Does Your Child Struggle With Focus & Attention

Does Your Child Struggle With Focus & Attention

Here’s 18 active ways to increase ‘self-regulation’ during COVID

As a practising kinesiologist and health coach, I’ve got access to a bunch of resources which support children with learning challenges. My own child is challenged with sequencing. This means her ability to arrange language, thoughts, information and actions in an effective order gets wonky (very technical term). Many kids with learning and thinking differences have trouble with sequencing as it can affect the ability to follow instructions, speak properly and complete multi-step tasks.

Now that we are in lockdown, there are red flags rising with more work to do. These flags are also indicative of why she is so frustrated and emotional at the end of the school day — because she is still missing cues and unable to follow instructions correctly.

It’s time for some proprioceptive input to manually improve my daughter’s sensory processing neural pathways. Oh goody, I get to talk science!

I can already hear you moaning, “what is proprioception”! Proprioception is defined as the body’s ability to perceive its own position in space. Without getting too technical, I’ll try to explain movement in simple terms.

We have a thought which drives a plan of where the body wants to move to. The motor driving component of the brain sends a message to the muscles via the nerves, and badda bing badda boom we have movement (it’s actually way more technical than that but I’d have you asleep in seconds).

There are special neurological receptors in all of our joints, which send information back to the ‘movement’ part of the brain. The brain then processes these ‘feedback’ messages as to whether we are at our intended place, or need to make modification and redirect movement to steer us back on course. Therefore this feedback is constantly being adjusted by the brain talking to the proprioceptors.

In her recent newsletter, Heather Greutman calls exercising these proprioceptors as ‘heavy work’. She discusses “Heavy work input can have a calming and focusing effect on your child, especially if they are craving this type of input.”

I can hear you asking whether your child requires additional proprioceptive feedback? Heather suggested “they may be constantly movingjumpingclimbing, or crashing into things. They may have a hard time staying seated and focusing during homework.” For me as a parent and practitioner, these are very easy cues to be on the lookout for to suggest a flag is being waved.

You can read Heather’s article on sensory avoidance versus sensory seeking behaviours here to gain further understanding regarding the special small people in your world.

Often times children will hold it together for school and then come home and seemingly “fall apart.” My daughter is no exception and is more often than not a hot firey emotional mess when I pick her up from school. It takes me about twenty minutes of grounding exercises and brain snacks to bring her back to the planet before we can debrief. So when clients visit me in my clinic and explain their frustrations I can honestly say “I get it!”.

For some kids, homework is a massive struggle. The reason for this is their brains are receiving messages from their bodies “I NEED TO MOVE!”. I am positive that we can all agree, it’s important to provide appropriate time and space for your child to move and get their energy out, especially after they have sat in class during the day.

Heather Greutman suggests ‘heavy work activities’ are a great way to do that! I would agree, and as someone who had learning challenges and overcame them as an adult, I would agree.

1. Push a Filled Laundry Basket

 

Be sure the laundry basket is weighted enough that in order to ‘push’ the basket requires some work. The goal isn’t to struggle.

Whilst Heather suggests you can make it into a race or obstacle course, I’ve got friends and clients with boys, who complain that they annually need to repaint walls. So the suggestion of placing stuffed animals on a blanket may result in a more aesthetically appealing outcome (this works great for younger kids), or any other random items from around your house.

2 Crashing

 

Heather reports children who crave proprioceptive input can often be found “crashing” into things. Whether rubbing on the walls down the hallway or literally jumping off furniture or beds. I can attend to feeling this way after a long general anesthetic or some heavy pain meds will have similar effects.

Crashing safely is always the preferred outcome.Bean bags, piling up blankets and pillows, or making a huge ball pit out of a small swimming pool can work.

The movement of crashing allows a quasi reset of our neurology for those who have bodies that have been messaging the brain all day, behaved and now need release. It’s fabulous for those gorgeous little people with too much sensory seeking behaviour, or difficulty regulating their arousal states.

3 Jumping

 

I am a huge fan of the trampoline or jump rope. Due to the unstable or flexible landing space, the body sends a myriad of information to the brain for processing where you are in the world.

I’ve had kids who literally can’t lie on my table for more than ten minutes without fidgeting. Send them outside to jump rope or on the trampoline and bingo, they are compliantly still for an hour.

Jump rope or jumping on a pogo stick are also great options.

4 Wheelbarrow Walking

 

This requires good upper body strength of all involved. Heather raves that this is a good old-fashioned activity that is amazing for heavy work. “The child balances on their hands while you hold their ankles up off the ground. Then have them walk on their hands while you keep holding their ankles. You may need to hold at the knees or waist if your child needs more support with this. As they get better, add races, obstacle courses or sprints while wheelbarrow walking.

