How to create your ideal emotional climate at home

How to create your ideal emotional climate at home

Do you envy those families who seem to be harmonious all the time and wonder how you can also create your ideal emotional climate at home? Well, this begins with agreeing what are the feelings that are important to everyone in the family! This can be a relaxed and enriching experience involving your children by creating your family emotional charter together! After all, when you have their buy-in, it is more likely they will follow the rules!

Family Emotional Charter

I first learnt about the emotional charter from Dr. Marc Brackett and simply love the idea! So, why do you need a family emotional charter?

  • Do you want to teach your child on the importance of feelings and respect towards one another’s feelings?
  • Do you wonder if you are meeting your child’s emotional needs?
  • Or, do you wish your child could understand how you feel?
  • Is there a high level of tension or arguments that break out at home?
  • Do you wish to create your ideal emotional climate at home?

Purpose of the Family Emotional Charter

In a Family Emotional Charter, the family come together to brainstorm and construct their own family charter. The purpose of the charter is to create the ideal emotional climate that the family wishes to experience together. Once constructed, the charter would help the family to:

  • Identify the key feelings that are important to them to experience as a family
  • Guide the behaviours as the family becomes mindful of choosing the behaviours or words that will help them to uphold the family charter
  • Empowers one to call out an unacceptable behaviour by pointing the feeling in the Family Charter that’s been violated or compromised, and gives opportunity to resolve any conflict
  • Hence, creating your ideal emotional climate!

How to Create your Family Emotional Charter

So, last weekend, I finally got down to getting everyone come together to create our family emotional charter! I have modified Dr. Marc’s charter to a simpler version that I find more practical for my family. So here it is!

  1. Each family member reflects and writes down the top 3-4 feelings they love to experience together as a family
  2. We then come together to write them on a visual board (the boys took the lead to write them out for us!)
  3. Everyone gets to clarify the meaning of the word on the board, or if the word is indeed a feeling word. However, no one is allowed to ask why the feeling is important to have for that person! This is key as all feelings are important.
  4. Everyone then discuss and vote on the top 3 feelings that are most important to experience as a family. We all can share our views, but ultimately this has to be an unanimous vote!
  5. The children then design the charter to include the agreed feelings in to the charter.
  6. Each family member signs and commits to uphold the charter!
  7. We also discuss how we would enforce the charter if someone is not adhering to it.

It’s been a week since we did the Family Emotional Charter and I have to say it has been working out pretty well so far! There seems to be lesser or shorter episodes of conflicts, especially between the boys!

Why your child doesn’t think or act rationally?

Why your child doesn’t think or act rationally?

Why can't my child be more rational???
Why can’t my child be more rational???

Do you often wonder why your child don’t think or act rationally?

Do you feel frustrated that you don’t understand why your child don’t listen even after you told them multiple times?

Does your child have frequent emotional meltdown or unable to express their feelings?

Why does your child not seem to absorb what their teachers are saying?

Why does your teenager do such “immature” thing?

Wish your child can “think” what’s the right thing to do?

How is it other people’s kids seem so much easier to parent?

The Upstairs and Downstairs Brain

I really love how Dr. Siegel explains our brain development using simple metaphors of the upstairs and downstairs inside a house. 

(1) Our brain develops from downstairs to upstairs. 

(2) Our downstairs brain comprises brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower pars of the brain. The downstairs brain is responsible for basic functions (like breathing & blinking), for fight and flight reactions, and strong emotions (anger, fear) and movement (like flinching from pain or surprise).  This is WELL-DEVELOPED even at birth.

(3) Our upstairs brain comprises the cerebral cortex including he middle pre-frontal cortex. The upstairs brain is responsible for thinking, imagining, planning and this is where we use this part of the brain for sound decision making and planning, control over emotions and body, empathy, morality, etc.

(4) For our child (and us!) to function optimally, we want our upstairs and downstairs brain to integrate well.

This is why our child doesn’t think or act rationally!

I was shocked when I found out that our upstairs brain only begin to develop at the age of around 8-10 years old and does not fully develop until 18-22 years old! In fact, some recent research showed that some people’s upstairs brain does not develop until age of 30 years old!

But, I guess this fact makes a lot of sense after I know, particularly when it comes to making sense of children or teenager’s behaviours. And, perhaps even my behaviours when I was young! So, the next time you judge a child’s behaviour, bear in mind this fact that their brain is simply not fully developed yet to perform all the higher cognitive functions!

What does this mean for parenting our child?

