Student Self Care – a Difficult Lesson to Learn

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Balance.  A simple word which encompasses so much complexity.  Many think balance is a stable state – it’s not.  It’s an interplay of dynamic forces that interact in a way to keep a resonant balance (ahhh physics).  If one force is absent or dominant then the whole system suffers and imbalance ensues.  Life balance is governed by the same physical rules – if some aspect is “out of whack” then balance is unachievable, increasing stress (or disresonance) and enhancing the need to “get back into balance” where the body works most optimally.  Any decreases in resilience will also affect the ability of achieving balance.  So if there is a lack of basic self care fundamentals, such as sleep, food, water, and love, there is a further factor inhibiting our balancing capabilities.

This brings me to the subject of student self care.  Achieving balance between life and work is a skill that needs to be cultivated during those crucial secondary years, yet it is one of the hardest lessons to learn.  As a life long learner and recovering professional student, learning how to achieve balance in life was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn on my own as it wasn’t taught at any school.  Maybe it was because I had a perfectionistic attitude or physical accomplishments (ie. grades) were the only important aspect in my academic world…. and usually to the detriment of my own health.  I would pull all-nighters, cancel on social plans, abstain from eating, and drink copious amounts of coffee in order to improve my academic performance.  The irony was that this behaviour was not self sustainable, only “helpful” in acute settings yet eventually my body would crash and my concentration/focus suffered further negatively affecting my academic performance. *a catch 22 if you will – the more I sacrificed my self care the more my school performance would suffer*

Learning to let go of perfection and be active in living my full life was difficult, yet the most rewarding lesson I’ve ever learned.  The reason I learned this lesson was not altruistic, it was more I was forced to because my entire self crashed due to lack of self care and taking care of my self no longer became a choice, it became a necessity.  The only way I could find the way back to living a full life was for my self to finally care for me, proving I was worthy of care and love.  I hear from students and professionals often that they can continue their self sacrificing ways as nothing negative has resulted yet.  Yet is the operative word.  If you do not listen to your body your body will find a way to get you to listen – it will not be ignored.

Thanks to my many years of teaching and tutoring I’ve been able to observe and work with students of all stages of life, from highschool to university and beyond.  What I see as a commonality amongst students is the heightened anxiety, the fear that if they don’t perform well then their life as a student is worthless (and if their life focus is only on being a student then their life in entirety becomes worthless).  I see them sacrificing their self, their fundamental health basics, in order to try and improve their performance.  My fear is that they won’t learn the lesson of self care until they, like my young self, “crash”.  The vitality of students is concerning, they lack sleep, food, care and walk the halls like shells of themselves.  This is not an optimal environment for growth and learning.  However, not much of the establishment can be changed.  But how we react to the environment can be.  We can improve vitality, resilience, mood and focus by empowering the acts of self care.

The goal of this blog post, and really my main goal of teaching, is that you don’t need to sacrifice your self care in order to prove your self worth.  The role of being a student is to learn, not to achieve perfection.  Perfection is not attainable – if you are striving for it then you are probably depending on the approval of others in order to feel worthy.  Enjoy your life as a student – be active in learning, in connecting with your peers and yourself, in trying new things and challenging yourself.  Balance means putting equal focus on school work and life lessons.  Sure there are times in which we sacrifice to meet a deadline, but that can’t be everyday – or we suffer.  Sure we can be upset about a mark or grade, but that can’t occupy our entire being – or we suffer.  If you find your life is out of balance address the basics – are you getting enough; food? water? sleep? love? And if you go “I have no time for sleep” that is a warning flag.  Time is a choice.  You choose to not make time for sleep because something else is more important (and it’s not, eventually your body will take over and force you to acknowledge sleep, hence “fatigue”). Balance is the hardest life lesson to learn but we must learn it.  If not we suffer our selves, our minds, our bodies, our souls, and we all deserve better than that.