5 Clean The House

As you read this I’m hearing an unequivocal “YES!” from parents. Pushing and pulling actions using a vacuum, broom, or mop are all great heavy work activities that require no additional tools or set-up.

The added bonus of this is that if you maintain movement, instead of stop-start, it becomes a cardio workout as well. For those people who struggle with finite movement/direction control, encourage slow movements. At least with vacuuming on carpet and mopping, you can see where you go so encourage straight lines.

6 Push a shopping trolley

 

This one does come with a mandatory supervision warning and perhaps don’t start in the car park! Some of our small people have challenges with their depth perception, as well as movement control.

Walking a shopping trolley together trains the brain to reprogram ‘fine’ muscle movement, together with the big muscle push and pull movements. The combination is fabulous for heavy work training.

7 Carry Groceries

 

Heather suggests after pushing the grocery cart, come home and have them help you carry groceries inside. Small people often love to be involved and this is a fabulous way to engage all the postural muscles of the body with the movement of the limbs. You can all be practising ergonomic knee bending for big lifts, correct movement of feet to avoid twisting with loads etc.

In times of COVID-19, this is a fabulous way of learning to pack your own groceries and use the fine motor movement to pick up and expertly pack groceries into bags, rather than shoving everything into the bag.

8 Washing Windows

 

I’m immediately taken to the Karate Kid movie with this one, but it is smack on. Use a spray bottle to spray down the window (awesome heavy work for the hands!) and then use a washcloth to wipe the window clean.

I’ve used this one myself with my daughter and practised our foreign languages when counting the squirting, or up and down, saying the phrases as we go. When that gets old we dance-wash to our favourite boppy music. The technique is still purposeful with the hands, arms and ergonomic back maintained in a straight position. It also works when you wash the car!

9 Knead Dough

This is a great heavy work to connect the proprioceptive messaging for the fingers and hands together. It’s also awesome from those precious darlings who need additional sensory touch and very tactile.

During lockdown, we’ve been kneading and proving bread by hand.

10 Chew Gum Or Crunchy Foods

 

You can’t begin to imagine the amount of neurological activity which occurs in the mouth, the jaw, the tongue and then in the brain to activate speech. in order to get it all working at the same time and in the appropriate sequence. Chewing gum or crunchy foods is like a mini workout for the mouth! Your mouth is therefore full of proprioceptive receptors.

11 Sip Water From A Straw

Seriously, again, so simple! The act of sucking through a straw is again another great proprioceptive activity with the mouth. If you have a child who has some oral sensitivities for gravitates towards putting things in their mouth all the time, this is a great one.

12 Separate & Take Out The Garbage

 

I laughed with Heather when she asked: “are you loving all the working around the house options?” Housework and chores can be life lessons for kids to learn how to contribute their small piece to the family dynamic as well as amazing heavy work opportunities.

As an environmental scientist, I always encourage segregation first. For those sensory sensitive souls, feeling the texture of cardboard versus aluminium and glass may just do the trick. For others, seeing all the colours may hit the mark.

Heather recommends never missing “the opportunity for taking out the trash”. Emptying smaller garbage receptacles into large garbage bags, carrying the bags to the wheelie bin or pulling the bins out to the street for pickup are all great options.

13 Scrub Surfaces With A Brush Or Sponge

 

Cleaning gifts the beautiful child with an array of heavy workout opportunities — on the chalkboard or whiteboard, wiping down a table or scrubbing off a dirty surface all give great proprioceptive input through the upper body. They may initially view this as work, but have them engage their eyes to see the difference they make with each wipe! They can then track their own progress.

Additionally, the special child may be attracted or adverse to the sponge or brush based on their unique challenges.

14 Help in The Garden

 

Most kids love getting outside. For our sensory challenged friends moving dirt with a shovel, filling up a wheelbarrow and moving dirt or rocks, or digging in the soil are all great options. There are so many benefits.

Firstly anyone who places their hands in the dirt will instantly ground themselves. Nature has a marvellous way of grounding us. Growing plants from seeds is a lovely daily activity for a child and serves a purpose to get them outside. Watching the evolution of something you grow to eventually pick and eat is both time-consuming and quiet. Know that lifting the watering can is a fantastic proprioception activity.

Secondly, the non-uniform texture of soil provides a myriad of stimulation to the brain between fingers and toes.

Thirdly, coordination of implements engages everything from the extremities to the large muscle groups, with the goal to work in coordinated and productive movement.

15 Pillow Fights

 

I laughed out loud and repeat Heather’s following disclaimer “please make sure your child is supervised and don’t let it get out of hand”. That said a good fun pillow fight is a great way to get quick bursts on input. The movement requires the semi-accurate eye to hand coordination, plus the movement of your torso pulling or pushing whilst maintaining balance is exceptional exercise.

16 Beach Fun

If you live near a beach, go dig in the wet sand with a shovel or your hands. Like the dirt, wet sand provides enormous stimulation from fingertips through the hands.

