We at Little Warriors and the Be Brave Ranch are amazed by the power and resiliency of our children, teens, and families who we are blessed to work with. We truly cannot do the work and get the excellent results that we do without the support of all of our volunteers, donors, and those to cheer on our children and families from a distance. As a result, we wanted a way to give back!

Our amazing clinical team is excited to be able to GIVE BACK and contribute to any of you who are interested in your own life journey and your own heart and mind education. For our 12 Days of Giving…Back we are bringing a little bit of our amazing Treatment Centre to you! We will be offering you some thoughts and self reflective exercises as you begin the process of bringing 2020 to a close.

We know that the human brain is a resilient, living, constantly changing organ with great capabilities. We also know that by self reflecting and doing our own “work”, we can choose to change the way we interact not only with ourselves but with the world around us! So, grab a journal (or dust off an old one) if you like to jot thoughts down, and let’s have some fun together!!!  After-all, all the gifts you ever need are already inside you…sometimes they just need encouragement to come forth!

Stay tuned for the month of December as this page is updated with 12 essential resources for you and your family.

 

We can think of our brain quite simply as having 3 parts: (1) the REPTILIAN Brain (oldest part of our Brian), (2) The SENSORY/SOMATIC Brain (or Mammalian /Limbic System), and (3) The Neo-Cortex (Newest part of our Brain).

The primary task of the brain is self-protection, so the Reptilian Brain will always override the other parts.  It’s also important to know that the Reptilian Brain is at the base of the brain, so EVERYTHING has to go through that part first.

So – long story short – it’s important for all of us to learn strategies to deal with the Fight/Flight/Freeze response.  If we can learn to “regulate” these aspects, we can deal with our emotions much better! Ultimately, this will lead to increased self-awareness, social awareness, better decision-making, improved relationship skills, and overall, better self-management.

Inner work teaches us that despite all the things that happen outside our control, our responses still mean than WE can author our own lives.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

The term “mindfulness” is really overused these days, but it is truly invaluable.  Mindfulness is the conscious awareness of our current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings AND accepting these things with openness. Mindfulness allows us not to live in the past and get stuck in a state of wishing for a different or better past.  This often leads to depressed thoughts, feelings, and/or issues with mood.  Mindfulness also allows us to be more present with ourselves instead of becoming wrapped up in what might happen (and getting too far ahead of ourselves) in the future.  This often leads to anxiety.

We can’t change the past, nor do we have full control of the future. So, when we discover ways that we can become more mindful (instead of more mind FULL), we tend to feel better!  One way to do this, is simple…using our breath! So, if you have joined in these 12 days (or you’re just starting now), reflect (and perhaps write) about the times in life that you have been able to be most mindful, and perhaps the things that you will commit to yourself to become even more mindful about. (Perhaps the moments that you first greet your chil(ren) or spouse, or co-worker. Or speaking kindly to your inner critic like you would your best friend.

 

 

 

There are only 2 days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do, and mostly Live.
Dalai Lama

Depending on how we choose see things, we likely will see what we want to see.  If I see myself as a victim, I will more likely feel incapable and weaker.  If I see myself as resilient and a survivor, I will likely feel more empowered, strong, and able.  This is exactly why we refer to Little Warriors as “Warriors”! Truly, we often do not have control of many things in our lives.  But, we DO have control on how we define them (and how we define ourselves as a result).  Another great quote from Dr. Dyer to sum this up is “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same World.” 

According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the way we feel is seen to be linked to the way(s) we think about something, and not simply about the situation itself. So, if we can learn to become mindful about our thoughts, we can target them to reduce negative thoughts and negative behaviors) to improve how we feel.   Many times, we can learn to challenge our “cognitive distortions” about our thoughts/attitudes/beliefs and assumptions that keep us tied in to problematic emotional and behavioral reactions.  Here are some CBT distortions to reflect on…what changes/challenges do you want to make for yourself?

