child throwing tantrum

How to Deal with Your Child’s Tantrums

Tantrums are sudden outburst of childish rage or temper. They involve intense emotions like that of anger, loss, frustration, and disappointment which can result in a child crying loudly, throwing things, biting, kicking, or head banging. Interestingly, they are quite common among children of 1-4 years of age, and almost every child goes through them. Tantrums are actually a child’s way of dealing with an unpleasant or frustrating situation. Temper tantrums in toddlers are often a result of frustration. Since a child of 2-3 years has limited vocabulary to express how he or she is exactly feeling and often have difficulty in finding a solution to a problem that he or she encounters; this leads to a feeling of frustration  and anger and is often expressed in the form of tantrums. No matter how common tantrums are, they can pose a huge challenge for parents and often cause great distress to them. However, if dealt properly tantrums can very well be prevented and managed when they happen. Knowing the reason behind your child’s tantrums can help you prevent the sudden outbursts. Some kids are naturally more prone to temper tantrums due to temperamental issues; they are more sensitive and get easily upset; also, stress, hunger, and tiredness can also lead the kids to throw tantrums. Additionally, sometimes kids find themselves in situations that are beyond their coping levels, situations that can be emotionally overwhelming. Here are a few ways to deal with and manage your child’s tantrums:

  1. Stay calm: It may be easier said than done, to remain calm when you find yourself in the middle of your child’s emotional outburst—when he or she start crying loudly, kicking, biting, throwing things at you. You are bound to react, but the key to managing tantrums, being a parent, is remaining as calm as possible. Reacting with an angry outburst will only make the situation worse. Speak slowly in a calm composed manner. As a thumb rule, if you see your child yelling or crying loudly, speak as softly and in a voice as low as possible. Do not try to reason with child as it is very late once a tantrum has started.
  2. Acknowledge the emotions: Very small children throwing tantrum mostly don’t know how to express their emotions and they don’t even know how to label each and every emotion they go through. When your children throw a tantrum help them acknowledge their emotions. If you see that your child is throwing tantrum as a way to express anger, tell him or her, “I know you are angry or upset.”
  3. Allow them to choose: Most of the time a toddler throws a tantrum over things that involve a sense of control. In situations where your child wants to assert his or her own choice especially over issues such as what to eat or wear, it is better to allow your child a little bit of control. Let your child decide what he or she wants to eat or wear or which toy he or she wants to bring along. Give them a chance to decide by giving them two or more options. Don’t make a big deal out of your child’s choice of a weird food combination or if he or she decides to wear some bizarre clothing.
  4. Appreciate good behavior: Find instances when your child behaves in a calm manner in a situation that would have normally caused a tantrum and praise your child effusively—give a pat on their back or hug. Tell him or her “you did wonderful!” This will help your child understand the behavior that is appreciated.
  5. Maintain a routine: It is important to follow a routine. Sudden change in activity sometimes makes children upset and restless. Play-time, lunch/dinner-time, sleep, everything should follow a routine. If you are about to introduce a change in the routine activity or schedule, let your child know five to ten minutes in advance. Say for example, your child is playing, and suddenly you realize that you have guests coming in half an hour, tell your child that he/she has five minutes of more play-time left today as you are expecting guests. Also ensure, especially in case the child is a toddler, that he or she is getting appropriate rest and sleep and is well fed. Sometimes hunger, fatigue, and sleeplessness may make little kids irritable and ultimately trigger a tantrum.
  6. Be consistent with rules: You need to establish some rules early on and follow them consistently. Rules work as a guide to what behavior is accepted and what is not.
  7. Build emotional vocabulary: Toddlers often have limited vocabulary especially when it comes to communicating their feelings. Help them learn emotional vocabulary by finding situations where you label their emotions. You can even engage in role-play of emotions with your child to build his or her emotional vocabulary.
  8. Whether to ignore or not: While many suggest that ignoring a tantrum will stop it. But this is a tricky matter. Imagine you are upset or feeling low and everyone around you starts ignoring you, how would you feel. Same is the case with children. A tantrum, as we know, is an emotional outburst. Suppose your child is upset because his or her sibling took away his or her favorite toy, and you, instead of addressing the issue, ignore his or her displeasure—imagine how frustrating it can be for the child. In a long run, this tactic of ignoring will not only be futile but is also going to set up a bad example as far as the child’s responsiveness to other’s plight is concerned. Your child will learn that whenever people are upset it is better to ignore them. Or, if you feel upset don’t reach out to the loved ones as they are going to ignore you. Thus, when your child throws a tantrum, it is better to go to your child, give him/her a hug and acknowledge his or her feelings.

In cases when you are not able to reach out to your child right away, wait till your child calms down and then hug the child and tell him/her that you were aware of their emotional outburst and now that they are calm, you can help them or comfort them. Most importantly, if you do feel that, in a certain situation, responding to your child’s tantrum will only encourage the child for worse, make sure, while ignoring the tantrum, that your child is safe and well within your visibility so that you can observe his or her reaction.

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Happy man and woman jumping with joy

5 Traits of Happy People

Happiness is something we all strive to attain yet very few of us know the actual meaning of happiness. Most people think that material success—owning a big house or luxury cars, and fat bank account, great career achievements, having a family, and high social status and reputation are the things that make a person truly happy. But the truth is, true happiness has got nothing to do with these worldly things. Happiness is actually a state of mind and so, how a person perceives and reacts to life says a lot about whether he or she is on the right path to happiness or not. Here are five key traits that you should try to develop to keep yourself happy and which are typical of genuinely happy people already:

1. Live in present: Happy people focus on the present. They don’t dwell on things that have happened in past or they don’t worry about the future. They are aware that life is happening now and so they live in the moment. Research has shown that worrying too much about future is the source of anxiety and various other mental health issues, just as thinking too much about the past can be a cause of depression. Thinking too much about how things were or how they should be, rob us of our present. Happy people live in the present and make the most of it.

2. Grateful: Happy people are grateful for everything they have. Gratitude is the key to happiness. One must truly value everything that they possess in order to be happy. Being too occupied with one’s desires sometimes mislead us from the path to true happiness. Also, desiring more and more leaves us depressed and discontent; and in the process, we often forget to be thankful for the things we already have. Happy people achieve satisfaction by being grateful for everything they have and they consider themselves fortunate enough for whatever little they possess. Happy people express their gratitude on daily basis and that’s what becomes their source of happiness.

3. Optimistic: Happy people always look at the bright side. They possess a positive attitude towards life. No matter how difficult circumstances may be, they never lose their positive outlook and that’s what helps them survive difficult and challenging circumstances. They always see the glass as half full and look for the ways to fill the glass to the brim. It is the optimism that helps them stay happy and patient in difficult circumstances. Although it is not always easy to stay optimistic when things become too challenging, with practice one can certainly acquire this trait.

4. Kind: Kindness is another trait of happy people. Happy individuals are not only kind to others but to themselves as well. They build rather than destroying others. They also forgive and forget and don’t hold grudges. They find happiness in helping others. They believe in sharing and know that money spent on one’s own self does not always lead to happiness. Research too has shown that happiness or joy received from buying stuff for one’s own self is short lived or momentary. But if the money is spent on others, one gets longer-lasting and stable happiness.

5. Secure: Happy people are secure in themselves. They are confident and never compare themselves with others. They know their strengths as well as weaknesses and are comfortable with both. As they feel secure and confident in themselves, they never seek approval of others or try to please others yet they never brag. Their self-esteem is not derived from superficial things and is rather more internal. They always try to maximize their strengths and are always open to work on their weaknesses.

Several open books

12 Strategies to Boost Your Memory

We all forget things once in a while. And most times we don’t even pay attention to this problem until and unless we find ourselves in a demanding situation. Memory loss is not something to be taken too lightly and we ought to make conscious efforts to improve our ability to memorize, retain, and recall information. Although there is no sure shot way to prevent dementia, certain techniques may go a long way in helping you improve your memory and increase your brain’s potential in general. Here are 12 strategies that can effectively boost your memory and help you remember and recall better:

1. Focus your attention: In order to store information in your memory storage system, you need to take interest in the information presented to you and give it your full attention. Information is more likely to get lost when you pay half attention to it. While reading or meeting people for the first time, give your full attention.

