Build resilience in children

5 ways to build your child’s resilience

As my children get older I’m so aware of them taking more and more steps away from me, and out into the world on their own.

It’s wonderful and scary and bittersweet.

I hope that I’m doing enough to give them the skills they need to cope out there.  One of the big things that’s on my mind lately is resilience.  It’s such a key skill to be able to cope with all the knocks and troubles that life can throw at you.

So I’ve done a bit of research and found these 5 things that we can work on to help our children become more resilient.

 

1. Encourage a sense of humour

Laughing can be a great way to relieve stress, and actually has a lot of the same benefits as exercise.  As well as reducing stress it boosts our overall sense of well-being.

A study carried out in 2011 found that people in a ‘humour’ group showed a significant increase in self-efficacy, optimism and perceptions of control, compared to those in the ‘social’ group and the control group.

So having a good sense of humour can help us feel more in control of things, as well as being more optimistic about everything.

Make a point of joking with your children, tell them silly stories, laugh at their made-up jokes to encourage them to keep telling them.  You can also lead by example and find the humour in potentially stressful situations.

Laugh with them about how ridiculously long the queues are at the supermarket (and the fact you always pick the ‘wrong’ one!).  Tell them knock knock jokes when you’re stuck in traffic, rather than being stressed about being late.

Being able to take a step back and find humour in a situation is a great tool for children to learn to use, and will be a big help in boosting their resilience.

 

2. Let them explore and express their feelings

Emotional awareness is a big part of resilience.

If you’re feeling sad or stressed or disappointed, it’s really important to be able to understand what those emotions are, and why you’re feeling them.

So make time to talk to your child about their day, and how they felt about different parts of it.

Name emotions for them, and discuss times that you’ve felt the same way.

As they get older you can encourage them to write in a diary or journal regularly to express their feelings, to get them out on paper and to work through them.

 

3. Get them moving

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, from improved sleep to lower stress levels.  But exercise also makes us more resilient.

Studies have shown that exercising regularly boost stress resistance and our ability to cope with stress.  It’s mainly thanks to the feel-good hormones that are released when we exercise, but there might be even more to it than that.

Regular exercise reduces our baseline levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.  It also lowers our hormonal response to sudden psychological stress.  So when something happens that would normally send our stress levels through the roof, we don’t react in the same way.  Our bodies would normally release a load of hormones like norepinephrine when something suddenly startles us or makes us feel scared.  This hormonal response has been found to be reduced though, in people who exercise regularly.

So encouraging our children to move around, to run, to practice yoga, to swim, will help them have a more controlled response to stressful situations and make them more emotionally resilient.

 

4. Help them develop an internal locus of control

We all naturally tend to have either an internal or external locus of control.  Meaning we either believe that we are in control of our lives and what happens to us, or we believe that most things are out of our hands.

What’s good to know though is that you’re not stuck being one way or the other.

If your child seems to naturally feel that things are out of their control then you can help them develop an internal locus of control.  This way they’ll learn to believe that they are in control of their lives.

People with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, and feel more free and less stressed.  They know that they have control over how they react, even if certain circumstances are out of their control.

 

5. Encourage the right attitude

The way we think about life, the world and everything really, is incredibly powerful.

Working with your child to develop an optimistic view of life is a great way to help them cope better with whatever life throws at them.  An optimistic world view will help them see difficulties as challenges, rather than problems.  They’ll face them with ideas and actions, rather than feeling defeated and helpless about them.

Talking with your child about how strong they are, how capable they are, and generally encouraging a growth mindset will really help them become more resilient and better able to face anything.

 

There’s a quote that I read ages ago that really stuck with me, about how the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

When it comes to resilience I think one of the best things we can do is talk to our children.

Remind them often how strong they are.  Discuss problems together and encourage them to come up with solutions and actions they can take to make things better.  Talk about your feelings and let them know it’s safe for them to talk with you about theirs.

 

Do you worry about your child being resilient enough to cope as they get older?

What do you think would have the biggest impact on boosting their resilience?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Fit exercise into your life

10 reasons to fit exercise into your life

In my pre-children days I used to exercise loads.

I would do classes at the gym, jog along the seafront and do various workout dvds at home.  Then I had Rhys and it all basically stopped.  I’ve made more of an effort to start exercising again in the last year or so though.

Time is a huge factor for me, so when I do exercise now it’s with one of my trusty old dvds.  The 30 day shred is one of my favourites because the workouts are a little over 20 minutes long, but they are really effective.

