We've talked about eustress, the good kind of stress, and distress, the bad kind, but, regardless of the kind of stress, what do we DO with it? Even eustress can get your heart a-thumpin' Got a terrific grade? Got into the school you wanted? Won the game? All good stuff, but it can take its toll. Some people cry with good news. Others can't sleep for all the good possibilities at hand.
On the other hand, distress, the bad stuff, takes a more exacting emotional toll. Got fired? Victim of a crime? Didn't get what you expected? Going to the dentist? These and other distresses can leave you with a racing heart, jumbled nerves, sleeplessness, nausea, and other gastrointestinal difficulties.
When stressed, stay in the moment. This is called mindfulness. Take longer and slower breaths. Notice the hum of the air conditioner, smell what's cooking, notice how your back is supported by the chair you are sitting in. At the least, being mindful distracts you from the stress symptoms you're feeling. Think about smiling inwardly and with your eyes. What?? How's that work? Well, instead of focusing "out there," where your stress is, turn your focus inwardly. Notice your lungs filling with that deeper breath.
All stress and anxiety start in your brain with the thought, "What if?" What if my next grade is bad? What if my dental work is too painful? As you worry or stress, your breathing shallows, muscles tense, and heart rate and blood pressure go up.
While continuing deeper breathing, turn your "What ifs?" into "I wonders." Add a positive outcome to your wonder. In doing so, your stress and anxiety turn into curiosity, a much better feeling that prepares you for what's next. "What if my next grade is bad?" becomes, "I wonder how I well I'll prepare to get my next good grade. The message is, "I know I'll get a good grade and I will work to make it so."
Finally, as you are preparing to master your stress, enjoy a positive image, something that represents the best thing ever! Some people imagine soaking in a bubble bath. Others imagine a brisk walk in the woods, or sitting on the beach watching the sunset over the ocean waves. Use your creativity to enrich your imagination with sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste. You are breathing deeply, taking your stress and turning it into wonder, preparing for a positive outcome, and rewarding yourself with a terrific positive image.
Aahh ! Life is stressful. Turn it to your advantage.
Most of us make up our minds early on about what kind of parent we want to be. Usually, the decision is based on our own experiences with our parents when we were growing up. "I want to be just like mommy and daddy when I grow up." Or, "No way. I want to be just opposite of mommy and daddy when I raise my kids." Rarely are we neutral about parenting style.
Parenting styles fall into the same three categories that Goldilocks and the Three Bears had. Goldilocks was sampling the bears' soup while they were out. The first bowl was "too hot." The second was "too cold." It was only the third bowl that was "just right." With parenting styles, authoritative is too hot, permissive is too cold. Only mindful parenting is just right.
Authoritative parents are too hot. You are very strict with your child. Rules are rules and your child better follow them, or else. While your child may have perfect manners and get good grades, they do so out of fear, not out of love. Parenting focus is on outcome. Children with too strict parents grow up angry and fearful. They act out sooner or later. This parenting style is too hot.
Permissive parents are too cold. Rules are "good ideas." If your child doesn't follow them, they are expressing their creativity. Children are free spirits. Parenting focus is on process. Aahh. Aren't they sweet? They will be what they will be. Without guidance and structure, however, these children develop a sense of entitlement with feelings of impunity. That is, I can do what I want, and with no consequences. When they bump up against the real world as adults, they have no frame of reference and they founder. These are often the "boomerang kids," who leave but come back to their parents home as young adults because they don't want to grow up. This parenting style is too cold.
Mindful parents are just right. Studies of this new parenting concept show that it brings compassion, acceptance, and kindness to the parent-child relationship. The needs and feelings of both parent and child are addressed. Natural consequences replace punishment. Both catching your children being good and holding them accountable for their choices present an abundance of teachable moments for mindful parents. Children are launched into adulthood with a profound sense of responsible freedom. Parenting focus is on relationship. This parenting style is just right.
Permissive, authoritative, mindful. Which kind of parent are you?