2. Visual/Imagery: While attending to the information add visual imagery to the information. We are better able to remember things that are visual. So while reading for an exam, use imagery as much as possible.

3. Associate: Associating new information with the information you already know or have can also help you better memorize new information. Associations help create more mental connections of the information which, in turn, helps in better retention of the memory of that information.

4. Chunking: This technique can help you memorize a large set of information by breaking the information into small chunks or groups. In other words, the information to be remembered is divided into small chunks or groups of information. For example, if you need to memorize a phone number- xxyyyzzxxx, you can make chunks of this number—xx/yyy/zz/xxx.

5. Get good sleep: Our brain gets to consolidate the day’s information during sleep. Consolidation is a process in which short-term memory is transferred into long-term memory. In order to improve your memory you need to get a quality sleep of 7-8 hours daily, whereas, lack of proper sleep can affect your memory negatively. That is the reason students are advised to get a good sleep before an exam.

6. Mnemonics: Use of mnemonic techniques can also help to memorize better. Mnemonics are specific techniques designed to improve recall. Like using first letters of the given information to form a word, for example using VIBGYOR to memorize the colors of rainbow.

7. Brain exercises: Just like any other muscle in the body our brain is also a kind of muscle that needs exercise to work at optimum level. In order to enhance memory, play brain games. Solving puzzles, crossword, Sudoku, and playing word-recall games etc. have been proven to boost memory.

8. Be active while learning: There is a saying that individuals remember 20 per cent of what they hear, 75 per cent of what they see, and 90 per cent of what they do. And this saying is fairly correct. Being active while learning something like movement of arms, pacing back and forth, and using gestures while learning a new information has been found to enhance memorization. So keep your body actively involved while learning.

9. Recite: Repeating something in a loud voice can help memorization of that information better. As you recite you involve another sense, i.e., hearing. This helps better anchoring of the information in your brain. You can also recite what you have learned to another person in your own simple words and language. This technique is especially effective for students.

10. Meditation: Meditation has been found to improve memory. Mediation helps lower the stress which, in turn, is known to affect memorization. Meditation has also been found to improve the gray matter in brain, which positively affects memory. Practice meditation on daily basis for healthy mind and body.

11. Exercise: Scientists have proven that daily exercise as simple as running or jogging can help in formation of new neurons in brain and can help improve memory. Exercising daily not only keeps you physically fit but it also keeps your brain fit.

12. Keep stress away: As mentioned above, too much of stress has been found to affect memorization and recall both. Chronic stress has also been found to damage brain cells, especially in hippocampus which is responsible for retrieval of old memories and formation of new memories. So in order to improve your memory you also need to keep your stress level under check.

Man looking at something

Five Ways to Boost Your Concentration

Concentration is the ability or power of directing one’s attention to something. But we live in a world full of distractions, where we often feel overwhelmed by the ever-increasing demands from our personal and professional front. These distractions may or may not be paltry but they tend to make it difficult for us to maintain and improve concentration and do the things that really matter. Here are five ways that can help you overcome distractions and concentrate better:

1. Establish a daily routine: Creating a daily routine and sticking to it, is a great strategy to improve your concentration. Having a random routine wastes a lot of your time in just deciding upon what to do and when. But once you establish your routine, you will start doing the day’s tasks automatically. Creating a routine would save your time and energy that goes into thinking about what to do and in what order and thus helps you focus your energy and increase productivity.

2. Rank your tasks: You can improve your concentration by prioritizing your tasks and attempting the most important tasks first and leaving the smaller or comparatively less important tasks for later. While performing all the tasks together is neither realistic nor possible, thinking about all of those pending tasks can be daunting as well as overwhelming. Ranking tasks in order of merit, on the other hand, can prove to be an effective tactic for staying focused on the tasks at hand.

3. Practice Meditation and Mindfulness: Many studies have demonstrated that meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improve focus. Practising meditation and mindfulness makes you aware of when your mind wanders off track and aids in bringing it back to the desired point of attention. Both meditation and mindfulness train your brain to stay attentive for longer periods of time.

4. Listen to Music: Music has a profound effect on not just your mood, but blood pressure and heart rate as well. According to a study conducted at the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, listening to short symphonies engages the parts of the brain that controls an individual’s attention span, ability to make predictions, and update the event in memory. Though music boosts these brain functions and improves concentration, it’s the short period of silence between musical movements that maximizes brain activities.

5. Turn off notifications: Last but not least, the best way to improve concentration is to turn off the notifications of your personal devices. Research has shown that although a notification appears to only briefly divert your attention, it disrupts your thoughts for much longer, making it harder to bring them back on track. Irrespective of whether you interact with your cell-phone or not, checking out notifications in between can significantly impact your attention. Therefore, you should use your cell-phone judiciously and schedule some time away from the screen to be able to devote yourself single-mindedly to the tasks you do.

Also read:
Researchers Explain Neurophysiological Link Between Breathing and Attention
Step-by-Step Guide to Diaphragmatic Breathing

woman listening to something

How to Be an Effective Listener

One common misconception that many of us have about communication is that it is all about the ability to convey what one wants to tell. We often forget about or ignore one of the most important elements of communication, that is, LISTENING.

Listening is not only paying attention to what is being said but how it is said, the tone, the choice of words, and the body language. Believe it or not, listening is a skill, which you may or may not possess naturally but which you can definitely learn. In fact, effective listening skills are being taught these days at schools and at work settings to help ensure better understanding and better output—in short, to make communication meaningful and fruitful.

Most of us listen to respond, rather than to understand.  Listening carefully to comprehend the point of view of the speaker is called active-listening. Apparently, it refers to listening to the feelings of the speaker. Active-listening or effective listening skills can help maintain healthy relationships, avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and find solutions to problems.

Here are few tips that can help you become an effective listener:

1. Undivided attention: Whenever someone comes to talk to you listen with your undivided attention. Listening requires giving your complete attention to the speaker. Listening while you’re busy doing something else shows that you are not actually listening. So when your child comes to you to talk about what happened at his or her school or when your spouse is talking about his/her day at work, put aside whatever you are doing for some time and give your full attention to the speaker. It is quite possible that you are genuinely busy at that time and cannot talk. The best thing to do, in that case, is to the person that you will listen to them as soon as you finish the work. Giving undivided attention conveys respect and genuine interest to the speaker.

2. Make eye contact: Maintaining healthy eye contact is crucial to effective communication process, listening is no exception. Effective listening requires maintaining eye contact with the speaker. This does not, however, mean that you have to stare constantly at the speaker and that’s why the term ‘healthy eye contact.’ Therefore, once in a while, take break and blink you eyes, or look between the eyes. Staring continuously can make the speaker feel intimidated, whereas, wandering eyes indicates lack of interest or boredom.

3. Attend to the feelings: Try to listen to not only what is being said, but how it is said, notice the nonverbal cues as well, such as the body language. This can help you understand what is actually being conveyed by the speaker.

4. Don’t judge, criticize, or start telling your own stories: Active-listening involves listening without judging the speaker and being open to what is being said. When someone asks you to listen, that means you need to put aside your own stories. Do not interrupt or criticize the teller. An active listener needs to keep his or her opinions to oneself. Don’t try to finish sentences of the speaker. Let the speaker take his or her time to complete what he or she wants to say.

5. Check for comprehension: In order to ensure that you understand what is being said, occasionally rephrase the key points. But do so when the speaker takes a pause. Do not interrupt the flow. Rephrasing helps the speaker rehear what is being said, and gives speaker a chance to clarify if required.

