Tricia's 10 Take Aways from "T Cubed Corner"
What are the top 10 ideas that are important to know from "T Cubed Corner" videos from March through June? Below are a description of facts and concepts to know that will directly effect you personally and as a parent.
How does anxiety start in the brain?: The brain is an interconnecting organ that is effected by your 5 senses at all times. Our brains are receiving messages into the thalamus and then those messages are routed to either the pre frontal cortex region or to the limbic region. The amygdala (or children can call it "their almond") is in the deep part of the limbic system and it acts as a smoke detector alerting us to possible dangers. We are thankful for the amygdala igniting the reptile responses (freeze, flee, fight) when we are really in danger, like when an oncoming truck is coming toward us, we know to move out of the way! However, sometimes our smoke detector goes off even when it is a little piece of toast stuck in the toaster and not the whole house burning down. So, we have to learn ways to help rewire our brain to know when it is a "false alarm". Neuroplasticity is a big word that means we can change our brains. We can actually talk to our brains! In fact, no one these days knows we aren't talking on the phone or we are just talking to ourselves walking down the street. The key is to know what kind of anxiety we are experiencing, either cortex-based (thought-based) or amygdala-based (emotional-based) to help our brains calm down. Once we know the type, then we can use the right tool to speak the language so our brains can hear us!
3 Activities to do to help calm your anxiety: 5 Senses Activity, Thinking of Positive Thoughts and Deep Breathing/Movement. The 5 senses activity works for both emotional and thought-based anxiety. Thinking of thoughts (remember Buddy loves the beach, so he thinking of ocean and sand!) attacks the thought-based anxiety. Deep breathing/movement works for emotional-based anxiety. The goal is to route or reroute the message back up to the cortex region so we can think about our situation and be in control of our emotions. You can refer to the various corner videos to see how to do these three activities. The videos recorded on March 24th, 26th, and 31st are all about these three tools.
Anger is a big emotion and there are ways to calm it: If you have watched any of my videos or been in session with me, you know I say often, "All emotions are OK, but it is what we do with them that is the most important!" That is certainly true with the big feeling of anger. As adults, if we grew up in an environment that anger was maybe not allowed (always had to have a smile on your face) or maybe anger was displayed as rage (yelling, hitting, or name calling, for example), then anger may evoke a negative or unpleasant emotional response in us. So, there are ways we can calm our anger. By the way, anger is like anxiety, it can be controlled by talking to our brains! Also, remember that anger is a mask for fear. So, we may first feel worry, anxious, or scared and then that may turn into anger. Some activities to calm anger are using the Calming Jar, reading books about anger (Today I'm a Monster), recognizing your anger buttons, using the anger thermometer, naming your anger and making a mask/puppet. There three corner videos in the month of April that are dedicated to anger, so you can enjoy reviewing how to use/make all these tools.
We all feel anger in our bodies: Recognizing where we feel anger in our bodies is key. That way when you begin to feel anger in your body, then you can act quickly to calm it down and reroute the message back up to your cortex and think clearly. Avoiding an amygdala-hijack is key! Where do you feel anger? Common areas are in your stomach (very often the first place children feel anger), tension in your shoulders, neck and head, heart palpitations, and/or feel hot all over. Talking to children about recognizing where they feel anger is integral for them to learn then to use the tools to calm themselves. They can then use some of the above mentioned techniques to restore order in their brains.
Exercise and what we eat directly effect our brains: Movement is one of the most important actions to do right away when we feel anger. Literally moving your body! Whether that is doing elephant stomps (high knees), starfish jumps (jumping jacks), cheetah run (running in place) or simple stretching, all of these are actually emitting a chemical in your brain that will help you to calm down. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released when you exercise. It is the "feel good hormone" that helps us to feel happier and positive. When we are feeling more in control, we are more emotionally integrated and therefore we can think more clearly (do better in school and focus).
Having routines and schedules will help us to manage our big feelings: Did you know that having schedules and routines helps to strengthen the connections in your brain and increase the healthy neurotransmitters to be release more? And, we know that a stronger brain helps us to feel more in control of our emotions and big feelings. One simple way to have your child feel more empowered is to make sure the daily and weekly schedule is posted in a place that is easy to see and understand. Instilling the idea of flexible thinking is important as well as unexpected changes in the schedule occurs. Using blank clocks and alarms/timers is also a good way to help the child to know the routine. Also, breaking down tasks into little parts is very helpful. Instead of saying, "Time to go clean your room.", maybe say, "Time to go clean up the markers and the drawing supplies. I will set a timer for three minutes. When you are done, come find me and we will celebrate and then you can start to clean up the playdoh. We will set the timer again for 3 minutes." If your child is older, then he/she can be a part of deciding what to pick up next. Maybe you pick the first time and then let them pick the second time, etc. Having ownership is one's schedule is important. Giving a child choices will actually strengthen their ability to make decisions. Giving a choice of what to wear can be tricky. Laying out three options that you know are appropriate is a good start, then the child can pick one of those three options. The same method is helpful to pick snacks and crafts, etc. Remember one of the purposes to having routines and schedules is for your child to feel more in control of his/her emotions.
We all have superpowers in us: All of us have "superpower" within us! Figuring out what your power is enlightening and children gain confidence the more they realize that they are special and unique. In my videos during May I teach about how to find out your superpower and discuss various ones, such as kindness, energy (using it to focus during school), self-confidence, honesty, flexibility, and leadership. The more a child feels confident, they will then shine! On May 5th, I go through a sheet that helps a child know what their power is within them. It helps a child to name three reasons why their power "rocks" and three things they will do with their power. When a child sees themselves as important and worth giving back to society, then they will shine in the community.
Activities to do that will help us to calm our anxiety and anger: On 5/28, 6/4 and 6/11, I demonstrate several activities to do with your children to help them be in control of their anxiety and anger. As I said earlier, you can actually teach your brain and change your brain. Remember talking to your brain is beneficial and productive! I show the following activities to help reduce anxiety: using emojis to name your feeling, making playdoh faces to show emotions, making a feeling heart to help realize that certain feelings are more prevalent than others, making a rainbow out of paper towel roll to hold your worries, and making a worry box to put your worries. I demonstrate the following activities to help calm anger: using a gingerbread man to reveal what buttons we have and when they get pushed we feel anger, making anger masks and puppets, and making squishies.
Storytelling can help us to make sense of our emotions: Telling our story about what has happened helps us to process our big feelings. Storytelling is essential for our brains to continue to develop and to make new connections. Actually there are three chemicals that are released when we tell a story or when we hear a story (even if it is a negative-based story). Above I mentioned the neurotransmitter, dopamine. It is released when we tell a story as well as the stress-hormone, cortisol, which helps us to stay focused while telling the story or hearing a story. Lastly, oxytocin is released which influences our ability to feel loved or empathic. In the video on June 18th, Buddy and I completed a sheet, emoji storytelling, that helped Buddy to work through feeling angry when his brother knocked down his lego tower. Storytelling helps us to connect language with our big emotions.
We all have feelings and each is okay, but is what we do with them that is the most important part!: This worth repeating! Children and adults need to feel heard, safe, and known. By expressing our feelings and understanding them, our brains' connectivity strengthens. We then keep the message up in the prefrontal cortex region so we can think clearly and process the emotions and then choose the best action. One more time, "All feelings are okay, but it is what we do with them that is most important!"