Watching the Australian Open last night I was reminded of just how strong the relationship is between our emotions, our bodies, and our actions. If you were also watching, then you would have seen the downward spiral which developed between Daria Gavrilova’s emotional state and her performance. As she began to make mistakes and unforced errors, she became visibly more frustrated and this frustration led to more careless playing.
Whilst we may not always have a worldwide audience watching on, we are all susceptible to this process. As humans we are guided by our emotions and are driven to express this to others in our facial expression, body posture, and movements. As we mature we usually learn to balance our emotional reactions with more measured and thoughtful responses. Sometimes however, we feel powerless to stop our emotions and our rational side seems to go missing. This is because the parts of the brain responsible for emotional processing (and for physical responses) are the first to receive new information about the world around us. When these brain regions are over stimulated the capacity to think rationally goes offline and does not return until we calm down. By this time the damage is done and we typically feel embarrassed, regretful, or guilty, about the whole thing.
But we are not powerless against this. Firstly, its liberating to understand that this is a normal part of life and that even the most rational among us will be overwhelmed by emotions at times. Secondly, your ability to calmly pay attention to your emotions, body, and behaviours can be increased with practice. In time you can improve your awareness of how your mind and body respond to stress (eg. changes in breathing, body temperature, heart-rate, muscle tension, and gastro-intestinal sensations). This sense is sometimes referred to as interoception. Improvements in interoception allow for better opportunities to access your rational mind in a crisis or emotional situation.
My suggestions to improve interoception include any body- focused activity like; yoga, tai chi, martial arts, dance, pilates, swimming or running; or you could try mindfulness meditation; creating art or music; or regularly writing about your feelings. Some people I have worked with prefer to just focus on the development of a still, quiet space in their days. It really doesn’t matter what you choose to do, as long as you commit to the practice.
If you are interested in developing your interoception, why not start by having a look at the link below or looking into one of the other activities I’ve described. As always, Im more than happy to speak with you or arrange a session if you want to learn more.
Until next time, take care
Well the Christmas tree has been packed away for another year and its time for me to get back to the office. And of course I’m not the only one who is getting back into work mode. Over the next week or two, thousands of school students will be returning to the classroom, some for the first time. For most there will be mixed emotions as a new school year starts, but for some the dread, anxiety, and fear, will be overwhelming.
Parents often ask me the best way to help with back to school anxiety. Usually these parents aren’t sure when its right to push their child, and when its best to provide comfort and support. Most times my response is two fold. First, keep in mind that the best thing you can give your child is a supportive and safe relationship with you. If you keep maintaining this relationship then your child will grow up knowing that her feelings are ok, that you are looking out for him, and that all situations can be overcome with time. Second, it’s worth considering your own anxieties. Often the anxiety you see in your child is a reflection of yours. Learning to accept your own emotions and to improve your responses will help you to be calmer with your children and strengthen the relationship you have with them.
I have attached links to a couple of really helpful books for those of you who would like more information on children's anxiety. There is also a link to the "Cool Kids" Anxiety Management program which I will be running throughout the year.
Please get in contact if you would like to speak with me or make an appointment.