This year has been a hard slog. Not gonna lie. I have work piling up and I feel like life is a perpetual hamster wheel of stress. Same stress, different day. It seems like as we get older we scream at life to slow down, only it doesn’t listen to us and likes to speed up instead. Bastard.
Even when the work is piling up though, and we feel overwhelmed, sometimes we have to just STOP and take a breath, and look at what’s around us. Right here, right now. Last year, each Monday I’d have my fuzzies- taking the time to appreciate something, or try to do something nice for others. Just taking that fuzzy moment- to say something nice or to do something nice selfishly makes us feel good too. And helps others. We’re like freakin’ Mother Theresa’s when we fuzzy up.
I’ve needed to get out of my head, and I’ve got a couple of cherubs who need their Mama to be with them, even for a part of the day, so we’ve been out and exploring what’s in our own backyard.
Have you ever just gone out to find different places where you live? It’s like discovering hidden treasure sometimes. Or realising you have stashed a chocolate at the back of the fridge and totally forgotten about it until now. Winning. You forget about the mundane, about your own issues, and you appreciate what’s around you. A genuine fuzzy right there.
I think we’re pretty lucky here in South East Queesnland. We’ve got everything at our fingertips. Brisvegas is like a country town that had some steroids. Truly. It’s still got a fairly low key vibe, chilled, but with the perks of a capital city. And now with H&M. My life is complete.
There’s lots of places that Brisbane is known for- Southbank, Roma St. Parklands, Kangaroo Point. Allll the pretty. But sometimes they can get a bit nutso, so it’s good to find some more hidden gems around the place. I get fuzzy when I’m not packed in like a sardine.
To the east of us we have the super cute Shorncliffe. It’s like driving into a quaint little town, it feels so removed from a capital city. Beautiful water, a little mini beach area and a pretty darn cool playground. Because, what place is complete without a playground? It’s now our goal to find places with playgrounds. Pubs, cafes, you name it. Keeps us all happy. Moora Park was where we stopped off for a bit. Because. Free fun. I’m alllll about the free fun.
Ever had those moments, where someone asks something of you, and while you’re not really feeling it in your heart of hearts, you go along anyway, because you don’t want to disappoint?
Or you see a group of people that you think would be awesome to be accepted into, or hang out with, and so you find yourself doing and saying things to get their approval?
Or you spread yourself so damn thin in an effort to appear useful and helpful to others?
You’ve been bitten by the Purple People Pleaser. He’s a hungry sucker. Big bloated and self-important, he likes to fill you with self-doubt and an over-exuberance for putting others first. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you. I am so, so, so guilty of being a PPP. I teach others not to do it, but then I go and do it myself. Hypocritical psyching since forever.
I’ve had to do a ton of reading this year on brains. On the surface I think all the stuff about the brain is pretty cool- it’s this ugly looking thing that does so much. And we only use like 10% of it. Crazy! And different parts of the brain control different parts of us, our movements, our feelings, our learning. It’s like Atlantis- this whole unknown city.
I can almost hear you snoring at your computer screen upon reading my nerdiness. Soz.
One of the things I’ve had to do some reading up on is this whole thing about Growth Mindset. What the hell is that? Well, you know how they say IQ is fixed? This fancy little number that gets spat out at you when you do a series of ridiculous tasks that you’d never do in real life? Well, according to Carol Dweck, it’s not fixed. And the way we approach things, based on our mindset, will determine how well we actually do. We can literally grow our brains. Huh? I know.
I’d love to say ‘oh yeah, I’ve got it all sorted’, it’s been a journey of self-discovery #blessed’. But erm. No. I’m not entirely comfortable in my own skin, but I think I’m getting there. I hope. Maybe? Fark.
Is it a global phenomena? Or just a couple of odd balls like me that get like that? I often wonder how other people feel about themselves. Is it easy to feel comfortable in your skin? I’m never sure.
Even when you deal with wellbeing and sorting people’s brains out for a living, it’s still hard stuff to take on board for yourself. I’m not selling myself very well here, am I?
As we are growing up, being comfortable in who you are is tough. You’re trying to find who you are. When you’re little, well you can run around nude, pick your nose and eat it (actually some adults still do this. PLEASE STOP. PLEASE STOP NOW) and then wear five layers of garish socks and not bat an eyelid. And no one else bats and eyelid either. Because. Kid life. But as you grow older, you start to notice others around you, and invariably start to compare yourself to others around you and that shit is tough. Really tough. Particularly when you’re not the cream of the crop.