6. Encourage: In order to encourage the speaker to keep talking, use questions like, “what happened next?” or you can simply repeat the last words said. Another simple way is to just say “hmmm” to keep the conversation going.

Also read:
How to Master the Art of Constructive Feedback

Banner carrying Constructive feedback as text

How to Master the Art of Constructive Feedback

There are instances when you genuinely want to help a person improve or give suggestions for his/her betterment while there are also times when you simply need to evaluate a person’s performance in an organizational set-up. However, very often you find that, instead of being taken in a positive light your feedback is either ignored altogether or not well received, making the target person rather angry or defensive. This could be because you have not yet realized that giving constructive feedback is an art which needs to be mastered.

Feedback forms an important part of communication process and serves to convey how a person is functioning or how his or her behavior is affecting us and others around him or her. This feedback can be positive or negative.

Positive feedback is generally used to point out to the person, what he/she has been doing right and encourage the person to continue with the behavior. Whereas, negative feedback is used to point out the shortcomings and bring about an improvement in that person’s behavior. Positive feedback is much easier to give, as it is readily accepted by the receiver; however, giving negative feedback requires special skills, so that the receiver doesn’t get defensive and remains open to your criticism or suggestions. Negative feedback should be helpful and so, merely pointing out the faults should not be the sole purpose of this feedback. We must bear in mind that the purpose of this feedback is much more crucial, that is, to help the receiver be better than before and make him/her work on his/her shortcomings. Therefore, we choose the word constructive feedback.

Having the ability to give constructive feedback can help managers enhance their team performance or can help teachers mold the behavior of their students. This skill can also come in handy in personal relationships where you want your spouse, children, friend, or loved ones, to correct a few things in order to  be a better version of themselves. After all, we all have some weaknesses and shortcomings, and constructive feedback, if given carefully, can be of great help in overcoming those. Following are some tips to make your feedback more constructive, helpful and receiver-friendly:

1. Descriptive: Try to make your feedback as descriptive as possible. It should also be clear and specific about the behavior you want to encourage or change. Saying “you are not doing well” is not enough. It is too vague and leaves the person wondering about what needs to be done. Therefore, describe completely what the concerned person should do or improved.

2. Appropriate time: Make sure you give your feedback at the earliest and at the most appropriate time. If you take too long to give your feedback, you may forget about the specifics of the situation and behavior and it is likely that the receiver too does not remember the situation. Moreover, taking too long to give feedback may give a wrong impression to the receiver that what he or she has been doing is acceptable, and then, when you finally give your feedback, he or she may not be as open to it.

3. Constructive ideas: Especially when feedback is negative, it is important to include constructive ideas about how to improve. Offer assistance in the process of improvement and betterment. Saying “your performance was terrible” connotes that the person already knows for sure what went wrong and how to correct it, whereas in reality, this might not be the case. Hence, for a constructive feedback, it is important that the person giving the feedback must also help the receiver in finding the solution.

4. Consistency: Be consistent with giving constructive feedback. Especially in the professional world, consistency in giving feedback has been found to be much more effective and credible. Make it a part of your regular interaction with your juniors and co-workers for maximum impact.

5. Don’t get personal: While giving negative feedback, never get personal and do not target the person. Rather, focus on the behavior or action that needs to be changed. Never criticize the person or make personal attacks. For example, while judging your friend’s singing skills, commenting upon his pitch, notes and song choice etc, can help him improve his performance as a singer, but telling that he has a bad voice quality is something that is not much helpful because, he can’t change his voice. Here, the former makes your criticism constructive, while the latter may just hurt the person and make him feel bad.

6. Never demean: Never use negative feedback as a tool to demean the other person. Never bring your personal agenda to the equation and refrain from using negative feedback as a means to make the other person feel inferior or to take revenge.

7. Positive feedback: Don’t use feedback for pointing out only the faults or shortcomings of a person. Instead focus on giving positive feedback as well. Point out the strengths of the person and appreciate his or her positives as well. Some people think that feedback is just to point out the negatives, but the fact is that a balanced feedback that focuses on positives as well as on negatives is much more readily accepted and considered credible.

8. Purpose: Never forget that the purpose of a feedback is to bring change and improvement and not to hurt the feelings of the person.

9. Listen: While giving your feedback, make sure you give the person a chance to respond too. Do listen to his or her viewpoint and interpretations patiently, and give them a chance to defend their view.

Also read:
8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image
8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

five children looking at their cellphone

8 Ways to Prevent and Address Your Child’s Addiction to Smart Devices

Addiction to smartphones or computers to communicate, get information, for entertainment, or to complete day-to-day chores is quite common. After all, resorting to digital-era technology is not only the swiftest way to all sort of information at just a touch of a button but also the easiest way to get all sorts of things done—from paying bills to ordering stuff online and to what not. Although our reliance on phones and computers is growing day-by-day, it is, at the same time, worrying to see children as young as three, playing games and watching videos on phones for hours. The fact that too much of screen time is detrimental to a child’s growing brain cannot be overstated.

Too much of screen time also interferes with child’s performance at school. It has been reported that Children who use smartphones at an early age have difficulty socializing and have delayed communication. Those who are in school and spend too much time on these gadgets have also been found to spend less time in playing outside and are also at greater risk of cyber-bullying. However, in today’s time, it is not that easy and simple for parents to restrain their kids from using phones and other such devices since everyone around them is using phones, tablets, or computers and sometimes children need information as well from the web to complete their school projects. In fact, teachers too these days, communicate through whatsapp rather than providing the information in students’ diary, which makes avoiding smartphones all the more difficult.

Research has shown that addiction to technology can be as severe as any other addictions. And so parents are often confronted with the question as to what should be the right age to introduce their kids to these gadgets. Well the answer to this question is not that straight or simple as every child has his or her maturity level. Yet, it can be said that the later the better; the more you can delay the better it is. At least wait until your child is in eighth grade or middle school. Even then you need to first set some rules regarding the use. You can also start by buying your child a basic phone rather than a smartphone.

We sometimes see parents giving their 2- or 3-year-old kids phones while eating out, or while parents are watching movies in the hall, their reasoning being that the kid would get distracted and wouldn’t disturb or that the kid throws tantrum to get the phone. Well, this is a completely wrong logic; You don’t give your child matchsticks, knife, or scissors to play with, when he or she throws a tantrum for it, then why giving in when your child demands your phone. May be some parents don’t really understand the dangers of using cell phones at such an early age or perhaps sometimes they are simply too tired to attend to their child. In such cases, giving their phone seems right to them and more like a convenient option. But they don’t actually realize that this comes under irresponsible parenting. Parents need to understand that the earlier the child starts using phones and other such devices, the higher the possibility of getting addicted to these devices in later ages. Besides, too much screen time is one of the leading causes of illnesses related to sedentary lifestyle. Obesity among young kids has been found to be because they don’t include enough physical activities in their routine or because they eat while watching TV or videos on phone or while playing video games.

Here’s how you can help your child get rid of or prevent his or her digital addiction:

1. Set family rules: Before you introduce your kids to devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops, set some rules regarding the use of such devices. Set screen time in advance. Tell your children beforehand the purpose for which they can use these devices, and under what conditions they can lose access to them. These rules will be more effective if you involve your child too in the process.

2. Start with the basics: If your child demands a phone because all his/her friends have one, then you can start with basic phone models that can be used for communication purpose. Instead of smartphone, get him a simple basic mobile phone. Alternatively, you can lend your phone to help your child exchange messages between or make a call to his or her friend.

3. Don’t substitute toys with smartphones: These days children start using digital devices at a very early age, all because their parents use these devices as substitutes to toys. Remember, use of such devices is as harmful to a 2-3 year old as it is to older children. Never make it a habit to use smartphone as pacifier for your children. Instead carry their favorite toy along and let them play with it.

4. Encourage outdoor activities: One of the major drawbacks of using such devices is that children start spending less time in outdoor activities and become glued to these devices. A healthy and effective way to avoid this is by scheduling a regular outdoor activity as part of the child’s daily routine. It would be much better if you too take part in such activities.