I do have to fight with myself to keep at it though.  My motivation to do it is nowhere near what it used to be 10 years ago.

If you’re like me, and are looking for that little extra push to get you moving, here are 10 amazing reasons you should fit regular exercise into your life.

 

1. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety

Studies have shown that all levels of exercise work to reduce our stress and anxiety levels.  So even a gentle stroll around the block can help if you’re feeling anxious.

One study in particular though, by Cox et .al 2004 found that people who exercise at a higher intensity level experience the biggest reduction in feelings of anxiety.

What’s interesting though is that exercise of any kind seems to have a long lasting effect on anxiety levels, so you get the benefits long after you’ve finished your gym session.

 

2. It can help with depression

As well as reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, regular exercise can also help with depression.

Loads of studies have been carried out in this area.  A review of 39 of these studies found that, as a general rule, exercise can give moderate relief from depression.

 

3. You’ll get some self-control

It’s not a long-lasting thing, but studies have shown that short bursts of exercise can give us an immediate boost in self-control.

Worth bearing in mind next time you’re feeling tempted by something that you know you shouldn’t do.  See if a quick set of push ups and star jumps gives you the self-control you need to resist it!

 

4. You’ll sleep better

This is another one that’s not a miracle, immediate cure.

But if you stick with exercise and get active on a regular basis then, studies have shown, you should see an improvement in how much you sleep, and the quality of your sleep.

 

5. It makes you happier

A study by Thayer et. al 1994 found that exercise was the most effective way of getting a happiness boost.

This is thanks to all the feel-good hormones that our bodies produce when we work out.

 

6. You can get some relief from migraines

If you suffer with migraines then it might be worth taking a look at this study by Varkey et. al 2011, that found that people who worked out 3 times a week for 3 months, experienced improvements that were equivalent to taking anti-migraine drugs.

 

7. It can improve your memory

A study by McMorris et al. 2011 found that people’s working memory improves after half an hour of exercise.

So if you’re studying for a test, or working on something that takes a lot of concentration, it could be worth going for a 30 minute run or doing a half hour class at the gym before sitting down to work.

 

8. You’ll be more productive…

Exercise increases blood flow to our brains, making us more alert and more on the ball.  This then naturally leads to us being more productive both at work and at home.

Research carried out with dental health workers found that those who exercised regularly were more productive and had more energy than those who didn’t get as much exercise.

 

9. …and more creative

As well as boosting productivity, regular exercise can also boost our creativity.

If you’re feeling uninspired then try going for a relatively high intensity workout, which can increase creativity for up to 2 hours afterwards.  And if you do something like go for a run outside, you’ll get the added benefits from being out in nature.

 

10. It can boost your brain power

As well as increasing blood flow to our brains, regular exercise can also go a step further and help new brain cells to grow.

Exercise has also been found to improve executive function, which basically covers all sorts of things like our ability to filter out distractions, make plans, and effectively switch from one task to another.

 

Now if none of that will motivate you to get moving, I don’t know what will!

Let your feet talk for you

Let your feet do the talking

80% of communication is non-verbal.

Or maybe it’s 90%, or possibly 55%.  It depends on what study you’ve read really.

The point is, a lot of what we communicate to other people is done through our body language rather than the words we say.

What’s interesting is that when we think about non-verbal communication we generally think about our facial expressions and the gestures we make with our hands.  But have you ever given any thought to how much you communicate with your feet?

 

When we want to make a good impression we focus on maintaining eye contact and smiling.  We might make a point of giving a good, firm handshake or keeping an open, welcoming posture with our arms uncrossed.  But I don’t think many of us pay any attention to what our feet are doing.

Turns out though that our feet give away more than we think.

A lot of people judge others by the shoes they wear.  And studies have shown that we can quite accurately guess personality traits based on a person’s footwear.

I’m not sure how fair this is when there might be various factors that limit a person’s options when it comes to shoes.  If you have particularly wide feet, for example, or have medical issues that mean your feet are bandaged or swollen, then you won’t be able to wear the pointy-toed, high heeled shoes that you would love to wear.

If you’re choosing women’s wide fit shoes you don’t have to end up with something boring though, there are still plenty of fun and pretty options that can show more of your personality to anyone checking out your feet!

 

There’s so much more to this than our choice of shoes though.

The way we position our feet, how much we move them, the way that we move them, all give away so much more than we might think.

Body language expert Joe Navarro explains that all sorts of emotions and personality traits can be revealed through our feet and legs, including stress, fear, boredom, joy, confidence, playfulness and anger.

