgment are key tenants of mindfulness.
When applied to parenting, this means to recognize when you are reaching your wits end and need a break. This can be noted when you sense yourself being more irritable or short-tempered than usual, everything seems annoying, the kids’ antics are less cute and more grating, etc.
You know what I’m talking about.
Recognize this as a sign that you need a break. This is when self care and personal wellness needs to be prioritized. Whether it is asking for help, delegating chores or responsibility, going on date night with your partner or spouse, having a girls’ night, or taking some time for yourself, please do not feel guilty that you need a break.
You work hard and deserve some guilt free down time. A stressed out exhausted person with wild eyes who is breathing fire isn’t the best version of yourself. Learn the signs of parental burnout and recognize when you are reaching your limits.
We can learn to embrace the flawed beauty of being a human while giving ourselves grace and space for introspection and improvement. It is inspiring because no matter how rough our day was, there are still high points no matter the low ones.
And if not, at least we can use it as a learning experience and start fresh tomorrow. Nothing is all good or all bad.
There is still depth and beauty in the gray zones of life. We are allowed to talk about its complexities without judgment, no?