How can I help my child sleep and stay asleep? Some quick and easy relaxation techniques!

Most of us have experienced those sleepless nights when we just can’t shut our minds off; or, we sleep for 2-4 hours and wake up and can’t get back to sleep-so frustrating!Imagine that helpless and frustrating feeling in the mind of a child. There don’t seem to be any “failsafe”, natural ways to combat this problem that work every single time; however, we can amass a toolbox of resources that one or two can work when others don’t. Here are a few natural options that can be used in combination or alone (and can be used to just ease anxiety or worrying as well):

THE BUTTERFLY HUG
To do the butterfly hug, cross your arms across your chest, as if you were holding yourself, with your right hand resting on your left upper arm and your left hand on your right upper arm. Then, as you experience whatever anxiety or fear you may have, tap alternately – left, right, left, right – at whatever speed you find comfortable. The important thing is that you alternate the taps – one side, then the other. After tapping for a while, stop, take a breath, and notice how you’re feeling. You may be surprised to discover that you’re feeling somewhat calmer. If Just notice that and begin to tap again. If your level of anxiety or fear doesn’t change at all, give yourself some more time with the butterfly hug and see what happens. (No tool works for everyone, so this is truly an experiment to see how whether this something useful to you.) You can do the butterfly hug for as much or little time as you find comfortable, and as many times a day as you feel a need to settle yourself.

The Light Stream Technique

The first part of the light stream technique is to think about what you are experiencing and feeling in that moment. Ask yourself what emotions am I feeling right now (Am I mad? Am I sad? Am I frustrated that I can’t sleep?), and where do I feel it in my body?

The second step is to imagine that those feelings are an object. The goal is to take the first thing that comes to mind after recognizing the emotions, and location. Mentally ask yourself these questions about the object:

“If it had a shape, what shape would it be?”
“If it had a size, what size would it be?”
“If it had a color, what color would it be?”
“If it had a temperature, what temperature would it be? Hot or cold?”
“If it had a texture, what texture would it be?”
“If it had a sound, what kind of sound would it make? High or low pitch?”

Next, you are going to use your imagination:

Pick a color that you most associate with healing. Imagine that there is a stream of light this color that is coming from the center of the universe. This is a magic light, because the more you need of it, the more of it is available to you. Allow this light to flow into your head, and focus it down on the object. Let the light vibrate like a laser beam in and around this object.

Allow yourself to just notice what happens to the object.

Remember that the more light or energy that you need the more is available to you. Allow yourself to feel the light enter your mind, and allow the healing light again to vibrate in and around the object and notice what happens to the object.

When you notice that the object is gone or feels that it is contained, allow yourself to let the energy from the light flow into your body. Allow it to reach the tips of your finger, and the tips of your toes. Allow yourself to be surrounded by the light, and overwhelmed by the energy, count to three and open your eyes.

SENDING B-MAIL

A B-mail message is a deep breath that tells our body that we are relaxing in the moment.

Lay on your back and put your hand on your belly.
Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and let it out through your mouth with a gentle ah-h-h-h-h-h-h sound. (You should feel their belly rise and fall).
Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth like they are trying to move a feather up in the air.
Breathe in slowly to the count 2, 3, 4 and out 2, 3, 4.
In 2, 3, 4 and out 2, 3, 4.
Repeat 10 times.

TIME TO RELAX YOUR BODY

Get ready to relax. You can sit in a chair or lie down on a bed.

Close your eyes, and take a deep breath in…. now breathe out.

Breathe in…. and breathe out.

Keep breathing slowly like this. Feel how it relaxes you to breathe deeply.

Now squeeze your hands closed into fists. Pretend that you are squeezing a ball in each hand… gripping tighter…. squeeze even tighter…. Right now, your muscles are tense.

And now relax. Let your hands go limp. Now your hands feel relaxed. See how relaxed your hands feel. See how tense feels different from relaxed. Relaxation is a way to make your whole body feel relaxed like your hands are now.

One way to relax your body is by breathing deeply. Imagine that your body is like a balloon. When you breathe in, feel your chest and sides expanding, like a balloon filling with air. When you breathe out, imagine your body is like a balloon shrinking with the air being let out.

