Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration

 

1301 Relax and Succeed - Emotional Control in the Face of Frustration 2

Here’s a reasonable question that hit me last month: why did I get up extra early to get my work completed so I could drive in -34C (-29F) to pick up my father on a day where he did not need a ride?

Finding out that I was actually a day early can be the kind of thing that can lead us to revisit the extra early wake-up and the cold drive and feel angry about losing sleep, not to mention for freezing for no good reason. Very cold weather makes angry thoughts easy to produce.

Doing those disappointment and frustration-based calculations makes sense to almost everyone. But wisdom suggests we stop and ask ourselves if our initial reaction is truly helpful in the situation we’re in. So that’s our assignment this week: to mitigate our common negative reactions with deeper understanding

Take each day and the most frustrating part about it, and then track back to why it that thing bothered us more than other things. We will find that we held some expectation that was not being met.

The question is, what was our unreasonable expectation? Collect enough awareness regarding our expectations and we become able to recognize them in operation and then work around them.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Understand that the issue can still bother us, we can even have a burst of blame before we settle. But by understanding that our feelings are logical and sensible means they are less painful to own and we’re less likely to blame –or hold on to blame placed on– the other people involved in our frustration. It simply makes no sense to do that to them because we know we’re reacting out of the logic of who we are and what we are facing.

If we’re not blaming others we can use the energy we would have expended on blame to instead fuel more productive action.

Logically it shouldn’t surprise us that people who hate being afraid will be particularly bad when things are scary, or that shy people will be uncomfortable in crowds. That’s not something going wrong, that’s something making sense.

Likewise, if we have an expectation that we will never behave as though it is the wrong day of the week, or that winter in Edmonton won’t be cold at times, then we would be defying common experiences many have already had. But if we accept that those are mistakes people commonly make, then when it happens to us, we can be half-ready.

1301 Relax and Succeed - The more we do anything

In my case, upon arrival I was fairly quickly informed that I had the wrong day. This is where a flash of frustrated anger sparked my conscious attention. I could feel the pang of that frustration in my gut and I did a check-in. What was I thinking about? Two phrases: So I froze for nothing, and; I’m an idiot who really could have used that sleep.

Okay, so now I can add to my problem by continuing to think about comparing my morning to a warmer one where I remembered what day it was, or I can accept I made this weird decision and ask why.

Once we get good at it, it doesn’t take long to track why, which is why a week’s worth of examples will be helpful. The more we do anything the better we get at doing it.

In my case, I had a big day on that Thursday with some big meetings and a rare visit with a friend, so I spent most of Tuesday organizing life so I could make that Thursday work. So since that Tuesday, I’d primarily thought about and dealt with, Thursday.

Knowing how the brain works, I knew I had essentially ‘primed’ the idea of Thursday in my mind so it would be the most prominent day in my imagination. I even dreamed about Thursday on Tuesday night, which is partly why I woke up under the presumption that it was Thursday.

Do you see how those events took me out of now? I was so focused on future thoughts about how Thursday might play out that I wasn’t actually listening to the radio or noticing the many clues that it was Wednesday that day. Having an expectation and rushing my thoughts into Thursday meant I was blind and deaf on Wednesday.

Seeing the logical sense in what I did, I accepted that that is what a brain will do, and the entire issue was left to die in the past and I lost any sense of frustration. I just had some toast with Dad and headed back to start writing this.

See? In the end, it was even a gift, because I needed an example exercise for this blog. Funny how the world works out.

Go from now and until next Monday try to find your way out of frustration by truly understanding and accepting how easily you got there. You’ll know if you’ve truly understood the innocence of your sources because then the acceptance part is easy. We can hardly blame ourselves for making sense.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day!

peace. s

Those Kids Today

1216 Relax and Succeed - We don't grow when things aren't easyIt’s pretty rare when I reblog and it’s always for a really good reason. With kids back to school, and parents and children struggling more than they ever have, it’s important to focus things down to their essence. Toronto Occupational Therapist Victoria Prooday writes a blog and it’s not surprising that this was one of her most popular.