Now that we learn and accept this fact, we know even more importantly that we play a super important role in parenting. We are the BEST role model for our children, and we can improve our own communication and decision making skills especially in front of our children so that they can in turn learn from the best teacher in the world!

Keen to explore more new skills to be an even better teacher to your child? Check out my upcoming Emotion Coaching workshop for Parents!

How to say you are upset in a smarter way?

How to say you are upset in a smarter way?

In my last blog post, I wrote about the need to express when we disagree or are upset about someone or a situation. This is so we don’t build up and explode like the volcano. When we express our problem, we also do not want to appear as bullies. Neither do we want to beat around the bush and be wishy washy.

In fact, I can think of my ex-colleague who would use more positive statements or encouragers before he finally spoke about his problem or disagreement. I don’t know if you feel the same, as I would be puzzled with where the conversation was going and when I finally realized he was trying to communicate his problem, I went “duh…” and I could visualize my eyes rolling. Why couldn’t he just go straight to the point?

So, how can we say we are upset in a smarter way?

I felt disrespected…

There was once I felt defeated by my client, a 10 year old child who turned up for the session and refused to enter the room. Even as the teacher tried to coax her, and I stood by the door asking her to get her foot in, she simply refused. Instead, she stood outside the door with her arms crossed and eyes rolling every now and then.

upset

Yes, she pretty much looked like this.

I went back home, feeling pretty bumped.

And I was determined to tell her I deserve the respect.

As expected, in the next session, the child did not want to enter the room again. So, I took my chance to express my problem. And then I looked at her, waited while matching her posture (arms crossed) and saw her facial expressions soften, and so did I.

She then told me about her problem and together, we spent a few minutes to brainstorm our agreed solution.

3 steps to say you are upset in a smarter way

So, if you know that you are upset with someone or situation, you own a problem. Remember, the other person may or may not have this problem at all. And, you will not know until you express it.

And, this is my 3 steps to say I am upset in a smarter way.

Step #1 – Express your problem using “I” message

Many of you may have heard about “I” message. But what many may not notice is how the message should be drafted. Often, we may use words that the other person can perceive the meaning differently or disagree with. Hence, it is important we use language that illustrates the actual concrete facts of the behavior.

Using my earlier example, I could respond with:

“When you stood by the door so angrily and refused to enter the room, I feel disrespected.”

If I had done so, my client could disagree and said that she was not angry. My I-message would then go down the drain!

A better way to respond would be:

“When you stood by the door with your arms folded and did not enter the room, I feel disrespected.”

As you can see, my client would not be able to argue with the fact that:

  • She did have her arms folded
  • She did not enter the room
  • And she also cannot argue with my feelings!

Step #2 – Reflective Listen

Once you have expressed your i-message, you reflectively listen to the other person’s response until you get a signal from them that they feel “understood”. You may need to restate your i-message. Remember, you may alter your i-message but do not change the meaning of your i-message.

Step #3 – All good, or Problem-Solve.

If the other person didn’t realize you had a problem, and they agree to change, then you are all good!

But, very often, the other person may have a conflict of needs i.e. the person also has a problem! For instance, when I delivered my i-message to my client, she responded that she wanted to know when she could be done with the coaching sessions. In her mind, she already accomplished what she wanted. Now that I also know her problem, we then discussed how we can achieve both our needs.

And in some other times, the other person may have a conflict of values i.e. the person does not really care about your problem!

Depending on whether it is a conflict of needs or value, we would tackle the problem solving differently. I’ll share more in future posts!

A few tips…

By the way, a few tips to bear in mind even when you are expressing you are upset…

  1. Always know the outcome you want to achieve before you communicate. If you are experiencing multiple feelings, ask yourself first, what exactly are you upset about? It is important to regulate your emotions before you deliver your message.
  2. Rapport is still key. Remember, even when we disagree, we still want to establish rapport with the person, hence the reflective listening is essential. Match the person’s gestures, posture, voice speed or tone, etc.
  3. Always check your i-message that it is non-arguable!

“Communication is only effective when we communicate in a way that is meaningful to the recipient, not ourselves.”

How to calm someone down

How to Calm Someone Down

In my last blog, I shared a few tips on my routine to stay calm and keep cool. Then, I thought – what about how to calm someone down?

How many times have you experienced a situation where the other person is seemingly out of control in their anger or anxiety? It could be your partner who came back from a rough day and venting out over something really trivial at home? Or, your child having a meltdown. It could even be your manager or co-worker.

“Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down!”

How many times have you tried telling the other person to “calm down”, or “just relax”, or “don’t get so upset” only to make the other person more angry or anxious? Or, have you also responded back in a somewhat similar manner “stop your nonsense” or “can’t you be more rationale?” which leads to a heated argument?