Whilst you’re there, paddle in the water! Walking against an outgoing tide will always test proprioception!

17 Bathe the Dog

In my household, this activity generates a lot of laughter. Firstly because mummy always seems to get the wettest! The puppies and the kid all love the tactile stimulation of shared touch. There’s a beautiful connection between a child and their pet and bathing adds to the bond as well as ticking the responsibility list.

Washing an animal is a great tactile and proprioceptive input with the fingers and arms.

18 Riding A Bike

 

The simple act of riding a bike is a great heavy work activity. For older children, you can take them to a mountain bike trail or on longer bike rides to provide a little more input.

The involvement of sensory input from what the eyes see, to operating arms and legs simultaneously is a fabulous exercise for the brain.


 

I would love to give full credit to Heather Greutman (Growing Hands-On Kids) and her fabulous resource newsletter this week. Heather provides a myriad of well researched and easy to implement resources for both practitioners and parents of gorgeous kids who need just a bit more loving attention. Visit her webpage, and note this is not a paid testimonial, just a grateful share from a practice with a beautiful kid.

Resources

Greutman, Heather(February 5, 2019) “Home & Telehealth Activity Ideas”, email newsletter.

 

How To Be Brave And Ask For The Lemons

How To Be Brave And Ask For The Lemons

Allow Social Distancing to Gift you Back Your Voice

The precancer and lockdown version Karen was very independent. Some might say stubborn as a mule. Ok, I admit it, I am fierce when it comes to proving to the world I can do it. But lockdown has gifted me something very unexpected — a whole new reality that revolves around me.

Why don’t we ask for help when we need it?

 

I’ve paused and pondered why we don’t ask for help when we need it and my thoughts are often taken back to movies of power women in the eighties with their puffy-sleeved outfits and huge teased and lacquered hairdo’s who did everything for themselves! Oh dear god, now I”m humming that Pointer Sister’s song “Sisteeeeeerrrs are doing IT for themSELVES!” (hahaha if you’re singing along too- I’m a giver like that!).

I blame society and social media and this false and externally perceived expectation that you need to be IT. What the fuck is ‘IT’ anyway? Who gets to define what ‘IT’ is?

It is literally not possible to be and do everything, so why do we think we can be ‘IT’?

Getting back to asking for help.

If we perceive that there’s an expectation to be everything, then there will be an unconscious stress, block, red flag (call it whatever you want) when you hit a crossroad space. I like to think of this as a ‘choice point’.

Reaching the destination of the choice point means that you have reached a space in time, whereby you don’t have all the answers. And that’s ok by the way.

Your brain, when it reaches this space, will naturally and unconsciously dig for the answers. The stress only arises when you perceive you don’t know how to solve the challenge at hand. This is the point where your brain can take you in one of two directions. You can reach outwards or remain inside yourself.

I’m a child of the 80s and grew up on British Britannica Encyclopedias. My mother had a 14-inch think dictionary for shit’s sake! There was no limit to accessing documented scientific facts by simply picking up a book.

If you didn’t know the answer, I didn’t bother my busy working mum, I looked the answer up myself! She would have told me to do that anyway. I would find the solution myself, and would often store that context in my cortex for another fact riveting period of time.

Nowadays the younger fluff of society simply says “I’ll google it”. And if a quick google search doesn’t render the answer you’re looking for, you phone a friend. They go external to seek the solution and share the load. Problem solved. But is it?

Either problem-solving option is perfectly reasonable. Both have their limitations and benefits.

For the option whereby you go external to seek solutions from others, are you ever responsible for doing it yourself? Or do you rely on others to prop you up?

If however, you’re an internal processor you run the risk of putting on Negative Nancy pants. When you can’t find the answer and don’t feel comfortable asking for help you can then generate dialogue that runs laps inside your head.

And here ladies and gentlemen is where the overthinking begins. Unless you reign that shit in, it’s like a formula one race to the shit city and you end up at subliminal fear town.

Do I deserve this? Am I good enough? Will I look pathetic if I ask when I should be able to do it myself? I’d rather go without than have someone see me as weak.

Does this dialogue sound familiar to you?

 

Let me give you the tip, at one point in time we’ve all experienced this type of shit inner monologue.

It would be safe to say, the aha I have gained is that my ‘boss girl’ would have perceived that if I asked for help it would diminish my power in some way.

I considered this small act of seeking support would make me weak.

The new and upgraded version of myself calls bullshit on the boss girl. Frankly, instead of giving her a talking to, I have learned to simply surrender to her and gift her with an internal hug. This reassures her (that part of my psyche where the boss girl resides) that as long as we are grounded and anchored to our intuition we’re gonna be ok.

The lesson here is to be kind to yourself – always.

