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“Play is a uniquely adaptive act, not subordinate to some other adaptive act; but with a special function of its own in human experience.”
Families with children with behavioral disorders...
...may not remember how to play, have fun, and spend peaceful times with each other. Rather, energy is spent in repeating relationships.
When I step in to coach this type of family, who have forgotten, the concept of joy and family time is often painfully absent. Rather, focus is shaped amidst the turmoil and enormous energy spent caring for a child with difficult behaviors.
As parents practice new skills to calm their internal landscapes as well as the environments of their homes, they must also re-learn how to have fun. A vital part of healing the family is reintroducing fun, connective activities, joy and humor into the schedule. A new module in the Coaching Families With Special Needs In Behavioral Regulation provides practical information to help coaches and parents co-create a plan for repairing relationships through family fun.
The other day, when I was in town, I witnessed a shocking event. A funeral procession was slowly making its way down Main Street.. The hearse appeared to have engine trouble at the top of the hill. Suddenly, the back doors of the hearse burst open, and the coffin flew out the back of the vehicle! A few people screamed as the coffin skidded down the street and crashed into a pharmacy at the bottom of the hill. Remarkably, it came to a stop right in front of the pharmacist’s desk. In a flash the lid popped open, and the guy inside asked the pharmacist, “Doctor, doctor! Can you give me something to stop this awful coffin?”
NOTE: What just happened in your brain and body?
Some significant processes occurred in your neurophysiology that have the power to alter not only the way you feel, but also your perception and outlook on past, present, and future situations.
How does the joke relate to self-regulation and repairing family relationships?
[ctt template="5" link="ueYc6" via="yes" ]Laughter IS the best medicine. No, really! It’s true. We had a decent laugh over the joke I just told, and each of you are still benefiting from its effects. @parent_coach[/ctt]
Laughter and humor cause the brain to release ‘feel-good’ endorphins that flood bodies and minds with well-being. Laughter causes us to breathe deeper and fills our lungs and bodies with stress busting oxygen. The wonderful combination of endorphins and oxygen culminates in a feeling of happiness.
Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic as recently as 2013, show that laughter and smiling relieves depression, anxiety, and helps the body to produce natural painkillers. Additionally, positive self-affirming thoughts, release neuropeptides that improve our immune systems and help us fight stress. This strikes at the heart of our topic.
Neuropeptides make it easier for us to cope in difficult situations. Here are the chemical reactions we WANT to occur more regularly in the brains and bodies of disorganized and dysregulated families and children. This is just the prescription families need to coax them back to emotional balance and relationship; only, they do not know if you are a parenting coach, who arrives to model and teach this concept.
[ctt template="5" link="bza94" via="yes" ]Now, here is the challenge. How do you coach the long-suffering, overwhelmed parents to initiate a plan to have fun while they are still suffering the after effects of secondary trauma and high stress? @parent_coach[/ctt]
Here are some of the challenges you face.
- Some parents do not believe they will ever have fun or smile again.
- Others ache to smile light-heartedly and long to regain some of their previous carefree lives.
- Some parents have convinced themselves that a strict schedule where the child accounts for every minute of the day is the only sane way to keep their child on the straight and narrow; therefore, they do not have time for fun.
- Others are resentful and angry because of the extreme difficulties a behavioral child brings to the family dynamic, resulting in radical changes in lifestyle.
- Parents, brothers and sisters have learned to live compartmentalized and disjointed lives in the chaos and conflict that sometimes ensues when living with a child with disruptive behaviors.
All of these caregivers may believe the simple pleasures of life are long lost. It is likely that none of them know how to break current ingrained negative patterns of interacting and bring family together again in playful ways.
Been There Too!
Referring to my personal experience, I recall feeling old, tired, depleted, and played out. (No pun intended!) However, the words of George Bernard Shaw are appropriate here:, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
We know that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and this is true for parents and kids alike. The ramifications of a life without the emotional glue of experiencing happiness, love and joyful interactions with those persons who mean the most to us are profoundly limiting.