Breathe in like a balloon being blown up. Now breathe out, like the air is being let out of a balloon. Let the air out by blowing the air through your mouth.

Breathe in through your nose, imagining your body expanding like a balloon…. and now imagine letting the end of the balloon go, and the air rushing out as you breathe out through your mouth.

As you breathe in this time, raise your arms above your head. When you breathe out, lower your arms.

Breathe in. Reach your hands above your head, stretching high up… stretching…. and now lower your arms to your sides and relax. Breathe out.

Raise your arms and breathe in…. lower your arms and breathe out….

Raise your arms and breathe in…. lower your arms and breathe out….

Now relax and keep your arms at your sides, while you continue breathing slowly and deeply.

Remember the difference between tense and relaxed. Tighten your leg muscles to make both of your legs tense. Squeeze tighter…. tighter… and now relax.

Let your legs become very relaxed. Each leg is as floppy as a piece of string.

Your legs feel heavy. The muscles are loose.

Now tense your arms. Make the muscles very tight and tense. Tighter…. and now relax. Your arms are relaxed, limp and loose as pieces of string.

See how it feels to be relaxed. Your legs and arms are relaxed.

Now let your whole body become relaxed. See how relaxed you can make your body…. loosening every muscle…. no tension at all…..

Your body feels heavy and relaxed.

Relax even more by noticing your breathing again. See how calm your breathing is. In…. and out….. in…. and out…

Keep breathing and simply relax. There is nothing you need to do right now except relax quietly.

(pause)

See how calm and relaxed you feel. It feels good to relax.

PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION FOR KIDS

Breathe in deeply through your nose. Pause and silently count to three. Now, let out your breath very slowly, as if you’re giving a long sigh JUST LIKE YOUR CAT/DOG!

Be aware of the muscles in your face. Relax them beginning with your jaw. Next, relax your shoulders, feeling the tension melt away. Now, feel your tummy. Center one hand right above your belly button. Put your other hand on top of that hand. Breathe in deeply and let out the breath slowly. Notice how your tummy rises and falls. (Repeat at least ten times.)

2. Next, we’ll begin to relax the muscles in your body. Pretend that you have an orange in your right hand and squeeze as hard as you can. (Hold the squeeze for about five seconds.) Pay attention to the tension in your muscles. Now, drop the orange and let your muscles relax. (Repeat for the left arm.)

3. Now, stretch your arms high above your head and back as far as you can without hurting yourself. Now, let your arms drop. Don’t try to stop them. Just let them fall. See how good that feels? Now, reach for the ceiling. Stretch higher. Higher! Go as high as you can. Then pull back. (Hold for three to five seconds.) Now let your arms drop to your side. Doesn’t that feel good?

4. Now, let’s work on your jaw muscles. We’re going to pretend that you have a hard piece of candy in your mouth, and you’re going to try as hard as you can to bite through it. Bite hard. Harder! Now, relax your jaw muscles. Let’s try it again. (Repeat.) Now, relax. Feel the tension melt away in your entire body.

5. We’re going to work on your face and nose. Scrunch up your nose LIKE AN OLD LADY as tight as you can, making lots of wrinkles in your face. Don’t laugh! Just keep scrunching. Now relax. Let’s try it again; scrunch harder. Harder! Relax. Notice how relaxed your face feels.

6. We’re moving to your tummy now. For this exercise, you’re going to squeeze your belly as hard as you can, making you look as skinny as possible. Now squeeze…squeeze…squeeze. Good. You can relax now. Next, you’re going to try to make yourself even skinnier, and hold it for a good five seconds each time. Squeeze. (Slowly count to five.) Relax. Let’s try it one more time. Squeeze as hard as you can. (Count to five.) Relax. Now relax your entire body, and notice how good that feels.

7. Now, pretend you’re on a sandy beach. Squeeze your toes into the sand. Feel the wet sand squish between your toes, using the muscles in your legs to squeeze your toes into the sand as hard as you can. Relax the muscles in your legs. Feel the tension wash away into the ocean. Let’s try it again, only this time, dig deeper into the sand, using your legs once again to help you grip with your toes. Relax your toes. Relax your legs. Now, relax your entire body.