 

More importantly by loving all over myself on a conscious level with meditation and reiki, gifts me a Kintsugi like healing experience, whereby I get to meld together all my broken pieces and still shine my light brightly.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form in which breaks and repairs are treated as part of the object’s ceramic history, are carefully mended by artisans with a lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The repairs are visible — yet somehow beautiful. Kintsugi means “golden joinery” in Japanese.”  — Source Mother Nature Network.

So with my boss girl receiving a hug, I put a call out for anyone in my local social media circle have an abundant lemon tree and could spare a bag. Part of my chemotherapy recovery as well as boosting the immune system involves daily lemon squeezes – just like a liquid hug!!! See the reference, more liquid gold!

I am sharing this simple story of asking for help because these are unprecedented times. We have stepped away from the art of sticking our head over the neighbour’s fence and saying “hey mate is everything ok?

So if you’re not travelling ok emotionally with lockdown (and believe me after 4.5 months I get it) I want to remind you that it is ok to struggle with your choice point moments. In these moments reach out to see support in finding your solutions, even if only lemons.

Allow the abundance gifts to flow towards you rather than pushing them away. Remain open to the possibilities that the universe can gift you. This can be as simple as being mindful of whether your inner dialogue is positive. If it’s a little on the negative scale, choose to reframe the phrase immediately.

No punishment of self in this process is required. Just be gentle with yourself as you have this gorgeous quiet time to explore the self.

Don’t sit around the house with your frown upside down. Your home is your sacred space and you have to de-clutter the negativity in order to feel more comfortable. These interesting times are calling upon us to sort out the feelings of our internal bossy mean girls selves and learn to give them a voice, rather than bringing them out when feeling cranky.
.
So do what it takes today to seek your bag of lemons to nurture you!!

How To Build Up Credit In Your Happiness Account

How To Build Up Credit In Your Happiness Account

Take The Test What Makes Your Heart sing whilst in lockdown

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received during COVID has been this, lockdown is a gift from the universe to work on yourself! Sounds a little strange I know but what if these strange and almost apocalyptic times could be perceived as an opportunity for personal growth?

Sure we might be home-schooling our kids, all whilst working remotely. But guess what?

All things are difficult until we try them, modify and make it easy.

You’ve currently got time right now because you aren’t absorbed into your normal routine. You aren’t doing all the normal crazy stuff of running here and there, fitting in all the sport and socialisation. You’ve essentially been gifted a time out from the universe to reboot, reset, rejuvenate and regenerate.

And before you give me every excuse under the sun, I can see how much time you’ve got based on the amount you’ve been posting on social media. I’m an ex-detective, I pay attention to shit like that. In fact, you’ve probably been Netflix binging as well. But what if I were to suggest spending half an hour exercising, working on your side hustle or passion? It would require effort and for you to apply yourself. And for some reason, this sounds difficult or like hard work.

So make it count! Now is the exact time to ask yourself “what might you have to do in order to change?”

None of us wants to settle for an average life which is discoloured by our inability to make our deepest wishes come true. But prior to COVID-19, is that what you were doing? Were you a mouse on the wheel simply going through the motions? Tony Robbins advocates the first step is goal setting and creating the invisible to visible.

But do you know how to follow through from goal setting to implementation instead of giving up early and not achieving? Goals when planted deep within our subconscious, should prompt our motivation into stimulated action. Goals should get you out of bed early in the morning and hungry to achieve the small steps to move forward.

But where do we get the drive to get and remain motivated? Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter and is often considered a pleasure molecule. It is so much more. Dopamine makes us desire things and drives us out of the lounge chair, away from the TV and to our projects which give us rewards. Scientific research on rates, whereby pleasure centres of the brain were stimulated, demonstrated that dopamine drives brain developmental neural pathways, hence repeating patterns to achieve pleasure or reward.

Cool right?

Here’s the trick with goal implementation. Do a task associated with a pleasurable reward. Your brain will release dopamine because it is anticipating you will feel good. This is why drugs are so addictive.

What if your daily pursuit of happiness triggered similar effects to taking drugs? You’d do it, right? Well in actual fact when you’re scrolling through social media news feed, playing video games etc you are flooding your brain with dopamine and giving yourself a false hit, feeling let down when the high doesn’t arrive — so you do it more often and for longer to achieve success.

Just with this example alone, can you see how COVID could actually be a gift to disconnect from this fast lifestyle and reset how you seek happiness in your life?

Other than the obvious, ie social distancing, what do you need to detach from
or connect with in order to 
realise happiness in life? Do you actually know
what makes you feel happy without involving a handheld 
device? And yes,
we could be talking masturbation with toys here as well.

I’m asking you right here, right now. What makes you happy?

“The main difference (other than genetics) between happy and unhappy people are habits. Happy people engage in more happiness-boosting habits while unhappy people engage in more misery-inducing habits. It’s as simple as that.” — Develop Good Habits.