Well, why does this happen?

Remember how our brain processes emotions?

First, if you recall, I shared in my earlier blog on how our brains process emotions. When we are experiencing a high energy feeling such as anger or anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered and we are just not thinking straight! So, there is really no point in trying to talk sense to the other person at this point, is there?

Emotion dismissing, disapproving or coaching?

Second, we all want to be seen, heard and felt. Yes, including times when we express our feelings in a negative or out of proportion manner. So, when someone tells you to “calm down”, or “stop your nonsense”, we feel being ignored. In emotion coaching, this is what we called being “emotion dismissing” or “emotion disapproving”.

So, how can we calm someone down than?

Feel

Feel it like how you would feel it if you were the other person. Recognizing and accepting the person’s feelings does not mean that we agree with their behaviors. It simply means we are with them listening to them. By being empathic and understanding before we decide to give our advice is sometimes just what the person needs.

Act

Now, it is time to express your empathy, advice / problem solve, and set limits on the behaviors (especially with kids). Remember, the other person is at the peak of their anger or anxiety, and we want to avoid emotion dismissing or emotion disapproving statements or questions. Instead, use more empathic statements.

how to calm someone down

Often, we may think that the best way is to respond in the most soothing and calm voice we can. Yet, we realize that our message does not seem to come across to the person!

Well, this is because it may seem to be belittling the person’s feelings. Remember the feeling of anger or anxiety is the same as the fight-flight-freeze response triggered by our amygdala. Can you imagine you see a snake and want to warn your friend of danger and your friend responded in a nonchalant way? This is exactly how someone feels when they are angry and the other person responded in a calm way!

Well, try this.

So, I learnt this trick from my coach and it seriously works especially with kids!!! In fact, I just applied this approach twice just this past week with two clients (kids) I was working with! I also recommend this approach for positive emotions. When we want to build rapport and influence the other person, we always want to match their energy level.

  • Start your response initially by matching their energy level – raise the volume of your voice or even use your gestures to meet their emotions. Say something like “Oh OK” or “I get it!” ***Note, this is not the same as yelling, conversely, you need to stay calm and simultaneously match their volume level to demonstrate that you are capable of feeling what they are feeling! ***
  • If possible, repeat back their words, to confirm that you’ve listened (and are hearing the words and the meaning behind them). ***I have notice that when the person hears their own words, they may sometimes realize they might have over-reacted! ***
  • And then tone down your intensity lower (to induce more calmness….), complete the rest of your response to help problem solve. Perhaps, say “Can I suggest….” or “Shall we discuss what can be done…”
  • At the end when it becomes a proper conversation, bring in your thoughts on the person’s behavior.

Prevent it if you can

See

As we know, it will be great if we can help others remain calm before their steam goes off. While we may not always be able to control other people’s emotions, there are opportunities where we can be their emotion coach! Especially when it comes to our loved ones. For instance, try observing their facial expressions, gestures or tonality. Understanding the person’s usual expressions when they are in a calm state allows you to notice changes when there is a change in the person’s emotional state. And, this can be helpful for you to interject it before it becomes uncontrollable….

So, the next time you meet someone who is angry or anxious, you will be confident in responding back, will you not?

~ With love & empowerment, elynn

How to stay calm and keep your cool

How to stay calm and keep your cool

As I shared in my previous blogs, we get amygdala hijacks from time to time and it is helpful to review the underlying trigger. And, if you are like me, such feelings of losing control and acting in that moment of fit often make us regret afterwards. So, how can we stay calm and keep cool?

Thankfully, there are ways to retrain our amygdala as a means to rewire the neural connections in our brain that the situation does not need to be seen as a danger.

So, this week, I am sharing my daily routine that has helped me to stay calm. And, they really work! I have seen a transformative change in how much calmer and at peace I am. As a result, I see myself making better choices and decisions, which lead to better outcomes and a better me.

And, I would love to learn how you cope too, so drop me an email or comment below with your ideas.

3 Strategies to Stay Calm and Keep Cool

Stay Calm . Keep Cool

#1 – 10 to 20 Minutes of Daily Quiet Moment (or Meditation)

For those of you who do not meditate, telling you to meditate would be an overwhelming and unachievable task. Let alone, stay calm and keep cool!

But, how often have you gone by the entire day without a minute of quiet time? You are either rushing from one meeting to the next, from work to family, or squeezing in time to order your grocery or run that errand? This is often the reality of our lives, isn’t it?