 

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Dr. Wayne Dyer

There are a million ways that we can come to understand who we are – and, often, it is an ongoing process.  Of course we hear about terms like “introvert”, or “extravert”, or “Type A” personality, but we are so much more than these things.  Getting REAL with ourselves is a journey…and working WITH ourselves on this often is done best WITHIN our relationships.  In our therapy at the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch, we sometimes talk with adolescents about the various ‘parts’ of ourself…what we see, what others see in us, how we believe or perceive that others see us, etc.

Looking at ourselves from different perspectives can definitely be interesting.  So, for today’s “gift”, perhaps consider the “Johari Window” for yourself. The Johari Window is a technique to support self-growth and self-awareness and it is based upon 2 things: (1) developing trust of others by revealing things about yourself, and (2) learning about yourself through feedback from others. To further discover and know yourself deeper, we can look at information what is KNOWN (the ‘open’ parts of ourself that we share) versus UNKNOWN to self (like our ‘blindspots’), and what is KNOWN to others versus NOT KNOWN to others.

 

Here’s a couple of exercises to ‘gift’ yourself:

(A)   Grab your journal and reflect on the 4 quadrants in the Johari Window.

(B)   Take some time and create and “About Me” poster or Vision Board. This can be done alone, with your significant other, friends, or your children! ENJOY:)

 

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our assess kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.
Brene Brown

Obviously, the issue of boundaries is huge at Little Warriors’ Be Brave Ranch.  Many children and youth have had their boundaries unacceptably and unimaginably crossed.  For these reasons, learning to re-set one’s boundaries is vital to personal wellness (physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually). When we initially think of boundaries, we tend only to think about physical boundaries, but there are numerous other types of boundaries, including PHYSICAL boundaries, EMOTIONAL Boundaries, TIME boundaries, SEXUAL boundaries, INTELLECTUAL boundaries. Here are some signs of healthy boundaries. Today, I will take time to reflect on my own boundaries, if I’ve set them like I want them, and if there are any adjustments that I feel I would like to make.

 

 

 

SIGNS OF HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:

  • Being ‘in tune” with my own feelings and needs
  • Being able to say “No” without feeling I must, or feeling guilty or selfish
  • Being able to say “Yes” because I truly want to, not because I feel I must, or because I need to please others
  • Being treated equally
  • Having good self-care
  • Acting in a way that supports my own values and beliefs
  • Being able to ask what I need without anger or resentment
Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.
Anna Taylor

In group therapy, we discuss the difference between Passive Communication, Aggressive Communication, and Assertive Communication.  These types of communication may be seen along a continuum, where passive is usually “too nice”, and aggressive is “too mean”.  When we have not had good role models for communication, we may tend to move more to one side than the other.

As we continue to grow and develop who we want ourselves to be, we can learn how to communicate differently and more effectively. Ideally, Assertive Communication is most effective; this allows you to express your point of view in a clear, direct manner while still respecting others. Being assertive minimizes conflict, supports anger control, and develops clarity about your own needs within relationships.  Here is some reflections for you about your communication with others. Are there things you would like to change about how you communicate? Are there things that you do exceptionally well that you want to be mindful of?

  1. Am I able to state my point of view or request things of significant people in my life without conflict?…do I tend to avoid communicating with _____ , or do I tend to be more aggressive than is necessary?
  2. How is my voice  tone and volume when I speak to various people…are there times that I raise my voice (or shy away) when not needed?
  3. Am I using “I Statements”?  For example, “I feel frustrated when you leave your socks on the floor because I don’t like the mess…” instead of “Pick up after yourself!…I shouldn’t have to…!”
  4. Do I use inflated statements that aren’t helpful?  For example, You’re ALWAYS  late!” instead of something more helpful such as, “You are 15 minutes later than you said you would be…this happened 2 days in a row, why is this happening?”
  5. Am I congruent with what I say and my body language?