8. Pretend you’re a rag doll, and let your entire body go limp. Notice how good it feels to be relaxed. Now, just enjoy the feeling. Now you know how to melt away the tightness in your body. Whenever you feel anxious, take a few minutes to tighten your muscles; then relax them.

ONE WOMAN’S ACCOUNT OF LEARNING FINANCIAL VALUES

“Growing up in a highly physically, verbally and emotionally abusive household, I watched my parents fighting over a myriad of things-one very commonly being money. My father experienced a deep depression and stopped working from the time I was ten until I was thirteen. My mother worked multiple jobs all the time to support us, so she was never really around; and when she was, she was miserable.

When I was twelve, I started babysitting to earn money. As soon as I got money, I spent it mostly on my family and friends. What a great feeling that was! I think it gave me some sense of power because I knew I was completely powerless in my life as a child in this tumultuous household otherwise. That continued throughout high school and college. My mother tried to regulate my spending by making me give her all of my paychecks; but I would vehemently fight her for control of my money until I wore her down and she gave up. I found that the more jobs I worked, the more money I made, the more I could spend and have fleeting moments of happiness and a feeling of power!

And, who knew those credit card companies would give an eighteen year old multiple credit cards?! What a fabulous four years of college that was! My boyfriend and I would go out to dinner all the time; I would buy him all the best clothes; he NEEDED a new drum set so, of course, I put it on the credit card. I’ll just work more jobs, I thought….So, there I was, owing thousands in credit card bills, thousands for my Bachelor’s Degree and found my first real “career job.” Oh, well, I needed a brand new car to go with that first real job, right?! Of course-so, I ordered my brand new car and now owed thousands for that too. And, so it continued throughout the next 20 years. A failed marriage at age 40, a beautiful child to raise alone, a mountain of debt to contend with, no retirement or savings, and a business to run. What next?”

Here’s a good wake-up call opportunity for improvement!
Time to take financial inventory first:
Can I speak with a financial advisor? Where can I make some cutbacks? What am I currently spending my money on? Do I need to develop a budget? For example, can I buy/sell my clothes at consignment stores? Can I walk more rather than drive everywhere I need to go?

Then, emotional inventory:
What purpose does money really serve in my life? Do I have healthy boundaries and a sense of control with myself? Am I happy/content? What truly brings me peace and joy? Do I feel powerful in my life?

Negative financial values are a direct reflection of a negative sense of self-worth. Repairing negative financial values is contingent upon your commitment to yourself. Start now.

– Peace to you

DUALITY OF THE CAREGIVER PERSONALITY

“How do I ask for help when I’m the helper? When is it my turn? Why don’t people just reach out and offer to help when it’s so hard for me to ask for help in the first place?” That is the number one duality I hear from so many who are the classic “Caregiver Personality”. This is not with regard to those who are caregivers out of necessity, i.e. those who are the only available option to care for a disabled or sick loved one. This is a discussion of those who possess a caregiver personality and who say that he/she wants to help but then do not want to be perceived as weak or vulnerable by asking for help. However, caregivers may become highly resentful when people do not just assume the caregiver needs help when the caregiver needs it. Caregivers present themselves as “All-Giving”, “All-Knowing”, “All-Doing” — why would anyone think caregivers would actually need help, let alone accept it if offered?

Many “Caregiver Personality” types (on some level) enjoy the role of “Caregiver” because it is the safest place to be; it serves a deeper purpose of avoiding his/her own feelings of lack of self-control, low self-esteem and avoidance of doing deeper, necessary self-nurturance work. If the caregiver focuses his/her attention taking care of others, the caregiver controls the action, makes the save, receives some validation and does not have to focus on themselves. The problem becomes – the caregiver always end up with themselves. We all carry our baggage no matter what we do, no matter where we go.

The bottom line is…
The true “Caregiver” is one who routinely asks him/herself. What purpose does taking care of others really serve in my life? Do I have healthy boundaries and a sense of control with myself? Am I happy, content? What truly brings me peace and joy? Do I feel powerful in my life?

