One: Press Pause
Our first instinct when triggered is to hold our breath, disconnect from our thinking brain, and rush full speed ahead with harsh words, raised voices, and drastic punishments. So if you want to manage your heightened emotions and respond mindfully, the key is to slow down.
Call a timeout
While we can’t literally stop time like a superhero, we can create space to calm down and bring our body and mind back to the present. A timeout might look like you closing your eyes for a moment, or it can sound like you saying, “I’m going to step over here for just a moment and calm down.”
Not only are you taking a moment to regulate yourself, you’re showing your child a strategy they can use when they have big feelings.
Breathe in, breathe out
Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and repeat. This technique, called box breathing, distracts your mind, calms your nervous system, and reduces stress in your body. As you breathe, picture a box, or notice your chest and abdomen as it expands and contracts. In just 30 seconds, you should feel more relaxed, in control, and ready to call time-in.
Two: Seek Support
Parenting can feel lonely, and it can be hard to ask for help. Sometimes shame over our behavior keeps us isolated. Sometimes we feel guilty for not being able to handle it on our own. Whatever is keeping you from reaching out, hear me say this: we are stronger together! There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and the growth and support you need can be found in community.
Phone (or text) a friend
When you’re at the end of your rope, reach out. Call or text someone in your friend circle and ask for what you need.
— “Hey, I’m losing it right now because Josiah will not listen to me and get in the car. Can we chat for a moment while I calm down?”
— “SOS! I need a break! Could Lia come over for a playdate tomorrow, and then I’ll have Ayanna over on Friday?”
— “Can someone please remind me I’m a good parent? I’m struggling today.”
If you don’t have a local support system, plug into a virtual one like the Conscious Mommy Community.
Three: Get Moving
Stress signals your brain to flood your body with adrenaline so you can deal with the “threat” causing your distress. Even though your child’s defiance isn’t a life or death situation, when you're triggered, your body reacts the same way our ancestors did when they came face-to-face with a sabertoothed tiger! You may clench your fists, tense your jaw, or take shorter, quicker breaths. Your heart rate and temperature rise, and you might feel a buzzy sensation in your arms and legs. To let our body know there’s no imminent danger, we have to move.
To discharge the big energy and take your body out of fight-or-flight mode, you need to make big movements. Exercise is the easiest way to generate the endorphins you need to reduce stress and improve your mood.
In addition to dealing with the big energy trapped in our body when we’re triggered, we also need to release the smaller, nervous energy. Engaging your hands in a productive or creative activity will help you calm down.
-- Organize a drawer or cabinet
-- Clean a room
-- Bake a favorite dessert
-- Sew, knit, crochet or cross-stitch
-- Draw or paint
Four: Get Outside
Nature is one of the most underutilized and free tools we have for calming our nervous system. When you’re feeling triggered, one of the best things you can do is get outside and connect with the earth. The simple grounding techniques below will help you create space in the midst of your stress and bring you back to the present.
-- Walk barefoot in the grass
-- Sift your hands through dirt or sand
-- Splash in a puddle or pool of water
-- Sit on the ground and let the sun warm your skin
-- Pick up small stones or other objects and roll them in your hands, noticing the texture and shape of each one.
Five: Get Curious
Parenting is a process of reflection, not perfection. The best way to disempower your triggers is to bring them into the light, and get curious about where they come from. If we want to be more calm and mindful in our parenting, we have to get to the root of our anger. Here’s an activity to help you.
First, find a space where you can think, and recall a recent moment when you were triggered. Then journal your answers to these questions: Remember to give yourself grace and compassion in this process. You’re choosing to break cycles and become the conscious parent you never had.
-- Where was my anger coming from?
-- Where was I emotionally?
-- Was I driven to control or collaborate?
-- How did my parents respond to me when I behaved the way my child did today?
-- What do I believe about my child’s behavior?
-- What was this moment trying to teach me about myself?
Let’s Tackle Parenting Challenges—Together
Tending to your triggers is brave and sacred work that will transform you, your parenting, and your home—for good. But you shouldn’t have to do it alone.
It's why I created the Conscious Mommy Community: to equip parents to respond more effectively in their homes, and connect them to a community that will walk with them on the journey.
A connected, collaborative, and peaceful family is possible. I’ll show you how.