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24 Mar 2022

Ever Tried to Avoid an Emotion?

Don’t you wish you could pick and chose the emotions you want to experience?

I have.

Especially during lockdown and online learning. I remember one morning laying in bed, mentally preparing the start to my day.

I was telling myself…

‘Today I won’t feel irritated. I felt irritated yesterday and it was exhausting, not today!’

Within 10 minutes of getting out of bed my son was already complaining about having to log on to do his learning – he was asking for his fifth snack and it wasn’t even 9 am yet!

I was irritated!!

I couldn’t avoid it. My body and brain felt irritated without my consent.

This is what I know: I quickly learned that emotions can surprise you and they aren’t to be avoided and can’t be avoided for the long term. We are emotional beings whether we are comfortable with it or not!

So, the real practice becomes in allowing ourselves to feel and acknowledge our emotions and then find healthy ways to move with/through them.

Here are some simple and effective strategies that I find helpful:

                   • deep breaths (make your exhale longer than your inhale)

                   • remind myself that it’s ok to feel what I’m feeling

                   • notice where the emotion impacts me physically (neck pain, stomach ache , heart rate)

                   • 5 min meditation

                   • talk to someone

                   • go for a walk

                   • listen to music

What helps you move with and through an uncomfortable emotion?

25 Feb 2022

Mindsets of a Resilient Child

Children aren’t born resilient. Seeing challenges, mistakes and changes as a learning experience is an essential part of building a resilient child. The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and strengthened with practice and support.

Here are 3 mindsets that can help you on the journey to building a resilient child.

1. A CHALLENGE IS A CHAPTER OF YOUR LIFE NOT YOUR WHOLE STORY

If a challenge is seen as an opportunity for growth, children are better able to deal with it, bounce back, adapt and learn from it. If it is seen as hopeless, it is easy for them to feel like giving up. Changing perspective changes their internal dialogue about an event or circumstance to a more positive, less emotional viewpoint.

Ask kids to take a challenge they are experiencing and answer the following questions:

  • What’s something that’s hard for you right now?
  • What have you learned about yourself from this challenge?
  • How would you face this challenge the next time?

2. SEEING MISTAKES AS AN OPPORTUNITY

The fear of making a mistake and feeling embarrassed can be a huge deterrent to young people trying something new. What if we taught children to see making a mistake as an opportunity to grow and learn? And that when they feel the awkward emotion of embarrassment – that’s ok – it’s part of the journey.

What if we taught them that ‘the butterflies’ or nervousness they are feeling is a good thing and that it’s natural to feel that way? Perhaps then, they would be excited to try something new instead of fearing ‘what if I make a mistake?’

Ask kids to do the following exercise:

  • Write about a time you allowed your fear of making a mistake stop you from saying or doing something.
  • What do you wish you would have said or done?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • The next time you feel nervous, what could you do? Examples: breathe deeply, repeat ‘it’s ok to feel nervous’, ‘I am brave’…

3. LIFE IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING

Children who understand that life is like a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs, will be able to bounce back and accept change with more ease. Studies show that viewing change as a challenge that they can tackle instead of a threat, equips young people with the ability to better deal with adversity. It allows them to find creative solutions to new challenges, to face adversity with calmness and confidence and to have a sense of mastery over life circumstances

Ask kids to complete the following exercise:

  • Write about a time you did something you thought you couldn’t do.
  • What did you learn about yourself from that experience?
  • List 3 new things you could try.

Resilient kids become resilient adults, able to not only survive, but thrive in the face of challenges, mistakes & changes.

The support we give our kids today will positively impact their future!

Until next time…

26 Oct 2021

Are you feeling discouraged and want to give up?

When times are tough and emotions run high, it can be easy to feel discouraged and want to give up.

In those times try this:

1. Be aware of the emotions you are feeling (name them). Honour them by reminding yourself it’s OK to feel them.

2. Take some deep breaths and reflect back on how far you have actually come. The challenges you have overcome to get you to where you are today, use this as strength to keep moving forward.

3. Remind yourself that the journey isn’t supposed to be perfect and that you have the tools to dig deep and keep going.

This is What I Know: Challenges are chapters of your life not your whole story! You Are Enough! You Matter! You’ve got this!

P.S. These strategies also work for your children/students.

Until next time…

14 Apr 2021

You Can Do This!

With the current announcement of students not going back to in-person learning after the April Break and with everything else going on in our world, there are many emotions being felt.

Allow yourself to feel.

Keep reaching out – sharing – talking with respect for self & others.

Let’s keep supporting one another.

Resilience isn’t a solo event – it takes a community.

Your feelings may be BIG but our Strength together is BIGGER and Stronger!

Until next time…

28 Jan 2021

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay!

Today is Bell ‘Let’s Talk’ and what’s the one part of the human experience we don’t want to talk about…EMOTIONS…which is a HUGE part of our mental health.

We all have emotions!

We may not have experienced the same circumstances – but we have all felt angry, sad, anxious, annoyed, frustrated and disappointed. Yet so many people are saying, ‘I’m fine’ when asked ‘how are you doing?’

It can feel overwhelming and vulnerable to share. You can even feel guilt or shame for feeling the way you do.

Keep reminding yourself…IT’S OK to FEEL. IT’S OK to NOT BE OK.
Write it out. Place those words where you can read them every day.

Be proactive with your mental health by taking care of your emotional health:

☑ Practice emotional awareness. Put a name to your emotions. If you need help with this, email me and I’ll send you a chart to help you identify your emotions. 

☑ Be observant. When experiencing an emotion – what physical impact does it have on you? For example: When I feel anxious it impacts my stomach – it feels like butterflies – it’s uncomfortable. 

☑ Make a list of your healthy ways to move with and through your emotions. Have everyone in your family create their own list. Creating a list is powerful as you can forget what helps you calm when you are experiencing a big emotion. For me, deep breathing, writing, baking, music, working out and talking to someone are all helpful.

It takes courage to talk about your feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when you need it. When you choose to be brave and share you find connection – only with others but also with yourself.

Your Emotions Matter. Your Mental Health Matters. You Matter.

Until next time…

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
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
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
12 Feb 2020

Why is the Thought of Asking So Scary?

‘You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.’ Oprah Winfrey

Think about a time you wanted to ask a question and didn’t. 

Have you ever avoided asking because you were scared you would hear that one word … it’s not yes … it’s No! 

Has the fear of ‘NO’ stopped you from pursuing a dream, taking a stand or getting an answer to something you really want to know?

Think of all you are missing because you are allowing fear to stop you … all the unanswered questions … all the missed opportunities.

Young people tell me that when they are feeling shy, nervous, embarrassed, sad or anxious – it’s harder to ask. I agree! 

It’s natural to feel these emotions. The key is not to allow these emotions to stop you.

Choices from these emotions easily steer you not to ask. Choices from courage allow you to feel the emotions and ask anyway. 

Where will you choose to make your choices from? Fear? or Courage?

Choose Courage.

Go on… Ask!

Until next time…

sara westbrook signature