 

You can often tell if a person is nervous, for example, by keeping an eye on their feet.  Studies have shown that women tend to keep their feet still when they’re nervous, but men move their feet more.

The thing to remember though is that you need to look at the person as a whole, not just their feet.

A woman who doesn’t move her feet or legs much might not be nervous, she might see herself as an alpha female, and keep her body still as a way of showing control and dominance.

So look out for a mix of non-verbal cues to work out what sort of person you’re dealing with!

We tend to be quite aware of our facial expressions so someone who is nervous might be hiding that quite well and look relatively calm, but their feet staying especially still can give them away.

Professor Geoff Beattie has said, “Whilst people might know what their facial expression or hands might be imparting, they will often have no idea whether their feet are moving or the messages their feet are sending out.  The weird thing about feet is that most people know what they are doing with their facial expression, they may or may not know what they are doing with their hands but unless we specifically think about it, we know nothing about what we are doing with our feet.  People can mask smiles, or mask what they are doing with their eyes, but feet are actually a bit easier to read because people don’t know what they are doing with them.”

 

So if you get the feeling that someone might not be being entirely straight with you, check out what their feet are telling you.  And if you want to make sure that you’re sending a particular message with your body language, then pay attention to what your feet are doing too!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

things to try when you're stressed

3 things to try when you’re feeling stressed

When we feel stressed out or anxious it can be really easy to get caught up in our thoughts.

Quite often the best thing to do is get out of our heads, and bring our focus to our bodies instead.

Here are 3 things you can try to shift the focus to your physical body to help calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

 

Move your body

Getting some physical exercise is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed.

When we move our bodies we get a rush of all sorts of feel-good hormones that makes us happier and more relaxed.  There’s also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself a bit and knowing you’re getting physically stronger.

If you can get out and exercise in the fresh air then you’ll get even more benefits.

The natural light and surroundings of your local park for example have been shown time and time again to give us a boost and lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

 

Stand still

If you’re in a situation where you can’t just go for a walk in the park or head to the gym, then try standing still instead.

Find a quiet spot where you can stand still and just focus on something.  It might be that you clench and unclench your fists, focusing on how it feels to tighten and relax your muscles.  Or you could try focusing on your feet.  Notice how they feel in the shoes you’re wearing, or how the ground feels underneath them.

When you focus fully on something like this, there’s no space for your mind to worry and you should feel less stressed.

 

Check yourself

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just a bit ‘off’ but you’re not sure why, then check in with yourself.

Are you hungry or thirsty?  It might be as simple as your body needing a glass of water to start feeling better.

It could also be that you’re tired and need a rest, or possibly actually in need of physical activity if you’ve been sat at your desk all day.

Take a bit of time and check in with your basic needs to make sure they’re being met.  If they’re not then do what you can to eat well, rehydrate and get enough sleep.

 

What do you tend to do to help yourself when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? 

Please do let me know by leaving me a comment.

 

Be more productive

Try this trick to be more productive all day

You know those days where you have a never-ending to-do list and yet you can’t seem to get going?

Those times when you get to the end of the day and know you could’ve been so much more productive, but just couldn’t quite get going.

I know I’ve had quite a few days like that, and so I love learning about different techniques and tricks to try to be more productive.

Here’s one thing you can try that just takes a few minutes, but can make a big difference to how productive you are all day.

 

First thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, do something active.

 

You could do push ups, sit ups, star jumps, or just jog on the spot.  Just move your body in some way, for at least a minute.

If you’re looking to get fit then you might want to do a longer workout, but to get a productivity boost all you need is about a minute.

 

No matter how busy your morning is, you should be able to squeeze in just one minute of physical activity.

And that short burst of exercise will be enough to get your body releasing feel-good endorphins that make you feel happier and energised.  That boost first thing in the morning will then carry through to the rest of the day, giving you the energy to make you much more productive all day long.

Starting your day with a rush of endorphins really does set you up for a better day all round.

 

The beauty of this trick is that it is so easy.

It doesn’t require much effort or time but the impact it can have on your day can be huge.  And if you commit to doing this on a daily basis then it can transform your whole lifestyle.

You don’t have to do the same thing every day.  You can mix it up as much as you like.  The key thing is to move your body, in whatever way you feel like each day.

 

On those days when you’re snug and comfy in bed, and really don’t want to get up and get active, then try Mel Robbins’ trick of counting down from 5.  When you get to 1, just get up.

Just do it.