On this Wellness Wednesday I’m taking a different tact. Rather than flood you with psych stuff, I’m taking pictures. Each month I play with a bunch of lovely bloggers and we all take a bunch of pictures, 10 to be exact, and then link through to each other. Hence the name 10 on 10. It’s a nice idea. And it forces me to go and do stuff on the weekend, because pictures of my backyard or my insane dog every month might get a bit tiresome to look at.
I am notoriously bad at taking time out and chilling. I know, shocking, right?! But basically, I feel like I need to be working, or cooking, or cleaning, or doing other ridic shit all.the.time. And if I stop and chill- then I’m lazy. I should probably go and talk to someone about that…..
But this weekend just gone we had a long weekend. And I actually stopped. And I chilled. And I hung out with my crew. My work took a backseat. As did the cooking and cleaning. Just don’t look at my floors and we’re cool, k? Feeling nauseous as all heck probably helped force me to stop, but let’s not talk about that part.
I realised that I need to stop more often. We need me to stop more often. I’ve talked about us Mamas putting ourselves first before, but yet I still keep pushing myself and not stopping. So how’s that for a wellness message? Just fucking stop for a minute. Please. Don’t get stressed about stuff that isn’t going to fall apart if you take some time out.
Now, I should probably quit chattering and start showing some pictures, huh?
This weekend, I was feeling saucy. As saucy as a beached whale pregnant lady can feel that is. We were chilled and having fun and I thought we should try something a bit different. So we took the girls out to putt putt. Yes, we are mildly insane.
Just when you thought I was done with monsters, eh? Here’s the last one in our series. A wily little fucker that can come in a few forms for little ones. We normally associate eating monsters with teenage girls, but you know the eating monster can hit even our younger cherubs.
In what ways can the eating monster screw with our kids? Well we have the more well-known eating issue of refusing to eat, in its extreme version we know it as anorexia. With the eating monster, refusal to eat can lie on a spectrum, from your garden variety pain-in-the-ass “No! I’m not eating that!” to a full control over what they put in their mouth. Anorexia can actually happen in children as young as 7 or 8. At that age it seems to have a bit to do with the sad monster or the worry monster (with obsessive compulsive features), and is hard to diagnose. The refusal eating monster also needs to be distinguished from the sensory eating monster. Some kids just will.not.eat certain things because of the way it feels to them, or the sensation of eating it. And some kids will not eat due to the worry monster leaving them with a fear of choking, or possible trauma around food.
We’re getting to the end of our Monster Series. We’ve seen enough of these suckers to last us a while now I think, yes? This one critter today though is a particularly tough one, and tends to recruit all the other monsters we’ve discussed previously. That’s how sneaky this bastard is. Please meet the Learning Monster.
Ahhhh the old Silly Monster. A crowd favourite with kids, an arch nemesis of parents and adults alike. What is the silly monster? Is it what happens to Mummy when she’s had one too many wines and thinks that singing karaoke and staying out partying until 5am is a good idea? Not quite. That’s a monster of a different kind I think (hello alco monster, I hope to meet you again in a matter of months….).
For kids, the Silly Monster represents that little part of us that can get a little too active sometimes. At the wrong time. Not understanding personal boundaries, not picking up those subtle cues that people might be getting a bit put out. Getting so excited our little brains get a bit scrambled and we can’t really put our impulse control or regulation skills into place. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, but the act of putting it into practice can get short-circuited by this Silly Monster. Sometimes the Silly Monster is just a by-product of excitement, or over-tiredness, or sometimes it can be a symptom of something bigger. Anxiety, ASD, ADHD can all feature the Silly Monster.
There are so many monsters lurking around, isn’t there? We’ve looked at the worry monster, we’ve looked at the sad monster and we’ve seen what little bastards they can be. But what about the angry monster? What’s the deal there?
The angry monster is a little different to it’s previously mentioned cousins. The angry monster can pop into any kind of difficulty a child is having. It’s not necessarily a ‘disorder’, but the angry monster is a main player on the kidlet scene. The angry monster can mean bigger things, like anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or it may just be a function of testing boundaries and learning their place. It’s a tricky minx, the old angry monster.
So what does an angry monster look like? Prickly, loud, breathing fire maybe? Possibly. Seething, quiet and contained? Could be. Our angry monsters can look different depending on the situation we’re in, and depending on our personalities.
The angry monster can be hard for parents to negotiate. And even harder for kids to manage. It’s tough. But it’s not impossible! It’s really about helping kids to understand what’s going on for them, what the angry monster is, and why it might be popping up at this time.