*Another note* – it’s all about balance – those students that don’t care about school at all (the other side of the spectrum) are also out of balance and lacking self care.  We need timelines, guidelines, deadlines, and due dates.  We need accountability.  The point is to unlink the concept that self worth is tied to academic performance.  We need to be graded and marked to know what to work on in order to grow.  Constructive criticism is a key point in self growth and learning.  When we learn to accept, rather than avoid, imperfection then we our on the right path to self discovery and empowerment.

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Are you OK?

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“Are you OK?”

Three little words that evoke more power than we think.

Three little words we don’t ask, or answer honestly, enough.

Three little words that evoke care and compassion.

What is “OK”?  It’s a relative word meaning different things to different people.  To some it means just existing, to others it means being content with who and where they are.   There is a fear attached to not being OK, and a confusion about what OK really is. It’s also hard for us to recognize in other people – those who look “fine” could really be struggling inside, wait for someone to see beyond their mask and wanting help but not sure how to ask for it or open that line of communication.

I remember vividly my second year health psychology professor addressing our class and warning us not to use the communal greeting of “how are you?” as it is invasive to a person’s wellbeing and sometimes the answer would result in a 30min counseling session.  Personally I find “how are you?” as a general greeting that many can answer with a false “fine” that we accept is true.  Only the people that truly know us see through the B.S. and go – “no, no you aren’t fine”.  Then a second more empathetic inquisition of “how are you, really?” is evoked, which usually breaks down the mask of “fine” and a more honest conversation is elicited.

“Are you OK?” is a harder question to ask and answer.  It creates a certain vulnerability which some aren’t willing to address and they immediate go into their compensated “strong” state to avoid admitting any “weakness”.  For those whom are sensitive to conflict (my amazing empaths I’m speaking to you), they are usually deferred by this hostile reaction and retreat, no further addressing the issue.  Hostility comes from hurt.  We feel and connect to their inner hurt and we need to not be distracted by the compensated defensive or deflective reaction.  Populations that are fantastic at this are teenagers.  The amount of anxiety and depression in teens is staggering…. and although teens may be more honest with their peers with their mental state they are defensive and hostile to any authority figure that addresses them about this.  If you have teens, ask them “are you OK?”, and if they go “nuclear” on you and become defensive don’t react.  Wait until the angry outburst passes, and listen to how they feel.   Teens are sensitive to conflict, or anything that challenges their inflated false sense of self.  They try to create a pretense of everything is fine, even if it’s not, as a survival compensation as they lack the basic coping mechanisms on how to address their true feelings.  Teens need to be heard and they need tools to heal.

I am reminded of a conversation I recently had with a friend on the same thread of topic.  We were discussing how it was difficult interacting with someone whom had a narcissistic personality and the difficulty in understanding narcissism just in itself.  A narcissist by definition lacks empathy, or the inability to understand somebody else’s view point.  When confronted with evidence contrasting their inflated sense of self they get super defensive and lash out in anger or personal attack.  However, it’s important to mention that even though narcissists will react with anger or “know-it-all”ness, it’s coming from a core sense of hurt.  There was emotional trauma caused as a child and the fragile mind created this compensated inflated ego to protect their broken spirit.  They have tricked their conscious to think they are better than everyone else yet at the subconscious level they don’t feel good enough and don’t know how to cope with that.

Are you OK?  A difficult question to ask.  An even more difficult question to ask someone whom is hurting and will respond defensively or angrily, or try to evade the question completely.  However it is this population of people that need to talk the most, that want to connect but are governed by fear, fear of being judged or fear of addressing their emotions.  Regardless of our actions and reactions we all have the same human needs of being heard, connecting with others, and feeling unconditionally loved.

Have a conversation with the most “difficult” person in your life today (whether it’s yourself or a family member or friend) – they need to talk the most.

#letstalk

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Reflect and Resolve

It’s that time of year again – the time for all of those procrastinators to get all of the year’s lessons and learning in one day!  I, like many people, love to reflect on the year on the last day possible and set out my new year intentions for the future (not resolutions…..see previous blog posts!).