So, I am going to challenge you to set aside 10 to 20 minutes each day of what I call your quiet moment. And whatever time it works for you, or if you wish to split it to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening. That’s perfectly fine!

During this time, all you need to do is the following 2 things (and if you can add on the meditation, it’s a bonus!):

Set your Intention

Reflect on your intentions and what you want to choose to show up to the external world? Do you want to exude yourself as calm and confident? Or perhaps kind and positive? Regardless what your intention is, this intention you set will last you through the day.

I personally set aside the first 15-20 minutes of the morning after I brushed my teeth to do my meditation followed by intention setting for the day. My objective is to have this time undisturbed by emails, messages, or my son asking for my attention. So, I actually intentionally wake up earlier than the family so I can have this personal time for myself. My intention typically comprises my mantra of loving and kindness, and additional ones like confidence or calmness depending on what my day looks like. Once I set my intentions for the day, I try my best to stick with them. And, what does that mean? Go to tip #2!

Reflection

Reflect on the day (or the prior day) and ask yourself how the day has gone. What do you like and what do you dislike about your actions? What can you do more of what you like and change what you dislike? This is not about judging yourself and bashing yourself up for actions you wished you hadn’t taken. Rather, treat this as a learning experience to remain curious, explore and learn how you can be a better person. Today is a brand new day. A new opportunity. And, the day you can make a change.

Meditation

And, for those of you who wish to try out meditation, I highly recommend the free app Insight Timer. It has tons of free guided meditations for beginners.

#2 – Practise pausing before acting

How often have you spoken or acted before you pause to think about the intention of your response? Ever since I started to practice taking that one pause, and remind myself of my intention for the day, I have often been able to surprise myself with my response. When an unpleasant or perhaps even annoying situation happens, I would ask myself how my intentions of loving and kindness would want me to respond? Trust me, when I have to answer this question, most often than not, I would have calm down and able to keep my cool.

The key is to practice this as much as you can in your daily communications, so much so that it re-wire your brain to accept this as the new habit. And when the stressful moment triggers, you will be able to control and naturally take the pause that you need.

#3 – Reframing my perspective

I am sure you have heard from others asking you to change your perspectives. Perhaps, you even tell others to do that. And, how often have you told yourselves to change your perspective?

Yes, perhaps it is time to retrain your brain to reframe your perspective of situations. I personally like to use the blame versus outcome frame, as described below, for any negative or unpleasant events. Keep practicing and practicing, to the point that when a situation arises, your brain would automatically pick the helpful frame to use!

Blame versus Outcome Frame

Unfortunately, our default mind is a fault-finding mind. How often do you find yourself trying to find the “root cause” or “culprit”? When we do so, we are directly telling our brain to find the negative, which means we will also get a negative meaning back from our brain to respond negatively!

On the other hand, the outcome frame focuses on achieving the desired result. When you focus on this, your brain will be curious and find ways to solve the puzzle for you. And, when you are in a curious state, it is unlikely you will react in a fit of anger.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Remember, these strategies will work if you practice them consistently! If you can commit yourself to new and healthier habits for 21 days, I am certain you will notice the difference. You will do what’s good for you, won’t you?

With love & empowerment,

Elynn

One simple fact about your brain and emotions

One simple fact about your Brain and Emotions

There is one simple fact we should all know about our brain and that is the way it processes our emotions.  Do you recall the last time you lost control of your emotions and did something in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? This is when “we have lost it” to your partner or child, work colleague, or perhaps the driver of another car. And, you realized later on it was completely uncalled for, wasn’t it?

The Amygdala Hijack

In psychology, this is what we called an “Amygdala Hijack”, which was first introduced by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ“.

brain

Before an Amygdala Hijack

When we see, hear, touch, or taste something, that sensory information first heads to our brain’s in the thalamus (relay station). The thalamus then relays that information to the pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain). From there, it is sent to the amygdala (emotional brain) which produces the appropriate emotional response.

During an Amygdala Hijack

However, when faced with a threatening situation, the thalamus sends sensory information to both the amygdala (emotional brain) and the pre-fronal cortex (thinking brain). If the amygdala senses danger, it makes a split-second decision to initiate the fight, flight or freeze response before your pre-frontal cortex has time to overrule it.

Fight-or-Flight or Freeze!

At a high biological level, our amygdala is like our super hero! It protects us from danger by reacting to threatening objects or events and send immediate rapid fire signals to our brain and body. Heart beats faster. Muscles tense. Blood pressure rises. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin flood our system. More sweating. And many, many more reactions. To do what? To prepare our body for that fight, flight or freeze!

