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30 Nov 2020

Guess What We All have in Common?

‘What emotion are you feeling?’

When you think about truly sharing your emotions, would you prefer to leave the conversation or conveniently find something else to talk about? Maybe it’s because you don’t know how you are feeling or maybe you want to shout ‘none of your business!’ Or is it because you think sharing emotions makes you look weak?

EXPRESSING EMOTIONS CAN BE TOUGH.

As human beings we enjoy feeling comfortable – ever heard a mattress commercial? All the marketing company has to do is focus on how comfortable the mattress is – SOLD!  We LOVE comfortable. Emotions are not always comfortable. They are messy, awkward and can feel down-right painful both mentally and physically.

You may be able to fool yourself into believing that by ignoring or suppressing emotions you won’t have to face them. Wrong. Not acknowledging your emotions causes burnout, health challenges, anxiety, and strained relationships

EMOTIONS AREN’T YOUR ENEMY.

Emotions are a natural and normal part of the human experience. Emotions are the one thing we all have in common. We may not have experienced the same circumstances – but we have all felt angry, sad, anxious, frustrated, disappointed and overwhelmed. Isn’t it comforting to know you’re not alone?

SURPRISE! EXPRESSING YOUR EMOTIONS HELPS:

  • boost happiness
  • reduce stress & anxiety
  • build resilience
  • improve communication
  • establish stronger relationships
  • create empathy
  • bring harmony and well-being to your mental and physical state

Instead of suppressing your emotions, use these 3 ways to help you move with and through your emotions:

1. NAME YOUR EMOTIONS 

There is a release that happens just in saying your emotion out loud, ‘I’m feeling sad.’ It makes it feel less intense. Acknowledge your emotions, instead of making yourself feel bad, wrong or weak for feeling. Next time someone asks, ‘how are you feeling?’ tell them. You are allowed to feel. You are supposed to feel. You will also be giving permission to others to speak up about their emotions.

2. RELEASE EMOTIONS IN A HEALTHY WAY

Create a list of healthy ways to move through your emotions. This will help you get clear about strategies that are helpful. Post it somewhere that will serve as a reminder. When you are experiencing an uncomfortable emotion you can easily forget what helps you move through.

3. FIND YOUR CALM

Being able to calm yourself in the moment from tough emotions and overwhelming circumstances is often easier said than done. Knowing ways to help you relax and decrease stress will calm your mind and body quickly. If one way doesn’t work for you, try another one. Some of my favourites are paying attention to my breath, relaxing with a cup of tea or coffee, humming or singing and watering my plants.

You would never take dead batteries, place them in a flashlight and expect it to shine – yet there are times you will drain yourself emotionally and stick yourself into work, relationships and conversations and expect to shine.

Reach out, ask for help and accept support. You Matter!

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
18 Nov 2020

Start Each Day with an Intention

‘You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump. And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.’ Dr. Seuss ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’

When we went into lockdown last March I definitely came down the ‘Lurch’ with an unpleasant bump. All my presentations were cancelled. It was a scary time for me. How was I going to ‘un-slump’ so that I could move forward and not stay scared and worried?

The answer…I started creating a daily intention.

Intentions are like a GPS. They give your brain direction – a focus that creates a structure for your daily choices. It doesn’t mean you won’t have any challenges or uncomfortable emotions throughout your day – it means you now have a compass that:

  • Clarifies your choices.
  • Keeps you focused throughout the day.
  • Boosts your happiness and peacefulness.
  • Helps you live in the moment.

Daily intentions give you hope, accountability and keep you moving forward. And that is exactly what my intentions of ‘I choose to be courageous to reach out and ask for help’ and ‘I choose to be open to new possibilities’ did. They helped me ‘un- slump’

It was slow moving at first. I had moments of frustration, disappointment and even sadness. I did a lot of deep breathing, mindful meditation and writing in my journal. In choosing to keep moving forward, guided by my intentions, I was able to create my new virtual presentations for teachers, students, parents and businesses. And I have to say – I am loving it!

Until next time…

10 Oct 2020

I Am Enough.

Have you ever found yourself thinking, ‘I’m not good enough’ or questioning ‘do I matter?’

We all have moments of self-doubts. The problem is those self-doubts keep you from reaching your greatest potential.

Years ago I realized I had a choice – to believe my self-doubts or replace them with three powerful words… ‘I AM ENOUGH.’