See how many of the following habits you can tick off the list!

 

1. Experience Flow Often —being fully immersed and involved in the present moment.

 

2. Exercise Regularly for both physical and mentally beneficial outcomes.

 

3. Stop And Smell The Roses — do you savour the moment and appreciate the positive experience?

 

4. Practice Mindfulness – the art of being fully present and aware of what we are experiencing.

 

5. Meditate — rewires the brain for happiness through complete relaxation.

 

6. Spend Time Outside — because you can but more importantly because it’s a mood accelerator.

 

7. Pursue Meaningful Goals – because it gives you a reason to get out of bed and be motivated every single day.

 

8. Spend Time With Friends And Family — investing in compassion and nurture within your social circle improves your listening, empathy and communication skills, which you can later apply to yourself.

 

9. Celebrate Other’s Success – respond with and share their enthusiasm from the other person, sharing the experience and their happiness as they bask in their success.

 

10. Engage In Deep Conversation – sharing the stuff that matters deepens our connections and allows us to be vulnerable, raw and speak our truth of what really matters. The happiness here comes from the sharing of dialogue.

 

11. Let Go Of Materialism — Instead of focussing on stuff, place your happiness meter against your experiences, friendships, passions, and hobbies, in order to determine what brings joy to your life

 

A mountain of research has shown that materialism depletes happiness, threatens satisfaction with our relationships, harms the environment, renders us less friendly, likable, and empathetic, and makes us less likely to help others and contribute to our communities.” — Sonja Lyubomirsky.

12. Give Freely — “True happiness consists of making others happy,” says an ancient Hindu proverb. Helping others through being kind, generous and willing to lend a hand is a pillar stone to happiness.

13. Practice Gratitude — According to Develop Good Habits, the emotion of gratitude has consistently been one of the strongest happiness boosters known in scientific literature.

You hear me say this again and again, your thoughts become your actions. So it makes sense that the more you are actively practising gratitude, the more you will have to be grateful for and will be provided with more things to be grateful for. It becomes a never-ending abundance cycle.

14. Practice Forgiveness — probably my favourite quote of all time is that of Buddha who once said:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the
one getting burned.

Forgiveness is never for the other party but a gift to ourselves to lighten the emotional burden of our response. Our inability to forgive harms ourselves more than anybody else, including our wrong-doers.

15. Have Hope And Optimism For The Future — This is pretty challenging right now with COVID and the unknown date for the lifting of lockdown. Here’s the thing, when we have an intention to be hopeful and are open for future opportunities, we feel excited, enthusiastic, motivated, and happy. We feel light. However when we overthink, go external to ourself and worry about the scenarios, we can feel anxious, depressed, and devoid of meaning.

16. Comfort Yourself In Hard Times — how do you treat yourself in tough times. Are you self critical, blaming, or put yourself down? Or are you reflective, positive and seeking opportunities for self-improvement?

17. Use Character Strengths Often — are you courageous, confident, compassionate, loyal, optimistic towards yourself on a daily basis?

18. See Your Job As A Calling — you gain more satisfaction from the worker for the greater good which contributes to something larger than yourself? Or is your work just a job where you make money?

19. Have Things To Look Forward To — Happy people tend to live active and somewhat busy lives, and the activities in the calendar provide anticipation of the happiness to come.

20. Spend Money On Experiences — I’ve long been a fan of experiences over gifts. It’s what life is all about, not the stuff we can buy. A wise mentor once reminded me that when you’re on your deathbed, you remember all the good old times with your friends and family, not the good old times with your hot red car or your stuff you’ve bought over the years.

21. Limit Your News Consumption — external media is paid to create sensationalism, to involve an emotional reaction. Guess what, you’ll react more intensely and for longer if the news is bad, rather than good. Additionally, only one viewpoint is ever broadcast on the news and it’s generally what the government of the day approves.

22. Aim For Good Enough — did you know that research indicates when we have a myriad of opportunities or possibilities to choose from we get stuck in making choice based on regret, social comparison, inability to adapt and concern about status. If you’re a maximiser, you’re always striving for the best of everything. However, if you’re a satisficer, you’re happy when something is good enough. You can change to become a satisficer when you move the perception from perfection to realisation.

23. Don’t Overthink Shit — you bottom out your happiness account with overthinking. Because each lap a negative thought does inside your head adds luggage to the cargo. You start to second guess yourself. You begin to doubt yourself. You create fears inside your head that didn’t previously exist – what if I’m not good enough? If you find yourself stuck wallowing, mindfulness is going to be an exceptionally useful tool for you to unwind the pattern.

24. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others — the minute you take your attention off yourself and place it on another you’ve lost control and cease investing in implementing your goals. Stick with remaining mindful or grateful for all that you have achieved. Measure your success off you.