Imagine if you are in the jungle and a snake suddenly drops down in front of you from the tree branch! Yes, it is our amygdala that helps us to decide in that split second whether to fight the snake, flee from the snake or freeze!

And as we know, many of the threats we face today are symbolic and not necessarily physically endangering. For instance, when we’re angry, sad, or stressed the amygdala thinks there’s real imminent danger. And when our amygdala is triggered and shuts down the neural pathway to our prefrontal cortex, our prefrontal cortex loses it usual capabilities of problem solving, logic and reasoning!


Reflect

Last week, I shared the post about noticing what flipped your lid. Have you start noticing your recent emotional states and notice if there were triggering events that causes you to lose it? Have you been in that heated conflict with someone where you were not able to see broader or different perspectives? Worse still, did you even forget the positive things about that person?

Now that you know about this simple fact about your brain and emotions, what an Amygdala Hijack is and why your amygdala did what it did, do you notice things make more sense now?

If you have seen me 8-10 years ago, I was a very different person. Being in the highly fast paced stressful work environment and a new inexperienced mom, I have allowed myself to be affected by the environment. I snapped at people easily and react to situations instantaneously. I get triggered with the slightest unpleasant event. 

The Good News

Yes, the good news is that we can all re-train our amygdala. It takes time and is possible! I did! In next week’s blog, I will share simple changes you can make immediately in your life to retrain your amygdala. You don’t need to spend significant amount of time to achieve this!

With love & empowerment,

Elynn

Do you know what flips your lid?

Do you know what flips your lid?

Do you have a calm mind or flipped lid?

Let me ask you – Do you know what flips your lid? To me, it is perfectly normal to feel and accept all our emotions. But, I know something is not right when I start noticing my lid is flipped more often than it should have. There is either stressors or even past baggage that I have not let go. And so, it is important to pay attention to this pattern and understand the triggers behind it.

What’s the trigger?

Our emotions, positive or negative, are signals to prompt us towards positive action, take a stand or make changes. But, when you start noticing that certain emotions such as anger, anxiety, frustration seem to tick you off easily, it will be helpful to reflect on what the trigger is that has flipped your lid.  For instance, do you find that your angry reaction is way out of proportion to the current moment? And, what you’re really angry about is not what you’re getting angry about?

Knowing the beliefs beneath the emotion

To illustrate, I was working with a 10 year old client who was referred to me for her anger management and violence in school.  Interestingly, when I spoke with the parents, they have never witnessed her “anger” situation at home. I then found out the underlying trigger for her angry reactions is related to her strong belief for justice.  There is one time a mischievous boy was teasing her friend and she felt unjust for her friend that she ended up twisting his arm!

So, to the child, unjust is what flips her lid. It does not matter if the unjust matter is towards her or people around her.  When she sees, hear, feel injustice, she gets triggered and wants to stand up for it. And, there is nothing wrong with this!

Is the response in proportion to the event?

What is concerning is her response to the event and trigger. Clearly, the child did not understand how to cope with the emotions inside her. And, guess where she learns how to respond? Unfortunately, our children learns from our behaviors. In her world, she learns that when her father is angry, he would cane her and her siblings. She formed two beliefs from this repeated event. First, she is not to cry, as this would make her dad angry; and secondly, when her dad is angry, he would cane. 

So, what’s the repercussions? This 10 year old fights as hard as she can not to show any tears. And, when there is a trigger of injustice, her brain reminds her that the way to cope with her anger is through violence.  Can you see the pattern repeating?

Do you know all our experiences are coded?

Remember our brain codes all our experiences into memories and store them in our brain storage. So, when the next event occurring is similar to the prior coded one, it triggers the same emotions and suggested behaviors.  And, when we keep practicing the same behavior, our brain connections for these experiences get stronger! Whether you are ten years old or fifty years old, it works the same way.  In fact, we have many beliefs that were coded from our childhood experiences and stay with us (and become stronger) into adulthood.

Why is this important? 

Are there times at home, at work or at an event where you had a trigger and gets angry and your reaction to it becomes way out of proportion to the event? Yes, it could be times with your spouse, partner, child, parents, siblings, boss, colleagues and others.

Do you look into your underlying beliefs and understand what exactly has flipped that lid? Do you also know what’s making you respond in the way you did? Hence, it is important to be aware of this pattern and then be aware to identify it when it happens.  By being self-aware of your own emotions before your brain gets hijacked and react in a way you wish you did not is the first step to succeed in your own emotional self-regulation. 

Try these quick exercises to help you become aware of your recent emotional state and the underlying beliefs.

With love & empowerment,

Elynn