So…. what were the your biggest lessons from the year?  This is one of the reasons I love to keep planners – I go through them the last day of the year and pick up on the things and themes I’ve experienced.  Below are my lessons of 2018:

  1.  Balance and Boundaries

Balanced is how we all want to feel but it’s difficult to achieve!  It means having an average of ups and downs – we can’t avoid the negative and we can’t negat the positive!  Both are necessary in flux to create dynamic harmony of balance.  To be balanced you need boundaries and to evoke boundaries you need to experience balance.  Boundaries are also in a dynamic flux – somethings we need to endure and others we need to escape.  Depends whether you feel uncomfortable or if you feel unsafe.  You can’t avoid everything and sometimes you need to step outside of your comfort zone to grow, however, you shouldn’t stay in a situation that is not serving you in someway or for the sole purpose of pleasing others or fear of change.

2.  Let go and carry on

Let go of what no longer serves you.  Tired beliefs, relationships, jobs, situations, traumas, etc.  Holding on to the hurt of trauma just for the purpose of using it as a reason to relinquish responsibility only hurts you as it hinders your healing.  If it no longer serves you it no longer hurts you.  Putting blame on extenuating circumstances just gives your power away from evolving.   You deserve better.

3.  Find your empathy

Love always wins.  It doesn’t scream loud but it feels loud.  Self love is the key to healing.  It’s having enough empathy for yourself to forgive your faults and celebrate your strengths.  It’s the positive self talk that tells you that you are loved and everything will be okay.  Sometimes it’s just as hard to love yourself as someone whom has harmed you (and sometimes it’s us that has harmed us and it’s hard to love that person).  See things from other’s point of view (and if was you that harmed you, see yourself in the mindset you had during that time).  Hurt people hurt.  That’s why we say horrible things to ourselves and others – hurt, not hate.  Everyone deserves love and compassion.  If someone is not in the place to accept it, that is their choice.  Despite all the hurt they spew they still need love, acknowledgement and forgiveness.  Empower with empathy.

4.  Be true to you.

This one could easily be a bumper sticker.  It’s a simple statement, yet difficult practice.   First we need to know who we are in order to be true to it.  That involves deep divulging into our personality and psychology.  We need introspective reflection to cultivate external expression of our true person.  Or if you want it in straight tween millennial lingo – “you do you”.

Wow.  Looking back at all of that’s it’s definitely been a year of growth and gratitude.    Now is the time to implement those lessons and learnings into the new year.  Use the lessons of the past to be present in the future.

Have a wonderful last day of the year everyone!

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Hope – More than a Word

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Hope is more than a word.  It’s a noun, it’s a verb.  It’s an ideology, an art you practice every day with every situation.  It’s a constant and continuous choice.  It’s not “blind faith” – it is pure faith in yourself, in others and in the world.  It’s an integral part of the conscious collection of humanity and it’s the virtue we all reflect on in the month of December.

Today is winter solstice – the darkest, and shortest, day of the year. The past couple of days have been down, dark, and difficult.  A little voice in my head keeps telling me that “it’ll be ok”, that just get through this and you’ll come through stronger and brighter, that I’m supported and loved and the world wants me, and everyone, to be well.  This is the eternal voice of hope, and I’m grateful that my heart and mind are attuned to it.  I have a strong belief that all our mind/hearts are attuned to hope – we just have to listen.  To be comfortable in the stillness amongst the stress to hear it.

Hope’s “conscious cousin” or tool of momentum is optimism.  Optimism is also not “blind faith”.  Take it from an optimist – it’s difficult to maintain positive in this world! I read once that optimism was an unhealthy coping mechanism in which people use to avoid stress and escape from life.  Optimism is not synonymous with oblivion.  People are optimistic not in spite of realism, but in light of it.  They accept reality, react accordingly, and choose to find the lesson or love in the situation.  I would argue that pessimism is a coping mechanism to refrain from responsibility – why try if things won’t work out anyway? The world is thought to be against you and negativity is inevitable so your failures become fault of “realism”.  We are human and sometimes we fail, and that’s okay – we learn, we live and we carry on.   Pessimists think “I can’t do anything about it” and optimists think “I can do more”.  Reality is perceived through the viewpoint of pessimist or optimistic – both are choices and both are valid.  However, one comes from hurt and the other comes from hope.