25. Pursue Intrinsic Goals — the extrinsic goal is all about making it. The intrinsic goal is all about enjoying the process and links with our values and deeply held beliefs whereby our human needs are fulfilled.

26. Spend Time With Furry Friends — I’ve recently added two lab pups to my household. There’s something about having a wet nose greets you when you’re feeling challenged, and petting the soft hair. There are no narky discussions, just acceptance as love is exchanged. Animals are a happiness magnet and seem to soak up all your Negative nancy with a single pat!

 


Happiness isn’t something you purchase, it’s something you achieve internally through repeated action which becomes habits. The habit naturally drives us to strive to continually fill the happiness bucket!

Do what makes you happy

Be with you makes you smile

Laugh as mich as you breathe

Love as long as you live

What Causes A Man To Crumble & Experience Anxiety

What Causes A Man To Crumble & Experience Anxiety

Tips to Empower The Broken

My business is experiencing an influx of the male species right now, and it seems the COVID-19 lockdown is to blame. I question whether the actual global pandemic is to blame, or whether our menfolk now have the time to deal with their shit — and they don’t like itNot one little bit.

And before I get accused of man-bashing, let me assure you there’s plenty of busy ladies also experiencing the same symptoms of crippling worry and fear of the future. But let’s face it, women are more likely to open up and talk about it. The men appear to have retreated into their caves, or as modern times dictate, they have retreated into the theatre rooms.

Symptoms of anxiety can include feelings of worry, fear and impending doom that are so severe they interfere with your ability to work, maintain relationships and get a decent night’s sleep. Beyond Blue defines the physical signs of anxiety may include: pounding or racing heart, excessive sweating and an overwhelmed internal dialogue.

“Anxiety is one of the most common health conditions in Australia. For men, anxiety is even more common than depression — 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some point.” — Beyond Blue

There are several medically diagnosable forms of anxiety:

  • generalised anxiety disorder
  • specific phobias
  • social anxiety
  • panic disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress

Beyond Blue explains each anxiety condition has its own unique features, with some common symptoms which include:

  • “Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick shallow breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy. 
  • Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking are all things that keep us up at night. 
  • Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.”

So why would anxiety affect our big burly manly men? Especially now during a pandemic? Our scientific research and carbon dating infers that our men or rather their caveman counter-parts, would go out and forage for food. They were wired to communicate, they were wired to kill shit, and then drag it back to camp to be cooked and eaten.

In modern times, it seems we have carried this expectation that the man will leave the family home, go out and get a job in order to provide for his family. And yet there’s more. Society now expects the modern man to emote! This is interesting if his neurological wiring has suppressed this ability so we can kill to eat!

Society also infers the modern man should cook, clean and be the equal partner in the family household. This is also based on the supposition that modern man is leaving the household and going out to work (aka the modern-day version of killing the woolly mammoth to feed the family). Same shit, different bucket.

So what happens to the manly man when he has to work from home?

The clearly delineated boundaries which separate work from home begin to blur. Poor modern man must be scratching his head that the wilderness of work is now to be juggled with an apron around his waist!

Confusion about how to segregate the roles of the house-bound man versus provider-man start to build. This confusion, mixed with boredom (remember caveman needs to hunt, to be productive and have outcomes) and listlessness produces the knee-buckling effect of lowering self-confidence and worry about the future, fear of not being good enough and fear of uncertainty.

So what can we do to support the modern man not feeling like a caged tiger?

Here are some proactive strategies to try yourself

  1. Purposeful breathing. Pretty sure the modern man will think this is ridiculous — I know. But let me explain!

Generally, if you’re stressed and in that flight or fight phase, you’re shallow breathing in order to prime your muscles to react from a defensive position. In other words, your body is mimicking hunting the woolly mammoth and getting your body ready to attack!

The slow and purposeful breathing enables the body to switch from stress to digestion / relaxation phase. This is likened to your caveman feeling relieved he wasn’t eaten and now scratching his head how he will drag the beast back to camp for his woman to cook!

Try these breathing exercises provided by Beyond Blue. Purposeful breathing can be as simple as counting to four, holding your breath for a count of two then breathe out slowly. Literally, within a couple of breaths, your neurology is switching from a defensive stand to that of a relaxed one.

This is a fabulous tool for anyone really when you find yourself in a sticky or heated situation whereby you feel your emotions escalating.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise is best undertaken in a quiet and private space. Try it at night time as part of a new sleep hygiene routine.

Find the right spot and close your eyes. Focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly.

This exercise is great for supporting your ability to focus on just one thing. By honing our focus, you get to eliminate that chatty circus monkey inside your head. There’s the added bonus of potentially reducing the feelings of muscle tension associated with anxiety.