By repeating these 3 words you will strengthen your confidence allowing you to carry on with the important work you are doing!  It will also rewire your mind for positivity, gratitude and love.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice, consistency and will-power.

The key is to repeat it often so it becomes a habit.

Helpful Tip: Grab a piece of paper and write in BIG letters ‘I AM ENOUGH’ and place it where you will see it daily. Every time a thought or feeling comes up that questions whether you are enough, take 3 deep breaths and mindfully repeat ‘I AM ENOUGH.’

You are Enough! The world needs YOU and your unique gifts.

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
6 Oct 2020

Boost Well-being with a Dose of Gratitude

As we find ourselves and our children/students adapting to a new version of what school looks like, whether it’s ‘online learning’ or ‘in building learning’, we may all be experiencing challenging circumstances which can trigger some tough emotions like: anger, sadness, frustration, anxious or disappointment.

Is there an antidote to help you and your children/students bounce back from these challenges and emotions? YES!

It’s called GRATITUDE.

Feeling and expressing gratitude not only boosts emotional and mental well-being, but also boosts your immune system and your happiness.

How do you teach children the skill of gratitude? 

Below are 3 grateful activities that are a fun way to practice and express gratitude.

1. VISUAL DISPLAY OF GRATITUDE

Create a tree, a banner, a board or a collage as a display to encourage children to focus on the people, experiences and things in their life that make them feel grateful and appreciative. Every day have them reflect and write one aspect of their life they are grateful for. By adding their paper to the display they deepen relationships and become more connected to the people around them.

2. JOURNALING

Journaling creates a practice of connecting to gratitude and helps with their writing skills. Daily entries in their own private journal about the people, events and things they are grateful for, helps them with emotional resilience and self-esteem. For those who may say, like my son, ‘I can’t think of anything’, here are some helpful hints:

  • What did you do today that was fun?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What do you look forward to when you wake up?
  • Who or what makes you smile?
  • What did you do today that made you feel brave?
  • What made you proud today?
  • Who was kind to you today?
  • What is your favourite place to visit?

3. CREATE A JAR OF JOY

A Jar of Joy is a fun, creative way to help children practice gratitude. Begin by providing a jar large enough to hold daily gratitude notes. Then personalize the jar with decorations using ribbons, stickers, pompoms, sparkles, markers etc

After decorating the jar, it’s time to add the ’gratitudes’ they have written about people, places or things. They can also add photos or cut out images from magazines that depict their gratitudes. Whenever they are having a challenging moment where they need a joyful lift encourage them to take a gratitude from their jar and have a brief discussion about it.

Being reminded to focus on what they enjoy and are grateful for, will not only shift their mood and mind to a happier state, but also yours.

Gratitude is transformational! Choosing to focus on what you are grateful for transforms how you feel about yourself, others and your life!

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
25 Jun 2020

Take Care of You First

Be selfish to be selfless. Sounds pretty … selfish!

What if, in order to help others, you first have to take care of yourself?

You would never take dead batteries and put them into a flashlight and expect it to shine. Yet, sometimes you will drain yourself, your battery, and then put yourself into relationships, work and conversations and expect to shine.

It doesn’t work that way!

You need to take care of yourself first. That’s why flight attendants ask you to put on your oxygen mask first. If you run out of oxygen, you won’t be able to help anyone else with their mask. The same applies in life.

The happier, healthier and more self-fulfilled you feel, the more you will be able to give to what matters to you most… family, friends, work, community.

Take time for you by reading, sleeping, eating healthy, listening to music, exercising, deep breathing etc. Make sure you are rejuvenating and recharging your batteries so you can keep on shining for yourself and others.

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
10 Jun 2020

Listen. Learn. Grow

There has been so much for us to think about in the past few weeks and months. So much is changing and will continue to change.

Through all the changes, we want the best for our children and students. We want them to act in a way that will promote respect, kindness and compassion. 

Children learn best by watching us. They see us as the example of what to do and what not to do. Observing how we approach challenges, how we talk about others, and how we handle tough emotions influences their choices and their beliefs. Our actions will always speak louder than our words.

We can’t expect children to be different from what they see us do, despite what we may tell them.

Being a role model isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being aware of the times you mess up, admitting it and learning from it, so that children learn to do the same. Being mindful of the choices you are making and the messages you are communicating takes practice and listening.

It’s important that you listen to children’s worries, the questions they ask, the fears they may be experiencing and most importantly the emotions they are feeling. Listening to them without judgment – listening – even if you think their concerns and emotions are unfounded.