5. Set an example: Remember! children see what their parents do. So you too need to set an example for your child. If you tell your children to stop spending too much time on phones, or tablets, while you yourself are busy on the phone all the time, they are most likely not going to listen to you. Therefore, if you want your children to follow screen time rules, you need to follow them yourself as well.

6. Set family values: You need to discuss with your children the place these devices have in your family’s value system. Since there will come a time when your child might tell you that all his or her friends have smartphones and that their parents don’t restrict them from using these devices. At such instances, your family values will help you and your child deal with these pressures to conform to the society.

7. Give them desktop: There comes a time when your child actually needs access to internet in order to complete his or her school projects and other such activities. Besides, one cannot deny the fact that internet is the quickest way to get access to knowledge and information. Therefore, if you truly feel that your child needs access to internet, give them a desktop instead of smartphone. Desktops have been found to be less addictive since they require sitting at the same place. An added benefit is that parental monitoring is much easier on desktop.

8. Communicate: It is really important that your children understand that the rules are imposed not to keep them from progressing further, but for their own good. Communicate to your children why you don’t want to encourage device usage; especially when other parents have already started giving their children smartphones or other such devices. Your children must understand that you are not against technology, but you are also aware of the dangers of technology usage and technology addiction. Getting this message across is very important and it will also help your children understand your point of view. Your children will understand that your rules are not just mindless authority assertion but rather a carefully designed system to keep them safe and healthy.

Also read:
8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying
Why Children Lie and What Parents Can Do to Prevent It
10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure
Father’s Role and Importance in Child Development

girl looking in mirror

8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

Body image is a term that has gained significant importance in recent years, thanks to the recognition of its importance and role in an individual’s well-being. Body image refers to how a person views his/her physical appearance; it is a mental representation of how a person looks on the outside and how a person thinks or feels about this physical appearance. This perception is based partly on a person’s observation of self and partly on the reactions of others. In other words, our body image is formed not only by how we see ourselves on the outside, but it is also formed by how others react to our physical appearance. A lot of social factors such as media, culture, community, internet, etc. play a critical role in shaping our body image.  This body image can be positive or negative. A negative body has, however, been linked with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and poor overall well-being. A person with negative body image has often been found to resort to unhealthy measures or extreme steps to attain a more positive body image like, crash dieting, plastic surgery, etc.

At the same time, a person who has positive or high self-esteem has been empirically found to have a positive body image as well. As far as gender is considered, more women have been found to suffer from poor body image as compared to men. However, this trend is changing fast, as more men are becoming concerned about how they look.

Overall, following factors have been found to influence a person’s body image:

a. How he/she views his/her physical appearance. This perception can, however, be incorrect.

b. How he/she feels about this perception, referred to as the affective aspect of body image. Whether he/she is satisfied or not with his/her physical appearance.

c. The behavioral aspect of body image which involves the behavior that one engages in as result of his/her body image.

d. And lastly, the cognitive aspect of body image which includes how one thinks about his/her body image. This may involve preoccupation with one’s physical appearance or one aspect of it.

Having negative body image can be a cause of major distress to a person and can greatly affect his or her overall well-being. In present times of social media, we are frequently and sometimes indirectly, bombarded with images of beauty standards which constantly and continuously shape our notion of ideal beauty, and unfortunately, give rise to insecurities. However, the suggestions given in this post can help you keep all the insecurities at bay and build a positive and healthy body image.

1. Positive self-esteem: As mentioned earlier, people with negative body image suffer from low self-esteem. At the same time, it has been found that, people who have positive or high self-esteem tend to have positive body image. So if you feel dissatisfied with your body image, you probably need to boost your self-esteem. This works in two ways. Low self-esteem can lead to negative body image and negative body image can lower your self-esteem. So in either situation, building a positive self-esteem can help you build a positive body image. When you value yourself highly, you are less likely to view your physical appearance in a negative light.

2. Find healthy role models: We are greatly influenced by the public appearance of stars or celebrities. We follow them on their instagram or facebook. We often find them perfect and flawless and start comparing ourselves with them. In doing so, we forget that what we are looking at is perhaps the result of long hours of makeup session, photoshop, and lighting, etc.

Alas we have been taught throughout history that “fair is beautiful.” And we often tend to feel inadequate or less worthy if we are not fair or have dark complexion. This has a detrimental effect on the body image. If you too feel that way, it is time to find such role models who can give a boost to your self-esteem. Celebrity tennis player Serena Williams is a good example of an achiever whose body color could not stop her from attaining great success.

3. Stop comparing: You are you and that is your power. In order to build positive body image, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Accept yourself. Unreasonable comparison leads to disappointment. You need to understand that each of us is different, and this difference is what makes us unique. Start appreciating yourself.

4. Appreciate yourself: Remember, your body is your first home. Appreciate how your body helps you achieve your goals and dreams. Your body is doing a lot to help you move forward. If you feel you are overweight and you need to lose weight, then go ahead. But don’t do it just to impress others or you hate your body fat. Instead do it for yourself and for your body because it is healthy.

5. Accept yourself: When it comes to our body we need to understand that there are some things we cannot change while there are other things that we can surely work on to improve. For example, you cannot change your height, complexion, whereas if you are underweight or overweight, you can definitely do something about it. Attempting to change things that cannot be changed will only lead to disappointment and frustration, and will further deteriorate your body image. Accept yourself just the way you are.

6. Realistic expectations: It is important to set realistic expectation from ourselves, especially, for young children, who are blinded by popular figures in the entertainment industry. As mentioned earlier, there are certain things about our body over which we have no control and which we cannot change. So for a young teenager who wants to become a supermodel like his or her role model but is unfortunately not tall enough, having such an expectation can be unrealistic. And this can lead to poor body image.

7. Focus on your strengths: We all may not possess attributes of supermodels or movie stars like great figure, height, or flawless complexion, but we should never forget that we all have strengths of our own. And if we start focusing on our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses and the things we don’t possess, we all can become the best version of ourselves.

8. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get quality sleep, and love yourself. If you need to lose weight do it in a healthy way. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Isn’t it ironic that you tell every important person in your life how much you love him/her, and how much you care, but you seldom tell this to yourself? Next time when you see yourself in the mirror, don’t forget to say “I love you.” Once you start taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can never feel or think bad about your own self.

Also read 8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

teenagers smoking

10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure

As our kids grow, they experience an urge to fit in with their friends or peer. This desire to gel with the kids of their own age group, called peers is quite common among growing children. As they grow, they become more concerned about what others think of them, especially kids of their own age group. And in an attempt to seek approval from others, they engage in life-threatening activities like overspeeding or rash-driving or fall victims to risky behaviors like smoking, drug abuse, cheating, theft, etc. This feeling that one must do the same things as other kids of one’s age do, in order to be liked or be a part of their group is called peer pressure.

However, peer pressure is not always negative, it can be positive as well. A positive peer pressure is when the child is influenced to perform better at studies, or take part in activities like sports, or join drama club at school because all his or her friends are  doing so. When peer pressure is positive parents don’t have to worry. However if you suspect that your child is falling prey to negative peer pressure, you must not take it lightly and rather address it properly. As a parent your job is to help your child learn techniques to deal with peer pressure. Here are some of the techniques that you can use to help your child resist peer pressure:

1. Make your child understand what negative peer pressure is: Often children are unaware of the concept of peer pressure and how detrimental it can be to their overall wellbeing. Knowing how peer pressure works can help your child identify and defy it. Sometimes your child’s friends might be using the method of emotional blackmail to make him or her conform. Knowledge about peer pressure will help your child identify such situations and act rightly. For instance, when your child’s friends force him or her to go to a night party if he/she wants to remain part of the group, he/she will be better equipped to make the decision.