It’s the darkest day of the year but it’s the shortest day of the year.  Both are true, and it depends on your viewpoint which you will focus on, and you need both to be true to create balance and reality.  This means that everyday from now on will be lighter and longer.  This is why solstice is looked upon as the beginning of the new year or a new cycle.  It’s like a wave – it goes up then down and then back up again. That is the pulse of life.  From the darkness comes light, we just have to be patient enough to find it.  And once we find that light, we can see beyond the darkness and appreciate what’s there.  Let’s illuminate the path to our future with hope that it will be bright, despite the dark times.  That the faith we have in ourselves, and others, and the world will carry us down that path.  Hope is a choice which leads to health and happiness.  Chose hope these holidays, and let it carry you through to newness.

Happy health and wellness everyone!

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Calming Christmas Crafts for Kids

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“The Affirmation Ornament”

 

As a kid, my favourite holiday was Christmas and my favourite pass time was crafting (and still is).  Imagine my delight when each year my Mom would pull out the craft case and we would make and paint Christmas ornaments.  Macaroni angel, walnut mouse, felt Santa, clothes pin Rudolph, they all still hang on the tree and every time I see them a smile appears on my face and all the happy memories of Christmas crafting re-emerge.

Unbeknownst to me back then, I was using a widely effective therapeutic tool now popularized as “creative arts therapy”.  Crafting is a therapeutic tool used for improving mental-emotional health and general wellness.  It helps elevate mood, alleviate stress, and engage your brain in creating positive cognitive connections.  For children, crafting develops focus and attention and hand-eye coordination skills.  Studies have shown it to have a positive effect on self esteem and confidence, producing a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  When you create you accomplish a task, boosting belief in your own ability to tackle a task presented to you.  This builds not only confidence in children, but independency and crucial problem-solving skills.  Also, crafting is an empowering social activity and bonding opportunity with peers and parents. 

My gift for Christmas was crafting and gift-giving.  Hence, my gift to you this Christmas is a Calming Christmas Crafts for Children ebook of different crafts for different ages that you can do with your kids (or yourself).  Use the mood-boosting powers of crafting to evoke a little Christmas spirit this holiday.

Wishing you a very merry holiday season and happy crafting!

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The Empathy Epiphany

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Empathy.  The art of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  A crucial component of the human condition.  In regards to someone you love and have similar opinions to it’s easy to have empathy.  When it comes to someone you “hate” or triggers you, our immediate instinct is to defend or deflect (thank you sympathetic nervous system!).  That reaction is meant to protect us, yet it also prevents us from learning a valuable life lesson.  Being triggered has just as much to do with us as them, suggesting they’ve aggravated our self hurt.

Hurt.  It’s a strong word.  About as strong as hate.  And the two are interrelated.  Is it hate or is it hurt?  If we are able to remain calm and refrain from reacting we then have the ability to see beyond the hate, the anger, the frustration and see the hurt vulnerable soul that hides behind the cloak of emotion.  People hurt because they are hurt. When we see beyond their defensiveness, we see their hurt, and we can evoke empathy for that individual.  This is one of the first steps toward forgiveness and letting go.

Another enlightened thought came to me after observing an epic tantrum from my 2yo nephew.  The family was frustrated with his behaviour, but ultimately had compassion for his situation (and we discussed what triggered his tantrum as to develop his awareness of his emotions and reactions).  Why did he have a tantrum?  He was tired, didn’t have a snack, and wasn’t getting his way and just melted down.  He lashed out, hitting and yelling, well screaming, “NO” and how he didn’t like us.  Yet we remained untriggered because we knew he was just hurt and this was an expression of too much happening at once.  With conditional love it’s easy to have empathy and see beyond the tantrum.

