It’s a Walk-Off…
Flashback to the year 2001 and my then boyfriend came home and gave me the Billy Blanks Tae Bo VHS box set (yes VHS). He used to be a professional kick boxer and would occasionally train me, I think the gift was meant to be a joke but I was instantly captivated by the tacky dance music and Billy Blanks looking all fabulous in a bright
blue skin tight full-length leotard and leg warmers. Feeling absolutely athletically challenged in comparison to, well almost anyone, I actually found the Tae Bo workouts fun and achievable. To this day I still love the workout, but thankfully can now access on YouTube. If it’s raining I will do an 1-1.5 hour session of cardio and love how good I feel after and it really clears my head. On a gorgeous day, I walk.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, instead I prefer to set goals. An on-going goal is that every month I attempt to achieve 100km’s – weather pending.
I consider myself quite a creative person and I have a considerable amount of ideas and thoughts, my brain is constantly active and I find walking calms me and allows me the opportunity to reorganise my thoughts into positives and achieve everything I set out to. 2016 brings many big (but exciting) changes and adventures, and I really want to feel prepared.
The other day in the office I pondered out loud if it was achievable to reach 100km’s in a week. My Manager commented absolutely and would join in the challenge (well it was more like ‘Game On B****’). One colleague turned to me with concern and asked why I was attempting this – my response was I needed to do this for my own Emotional and Cognitive Self-Regulation. Ladies & gentleman, it’s a walk-off!
What is Self-Regulation?
Self-regulation is a person’s ability to adjust and control their own energy level, emotions, behaviours and attention. Appropriate self regulation suggests that this is done in ways that are socially acceptable.
Why is Self-Regulation Important for Children?
Kid Sense describes self-regulation skills as a link to how well children manage many tasks during early childhood. With these skills, children are more able to manage difficult and stressful events that occur as part of life, such as loss of a pet, death of a family member or family separation. This helps to decrease the ongoing impact of stress that can contribute to mental health difficulties.
As a child learns to self-regulate, skills such as concentrating, sharing and taking turns also develop. This enables a child to move from depending on others to beginning to manage by themselves. Most children at some stage will struggle to manage their feelings and behaviours, particularly when they are tired, hungry or facing new experiences. When this happens, they might become upset, sulky or angry. This is all part of being a young child and is not necessarily cause for concern. If however this is problematic on a regular basis and there are seemingly little reasons for a child to be displaying such behaviours it is likely to be problematic in that it will impact upon academic performance.
Referring to the KidsMatter website, this is a detailed factsheet but a great read.
The Link Between Self-Regulation and Addictions:
If you know me well, I constantly will promote ‘Self-Care’. Looking after yourself is incredibly important. Many people can rely on some form of negative behaviour or addiction to help them feel better. Some of which include but not limited to, unhealthy habits with say food, gambling, drinking, illegal substances and smoking, and the inability to self-regulate leads to these problem behaviours. A very important self-regulation skill is resisting urges or impulses that leave you feeling bad afterward, including addictive ones.
We all have at some time had issues in relation to our emotions, but it is the way we try to cope that supports this from growing into bigger, deeper problems. Relying on ways to escape reality are often attempts to avoid and escape feelings of helplessness, fears of rejection, and unfulfilled wishes to be loved. They all involve problems with self-regulation.
The skills for Self-Regulation first develop in the early childhood years. We learn (or don’t learn) them in relationships, especially with parents and other caregivers.
Parents and caregivers with good self-regulation capacities of their own provide the kinds of safe and comforting relationships that allow children gradually to develop emotional awareness, tolerance of unwanted feelings, and control over harmful impulses.
Ideally, caring adults give children the support and acceptance they need to learn the skills for regulating emotions and impulses.
This involves skills like:
- Deciding and controlling where you focus your attention.
- During intense stressful moments deciding and controlling when and how much attention you focus on different aspects of the situation, including your own thoughts, feelings, and impulses.
- Choosing how you think about your emotional reactions to things.
- Stopping yourself from acting on a sudden impulse.
- Stopping yourself from acting on a desire or craving.
- Thinking, imagining, and doing things that are calming when you’re angry, anxious, afraid, addictively craving, etc.