2. Lead by example: Like kids, adults too sometimes fall prey to peer pressure. When adults feel obliged to go on a vacation or buy some fancy dress just to maintain their status, that’s peer pressure. Kids observe their parents and follow what they see them doing. You are your child’s first teacher, and also his or her role model. Your child learns a lot from watching how you act. If the child sees you dealing with the peer pressure in a healthy and rational way, he/she would learn doing so. Set a good example for your children and let them learn from you how to resist peer pressure.

3. Know your child’s friends: It is important to know about your child’s friends to find out whether they are a bad influence or a good influence. Invite them over, interact with them, and try to understand their value system. Help your child understand about the qualities of good friends. Help your child understand that a friend who puts conditions cannot be a good friend.

4. Spend quality time with your child: As children grow, especially during adolescence, they start spending more time with their friends and less with their family. We as a parent, also sometimes become so busy with our daily responsibilities that we don’t find time to interact with our children; also sometimes we think that they don’t need that much care and attention, which is a misconception. As children enter adolescence, life challenges become more serious and the children often feel confused about how to deal with such challenges. Most children start smoking or try drugs or alcohol during adolescence in an attempt to become popular or look cool in front of their peers. Therefore, it becomes even more critical that you, as a parent, are there for your child. Make a schedule to spend some time with your child on a daily basis—may be a dinner together or going for a walk with your child, etc.

5. Communication: Keep communication channels open with your child. Let them know that they can come to you whenever they feel like and talk about anything with you. Have regular conversations with your child as you both spend some quality time together. Find teachable moments in your day-to-day conversations. Be a good listener, and hold yourself from overreacting if they share something alarming. Your reaction will determine the probability of whether they will share their secrets or problems with you in future.

6. Teach decision-making skills: Decision making is a skill that can be easily learned. Help your child learn this skill by giving situations where he or she needs to choose one option out of two or more. Teach your child the concept of pros and cons and how to weigh each option on pros and cons. You can give imaginary situations which involve decision-making and encourage your child to think through each option with possible future consequences. You can even use role-play to help your child better understand the situation and decision making involved.

7. Prepare response: It is often better to prepare some responses for a possible situation where the child might face peer pressure in advance so that these responses come handy. This is important in cases where the child is young and has not yet mastered the skill of resisting peer pressure. Sentences like, “Maybe some other time,” “Sorry, I have some work at home,” “Sorry, but I am not feeling well today, next time” can help your child instantly resist peer pressure. Make your child practice these sentences in role-play, like when someone asks him to drive, go for a night out, or to try smoking. Also teach assertiveness techniques to your child and how to say NO in such situations. Assertiveness requires practice; therefore, create role-plays to help your child master assertiveness.

8. Boost your child’s self-esteem: Children who are confident and have high and positive self-esteem are less likely to succumb to peer pressure because they don’t rely on others for acceptance. Build your child’s self-esteem by pointing out their strengths and by praising your child’s positive behaviors. Give them opportunity to voice their opinions and also value their opinions even if they sound incorrect or unrealistic. By respecting their views and opinion you will help them become more confident.

9. Hobbies: Encourage your child to take part in hobbies or activities other than studies. This will not only help your child gain positive self-esteem, but will also bring your child in contact with like-minded friends or better role models among peers.

Set healthy rules: Rules are very important provided they are healthy and not unreasonable. Rules not only help your child feel safe, they also give you, as a parent, a ready model of resisting pressure. When your child sees you refusing to give in to his or her unreasonable demands they also learn how to assert oneself under peer pressure and say no. Rules also provide order to the situations that are challenging. Setting limits for screen time, staying out at night, or going out for a party with friends are good examples of healthy rules.

8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to how one views oneself in terms of one’s own self-worth. One can have a very high opinion of oneself or low, or in-between. Everyone can have doubts about one’s abilities at some point in their life. Feeling low about one’s self-worth can lead to lots of negative effects like, feelings of insecurities, self-doubt, or demotivation. Reasons could be anything, from being bullied to experience of failure in some exam/job interview, or it could be a heartbreak or rejection in love, or experiencing inability to maintain relationships. These experiences can lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can hamper the ability of an individual to bounce back from such experiences. There are also personality factors which predispose a person to have a low self-esteem. In either of the case, it becomes more imperative to help oneself or our loved ones to build healthy and positive self-esteem. High and positive self-esteem has been shown to enhance a person’s success at workplace, relationships, and also his or her mental and emotional wellbeing. It, however, does not mean that you have to be perfect in everything or in every role of your life, to have a healthy self-esteem.

A positive and healthy self-esteem is knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging one’s flaws and not being overwhelmed by them and knowing that one does not have be perfect to be happy; it’s rather being happy with one’s imperfections. Here are some powerful ways to boost your self-esteem. But before we start, you need to keep only one thing in mind when it comes to self-esteem, that it is based on your opinion about yourself, what others think or feel doesn’t matter, so you need to work on yourself and on your own thoughts alone. Once you are able to view yourself in positive and healthy manner, what others think of you or how others make you feel won’t matter. You will be the in charge of your life and your thoughts.

1. Be kind: The biggest irony is that we are able to show kindness to others but when it comes to ourselves, we become the meanest or stingiest person. We are willing to discount or ignore other’s imperfections or failures sometimes, but when it comes to our own failures or flaws, we leave no stone unturned to blame ourselves. It is high time that your start showing some kindness to yourself as well. Failing at one aspect doesn’t make you a failure. Like, you can be bad at mathematics but you can be expert in some other subject. Same goes with every aspect of one’s life. Therefore, stop lowering your self-worth over one incident or aspect of your life, and start focusing on your strengths instead. Use positive self-talk to bolster up your self-esteem and challenge any negative thought that comes to your mind and makes you feel less worthy. Besides, never compare yourself with anyone. Your self-worth is based on how you think of yourself not how you think about others or how they think about you. Be your own biggest supporter and encourager.

2. Self-care: Take good care of yourself. Set your health as your first priority. Eat regular healthy balanced diet, incorporate lot of fresh fruits, and plenty of water in your daily diet. Having a sound and quality sleep is very important for how you feel. Lack of good sleep makes you feel irritable and lowers your productivity. Avoid alcohol and other recreational drugs when you feel low about yourself; these only make things worse and, in fact, hampers your natural abilities to deal with challenges. Include daily exercise like aerobics or morning walk in your daily routine. Exercise makes you feel good. Go out; spend some time in parks or green surroundings.

3. Focus on the positives: To maintain a healthy self-esteem, it is important to focus on the positive things. No success is small; celebrate your accomplishments and achievements, even if not too remarkable. This will especially help you in situations of self-doubt and will let you focus on your abilities. Don’t forget to praise and appreciate yourself for every achievement. Remember failures are part of life and not the end. Take your failures as learning experiences and appreciate your efforts.

4. Make an inventory: Sometimes in situations of self-doubt or circumstances where our perseverance is challenged, it is helpful to make a list of things that you like about yourself as a person. Prepare a list of your strengths or qualities about yourself that you appreciate. No matter how small that quality may seem, write it down. You can even ask others about what they like about you or what qualities they appreciate. These could be skills, traits, beliefs, talents, achievements, etc. Go through these on daily basis to maintain a healthy and positive self-esteem.

5. Explore your talents and hobbies: Make effort to indulge in activities that help you relieve stress and bring out something new about you. These should be activities other than your routine tasks, e.g., gardening, painting, music, cooking, etc. These activities help you explore your competencies and give you immediate gratification of accomplishment, which will, in turn, enhance your self-esteem.

6. Avoid perfection: Seeking perfection is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it encourages the person to strive for excellence and on the other hand, it can lead to feeling of failure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or frustration. Research has shown that perfection has a link with depression as well. Instead of seeking perfection you should focus on completion. Try to give your best and don’t pressurize yourself with unrealistic expectations. Think of goals and expectations that are realistic and achievable.