Assertiveness in action looks like these behaviors:

Assertiveness is like salt in a sauce; when there’s too much or too little, it’s hard to notice anything else. But when it’s just right, you notice the other flavours.
Professor Daniel Ames, Columbia Business School

Self Regulation (or emotional regulation) is something we work on at the Be Brave Ranch. Our staff, with the children and teens, as well as with parents and caregivers.   Emotional regulation is a skill and can be learned.  It is the ability to deal with stressors in a manner that is “flexible”…it is NOT becoming reactive, but rather allows for a well thought-out response.

When we think of someone who is well regulated, we think of someone who basically is able to appropriately keep their feelings in check. This is especially important for parents because parents are the template for their children to learn by.  Therefore, if a parent can regulate, it is more likely that their child  or teen will also be better able to self-regulate.

So, how do we self-regulate?  At our treatment centre, we often talk about how we can be negatively triggered by our senses (i.e., certain smells or tastes can evoke a negative memory, loud noises can increase anxiety, fabrics can feel uncomfortable on our skin and create distractions, etc.).  Conversely, we can become aware of how to use our senses to support regulation.  For example, paying attention to our 5 senses: Visual (what we see), Auditory (what we hear), Olfactory (smell), Kinesthetic (touch), and Gustatory (taste).  When we become aware of these, we can develop healthy strategies to increase or decrease our own body’s feedback.  In therapeutic terms, we call this a “sensory diet”.

Here are some thoughts on how to use our senses to change our physiology (how we feel/experience ourselves, others and the environment) and better calm (i.e., when we are stressed or anxious, or when we want to sleep for the night) or invigorate ourselves (i.e., when we would like to wake ourselves up, or bring our mood up).

VISUAL: changing lighting, painting, drawing, doodling, wearing certain colored clothing, watching dance, etc.

KINESTHETIC/TOUCH/MOVEMENT: walking, running, weighted blankets, cold/warm showers or baths, using hands to create (wood working/playdough or clay, etc.), wearing certain fabrics, floatation tanks, chewing ice, etc.

AUDITORY/HEARING/LISTENING: listening to various music (pop, classical, rap, etc.), listening to white noise, singing, humming, drumming, etc.

GUSTATORY/TASTE: how does sweet/salty/sour impact me?, what are my comfort foods versus what foods/flavours irritates me, drinking teas, sipping cold water, etc.

OLFACTORY/SMELL: clean laundry, sweat, pet odors, smoke/cigar, perfumes/colognes, etc.

Reflecting on how various sensory experiences impact us, bring us back to the past (positively and/or negative), can be a strategy for learning to be self-aware and ultimately regulate ourselves, rather than letting our own senses regulate and dictate our feelings, emotions, and experiences.

In the midst of movement and chaos keep stillness inside you.
Deepak Chopra

If COVID has taught us anything, it is that life can be hard…but also there are things we have control of and other things we do not.  Focussing on what we DON’T have will definitely lead down a different path than focussing on what we DO have.  And, we can always CHOOSE happiness and when we don’t, unfortunately happiness can be ‘stolen’ away from us all if we are not mindful of this.  It’s important to reflect on the following questions as we work toward choosing happiness:

  • Am I practicing gratitude? Do I allow myself to see the positives (and appreciate them) or am I focussed on the problem only?
  • Am I remaining present and aware?
  • Am I allowing negative emotions (i.e., anxiety, jealousy, anger, etc.) to hijack my mind?
  • Am I holding on to things that I want to let go of? (i.e., Do I need forgiveness in my life?)