In future blogs I’d like to discuss trauma in Early Childhood on a deeper scale, my post on Circle of Security very briefly touches upon this.
Techniques for Mindfulness with Children:
When I was teaching the 4-5 year olds, I always encouraged rest/quiet time. I had the conversation with my kids that they didn’t have to sleep but it was important to let their bodies relax and recharge their batteries. Each day we would do different activities in this time. I understand this is a time for Educators to have a quiet time themselves and to complete any documentation/paperwork, however this is a really important and wonderful opportunity to connect with your children and provide them really valuable skills.
I would read a mindfulness story from Patrice Thomas’ The Magic of Relaxation (2002) and have the children visualise the journey. I would then set up drawing tables and get the children up to come and draw what they remembered. It was always incredible how during this time how quiet the children were, how focused and how they would all have something different to share with their drawings.
Breathing techniques and yoga are other great activities to do with your children and don’t worry if you’re not trained, here are some great links to support your lesson plans;
“How’s the mental cleanse going?”
I had to laugh when I read this message sent by a good friend. As adults , it’s important we take that time to self-regulate. It’s ok to put yourself first, and you’re not being selfish, you’re looking after yourself. For me, this can vary between Tae Bo, walking, studying, reading, writing/blogging , cooking….
- The Purpose: I decided to take this week as a form of self-reflection, to reorganise my thoughts and I felt this was a critical time to create some space and time for me. A week seemed realistic for my personal retreat.
- Removing Distractions: I felt to be motivated I needed to remove all
negativesdistractions. A friend of mine thought I was mad when I explained I had deleted all social media apps, was cutting alcohol for the week and was going to avoid chocolate. Two out of the three were going to be incredibly easy and achievable for me.
- Create a Plan: In my calendar I worked out the days, kilometres and routes that I would be taking and considered the time that this would take. Thankfully being summer and a rain free week, this made it a lot more achievable.
- Create a Support System: I made sure I took opportunities to connect. Removing social media is so valuable, as you really do appreciate genuine face-to-face contact. I made sure after every walk I caught up with a friend or family member for either a swim, dinner or coffee just so it wasn’t all solo thinking time. I really felt that helped and I love having a good chat and I really value laughter while looking out at amazing views. So win-win! I was also really fortunate to have a very supportive team at work who continued to motivate me throughout this journey, they all checked in to see how I was going physically as well as emotionally.
I took the walking paths of Narrabeen Lakes, Manly to Shelly Beach, The Bay Run, Bondi to Coogee, crossing The Bridge and also hung out with the pure bundle of happiness that is my dog Rocky Balboa. What a stressful week, here are just some of the awful views I had to put up with…
So how’d I go?:
When I first started I was paying close attention to the lovely lady on Runkeeper who told me I had achieved 1km…I instantly thought I still have 99 to go…WHY am I torturing myself? I reminded myself that this was for my well-being and the week really flew by. Not going to lie, my legs are in serious pain! But I feel good, and that’s what the week was really all about. Confession – I slightly failed in the chocolate department as a colleague brought some sweets back from Poland…oh and there was that bag of mini M&M’s…hmm and that slice of birthday chocolate cake. Ok…MASSIVE FAIL!
I did feel the first two days were emotionally draining, averaging 17km a day, I had a lot of time to think…a lot. I was in a deep sleep by 9pm. After the first couple days I was then able to process new ideas, like planning my trip to my other home in Geneva (insert Greek Isles and other destinations here). I literally felt like I had sweated out every negative thought and the week brought about some very positive changes and upcoming opportunities. This really was a detox for my soul.
I’ll be honest, there is quite possibly no way I would do this again (certainly not 100kms in a week!!). Congrats to my Manager for also achieving the goal, and sharing in my pain! I chose probably the hottest week to do this – which averaged 36C most days, I’ve gone a few shades darker (not by choice), my body aches and it is a challenge climbing stairs, and I have a few painful blisters. However the positives outweigh this, I was able to really focus on my well-being and I feel I have a lot of clarity. I am grateful for the support network I had around me who not only encouraged me on my quest for mindfulness, thank you for laughing with me, this seriously kept me motivated. I really believe I’ve made an incredibly positive difference for myself.
Practice self-care everyday, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Allowing these moments for yourself and providing these skills for children will help produce change towards a better state of well-being.