‘I really enjoyed your presentation. It opened a few doors for me. This past year I went through some problems but your presentation showed me another way of looking at my problems. You really helped me to know that my feelings big or small are normal and that it’s okay to feel.’ – Male Student
Sometimes kids think they should only feel HAPPY because they believe that is the only way people will accept them.
Kids tell me that when they hear, ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling’, they know they have been respected and validated – that they have been given the space to express and share their emotions.
Space to feel gives space to heal.
Practicing ‘space’ builds connection (1 min video). It allows kids to feel comforted, supported, and more open to finding ways to move with and through their emotions.
Remind them that feeling a wide range of emotions is natural and normal and that we accept them no matter how they are feeling.
The more we choose to step outside our comfort zone by acknowledging and sharing our own emotions, we model and teach them that… ‘It’s OK to feel what you are feeling‘.
Until next time…
24 Mar 2022
Ever Tried to Avoid an Emotion?
Don’t you wish you could pick and chose the emotions you want to experience?
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!
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:
reduce stress & anxiety
establish stronger relationships
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…
10 Jun 2020
Listen. Learn. Grow
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…
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…
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.