The caregiver practices addressing his/her own needs (Mind, Body and Spirit), and developing one’s best strategic plan toward optimal mental, physical, and spiritual health wellness on a daily basis. Only then, will one bring the best version of him/herself to help others.

- Peace to you

Parenting

Am I a good parent? How do I know that what I’m doing and saying isn’t going to end up in a tearful session in some therapist’s office in 10 years?! Did I permanently scar my child because I didn’t let her have an iPad or a Facebook account when she was 9 even though her friends do?

Our barometer as parents is how our children treat others. We can ask ourselves: How are they perceiving and interpreting our communication with them? What are we told by teachers and other parents about their behavior when we are not there? And, most importantly, how are we consistently role-modelling for them how to actually do what we are attempting to teach them? Practice what you preach.

Barring any underlying mental illness (not including just being a teenager!), they are our mirror and will reflect back to us what we show them. Do we create a safe, nurturing learning environment for them to be kids, opportunities to be successful, make mistakes, and grow?

Take your own inventory first when questioning your role as a parent. You are in an extremely powerful and blessed position. Validate and be consistent with yourself and your partner for your great work and do the work on your areas in need of strength. Peace to you.

Marriage: the daily adventure

Marriage can be hard. Really hard. I hear so often “I just want to stop feeling so hurt and angry”. After so many fights and saying those cut-to-the-core nasty comments and name-calling (whether true or not), the damage is done and you can’t go back and change it. Can you fix it though? Is it possible to move forward from it? Quick answer (but by no means easy) is yes. It takes the full investment and daily hard work from both of you. That doesn’t mean to shut down emotionally and walk on eggshells every day just talking about the weather to keep it safe! It means creating a daily mutually safe, nurturing,  fun and respectful communication environment for each other to speak and be heard without fear of retaliation. It means thinking before you speak and act (ie. “how would I feel if this were said to me?”; or, better yet, “what is the value or purpose of what I’m about to say and how I will say it for it to carry the most value?”). It means acting as if the person you have admired most in your life is watching and listening all the time and you don’t want to disappoint or disrespect them (eventually that person should be you). It means holding yourself to the same standards and values of which you hold everyone else.

Take your own inventory. Are you fully present in the moment, let alone in your relationship? Individual counseling (whether with a counselor or clergy) partnered with relationship counseling can be a fantastic formula to do this work and move forward toward optimal self-awareness and relationship enrichment. Peace to you.

Dealing with Difficult Personalities

What did she just say to me?

There are those people who choose to utilize power by humiliation and power by intimidation techniques in their communication with others. We know them: they correct others every chance they get (especially in public); they make passive-aggressive comments like “I don’t know about you, but I made it a priority to go to that meeting” or “I actually care about my child, but you go ahead….” So, the desired response they are either consciously or subconsciously looking to trigger is your sense of shame, guilt and then anger = DRAMA.

You have a choice to make. You can engage in the drama and give them what they are looking for: a futile, frustrating and emotionally exhausting and relationship damaging communication experience. Then, when you get angry, they can say you “are overreacting” or “overly sensitive” or “a drama queen.”  Or, (if this is a valued or necessary relationship) you can ask the question, “I’m hearing you say this, is that what you mean?” This type of conversation will require you to stay on track holding to an entirely factually based conversation, not engaging in any emotional responses. You will gain a tremendous level of self-respect and self-awareness when learning how to communicate with difficult personalities. Moreover, as you stay consistent in this communication approach, you will be teaching them what is acceptable communication with you and what is not. Peace to you.

Suicide Awareness

September 1-September 7, 2013 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and anyone can participate in National Suicide Prevention Week.  Suicide and suicidal behavior affects individuals of all ages, genders, races and religions across the planet. Suicide affects more men than women in all countries but China. Risk factors remain essentially the same from country to country. Mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, hopelessness, access to lethal means, recent loss of loved ones, unemployment and vulnerability to self-harm are just a few examples of risk factors. Protective factors are also the same in all corners of the world. High self-esteem, social connectedness, problem-solving skills, supportive family and friends are all examples of factors that buffer against suicide and suicidal behaviors. Organized by American Association of Suicidology. Information taken from NAMI website.