The biggest message to share with our kids about the angry monster is that anger is normal! Anger is common and we all feel it. What’s not ok though is when we let our anger get the better of us and it takes over. Normally the angry monster is at the surface, while another monster bubbles below. So when we explain the angry monster to kids we need to be able to let them know they are allowed to feel angry, but letting the angry monster make them aggressive is something else entirely.
How do we explain the angry monster? Try a little something like this:
Let’s have a look at what’s been going on for you lately. Seems like things have been pretty tough. Maybe you’ve had a visit from the angry monster, do you know much about the angry monster? Well, it’s a monster who can get really annoying and LOUD. And when an angry monster gets loud, it can make us loud. Yelling, screaming, stamping and stomping. So much noise! That’s the work of the angry monster. They hit our bodies, our minds and our actions. They do things like make our fists clench, grind our teeth, get all our muscles tight. They can make our cheeks feel hot, our eyebrows frown. The angry monster is tricky like that. And then when our bodies are all tight, they start telling us all sorts of things, like “it’s not fair”, or “I want that toy!” or “they can’t do that to me”. If you think things like that, how do you think you’ll be feeling? Pretty darn angry! Aha- the angry monster is working! So when we think angry, we feel angry. And when we feel angry, sometimes it can come out in not-so-nice behaviours. We can get aggressive- hitting, throwing, yelling, breaking things. Sometimes we can get so aggressive we can hurt others. And that never feels good, for anyone. Before we know it, our angry monster has us all twisted up, and we don’t know how to get out of it! Why does the angry monster visit? Well there can be many reasons. We can find something unfair, we can feel like we’ve been hurt by others, we can actually be scared or sad about something, and it feels so yuck the only way we feel like we can get it out is by letting the angry monster take over. So we need to be detectives, get to the bottom of why the angry monster is visiting us, and learn ways to shrink the monster down so we can shine again.
Sadly with anger, we inadvertently paint it out to be a bad thing, and something we need to hide away and not express. Anger is a valid emotion, and both ourselves and our kids are allowed to feel it. It’s all about how we deal with it that’s the issue though, and what we want to upskill our kids on. With kids, particularly younger ones, anger is the go-to emotion when they’re struggling to understand or express what’s going on for them. So it’s always helpful to try and educate them on anger, and get them to understand what is happening, and why they might be acting in such a way. A lot of the time, once we can see what’s going on, our anger tends to simmer down.
Got concerns your cherub’s anger is over and above what is appropriate for their age? Chat to your GP. More complex issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder do exist, but the prevalence rates range from 2% to 10% (Maughan et al., 2004; Costello et al., 2003. Source). Some sessions with a psych might help give you some tricks, and enable further support for your child.
One resource that is great for explaining anger is the book “Mad isn’t Bad” . And all the cute series of “When I’m feeling…” are really useful too. You can often pick them up from Kmart. For children with Aspergers, a fantastic book to help them understand is “The Red Beast”. And if you’re stuck on how to deal with misbehaviour (because we’re all about the anger being ok, the aggressive behaviour is not though) here’s some strategies on disciplining kids that we’ve looked at before. But truly it’s about helping your child uncover what is driving the anger. And not having them beat themselves up for it. That’s what we have monsters for!
How’s your anger monster travelling? Are you all over it, or does your angry monster get the better of you sometimes? I tell you, without my wine, my angry monster has a little too much spunk. Must remedy that. In a few months.
Next up in our monster series is the very good friend of our little (or not so little) worry monster, the sad monster.
Sad monsters are pretty common, although while it’s easy to spot in adults, it can be really tricky to spot in kids. And for poor cherubs, an attack of the sad monster can be the absolute worst. It’s a serious issue that we need to address sooner rather than later. In the past we thought that children couldn’t get depressed. I mean, really, what’s there to be sad about when the biggest decision you need to make in a day is whether to eat from the blue plate or the yellow plate, right? Sadly not quite. Although it is less common in younger children than it is in adolescents, there are some studies that propose that 4% of preschool children show symptoms of depression and 10% of children aged 6-12 years deal with persistent feelings of depression, and 2% of those children go on to develop serious depression. Once you hit the age of 12, the stats rise, until you get to 16 and depression is now one of the leading causes of death in young people. Horrific to think, isn’t it? (See info here and here). It can even impact babies if they’re not given enough nurturing contact and develop a positive attachment. Babies can become apathetic, unresponsive, suffer from failure to thrive. All through depression. Not cool.