Gone are the days where our caveman only had to worry about killing or running from the sabre tooth tiger. Modern man worries about a myriad of things, so anything to slow down the monkey chatter and lighten the load helps to regain focus and ultimately power on reframing what you are in control of and what you aren’t.

3. Practice remaining in the present moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts create a perception of a terrible future — which hasn’t even happened yet. This type of overthinking is often linked with unresolved stress lodged in your behavioural patterning. You literally switch off the logical brain and wonder what will happen with all this COVID-19 business.

  • Will I work again? 
  • How do I cope? 
  • How am I providing for my family if I’m at home? 
  • I’m not good enough anymore now that I’ve lost my job 
  • I’m useless, everything is hopeless

The beauty of this tip is to bring yourself back to where you are, right now. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from your experiences. You can’t predict the future, but you can build your resilience for whatever is coming your way. You do that by living for today, and enjoying the moments, making deposits in your happiness account.

Identifying simple tasks you can achieve completion on during this day is vital. It’s a reset if you will. Subliminally you are creating new neural solution-orientated pathways when you identify tasks that you can complete.

Some easy examples include

  • daily meditation
  • daily walk outside in the sunshine and fresh air
  • read because you want to 
  • listen to positive podcasts
  • play music which makes you get out of your chair and jog around
  • play with the kids

4. Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, and ensuring you are hydrated are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing during this COVID phase. Additionally, part of a healthy lifestyle when I grew up and I’m seeing during lockdown is families going outside together. Playing and having experiences — together. The modern man has left the cave and joining his tribe for fun and frivolity. It’s about time the man gets to participate too.

Once lockdown is lifted, get out into nature, visit friends and return to your active lifestyle.

5. Acknowledge your self-talk. Beyond Blue provides a lot of detail to address “how you think affects how you feel”. I would go a step further and add your thoughts create your actions.

Anxiety can make you overthink situations and question your ability to manage the stress associated with it. Acknowledging those feelings that make you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario often defuses the emotional energy associated with the subliminal fears.

Look at the facts for and against your thought being true. Ask yourself the question “am I in control of this right now?” Alternatively ask “Will it matter in five years, five months, five days?” If you answer yes then do something about it. If no, shelf the problem until you feel you can deal with it.

If all else fails, pick up the phone and have a mate date and talk it out.

Be kind to yourself. Beyond Blue literature encourages you to “remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.”

Cut yourself some slack. These are beyond weird times. You just have to make the best of right now. Sometimes when our thoughts get us stuck in problem-solving, make the problem smaller and more solvable. For example rather than sorting out what will I do today, ask yourself what can I do for the next 30 minutes.

7. Focus on something positive. the minute you’re feeling Negative Nancy thoughts creeping up, it’s time to be proactive and ‘reframe’. This is a choice point that has the opportunity to place you back in your power and control.

Literally ask yourself, “how can I view this current situation / stressful thing as a positive?” You’ll be surprised with how your logic brain kicks into action when you give it permission to work.

In summary, I would add to this that COVID isn’t forever. I’m reminded that my parents lived through a recession in the eighties, whereby crippling mortgage rates smothered the toughest of couples. And yet they survived. If you converse with grandparents they share stories of living in the depression without food and clothing staples for months on end. And yet they survived too, in fact, their view of life remains resilient and positive.

So decide on how you will take advantage of more time with your family and this unique opportunity to do life for a short while.

Resources

Beyond Blue “Types of anxiety”. Source https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety

It Should Be Called Rejuvenation Not Procrastination

It Should Be Called Rejuvenation Not Procrastination

Tips to Overcome Guilt of Slowing Down and Reconnecting with Self

There’s a consistent thread of discussion I’m seeing on social media during this global COVID experience. There is a consistent undertowing and inference that we have all this ‘downtime’ to do stuff. We’re in lockdown so we should be ‘working from home’, ‘homeschooling’, and to top it off we’re expected to maintain some format of the usual routine.

Frankly, I call bullshit on the whole thing.

We’re in a whole new world. We’ve all been thrown into the blender and the cocktail still doesn’t have a name. Almost a month in and we’ve barely had time to take a sip and decide whether we like the flavour. We’ve been too busy in survival mode.

And that’s ok. It now feels like we’re coming up for air. And as we take great big gulping breaths to settle ourselves, the grounding presence of our individuality beings to shine.

We’re overcoming the fear, and we’re soldiering on. We’re coming together. And just like the phoenix, we are rising. Each of us has our own pace, but we are evolving into a new life.

I’ve been in self-motivated social isolation for a little longer than most due to my chemotherapy treatment. I’m slowly getting used to losing a bit of independence. And for once I’m almost excited at the thought of returning to the supermarket to go shopping again, for I’m told it’s all changed.

But so has the world. Everything has changed, and it’s not just social distancing. As Stacey Herrerra would say, we’re skin hungry, aching for human touch and getting up close and personal with our affection with those in our close circle.