Count down, then go, before you give your mind the chance to come up with more excuses and talk you out of it.

So, what will you do tomorrow morning to get moving and boost your productivity?

 

Try this to boost your self image

Try this little trick to boost your self-image

I think it’s probably quite safe for me to say that we all have issues with our self-image at times.

Whether you constantly feel down about yourself and the way you look, or you just have your moments when you look in the mirror and don’t completely love what you see.  We could all do with making changes and taking steps to feeling better about ourselves.

Here’s an interesting little trick for something you can try to boost your self-image.

 

Start practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word in the last few years, and is becoming a more and more common thing to do.  My children even practise it at school which I think is amazing.

It’s become so popular because there are so many benefits to it.  One of these benefits is a boost in self-image.

 

If you’ve not heard of it before, mindfulness is basically about slowing things down and paying attention to all the little details of what you’re doing and what’s happening around you.

 

You can work mindfulness into your life in a few different ways.

If you have the time and distraction-free space to do it, then meditating is a great place to start.  Sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, while letting go of any thoughts that come into your head keeps you grounded in the current moment.  Which is what mindfulness is all about.

 

It’s about really being present.

Not worrying about the past or fretting about the future.

 

If you’re feeling stressed you can take a minute and clench your hands tightly into fists, and then release them.  Then do the same with your toes.  Focus all your attention on this physical act and how it feels.

This brings you back to the moment.  It grounds you in the now.

 

Mindfulness is also about noticing the world around us and really experiencing things.

It sounds silly but doing the washing up can be a mindful activity when you really notice the smell of the washing up liquid, and feel the softness of the bubbles on your skin.

A more fun way to experience this though would be during relaxing spa days where you breathe in the scents of relaxing oils, enjoy the bubbles of the hot tub and let all thoughts and worries drift away as you focus completely on the sensation of a facial or massage.

 

There are lots of benefits of practising mindfulness.

It can reduce stress and improve all sorts of mental health issues.  It helps us engage fully in activities and helps us deal with adversity.  It’s even been found to lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain and improve our sleep.

What’s really interesting though is that mindfulness has also been found to boost our self-image.

A study from 2014 that asked women to complete three weeks of self-compassion meditation training found that they “experienced significantly greater reduction in body dissatisfaction, body shame and contingent self-worth based on appearance, as well as greater gains in self-compassion and body appreciation” compared to women in a control group.

Now, this study is talking specifically about using a particular type of meditation, but all types of mindfulness have been found to result in changes to the white matter in the areas of our brains involved with self-regulation.  It impacts the brain systems that control emotion regulation and self-awareness.

All of which leads to us feeling calmer, more self-aware and better about ourselves all round.

 

Do you practice mindfulness?  There are so many benefits to all aspects of our health and well-being, it’s definitely worth trying to build it into your life.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Try doing this to calm your nerves

Try this one little trick to calm your nerves

If you’re the type of person who feels nervous in different situations (which is probably most people to be fair) then chances are you’ve quite a few ideas for ways to calm your nerves.

You’ve probably given calming breaths a go.  Maybe done a bit of visualisation or repeated some calming mantras to yourself.

You might even have tried a few power poses to put yourself in a positive, more powerful state of mind.

But I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of this little trick before.

Try this one little trick to calm your nerves

 

Before you head into the situation that is making you feel nervous, try chewing some gum.

 

It’s really simple, but that’s possibly why it works.

See our brains, as amazing as they are, are pretty lazy at times.  They look for shortcuts and often work on habits and routine to make decisions on how we react to things.

As a general rule if we were under any kind of threat, we wouldn’t take the time to sit and eat something.

So eating, or simply chewing some gum, tricks our brains into thinking that everything is fine and that we’re relaxed, comfortable and not under threat at all.

Basically, our brains tell us that because we’re chewing gum, we’re not nervous or scared.  Because if we were nervous or scared, we wouldn’t be doing something like chewing gum.

 

I know this sounds a bit silly really, tricking our own brains by doing something we believe we wouldn’t be doing if we were nervous.

But when you look at the psychology of it, it does make sense.

When our thoughts and our actions don’t match up we experience cognitive dissonance.  We feel a sort of mental discomfort and need to change either our thoughts/beliefs or our actions to feel better again.

In this situation it seems to happen without us really realising.

Our brains catch us chewing gum and this doesn’t fit with how we normally act if we’re nervous.  So rather than making us experience this cognitive dissonance, it decides for us that we must not be nervous if we’re chewing.

 

It has to be worth a try doesn’t it!