It’s important to note that developing empathy in children is a necessity in their neurological and emotional evolution.  Kids are naturally egocentric and need to practice and experience empathy towards others to develop compassion.  With my nephew we discuss hypothetical situations and I ask him how the other person feels and why, or we role play with his toys different situations.  You’d be amazed how quickly children understand and adapt with this type of learning.

Imagine if the next time you had a fight with someone you were able to see them as their vulnerable unfiltered self – a visibly hurt and overwhelmed child tantruming outward because they are unable to process what is going on inside themselves.  Would you have more empathy for them?  Would you rather give them a hug than hit them with hard words of anger? The next confrontation you have look beyond the hate, the anger, and see the hurt and beauty in that person.  Address the person with that insight and see how that diffuses the conflict.  Empathy is our greatest gift, our greatest skill, but it needs to be practiced to grow and evolve.  Be kind to humans and humankind will evolve in kind.

 

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Beyond the Mask

As a child I loved Halloween.  It was a holiday were it was acceptable to embrace what I loved – dressing up (yes, I’m ignoring the whole folk lore and dark undertones of the holiday’s origin, but as a kid that’s what Halloween was about).  One day of the year I could let me true self shine and proudly display my fondness for bright colours, glitter and makeup.  Being an adolescent even changing your hair style was shamed as odd, so I hid my individuality and need to express myself as a way to protect my fragile self esteem from being taunted and hurt by others.  I would put the colours on paper instead of myself (the power of art therapy). Halloween was a day I could dress up in my favourite colours and fabrics, wigs and polish, and the smile I wore was one of confidence and contentment.  The freedom to express was a form of therapy, and still is one today.

Makeup made me happy as it was an outward artistic expression of creativity.  Recently I had been watching a reality show on make-up artists (if there is a show based in any art I watch it) and was surprised how many of the artists had been bullied or felt inadequate, and had used makeup as a form of therapy to improve their self esteem and confidence.  Ironically makeup in mainstream is considered to be more of a tool to hide from the world when you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, yet these artists were using the power of makeup to become comfortable with themselves.  One saying my psychology professor said always sticks with me – “Makeup is healthy if it is used to enhance oneself, rather than to hide oneself.  If a person can’t be seen in public without makeup then it is unhealthy as the person has become dependent on it and incomplete without it”.  If we think of the use of makeup in society it truly does have a subtext of “making yourself better” or becoming a dependence or substitution for self esteem.  We are taught to not leave the house without “putting on our face”, to “put our best face forward”, or you’ll be more attracted if you just “painted your face”.  My personal favourite was “she’d be so pretty if she just wore makeup”.  We are encouraged to hide behind a painted mask, conform with the norm, and suppress self expression of emotion.  Makeup had the negative connotation to cover imperfections physically rather than to embrace them emotionally.  No wonder the empowered female movement rejects makeup for what it represents (or use to represent)!  And as we explore it more beyond the female gender roles, men whom love art and makeup face difficulties too, being bullied and taunted for their use of cosmetics.  Makeup is stereotyped as a “female subject” but truly can be loved by all genders, ages, ethnicities, etc.

Makeup is meant to heighten your features, not hide your face.  It is art on the face to celebrate our inherent beauty or be a walking canvas of our artistic talents.  Think of it as a form of evoking our imagination and connecting to our inner child’s need to play.

