Positivity Touch Points
written by Michelle Schroeder – Lowrey for Pebble Tossers (part two of a three-part series)
Michelle Schroeder-Lowrey is an artist educator specializing in music, movement and drama at Columbus Academy. Michelle is a CAPP certified Positive Psychology Practitioner and recently completed certification as a Resiliency Trainer at The Flourishing Center in NYC. Her love of learning has taken her as far as Australia and as close as downtown Columbus. Michelle is passionate about educating people about the benefits of living life with purpose using the principles of PERMA-V and the VIA Character Strengths. She is a proud wife and mother and a founding member of Available Light Theatre and holds a BA in Theatre from The Ohio State University.
What do we do when our uncertainty, fear and anxiety start to overwhelm us?
In real-time when the big feelings start to overwhelm our brains and bodies we must start with calming – 3 Deep Breaths. It has to be 3 – it could be as many as 6 or 8, but always at least 3. Research tells us that these deep breaths send a signal to your brain that the “danger is passed” and we don’t need to fly, flee or freeze. (This kind of breathing is actually good for your brain and body on a regular daily basis, not just in times of crisis.)
Next: remind ourselves that all feelings are valid– this includes the painful emotions: fear, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, boredom and the more pleasant emotions: joy, awe, interest, pleasure, happiness. There are not “good” and “bad” emotions. Right now, the world is a roller coaster of emotions and it so important to notice and name how we are feeling and allow that emotion or emotions to flow through us – not get stuck in our brains and swirl around in an endless loop churning into anxiety. Often the simple act of NOTICING and NAMING an emotion allows us to get more in touch with the source of our discomfort and provides an opportunity to choose a strategy to NAVIGATE our emotions and remind ourselves what we can control (how I think, how I feel, what I do.)
For our children, they are definitely noticing the emotions and the discomfort that the uncertainty is bringing up – it’s the naming of the emotion that is tougher and then the navigating requires our help. The next steps might sound like this: “I see you. And I see in is moment these feelings are overwhelming you. What’s going on? Tell me more.” And once you say “tell me more” JUST LISTEN. Don’t attempt to fix. Don’t attempt to add your own story. Just listen and say “tell me more.” This is hard for those of us who keep our cape handy for all circumstances – but I assure you, it is more helpful in this moment to listen. When my teen is sharing, I often have to put my hands up to cover my mouth as a reminder to me that it is not my turn to talk, fix or tell a story. I am listening. After a while, I might say “are you asking for help or venting?” And right now, the answer is almost always: “I’m venting. Thank you.” In fact, she often works out her own solution just in talking out loud. Offering to listen (and actually doing it!) allow our children and teens the opportunity to use their strengths and skills and feel a sense of agency and autonomy – which we are all looking for in these uncertain days.