Mindful Parenting

Dump the Distress

IMG-8488Let’s be honest: parenting just might be one of the hardest job you will ever have. It will also be the most rewarding, the most wonderful, the most awe-inspiring make-you-want-to-be-the-best-possible-you-ever job. Here is a strategy to help you through those moments when the worry and concern threaten to overtake the positive. This strategy can help enhance your self-awareness, personal growth, and provide an element of control over to shift emotion and build self-worth.

Here it is: Take all those thoughts swimming around in your head, and put them down on paper. Write them, type them, scribble them, paint them, blur them, or doodle them. The important step in the process is simply getting your thoughts out on paper. You might be doubting your parenting skills; you might be questioning your actions and reactions; you might be confused by your child’s behaviours; you might even be comparing yourself to others and feeling as though you don’t measure up. These thoughts can be over-whelming. When you put them down on paper, they suddenly seem concrete – tangible. You can make sense of them because they are words on paper and not thoughts triggering emotions and stirring up memories. You might find that you can think more clearly. You can even start problem-solving your way through them. “Writing about an experience can help you distance yourself from the feelings of inadequacy that get in the way of enjoying the just-as-real joys of parenting.”

“Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way… brings about improvements in mental and physical health” – J.W. Pennebaker & J. D. Seagal

Not sure how to write in a journal? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Write about any situation that comes to your mind
  2. Or, try listening inwardly: ask yourself “what am I feeling right now?”
  3. Be honest with whatever you are feeling
  4. If you are venting, destroy the page when you have finished. This not only will ensure your privacy, but is also symbolic of purging the uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings
  5. Give yourself permission to write the worst journal entry ever – this will inherently give you permission to write the best journal entry ever. It will also free you of fear of failure, which might be preventing you from getting started! (Idea from Natalie Goldberg – see reference below)
  6. Try not to spend too much time thinking about what you want to write prior to writing – let your intuition and impulses guide your writing. The process of free writing or stream writing is believed to enable us to bypass our inner critic and tap in to our own wisdom, knowledge, and creativity
  7. Try ending on a positive note – What is your hope for tomorrow? What might you do differently tomorrow?
  8. Be consistent and try writing (or “dumping”) in your journal daily

Worth Checking Out:

The on-line store Knock Knock sells a very clever journal for parents titled “I’m a Parent?”. The journal itself starts out with an informative overview of parental guilt and the benefits of journaling. Then, every journal page starts with the caption “Why I’m a less-than-perfect parent today:” and ends with the affirmative statement “You’re doing better than you think”. Check it out at:
http://www.knockknockstuff.com/catalog/categories/books-other-words/journals/im-parent-guided-journal/

Resources:

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg (2005)
Yoga for your Brain, by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (2011)
Forming a Story: the Health Benefits of Narrative, by J.W. Pennebaker & J. D. Seagal (1999) Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

This article was originally posted on September 26, 2012, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

The Process of Therapy

Three Little Things: Journaling to build Self-Worth

One key way we build self-esteem is by accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves. Every accomplished goal trickles into our sense self: it feeds our personal integrity, that sense of trust we have in ourselves that we will do what we set out to do. Our proven ability, even though only proven to ourselves, contributes to feeling good about ourselves. But what happens when a negative core belief such as “I’m not good enough” has a stronghold over our thoughts?

Negative core beliefs are false self-referencing beliefs, and they pack a pretty heavy punch. When a negative belief screams out in our brain, a powerful emotional response reverberates throughout our memory network and our body responds with much the same level of activation as when the negative belief was created – even though in the present moment we are safe. Experiences from childhood may have planted the seeds of the negative belief, and then additional life experiences may have strengthened them. Because these negative beliefs have been reinforced over and over again, they feel very true. “Negative beliefs come to create a perpetual filter through which we view ourselves and our world” (Parnell, 2007).

Negative core beliefs feel true but they are not true. Because these beliefs are capable of infiltrating all of our daily activities, social interactions, and inner dialogue, we need an equally powerful method for countering them. Counselling is an excellent way to heal early wounds and develop coping strategies for the present. There are also techniques we can focus on between sessions to practice being present with new, positive belief systems.

journal for self-worthThree Little Things: 

For this journaling activity, you are going to want to use a beautiful book: one that makes you smile when you look at. You won’t be journaling in the traditional style: this will be more of a ‘healing journal’, one that you are going to want to flip through often, to remind yourself of what you have written.

Each evening before you get ready for bed, take 10 minutes to sit down and reflect on 3 things you did well that day. These are the little things that we often over-look, that there are no accolades for. When we take the time to notice, we develop compassion for our selves. We start to see the evidence that yes, we are human and we make mistakes, but also that we are also inherently good and worthwhile beings. If you find that you are having trouble getting started, try reflecting on the list of prompts below.

Writing Prompts for Reflection:

  • What did I do well today?
  • How did I cope successfully with a triggering moment today?
  • How did I care for myself with loving kindness after a triggering moment?
  • What am I grateful for today
  • How did I demonstrate gratitude today?
  • How did I implement something I’ve been learning today?
  • How did I show kindness today?
  • How did I show up with courage in my life today?
  • How did I practice self-acceptance, or self-forgiveness today?
  • What daily goal did I follow through on today?
  • How did I live with intention today?

For more strategies on journaling to build self-compassion (and a really good read…) check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s website: self-compassion.org.

Resources:
Parnell, L. (2007). A Therapist’s Guide to EMDR: Tools and Techniques for Successful Treatment. New York NY: W.W. Norton & Company.