So, how do we draw our hard pressed and pressured caregivers out of their old paradigms and beliefs and into the lighter side of life? Here is the four step secret formula to help families begin to have fun together, even while dark clouds linger.
- Administer fun in small measured daily doses.
- Monitor frequently for signs of heightened stress or conflict.
- Troubleshoot prevention, intervention, and exit and salvage strategies with parents should activities show signs of spiraling downward.
- Reflection of the effects on each family member is encouraged.
Mindset is about how you think and use your mental focus. The term emotions refer to your feelings, and each affects the other. -Emotion intertwines with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation.
Emotions and Strength
Want strength, then rile up your emotions like Norse warriors of long ago. The warriors were so called because they created fist of anger before entering the battlefield. They caused adrenaline to pump to prepare to win a war. In this agitated state, they felt invulnerable and accomplished feats of incredible strength.
Under extreme stress or emotional overwhelm, your body produces excess amounts of testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase you heart rate, focus, awareness and muscle tone for the extra strength.
Use Your Emotional Strength for Calm, Collected Focus
Calm, collected focus is about creating and being in a "flow state."
We also call flow by several descriptors:
- Being in the zone or fully immersed mental state.
- Feeling of energized focus
- Full involvement
- Complete absorption of in what one does
- Results that are focused, engaged, maybe losing track of time.
A flow state is a feeling of calm, focused bliss, like in extreme sports when athletes persofrm effortlessly.Or like in music where the melody or the rhythm moves a person to sing or to dance.
No fear. No doubt. No bursts of anger or unwanted emotion.
You do your best work in a flow state. This is when we are happiest.
Do you try to live your life as much as possible. The problem is that you may have anxiety or stay overly busy with chores and things we need to do. These limitations leave you stressed, anxious or busy and they take you out of the moment. You face a challenge when your body and mind cannot possibly be in-sync when you are worrying.
Entering flow means being in the moment which not only makes you happy and confident, it also makes you unstoppable. You take control over your emotions.
Taking Control Through Full Wave Breath
So how do you take back control over your emotions?
- Check into how you feel, especially if your energy is low, or you you are distracted or even in a bad mood.
- To change your mood, I suggest Full-Wave Breathing to change your physiology in the literal sense.
- If you learn to breathe correctly (using belly breathing to fill the lower portion of the lungs, then the upper portion). If you use slow, controlled breaths, then you will be able to lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and calm your entire body.
- This will change your parasympathetic tone, taking you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’. Try it the next time you feel overly stressed, overly competitive or worked up after an intense workout – your heart rate will slow and your mind will grow calmer.
- For your mental framework, another tool to use is called CBT---‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ and this is a popular form of psychotherapeutic intervention used to treat phobias and other anxiety disorders.Take the intention of CBT strategies to look at the content of your thoughts. The self-talk that you give yourself to work yourself into a panic, or to calm yourself down. If you are thinking things like “I’m worried I might fall off that ledge” then of course you are going to be scared. If you think things like “I’m grateful for my friends” then you will be less likely to feel unhappy with where you are in life. You can use CBT to challenge long-held beliefs and to break negative self-talk habits by challenging your thoughts and testing your hypotheses. This is called ‘cognitive restructuring’.
- In the short term, you can use CBT techniques in order to more honestly assess your state of mind and your emotions and to then change the way you feel about a situation.So if you were stressed that you had a deadline you couldn’t meet and it was ruining your evening, then you might use cognitive restructuring in order to assess the thoughts making you stressed and replace them with more productive ones.For example, you might consider:
- What is the point of being stressed? Will it make matters better?
- What’s the worst case scenario? Would it really be that bad to tell the boss you can’t finish work on time? Are they expecting too much of you anyway?
- When was the last time you did this?
- Are there other ways you could lessen the blow?
- What would you rather pay attention to right now?
Combine this with controlled breathing and bring your focus to the thing that is most useful to you right now.
In the long term, you can use CBT in order to bridge the gap between your thoughts and your physiology. You see, your physiology and your emotions are designed to drive you toward desirable states: sex, food, shelter, love, success, social acceptance.