Everyday is Halloween for kids because they are always dressing up and playing make believe.  Children are encouraged to activate their imagination and artistically express their true selves (like going to school dressed as a princess, or superhero, or superhero princess).  Young girls (or boys) look in awe at their parents at the magic of makeup, and are so eager to try it themselves because it is so bright and colourful. They will pretend to put on makeup and look in their play mirrors wide-eyed gleaming at themselves with just exuberant joy.  It’s not the makeup that makes them beautiful, it’s their ability to evoke pure joy and see their beautiful.  They could smear their face with purple lipstick (think about it, you’ve done it) and they think it is the most beautiful thing ever because the colour purple brings them joy.  Rather than look at makeup with our own cynical eye as a necessity to be “presentable” to the world, look at it in the eyes and wonderment of a child.  If you see yourself with unconditional love than you are beautiful, in the same amount, with and without the makeup. The makeup becomes an expression of what you love and how loved you feel.  Either you can use makeup more to embrace and express your colourful individuality, or you can stop using an excess of makeup as mask to hide your true self.  Both are movements in the positive direction towards unconditional love.

Happy Halloween everyone.  Have fun, dress up, embrace your creativity and need to play imaginatively.  Make time for make believe and believe in your make.

 

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Back To School – Student Self Care and the 3 B’s

Happy first week back to school! I’ve been greatly enjoying the kid school pics hitting my facebook homepage (bonus points for the kids rocking their own style… especially if it’s rainbow glitter) and the eclectic array of coloured pens, pencils, markers and planners.  This all got me thinking – what piece of advice do I wish I was told in school? I love learning and I love school (that I typically find myself either teaching or learning, or both) but finding balance as a student was my biggest challenge.  Heavy self expectations combined with a condensed work load equalled an unbalanced and stressed out me (like how I made an equation there?).  When you are stressed your ability to focus and concentrate diminishes, leading to increased difficulty understanding concepts and poor school performance.   It’s the student self care sacrificing cycle.  We prioritize grades over learning and are willing to sacrifice core fundamentals of health to improve our performance.  Eventually we spiral in to a self sacrificing cyclone that results in break downs, break ups, and break outs.

Students may take their health and vitality “for granted” as they heal quicker or do not experience immediate detrimental results from their self care sacrificing behaviour.  However, it catches up with them (as early as puberty to mid 20’s) as their tolerance for stress and adrenals diminish and they are then faced with the inevitable task of self care to survive schooling.  So….with that slight pessimistic statement….what can students do for self care and ultimate health and happiness in later years????

I suggest following the 3 B’s of student self care: basics, balance, and boundaries.

Basics – I wrote a blog on basics last school year (see Back to Basics ) and believe it should be addressed every school year (students and adults alike).  When in doubt of how to help, always start with the basics. It’s just like learning a new skill – before you learn calculus you have to learn basic mathematics.  In order for our neurons to be firing optimally and performing high order advanced neurocognitions, we need to have the energy to do so first.  Energy is a crucial commodity.  If we don’t have it, we can’t perform the higher functioning operations of concentration and thinking.  For example – if we are living paycheck to paycheck our money will go to the basic life necessities of water, heat, and rent.  We wouldn’t spend money on sushi if we can’t pay the rent, hence we would have difficulty performing algebra if we didn’t sleep the night before.  Of course we have energy stores (just like we would have money saved up for hard times), but eventually we run through them. The best way to improve our energy is to concentrate on the basics – food, water, sleep, breathe, and rest.  In an optimal world we want all of them….but it’s not always feasible.  I suggest focusing on one each week and see how you can improve upon it.  You can use a tracker or keep note of it in a planner.  A simple start could be reducing sugar, or drinking 2L of water, or get an extra hour of sleep.

Balance – Or homeostasis, if you want to get all biological.  The one piece of advice I wish I got as a student?  Find balance (luckily I found this out in medical school….but it was a lesson I wish I knew in high school).  Not everything is grades and performance, experience is also important.  The happier and more balanced we are, the better we learn.  Memory is tied to emotion (thanks to the amygdala), hence why our most detailed memories are the ones linked to a strong emotion.  By putting in things/events you enjoy into your schedule it will improve your mood, which will indirectly improve your studies.  So put some social events and self care days into your schedule.  This applies to adults (ie. parents) too – kids learn via example so if you are taking time for your self and your health they will realize how important it is too.  Some days we need to read a book or go for a walk rather than study for 8hrs a day or participate in 3+ organized sports.