Listening from a place of love, respect and compassion will create a strong connection and build a trust that will let children know, ‘They Matter. They are Important. They are Enough.’ – even in the most challenging times.

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
21 May 2020

Pets Bring Us So Much Joy and Comfort

It’s amazing how many photos I have of our dog Finn and yet I find myself taking more. He looks at me as if to say … ‘again … don’t you have anything else to do?’

Sometimes I will walk Finn chatting away. I’m sure the neighbours wonder?

He pays attention to my every word. To him I must be the smartest and most interesting person in the world.

If I feel sad, frustrated, disappointed or anxious he listens intently. He does not interrupt or give me advice. I get to just share with no judgment.

Perhaps that’s why so many students raise their hand when I ask, ‘Who talks to their pet to move through emotions?’

Our furry friends (and not so furry) play an important part in our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Studies show time and time again that pets are healing!

Our Finn is an important part of our family!  He brings happiness and peace. He’s always excited to see us (especially my husband) and he loves to be petted, carried and snuggled.

Finn loves us and we love him. Sure there are times when his bark annoys us … but he’s worth it!

Do you have a pet – maybe it’s a lizard, cat, dog, fish, bird, rabbit, hamster – that you couldn’t imagine life without? Share a photo on Instagram and tag me in it so I can share it @iamsarawestbrook

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
6 May 2020

Teaching Kids to Bounce Back

Children are experiencing a lot of changes during this unprecedented time. They are missing their friends and their extended family. Their routines have been turned upside down. They may be frustrated with staying home and overwhelmed with the conversations around COVID-19.  

As a parent, you might wish you could shield them from the challenges they face, but that’s neither possible, nor beneficial for building their resilience. During this time it’s especially important to help them see their challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and bounce back so they can keep moving forward.

Here are 3 tips to help your child be a ‘Bounce Back’ kid:

1. Explain that everyone is facing changes and challenges. Ask them to write out all the choices  they can make from the challenging circumstances they are experiencing. This will change their focus from ‘what happened’ to ‘how can I move through this’

2. Each day they will experience different emotions like anger, disappointment, happiness, frustration, sadness. At times these emotions will feel like they are riding a roller coaster. Knowing that these emotions are normal and experienced by everyone will help them realize they are not alone and that it’s OK to feel a range of emotions.

3. Encourage them to come up with healthy ways to release these emotions (drawing, talking to someone, reading, watching a show, journaling etc). Have them create a list so that they know what to do when these emotions arise. Put the list in a place they can see everyday. It’s also important for you to know their healthy ways to release their emotions so that you can remind them what to do when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Let your children know you are always there for them.

Remind them: They Matter! They are Enough!

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
1 Apr 2020

My Grandpa’s Secret

My grandpa died a few months ago of natural causes. He was 102… ONE HUNDRED AND TWO.

Isn’t that amazing? I think he had a secret to his longevity.

My grandpa always told me something I thought was very special which I often remind myself of: “If you can’t clown around in the world, you will never get around.”

You could take everything personally, focus on the negative, feel down and discouraged or you could adopt some of my grandpa’s positivity and choose to clown around. Imagine what would happen if you added humour to your days? What if you played more? Wouldn’t that be fun? That’s my grandpa’s secret. He chose humour.

I know it’s not always easy…

“But Sara, what if certain things just feel hard?” I hear you.

The truth is … it’s sometimes hard for all of us. My grandpa’s life wasn’t all fun and games. He struggled at times and in more ways than most—I bet it wasn’t easy for him to find humour every day. He was blind by the time he was a teenager and when the other kids learned how to drive, he longed for the day that never came. I saw his struggle first hand when he’d whisper in my ear his simple wish for sight.

When my grandpa was growing up, if you were blind, you were sent to boarding school. It could have felt terrible for him to live away from his friends and family, but he found a loved one there… my grandma. She was also blind.

He tuned pianos for a living because what he lacked in sight he made up for in sound and together, they raised three children with bells on their shoes—a little trick to keep track of their footsteps around the house. Isn’t that fun?!

I think the moral of this story is that with humour, you build resilience. Of course, there will be difficult times, but it’s important to always search for joy, silver linings, and silliness in times that feel hard. I think laughter is healing and humour goes a long way to helping you move through challenging circumstances and tough emotions.