This applies to personal life as well. Whenever you shout or get angry at your child or at your partner, this doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or a bad spouse. Or when you get rejected in love, this shouldn’t make you feel less worthy of love or affection. Or if you fail at a task at your workplace, it doesn’t, in any way, make you less capable as a worker. We all have weak moments in life where we don’t know the right way to respond or where things are beyond our control. These are times which should be taken as learning experiences. Without doubting yourself, you should learn from these experiences and move forward.

7. Accept compliments: People with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments from others, or they do not trust these compliments and sometimes don’t know how to respond to positive compliments from others. It is high time you start accepting compliments and enjoy the feeling of being appreciated without any apprehension or doubt. Practice in front of mirror on how to respond when someone appreciates you. Saying a simple ‘thank you’ can be quite challenging for a person with low self-esteem.

8. Do something for others: When you experience low self-esteem, doing small favor for others or the environment and surrounding can help you achieve a feeling of accomplishment. Making someone feel good by giving them a nice compliment can help you achieve this. Helping others can help you achieve positive feelings about yourself.

8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying

Being bullied has unfortunately become very common these days. But the effects of bullying on a young mind can be quite devastating including poor school performance, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, loss of self-esteem, or even depression. Earlier it was believed that bullying happens only at middle high school, but only recently it has been found that it has become fairly common at primary school levels as well. Name calling, teasing, hitting, isolating the child from the rest of class, use of abusive language, spreading rumours are some of the examples of bullying, and in this new age of social media bullying has taken a new dimension called cyber bullying.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or has become target of cyber bullying it’s vital that you help your child cope or deal with bullying, especially if the child is young and does not have the skills to deal with the bully. First and foremost is to identify whether your child is being bullied or is going through some transitional phase. It becomes even more difficult if the child doesn’t come to you on his or her own to share with you that he or she is being bullied.

1. Look for the signs and talk: If you notice any sudden change in your child’s behavior like skipping school or unwillingness to go to school; if your child becomes recluse all of a sudden and no longer enjoys activities that he or she used to enjoy before, poor performance at school; any visible signs of bruises or injury that the child is not able to explain, these could be signs that something is not right and it’s time to talk to your child. All of these could be signs of your child being bullied. Create a safe space with your child so that he or she feels comfortable and safe in sharing what has been going on. For this you need to become a good listener. Be supportive and stay calm while listening. If your child is indeed being bullied, be very cautious not to blame the child. Make the child understand that there’s nothing wrong with him or her; he or she is not responsible for being bullied; and it’s not his or her fault. Try to boost your child’s confidence as the child might be having doubts about his or her own abilities to handle the situation or defend himself or herself from the bully. Reassure the child that things will be sorted out.

2. Advise the child correctly: No matter how angry you may feel but refrain from advising your child to fight back with bully by bullying. Otherwise, this can often escalate the situation to more violent outbursts. Instead, advise the child to avoid the situations or places where bullying occurs; advise him or her to avoid places where there is no adult supervision; interact with other kids at school; and most importantly, to tell teachers or other adults at the school. You can encourage the child to engage in buddy system, where the child can be accompanied by another child to visit places where bullying is most likely to occur like, hallways, washrooms, locker areas, etc. In the same way, you can encourage your child to do the same for another child who is being bullied.

3. Reassure the child: Sometimes kids think that if they tell someone at home or at school like teacher, bullying will get worse. Give assurance to the child that sharing with parents or teachers at school or some other authority, will not result in more bullying, rather, adults can help the kid deal with the bully or curb bullying. But this does not mean that you, as a parent, should take this lightly, when the child tells that bullying will get worse. You also need to find a way to handle the situation in a way that does not escalate the bullying. Like instead of approaching the bully directly or approaching his or her parents, it is better to inform the authorities at school. Most schools these days have anti-bullying programs.

4. Teach skills to deal with the bully: Most bullies thrive on the reactions of their targets. So teach your child to hold his or her reactions in front of the bully. It is better not to show any reaction to bullying. Hold your anger, tears, and fears as these give the bully power. In many cases, when the target doesn’t show any reaction to bullying, the bully stops on his or her own. Teach your child anger controlling skills (counting to ten, deep breathing, etc.).

5. Assertiveness skills: Help your child learn assertiveness skills. Help him or her practice skills where the child firmly tells the bully to “stop.” You can use role playing techniques where your play the role of the bully and your child practices assertiveness skills and learns to say “No” or “Stop” to the bully and walks away from the bully.

6. Emotional support: The child might be having a lot of emotional difficulties during this time. Try to support your child emotionally by encouraging him or her to share all the emotions that he or she is experiencing. Encourage your child to give outlet to the emotions like anger, fear, frustrations, guilt, or apprehensions, etc. If the child feels like crying, let him or her cry in front of you. Assure him or her that crying is not a sign of being weak; rather it’s a good way to give outlet to all the emotions inside.

7. Believe in your child: This is a time when the child might be experiencing a lot of self-doubts and loss of self-esteem. It is very important to show your faith in the child. Highlight your child’s potentials and positive aspects of his or her personality. Your confidence in your child’s abilities will surely build his or her self-esteem. You can teach your child to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Teach him or her to take a positive outlook of the situation and take it as a challenge rather than a problem. Assure your child that you are with him/her, no matter what, and that together both of you will definitely win this challenge.

8. Share with the authorities: Last but not the least, encourage your child to inform someone at school, like a teacher or counselor, or you can share the whole situation with school authorities yourself on your child’s behalf. But do ensure that things don’t get worse, like you can visit school when there is least chance of encountering the bully. Also, assure the child that adults have ways to tackle the situation.

Effective Strategies to Overcome Panic Attacks

Panic attack refers to sudden or unexpected onset of fear or terror that often seems to come out of the blue.  The episodes of these attacks can occur anytime and anywhere. The panic attacks are often emotionally overwhelming and are accompanied by physical symptoms. The person experiencing them may feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is going crazy and is often concerned about having another attack or about the consequences of having such attack. Another characteristic of panic attack is that these episodes occur in situations where they are least expected like during sleep or during relaxation and often last for not more than thirty minutes. However, in some instances, panic attack can be situationally predisposed, occurring only in certain situations such as being in a crowd or while driving. If left untreated panic attacks can develop into panic disorder and other difficulties and can become quite disabling. If you have experienced one or two such episodes without any further episode or complications in the past month, chances are that you are not suffering from panic disorder, and there’s nothing to worry. However, if you have been repeatedly experiencing such episodes along with fear of having another attack combined with major behavioral changes, for at least a month, then you might be suffering from panic disorder or at the risk of developing panic disorder.

Symptoms of panic attack include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Depersonalization (a feeling of being detached from one’s body) or derealization (a feeling that external world is strange or unreal)
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Fear of “going crazy,” or of “losing control”
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Choking feeling

Here are some effective strategies to handle panic attacks:

Breathing exercise: Panic attacks can often cause rapid breathing and this hyperventilation can actually worsen the symptoms. Hyperventilation leads to light-headedness, dizziness, palpitation, tingling sensation in feet and hands, and breathlessness, which can actually make the experience more overwhelming and terrifying. Engaging in breathing exercises, however, can really help you ease yourself and control the related symptoms. Engaging in diaphragmatic breathing can actually help calm yourself as you start to experience the symptoms. Close your eyes and slowly inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. You can count to five as you breathe in and out. Try to concentrate on your breathing.

Avoid alcohol, smoke, and caffeine: Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol, and smoking as these have been shown to make the symptoms worse.  Furthermore, avoid medicines that contain stimulants.

Relaxation techniques: Engage in relaxation techniques like progressive muscular relaxation, yoga, and meditation. Make them a part of your daily routine as these activities tend to calm mind and body, and help keep anxiety symptoms in check while inducing feelings of happiness in general.

Exercise: Exercise has been shown to release feel-good hormones and hence, works as a natural anxiety buster. You can engage in walking, running, or simple aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. Even dancing for 30 minutes can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

Sleep: Lack of proper sleep can also worsen the symptoms of panic attack, so try to get seven to eight hour sleep daily. But there’s another side to it also—symptoms of panic attacks or fear of getting another panic attack can actually damage your quality of sleep.

Learn mindfulness: Mindfulness can help your control the symptoms of panic attack. Depersonalization and derealization are some of the symptoms of panic attacks that can be quite distressing. Mindfulness can help you stay in touch with the reality and present. Concentrate on the physical sensations, like texture of clothes on your body and your feet touching the ground etc. These can help you stay in your present reality.

Concentrate on the objects: As your experience symptoms of panic attack, try to focus your mind on some object that is in your sight.  Try to observe all the details of the object. This can help you distract your mind. As you concentrate you may feel the symptoms are settling.

Acknowledge: Since most of the symptoms of panic attack are often physical and the person experiencing them can feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is about to die, it is important to first and foremost acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. It is important to rule out any medical condition, and once that is done, you should educate yourself about panic attacks. Learn about the symptoms and find out any cues that act as a trigger. This can help you manage your condition more effectively. You might experience that the symptoms are not as overwhelming as they used to be. Once you acknowledge that you are having a panic attack you will be able to calm yourself more quickly and effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide to Diaphragmatic Breathing

The purpose of various relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, yoga, mental imagery is to help the body reach homeostasis in states of heightened arousal. Whenever, we face a stressful or anxiety provoking situation, our body reacts by going into state of heightened physiological arousal both at neurological as well as hormonal levels, and the sole purpose of these techniques is to help reach physiological calmness. Diaphragmatic breathing is one such relaxation technique and perhaps the easiest one to learn and practice in day-to-day life. It is easy because breathing is an act that we perform without any hesitation or thought. But factors like stress, poor posture, clothes that cause restriction of movement, lead us to breathe from our chest instead of from diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing is controlled deep breathing and involves the movement of lower abdomen, whereas, normal breathing emphasizes on the expansion of the chest.

There are lots of benefits of diaphragmatic breathing and it plays an important role in meditation which helps in managing stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) etc. It also helps lower heart rate and has been highly recommended for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The beauty of diaphragmatic breathing technique is its simplicity; it can be performed anywhere and at anytime and does not require special equipment.

Here’s step by step guide to diaphragmatic breathing:

1. Take a comfortable position: Start by taking a comfortable posture. With your eyes closed you can either sit in a comfortable chair or preferably lie down on your back on the floor. It is recommended for the beginners to wear loose clothes, especially around the neck and waist. To begin with, it is recommended that you keep your hands on your stomach so that you can feel the rise and fall of your abdomen. Once you have mastered the technique, you can perform diaphragmatic breathing almost anywhere and at any time—while driving, standing, or while talking to someone.

2. Concentration: Just like other techniques of relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing also requires concentration. For the beginners, it is recommended to practice the technique in a quiet place with less interruptions and noise. While practicing, you might experience that your thoughts begin to wander. This is normal. Whenever you feel this happening, bring your attention back to breathing. You can in fact imagine these thoughts leaving your body as you exhale metaphorically.

Whereas, normal breathing is an involuntary and not-a-conscious activity, diaphragmatic breathing is a conscious and voluntary one. Concentration can be enhanced by focusing your attention on the components of each breath. Each breathing cycle is composed of four phases–inhaling; slight pause; and exhaling; followed by another slight pause before inhaling again. When performing this technique, isolate and recognize each phase and try to control the pace of each phase-breathing thereby regulating your breathing. During the phase of exhalation, body experiences the highest form of relaxation, so try to focus on this phase and experience how light and relaxed your body feels during this phase.

3. Visualization: This can be easily attached to diaphragmatic breathing and can enhance the effects of this breathing technique. The two most commonly used visualizations along with suggestion are discussed below:

(i) Breathing clouds: Start by closing your eyes and try to focus all your attention on your breathing. As you inhale, visualize the air being inhaled as pure, clean, fresh, rejuvenating, and with healing power. Imagine this whole air traveling throughout your body from your head to toe. Now as you exhale, visualize the air leaving your body as some dark cloud of smoke comprising stressors, tension, and toxins that are inside your mind and body. During each phase of inhalation and exhalation, feel the clean, fresh air with healing power circulating though out your body and all the stress and tension leaving your body as you exhale. Repeat this breathing cycle for five to ten minutes. As you perform the breathing technique, observe that your body becomes more relaxed, stress-free and tension-free. Also, the color of the exhaled cloud becomes light in color from dark to light, which is a symbol of your body becoming relaxed and cleansed from all the negativity.

(ii) Alternate nostril breathing: This technique may require some practice. Start by closing your eyes and concentrate on the breathing. Inhale through your nose or mouth and feel the air entering your body and reaching down your lungs and experience a rise in your stomach as you breathe in. Now feel your stomach descending as you exhale. As you become relaxed, through breathing, take a slow deep breath again. This time exhale solely through your left nostril. After you take out all the air from your body through left nostril, begin inhaling only through your right nostril. Repeat this breathing cycle for fifteen to twenty times. Breathe in through your right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril. After fifteen to twenty cycles, now shift the passage of breathing cycle; start by slowly inhaling through your left nostril and exhaling through the right one. Repeat the cycle for fifteen to twenty times. As you do, visualize the air as it flows through your body. Use your fingers to control inhaling and exhaling, it will also helps you better visualize the air flow.

(iii) Energy breathing: This is a breathing technique in which you breathe not only through nose or mouth, but through your whole body. This helps vitalize the body. In this breathing, the whole body in a sense assumes the role of one big lung. This technique can be performed while sitting or lying down on the floor. This technique has three phases. First, attain a comfortable position; now imagine a hole at the top of your head. As you inhale, visualize energy entering the top of your head in the form of a light beam. Now as you inhale, take this energy down to your abdomen. As you breathe out, let it (energy) go out from the top of your head. Repeat this ten times. As you perform this technique, let the light touch all the inner parts of your upper body.

Now move on to the next phase; visualize that the center of each foot has a hole. Again imagine energy in the form of a light beam. As you breathe in from your diaphragm, let the flow of energy move up to your abdomen from your feet, while focusing only on the lower parts of the body. Repeat this ten times. As you do, let the energy in the form of light reach all the inner parts of your lower body.

Now uniting the movement of energy from the top of your head and feet, direct it to the center of your body while inhaling with the diaphragm. Then allow the flow of energy to reverse direction as you breathe out. Do this ten to fifteen times. Every time you circulate the energy in your body, feel each body part and each cell getting rejuvenated. This technique, however, requires practice.

Also read Five Tips for Better Sleep
Also read Sleeping Problems and Anxiety and Stress—A Two-way Street
Also read Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common yet most debilitating mental health conditions that can range from worry to full-blown anxiety disorders. There would rarely be anyone who has never worried about anything in his or her life and therefore, occasional worry or fear is rather a part of normal life.  We often worry about the wellbeing of our loved ones or we may fear for our own safety too. Sometimes we worry about our financial situations or our work while at other times we are just concerned about our future. These occasional worries are not always bad; in fact, they are somewhat good for our survival. They help us prepare ourselves to deal with life’s challenges. However, worries can sometimes take acute form and become unbearable, excessive, irrational, or even uncontrollable and are accompanied with physical symptoms such as increased palpitation of heart, sweating, and trembling. If you too are experiencing these symptoms, you might be suffering from full blown anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) recognizes seven primary types of anxiety disorders: phobic disorders of the “specific” or of the “social” type, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). GAD is the most common of these anxiety disorders and is characterized by chronic excessive worry about a number of events or activities. The subjective experience of excessive worry in GAD is accompanied by following symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feelings of being keyed up or on edge
  • a sense of being easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

However, an individual who worries a lot does not necessarily suffer from anxiety disorders. Sometimes having an unhealthy lifestyle can make you feel anxious. Following are some self-help techniques that can help you keep anxiety in check and manage symptoms of anxiety, though these must not be considered a substitute for professional help or treatment:

Exercise/Running: Performing regular exercise and going for jogging or brisk walk has been scientifically proven to help allay anxiety symptoms. Exercise releases chemicals, i.e., endorphins in the brain that can counter symptoms of anxiety and improves mood. It also helps in lowering stress hormone cortisol that is secreted when we are anxious. Several studies have shown overall benefits of exercise on mind and body. Exercising for half an hour four times a week has been recommended for those suffering from anxiety.

Socialize: Meet people you trust and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Isolation and loneliness has been shown to increase the symptoms of anxiety. You can also talk to your trusted friends over phone and share your worries with them. Since anxiety is often based on irrational thoughts, talking to others can bring sense to our unwarranted thoughts. Suppressing and keeping your thoughts to yourself, on the other hand, can make them overwhelming and difficult to deal with. You can join some support group also, where other anxiety patients like you share their thoughts, feelings, progress, etc. Make socializing a part of your daily routine no matter how difficult it sometimes may feel.

Muscular relaxation technique: Try Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique.  Since individuals who experience anxiety symptoms tend to have high arousal, progressive muscle relaxation technique can help release physical tension.

Sleep: Lack of good sleep can aggravate the symptoms. So in order to keep your anxiety symptoms under check, get qualitative 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night.

Deep breathing: Breathing from your gut has been scientifically proven to lower the arousal level of body. Hence, deep breathing exercise can help calm your body and mind. Use deep breathing to relieve immediate symptoms of anxiety like hyperventilation or shortness of breath.

Stay in the present: Anxiety disorders are often future-based, which means, you tend to worry about the things that you feel are going to happen. So in such instances, try to focus on the present. Ask yourself about what is happening at the moment. Mindfulness can help you stay in the moment. Mindfulness is a technique where we are made aware of what is going on around us through our five senses. What do we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. A regular practice in mindfulness can help you ease anxiety symptoms.

Train your mind: Anxiety is often based on thoughts; therefore, in order to deal with it, one has to work on one’s thoughts. Be accepting to the fact that you cannot actually control everything. Try to do your best instead of striving for perfection. Research studies provide evidence regarding link between perfectionism and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and try to maintain positive attitude about life.

Challenge your thoughts: Most of the worries and fears in anxiety are irrational and without any base. Identify your apprehensions and challenge each and every single thought that comes to your mind.

Eating healthy: Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine and focus on eating a well-balanced diet. Eating healthy food helps maintain healthy mind and body. Stay hydrated. It may seem like too simple a remedy but staying hydrated can go a long way in managing anxiety. Whenever you experience anxiety symptoms, drink water as it helps lower the arousal.

Use art as mode of expression: Art therapy has also been found to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Use dance or painting as a mode of giving outlet to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you take your mind off your worries.

Professional help: If you feel that your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your daily functioning, don’t hesitate to take professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologists or other healthcare provider in your community. Professional treatment mostly includes medications for severe symptoms, along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

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How to be Assertive: Learn Standing Up for Yourself

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, and it is a communication that can help an individual express his or her thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, etc., without being inhibited or aggressive or without disregarding the thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, and ideas of others. The term assertiveness was introduced by Andrew Salter in 1949. Being assertive can help you in both personal as well as professional life. If you are an assertive person, it is likely that you are better able to cope with anger, stress, and other demanding circumstances.

So who is an assertive individual and how is he different from a nonassertive individual? To understand this we have to consider the behavior styles of people in relation to others along a continuum (Dennis Jaffe, 1984), where passive and aggressive behavior lie at each end of the continuum and assertive behavior is right in middle of the two. Passive individuals are too scared to express their thoughts and feelings. Such persons are often shy and surrender to the demands of others in order to feel accepted, especially they find it difficult to say ‘no’. Passive style of behavior is used by people with codependent personality. On the other hand, an aggressive individual often tries to intimidate others and try to gain control of their thoughts, needs, and feelings. Such individuals have complete disregard of others’ feelings. This type of behavior style is often employed by individuals who display Type A behaviors. Now comes assertive style of behavior, which is the preferable style where an individual is able to express his or her thoughts and feelings and protect his or her rights without belittling others’. Such people are more open, considerate, and are tolerant of the feelings of others; also, they have high self-esteem and confidence level.

Assertiveness recognizes that there are legitimate personal rights, which have been described by various therapists and include the following:

  • Being able to say no without feeling guilty.
  • Having the right to change one’s mind regarding anything
  • To ask for help with directions or instructions
  • To ask for what you want
  • Being able to express or experience feelings
  • Right to feel positive under any circumstance
  • Right to commit mistakes without feeling embarrassed
  • To have one’s own opinion and beliefs
  • To object to unfair criticism or treatment
  • Being recognized for one’s achievements or contributions
  • To be able to take time to develop a response to a question or comment

Not every individual is born assertive. We are often less than assertive in our conduct towards certain people especially of higher authority, such as parents and bosses. However, not being assertive can also occur when we deal with someone by whom we feel intimidated. These can be people of opposite sex, individuals who are perceived as more attractive than us, and every unfamiliar person. Since assertiveness is a skill it can be learned and with repeated practice it can become part of our personality. Following techniques help a great deal in developing assertiveness:

Woman-saying-noLearn to say ‘No’: Saying ‘no’ is perhaps the most difficult thing to do for some individuals so much so that they put other people’s need before their own. Saying ‘no’ is sometimes considered rude, which is a misconception. Saying ‘yes’ when it is impossible for you to say so can lead to feelings of bitterness and victimization. That is why being able to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel like saying ‘yes’ is a critical attribute if you want to be assertive in life. Equally important is to learn saying ‘no’ without letting the feeling of guilt creep in. Understand and accept your limits and don’t feel bad about them. In case of personal obligations, try to diplomatically refuse your help at that particular instant.

Learn to use ‘I’ statements: Being assertive means being able to express one’s feelings and emotions by using ‘I’ statements. Learn to own your thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas etc. Also, using ‘I’ statements doesn’t make the other person defensive because ‘I’ seems less accusatory. For example, “you are wrong” seems more attacking than “I disagree.”

Use eye contact: Assertive people are comfortable maintaining eye contact while interacting or expressing their thoughts to others. Lack of eye contact makes a person appear as having less conviction in what he or she is saying. It also indicates dishonesty and insecurity. Start using eye-contact while interacting with a short time interval of about 1-2 seconds and then progress up to 8-10 seconds period. But, beware! just as lack of eye contact indicates lack of confidence continuous staring is often taken as violation of personal space. So try to avoid staring at people.

Improve body language: Being assertive without appropriate body language sends mixed message to the other person. The way you carry your body plays an important role. It is important to have an erect posture with body weight equally distributed between both legs along with good eye contact and tone of voice. The center of gravity should be directly above the feet.

couple-talkingBe open to criticism: Learn to accept criticism positively. You can disagree with the criticism and have the right to convey your difference of opinion but you must do it without getting angry or defensive. Take negative feedback as an opportunity to learn something new or improve yourself.

Disagree peacefully: This skill is employed when one has to express a differing view and want it to be acknowledged too. When ideas and opinions are expressed peacefully so that different viewpoints can be analyzed properly during a conflict or during the process of decision making, such disagreements are considered as healthy disagreements. Being able to remain comfortable during a confrontation is the hallmark of assertiveness.

Practice: Like any other skill, assertiveness too requires practice, a lot of practice, in fact. Stand in front of a mirror and imagine different scenarios where being assertive would be beneficial, and practice your response. Work on your body language, your tone of voice, eye contact, and communication. Use assertive communication like ‘I’ statements, and ‘No’ statements. And remember to start small. At first, try assertiveness skills in situations where the risk is low and then gradually apply them to tougher situations where the stakes are high. For instance, before applying those in work place with your boss, try them out first with your friends or spouse. Evaluate the results so that you can improve your skills. Remember it takes time and practice to learn a new skill whether it’s playing a guitar, or badminton or developing assertiveness.