Boundaries – Another way to improve energy is to work on boundaries, or the inevitable saying “no”.  Now those with kid’s are aware that “No!” is a child’s, or teenager’s, favourite word and just the thought of it is cringe worthy.  However, it’s more about saying no to the unimportant things or things we feel we need to do in order to gain approval from others.  It’s about prioritizing – what is necessary and what can wait?  What, or who, adds to your energy and what, or who, takes away from your energy.  One scientific analogy is that of the semi-permeable cell membrane – only select things go in/out maintaining homeostasis and keeping the cell balanced and healthy.  If the membrane was completely permeable or impermeable the cell would die because there would be no exchange between the cell and the extracellular environment.  Boundaries are necessary for balance, and ultimately living.

So in an achievement driven world consumed with getting “A”s, strive for “B”s.  Or just strive for “B”ing.  Students needs support, not social media.  They need self care, not self indulgence.  Self care starts with basics, balance, and boundaries, and it starts young.  Rather than academic lessons, these are the life lessons we should teach our kids, while abiding to them ourselves.

Have a healthy happy return back to school everyone!

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Sunrise Sunset – “Soul”stice Reflections 


Summer solstice is the longest day of the year and marks half of the year gone (or half of the year left…..depending on your mindset).  Many businesses do a semi annual report where they evaluate their progress and put a plan together for year end.  I like to do the same thing with life – what have my obstacles and triumphs the past six months been and what do I want to accomplish by year end? 

The solstice is a cycle that the earth makes around the sun.  To have a summer one, there needs to be a winter one.  To have a sunrise there needs to be a sunset.  Everything presents in an perpetual wave like motion that appears to be an extreme all or none depending on our perspective.  We are primed to see opposites and contrasts – in between the extremes of sunrise and sunset are the many sun vantage points of different heights at different points in time.  Motion moves in a cystolic wave – we just only pay attention to the peaks of amplitude hence creating an all or none perspective.

In our North American culture we are so concerned with movement – are things moving in our life, are we moving and accomplishing?  Movement is the antidote to feeling stuck in life.  As a treatment for depression we use physical movement as a specific goal to address the apathetic lack of joy or intrinsic motivation.  When we are driving we are most frustrated by traffic because we aren’t moving.  We are static sitting in the car and need the car to move to alleviate that frustration we feel being immobile by sitting in a metal box.  

A wave is balanced with an equal magnitude acceleration and deceleration working in rhythm (where the amplitude peaks are the same values).  The wave averages into a straight horizontal line signifying balance between extremes.  If you were to add two waves together of opposing magnitudes they would cancel out – or balance.  It’s the Newton’s law concept that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction to create a balanced or harmonious force.  

If the treatment  for  stickiness or apathy is movement, what is the treatment for too much movement or stimulation? 

Norman Doidge presents an interesting concept in his book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”.  He mentions that chronic pain is a learned signal – our bodies absorb the memory of pain into our brains and muscles which can be stimulated by any minute elicited signal.  The best way to address the pain is not to suppress it, but to consciously address it and diffuse it through visualization techniques (the brain has intertwinded the pain signal into its psyche hence we need to use the brain to unlearn this pain signal).  For example – if your pain feels like a million needles prickling you then imagine calmly removing each needle until that sensation subsides. You are diffusing hypersensitivity (i.e. High brain neuron firing or activity) with calm restoration techniques.

Recently when speaking to a patient with anxiety I was explaining the concept of surrendering to the chaos and embracing a sense of calm.  When we are anxious or towards panic, our brains are over active or over active.  Many times we use distraction as a way to cope or misdirect the stimulated signal.  The best treatment is to breathe and be calm.  Experience or target where the anxiety is, breathe through the discomfort, and support the self with positive and calming statements.  If we are constantly moving moving moving without inserting moments of calm or rest, then we remain unbalanced and stuck on the “on” switch.  If we are stuck on “on” then our bodies and brains are shunted towards a hypersensitive stimulated state primed to be anxious.  The best preventive treatment for anxiety or overstimulation is to implement moments of calm, clarity, and reflection throughout the day to reduce overstimulation and angst at night.  The common comment I get when explaining this concept – “But I sleep – isn’t that rest?”  Sunrise – sunset.  How you are during the day needs to be just as balanced as how you are during the night.   When we sleep we go through cycles of wake, rest, REM, repeat.  Sleep is sleep – it’s not a substitute for less rest through out the day (less rest in the day will create restless in the night). 