For those who can see this subject clearly, her recommendations will look like simple common sense. But in a world where parents, teachers and children feel pulled in a million directions by a million marketers, educators, administrators, and websites all saying different things, it becomes difficult to tell what really counts. But if you want a healthy adult capable in the maximum number of situations, this is excellent advice.

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

1216 Relax and Succeed - Victoria Prooday replacement

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

  1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

  1. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

  1. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

  1. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

  1. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

1216 Relax and Succeed - Parents only have 2 jobsTRAIN YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights

Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening

2. Train delayed gratification

Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”

Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games

Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time

Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.

Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!

Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed

Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please and thank you.”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!

*****

I see it all the time in my own work. Mental illness and stress are up. What we’re doing isn’t working. This is what will. If you’re anywhere near Toronto and are having trouble with your own children or you’re aware of others who are, considering sharing this and going to see Victoria’s team. Because whatever you see in your toddler or pre-teen will be amplified as they age, and both you and your children will be the ones living with the consequences of any maturing that hasn’t been achieved.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

 

The Rise of Anger

It comes in two ways. The first is swift and sharp. If you’re quick you’re on edge. You’ve been chemically rattled. Maybe it’s too much emotion for too long, or maybe too little, or maybe not enough sleep, or hanger (hunger-based anger). These are all common major contributors to quick swipes of meanness between either loved ones or strangers. Treat those more like signals and figure out how you need to get comfortable, and then either sleep or eat.

The nice thing about quick anger is it usually passes fast. Even we’re a little alarmed by our reaction. It came out of nowhere (nature) for us too. So once it settles, learn to go apologize right away. It helps if people understand the difference between simmering anger and a flash. That way next time they might lovingly suggest you eat or rest. But even if they don’t; it’s good to get good at giving apologies to those who are bad at accepting them.

There are also those times where your anger still rises quite quickly on some particular news or event, but it’s not a sudden irrational chemical reaction. These are things you’re rationally upset about. These are things you can explain to the person you’re mad at. You know, those how could you do that!? what took you so long?! what were you thinking!? things.

This latter type of anger can very nearly be avoided altogether. Quick anger is a type of pain. It’s unavoidable given a set of circumstances. Anyone feeling your chemistry wouldn’t like it. But suffering is when we choose to do it–when it’s optional. That’s anger other people might not have in the same situation. That’s because they’d have a different narrative.

Suffering is an ego-action and that takes a narrative. The narrative needs us to populate it with language. Language is something we learned, so it is post-now. It’s us describing a moment ago, not living that moment now. So the fact that we can explain our anger is a sign that it’s egocentric.

The suffering is a narrative which would would include elements like an expectation or two, an attachment or three, and maybe a few beliefs about propriety bouncing around in there too. Well just like it takes me energy to write these words it takes us energy to think a narrative to ourselves. So we’re actually investing energy in our own suffering.

The trick with this sort of suffering is that we get caught up in the whirlwind of our own thoughts. We start being the thoughts instead of remembering we’re the thinker. But if we’re the bike and not the rider, then how do we stick anything in spokes to stop the wheels from spinning? Usually there’s a crash before we remember that we’re a rider on a bike and not the bike itself. We have to learn to feel when we’re peddling.

It’s an expenditure of energy. That energy can create the narrative that’s pissing us off, or it can absorb the world in a way where all of our senses blend together into one giant, wonderful awareness. How we invest it is up to us. But we’re not failing when we put our energy into a narrative. Narratives exist. Without an out there is no in. Just don’t keep yourself there by building yet another narrative about having created a narrative that took you there in the first place. Just let it all go and dive into awareness instead. That’s how you find your way back. Quiet.

We all need to be more tolerant about people’s sharp moments. They need our patience and care. And when we’re wound up ourselves, we have to watch for opportunities to divert or steal energy from our angry, ultimately fearful, narratives, because otherwise that’s when we’ll do damage to our lives.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.