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of strengths that promote individuals and communities to thrive.  Science suggests that the benefits of positive psychology can include increase self-esteem, happier/healthier relationships with improved social connections, and a greater outlook on life. There are 2 pathways (according to Aristotle) to consciously choosing happiness:

1.   Fulfillment – using our personal strengths, gifts, and talents on behalf of what matters to us

2.  Contentment – experiencing pleasurable moments and being satisfied with life (which is subjective).

 

Here are some thoughts to promote happiness with and for yourself as well as those who are important to you:

  • Create a “Happy List” and write it down! (Start each sentence with “I am happy when/with______________.  Or, I am grateful for _________________.  This is something that can be done together with your kids, partner, etc.
  • Share daily “happy moments”.  Perhaps use suppertime or bedtime to share aloud what was something good that happened today.  Role modelling this to your children works wonders!
  • Create a “Gratitude or Happiness Box”. This can be a box of self-care items, awesome memories (photos, shells, etc.), or a shared “Fun Box” if your children are smaller (stickers, face paints, heart shaped rocks, etc.) for times when cheering up is needed!

 

Sometimes happiness is a feeling…sometimes it’s a decision.

Obviously the issue of forgiveness is huge at Little Warriors’ Be Brave Ranch; as it is with a lot of personal growth and development.  It may seem impossible to FORGIVE those who have hurt us emotionally, physically, or otherwise.  When we hold onto painful and negative emotions, even though we have a right to do so, this generally keeps us ‘stuck’.  We tend to have a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness – like “If I forgive, it ‘s like it never happened”, or “If I forgive, that person is getting away with it.”

Forgiveness is not about or for the person who caused pain…it is for ourselves!  We can forgive someone without minimizing or denying the offence…and we don’t have to reconcile with the person who mistreated or offended against us.  Forgiveness IS a decision to let go of the pain so we can move on.  This applies to forgiving ourselves too!

 

Studies clearly show that the inability or unwillingness to forgive can have negative impacts on our mental health and overall well-being.  Those who are able to forgive are more likely to experience higher satisfaction with themselves, are more positive towards people in general, and also tend to have healthier immune systems!  So…the BIG question is, are you willing to give yourself the gift of forgiveness?

Remember, when you forgive, you heal…and when you let go, you grow

Therapist, Kristen Neff has shown that Self-Compassion is an important, powerful tool that can be used when facing personal difficulties and/or various forms of anxiety, stress, trauma, or negative internal thoughts. As shown this past year, we cannot always control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond. Research shows that when we practice self-compassion, it improves our ability to adapt and cope, making us more resilient. So, giving ourselves compassion can be a powerful gift indeed!
Of note, self-compassion is NOT about simply ignoring difficult or uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, but rather creating a kind, safe and supportive inner environment for such experiences to be recognized or “heard” so that they can be better processed or “worked through”. Self-compassion encourages us to become more aware of what we (and others around us) are experiencing…noticing that struggling is actually part of a shared human experience. This is an important perspective, especially shown this past year of COVID concerns, isolation, physical distancing and restrictions to what we once had experienced.
A helpful practice in self-compassion can be placing your hands over your heart. Not only does this activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body calm down, but feeling the beating of our heart can also remind us of common humanity with others, who can also feel fear, or anxious, or excited. This can be a powerful tool, especially combined with some deep breathing!
Self-compassion is treating yourself like someone you care about, with support, encouragement, and warmth.
Kristen Neff

The Vagus Nerve is the most important nerve you probably didn’t even know you had! It is a long bundle of motor and sensory fibers that connect the brain to the heart, lungs, and gut…all pretty important organs! When we process emotions, this involves an interaction between our vagal nerve, our heart, brain and our gut. This is why we have a strong “gut reaction” to intense mental and emotional states, and why we should pay attention to this!
Vagus nerve dysfunction can show up as anxiety, difficulty regulating emotions, depression, fatigue, inflammation, problems digesting, etc. Healthy vagus nerve functioning is shown by your ability to self regulate, deep relationship connections, healthy body functioning, and an overall sense of well-being. Ways we can stimulate a healthy vagus nerve are:
•movement and brisk walks
•mindful breathing
•gargling
•humming
•singing
So, food for thought as we move through the holidays!
Trauma is normally associated with unsuccessful attempts to get away. When we can't get away, we can't use fight/flight; we resort to our most primitive neural circuit and that, functionally, is a shutdown circuit.
Dr. Stephen Proges