My skin is starving as is my heart space when the flooded internet bandwidth fails to connect me with my peeps! Call me titchy if you will.
Many that I’m speaking to have guilt associated with enjoying the downtime and not doing all the things they think they should. There appears to be an expectation that you can work or school from home and it will be the same level of proficiency.

And that’s a lie if we are to be truthful. There is no way that we can work or study in the same way when the environment we normally do that has changed. The people we normally have around us has changed.

We are being expected to do work in the place where we relax, our homes.

So it’s time to cut yourselves some slack. It’s important to take it easy with the kids too. All you can do is be kind to yourselves and do the best you can.

Sure, attempt to stick to the normal schedule of study or work, but there’s going to have to be a whole new level of adaptation before productivity becomes super-efficient again.

This is a time for individuals to detach from what is happening externally from their home. It’s a time to connect internally to self, and the household members you reside with.

Negotiations and compromises have to be made. All that communication commences with those you love or share space with. Then you have to liaise with what can already presume are strained employers who are probably still trying to figure out how to keep you employed.
You can’t take any of that external stuff on. You have to be able to let go of the drama associated with COVID-19. You know why? Because science demonstrates if you stay at home, you stay safe from exposure.

But here is the other truth. Home is where your heart is. It’s where you relax. It’s where you are accepted for who you are. Home is where you simply do your best to get stuff done. So if you’re not working to your normal standards, please remind yourself of this — you’re not procrastinating, you are simply doing the best you can.

It makes sense if you feel like you’re avoiding all of the normal tasks and juggling everything. There’s a reason for this perceived procrastination. You’re probably feeling a somewhat overwhelmed because you are at both work and home at the same time. The normal routine is you leave one place and those tasks to go to another place and do different tasks.

Unless you live and work from home normally, a month into lockdown, you are only probably just realising that you have to create a new normal. It’s like asking a funeral director to coordinate a wedding for 350 guests — and yeah the wedding is in two days! Not gonna happen without some stress.

Well, guess what? It’s time to relax, let go of the guilt of being expected to everything, and start being nice to yourself. Besides you’re more proficient when you’re relaxed.

So my tips for reframing the procrastination into restoration are outlined below.

 

Strategically Place Your Focus

 

Focus on doing simply one thing at a time. There are certain household things that have to be done. Whilst pants are optional when working from home, underwear shouldn’t be. Neither should showering, cleaning bathrooms and floors, doing dishes etc.
Additionally, there will be certain work tasks that just have to be done each day. The trick is mish mashing the two lists and staggering the delivery performance over the week so it all gets done. At the end of the day, if there is a day critical task, then that goes to the top of the list.

Define Your Schedule

 

This is a fabulous time to lead by example with your kids. Knowing that generally most school lessons are based on 45-minute intervals, align your work sessions to what the kids are doing. This way when you come up for air, to grab a glass of water or snack and check the email you can be touching base with the kids and making sure their online learning mechanisms are working.

Delegate the Tasks Amongst the Housemates

 

Create a master task list of the things that do need to be done each day. Delegate out at least one task for each person, regardless of age. A five year is capable of setting the table or being supported to stack a dishwasher. A teenager is capable of hanging wet washing or folding the dry.

If your kids see how you juggle both work and home commitments, suddenly (one can hope) they have a new appreciation of all you do for them whilst mastering the adult juggle. When it comes time to return to the world, perhaps this new routine will stick and you can continue to share the load.

I’ve never once heard of anyone complain about a consider young adult housemate. I do frequently hear about selfish bastards though! Delegating tasks now sets your kids up with skills for life.

Appreciate the Extra Time

 

During ‘normal life’, my family are out after school four nights a week. That equates to an additional eight to ten extra hours I now have gifted to do other things. I appreciate this and use these extra windows of time do things as a family, like walking out puppies as a family.
My family travels with friends and when we come together we bond as a unit. We have an activity bag that keeps us entertained for hours. When was the last time your family ditched the technology and played a board game after dinner?

Do what really matters. Connect with people around you by

  • playing cards or board games
  • colouring and chatting
  • figuring out jigsaws
  • build leggo
  • watch family movies
  • play twister
  • make blanket cubby houses
  • bake biscuits

You’re only limited by your imagination by how you can creatively utilise COVID ‘me time’ to reinvent how you utilise your day. It’s time to reframe away from the perception that you ‘have to’ and migrate to a mindset of ‘I choose how to invest me and my time.’

Remember, when we are relaxed, we are productive. When we aren’t stressed, we have clarity in our thinking and outputs. We are focussed and capable of smashing out a multitude of tasks, one at a time.

When we are relaxed into our new routine we feel safe and comfortable with change. When we feel safe, we aren’t stressed and our immune systems function optimally. When we feel safe, so do our children.