Tag Archives: emotions

Freaky Friday: Chillax, Dude

by Richard

So I was talking to a buddy the other day about the start of a new school year. He said he almost had to pull a Venkman (“whacked out on about 300 ccs of Thorazine”) on his oldest son, who that day started his first day of middle school. The dude said his son was so nervous, the little dude was about to have a breakdown. And he wasn’t alone. As is probably normal during the first couple of weeks of school, the school bus picking up Speed Racer and the rest of his elementary school pals was late. Exceedingly late. Almost an hour late. For the first two days.

On the second late day, one little dudette started freaking out that she was going to be late. We explained that because the bus was late, she wouldn’t get a tardy. She didn’t care about that. She was worried about missing school and getting behind. (Where’s that work ethic when they get to high school?)

I understand. Really.

Starting middle school or high school can make you more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of psychotic cleaver wielders taking a break from reality and suffering from delusions of persecution from furry snakes. So, yeah, very nervous.

However, there is help for little dudes and dudettes of all ages.

“Making a transition, whether it’s to a new school, a new teacher or a new grade, signals change,” said Dr. Michelle Bailey, a pediatrician at Duke Integrative Medicine, in a news release from the university. “When adults are stressed, they often turn to smoking or alcohol or food to pacify emotions. We need to teach kids how to handle stress in a healthy way.”

Bailey said kids should try to practice mindfulness, which encourages little dudes to live in the moment and not to stress about things that are going to happen in the future.

The following exercises can help young practitioners achieve a level of mindfulness:

  • Mindful breathing: Ask the child to take time in the morning and evening to pay attention to his or her breathing for 20 inhales and exhales. Steady breathing has a calming effect on the body.
  • Mindful walking: After dinner, take a walk and pay attention to all the sights, sounds and colors. Encourage the child to use this technique on the playground and at school.
  • Mindful listening: At the dinner table, ring a bell or play a note on a musical instrument to capture the family’s attention, then give each person a turn to speak about their day while the rest of the family gives their full attention, to encourage active listening.

Sure, this sounds a little new agey, but I think it might be of some help. If only to get the little dude to slow down just a bit and remind him that life is not all about the stress.

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Born To Be Wild

I have always wanted to jump out of an airplane. And dive off a bridge with only a bungee attached to my leg to keep me from splatting on the ground. And you know what? I don’t think I’m alone in this. But it’s not my fault. I’m blaming my parents. See, a recent study has found that sensation (i.e. thrill) seekers react differently to scenes of adrenalizing behavior (such as jumping out of an airplane, base jumping or similar stuff) than do people who are more likely to be homebodies.

The deal is this: the scientists in charge of the study got a group of sensation seekers and a group of folks who tried to avoid risky behavior. Then they showed the subjects a bunch of photographs of various risk-taking behaviors while subjecting the folks in the study to a functional Magnetic Resonance Image procedure. The photos ranged from quite mundane scenes to extremely erotic or violent pictures.

“The results, described in Psychological Science, reveal some very interesting differences between high sensation seekers and low sensation seekers. The brain images showed that when high sensation seekers viewed the arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the brain region known as the insula. Previous research has shown that the insula is active during addictive behaviors, such as craving cigarettes. However, when low sensation seekers looked at arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the frontal cortex area of the brain. The researchers note that this was an interesting finding because that region is important for controlling emotions. The results show that high sensation seekers respond very strongly to arousing cues, but have less activity in brain areas associated with emotional regulation.”

All of which means, because I’ve never actually jumped out of a plane or thrown myself off a bridge, I think I’m probably someone who’s frontal lobe would be activated when viewing those pictures. Of course, that’s not to say I’ve not done my share of risky behavior. I mean, I and a few friends used to make a habit of driving a half hour from campus and jumping off a cliff into an old quarry filled with murky water. It took us several beers and a lot of false starts to make that first jump, but after that it was milk. Run, jump, fall, swim, climb and do it all over again.

Hmm. Maybe that frontal lobe hadn’t matured as of then. I’m going to go with a slight, albeit frequent, lapse of judgement. Wonder if I’ve grown out of it yet?

— Richard

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“I Will Never Like You and I Mean It This Time!”

Apparently, at this very moment, I am the most hated person in my house. It’s a heavy burden, but I believe I can represent the pagent. . . Okay, maybe not, especially since there’s no one coming in second clamoring to take my title. My youngest little dude is all of nine years old and full of the huge fun and volatile emotions that implies. When he feels something, he doesn’t act like a teenager and just go all sullen and withdrawn. Oh, no. He lets it all hang out.

So, last night, I asked him to go brush his teeth and head to bed. He just kept playing with the in-law’s dog, which we’re babysitting. I asked him to do it again. Ignored again. So I made him go upstairs and, yes, I admit it, I did rather raise my voice at the little dude. That, of course, is what set him off. He started yelling that he hates me and will never love me and doesn’t want to be around me ever again. And this time he meant it. Yes, he does do this rather often. What was your first clue?

I’ve come to regard this more as a pressure-release mechanism than an actual statement of his long-term feelings for me. I understand he’s getting rid of a lot of emotional energy and the best thing I can do is just go along and assure him that, no matter how he feels about me, I will always love him. I might get angry at him, or not like what he’s doing, but he’ll always be loved. He doesn’t want to hear it right at the moment, but I know it will stick around and bounce inside his head for a while and he will remembr it when it’s time.

I read somewhere that kids tend to do that sort of explosion thing at home because it’s where they feel safe. They can’t really let off like that when they’re at school, because they’re in a whole different environment with different observers. All we, as parents, can do is weather the storm and be there for them when the clouds blow over. And try not to laugh when they tell us they really mean it. “This time!”

— Richard

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