We live in a world of duality between the opposites, the physical and metaphysical.  To have movement in life we need to calmly survey what we have done and learned, then plan for future movement.  Rest and run creates peristaltic purpultuations of movement for advancing in life.

Enjoy your movement and your rest, your sunrise and your sunset.  

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Life Lessons From a Two Year Old

I took my nephew to the aquarium yesterday.

This kid is an absolute water kid – he lives in the pool/bath and loves sea creatures (must be the Pisces in him).  I was certain he was going to be “Gaga” over the aquarium and was so excited to take him.  Of course it was going to be expensive, but it’ll be “worth” it. It was, but not in the way that I thought.

He spent literally 30 minutes there (those with kids reading this are laughing in agreement). A whole magical shimmering tunnel of sharks and stingrays and this kid was more interested in pushing his stroller (and I don’t think he even looked up!).  The one part he enjoyed was watching the fish store guppies in the kiddie section.  We left with us both being frustrated, hungry, tired, and honestly overwhelmed.

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It was at my surrogate grandmother’s house that I had an “Ah Ha” moment, while watching my nephew get more enjoyment out of playing with coasters then a pool full of exotic fish. The real reason (or “realson” as I like to put it) I was disappointed was all to do with me.  Here I was so excited to share this amazing experience with him and he did have a great time in his mind – he saw fishies and got to push the stroller and hang out with Gros Omi – that was a great time.   And you know what? He could have had that anywhere! It’s not that he took the experience for granted, it’s that he’s grateful for every experience.  I wanted to do something special for him and for it to be this “great event” but low and behold that was for me and my need for approval.  He did have a great time, and there’s no price to put on that.

We teach our children and we learn from our children.

Children are so much more resilient and intelligent than we give them credit for.  When they are tired, they rest on the floor.  If they are hungry they stop what they are doing and grab a snack.  If they want hugs or comfort they fling themselves at you with open arms.  My parents worry that my nephew can work my phone without my assistance.  They say to limit his screen time as it’s negatively affecting his development.  After minutes he’ll hand my phone back to me and go “done” then run outside to chase butterflies.  He has an internal technology time limit check.  When’s the last time you put your phone down in the middle of doing something to go outside and enjoy?  If you can’t answer that then put your phone down (even if you are reading this blog on it, I’ll completely understand) and go outside and just immerse yourself in the simplicity of nature, of pure joy and fun.

I laugh the most when I run after my nephew and he falls down in a fit of giggles.  He’s more active than I’ve ever been yet he makes me want to run (which I’ve never been inclined to do before).  Professionally, I’ve learned a great deal of skills and treatment tools from our interactions to use in practice with the pediatric population, and new (and soon to be new) parents.  He’s taught me about the importance of having boundaries, rules, and structure in regards to modifying thoughts/behaviours and promoting neurological cognitive development.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself from him (the importance of self care being most monumental – it’s difficult to have patience on no food, sleep, or breaks!).  Our children are a reflection of who we are.  They are an unbiased, unfiltered, truth telling mirror that reflect back to us things about ourselves we need to focus on.  We need to listen to them, and to ourselves.

Rather than live through our children, lets let them shine through us.

The more I live, the more I learn and am able to use these experiences and life lessons to help others live to their fullest.  And that is worth more than any overpriced aquarium.

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Feel free to comment with the lessons you’ve learned about life and yourself from interacting with your children.  Be happy and healthy everyone 🙂

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