How to add humour to your day

My fondest memories of my grandpa are filled with laughter. Joking together! I want to thank him a thousand times over for his wise words, but all I can do is share them with you.

It’s a childlike quality that we can carry into adulthood. I think of my son sometimes when I need a reminder. When our babies are born, we do everything we can to make them laugh. Now, he laughs at the oddest jokes that he thinks are really funny. It makes me happy to see him so happy and we snowball from there. Don’t you think that’s proof enough of the positive impact humour has on our wellbeing? I sure do!

Here’s a few ways to find your ‘inner clown’ even if you think it’s silly:

  • Make funny faces in the mirror – sounds weird but it works.
  • Sing really loud using a funny voice.
  • Watch a funny movie and laugh until your face feels like it’s cracking.
  • Dance like no one is watching.
  • Play dress up with your kids or friends.

Laughter and humour will give you the space to cope with a situation with a more relaxed view and help give you a different perspective so you can bounce back with more ease.

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature
26 Feb 2020

It’s Time to Stop Saying I’m Fine

A Sticky Scenario

I have helpful suggestions to implement in your day-to-day, but let’s start with some inner reflection before we get there. Read the following two scenarios and let me know what you think.

Scenario # 1: Your child/student asks, “Are you okay?” and you reply, “I’m fine,” even though you’re not. You feel a big emotion and they can clearly tell something’s off, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with your emotional state.

Scenario # 2: You ask your child/student, “Are you okay?” and they reply, “I’m fine.” You know they’re not fine, so you reassure them, “You can tell me anything.” They stick to their guns: “I’m fine.”

Hmm … What did you notice? There’s something concerning in both of these situations and it comes down to: Who do children learn from? Us.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It’s no wonder that children mirror our actions—we’re their biggest role models. They follow our lead and if we don’t model what we want them to learn, how will they learn it? When we avoid sharing our emotions, we teach kids to do the same.

We all feel emotions. We all feel annoyed, angry, overwhelmed, embarrassed, sad, nervous, among others. So why don’t we feel free to express them? When we go to great lengths to hide these emotions and deny them, we teach kids avoidance and suppression – monkey see, monkey do. You know those old sayings are often true!

So what can we do?

How to Express Emotions

If I’ve learned anything from my career in educating others on emotional awareness and emotional management, it’s that it’s impossible to help a person overcome an emotion simply by saying, “Don’t feel that way.” Think of how you react when someone tells you “Just stop feeling X.” Even if they mean well, this statement probably does the opposite than they intended, then we’re back to square one.

Our kids are the same way. The students I present to tell me that when they feel flooded with an emotion, they can’t stop thinking about it, no matter how many times they’re told to just stop or let it go. And yet they have often learned from us that the socially acceptable thing to do is say ‘”I’m fine.”

As adults, it’s up to us to model healthy actions. Next time your child/student asks how you are feeling, if you are feeling a little less-than, it’s okay to tell them. Of course, we want to share our emotions in a productive way, so try the following suggestions:

  1. Step outside your comfort zone.

Choose to step outside your comfort zone by admitting your true feelings. For example, if you feel frustrated, it’s good to be honest and say “I’m feeling frustrated.” Share, in an age appropriate way, what triggered your frustration. If you find that you are not sure how you are feeling, use the Elephant in the Room poster to help.

2. It’s okay to not feel okay.

Let them know that emotions are natural and normal. Explain that it’s okay to feel not okay. Show them how to move through challenging emotions like frustration, anxious, overwhelmed.

When my son Kai, who is seven, is overwhelmed with emotion, I bend down so I am at his eye level and I say, ‘Kai breathe. Take a deep breath in and blow out slowly.’ I breathe with him.We repeat ‘the breath’ 3 times or whatever amount he needs in order to calm himself. 

What’s something you could do to help you move through in a healthy way?’ Use Find Your Calm poster to discover more ways to move through emotions.

3. Be the role model.

It takes courage to admit when something feels off. Pretending everything is fine catches up to you. The TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ put it best – ‘It’s a lie that both comforts and destroys.’ The next time you are about to say, “I’m fine”. STOP. As uncomfortable as it may be, remember that naming and moving through emotions allows you to connect and communicate a powerful part of yourself.  By sharing how you are truly feeling, the children in your life will learn to do the same

By choosing to continuously model these suggestions, children learn the importance of emotional awareness and emotional management, which is hugely beneficial to building their resilience and well-being.

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature