Drop everything and go play, mom!

Play is essential for kids growing up to learn skills and socialize. Another important aspect of play is that it helps us learn to cope in different situations and teaches us to laugh about ourselves. How come as we grow older we forget to play? Or maybe we stop playing, thinking that it’s too silly or a waste of our time. Let me tell you right now that this is not true!

It comes more natural to some people and that’s great. Being playful and goofy is not for everybody, you could say. But many studies (you can Google this) have found that people that are playful and love to play are better at coping with stress, anxiety and depression.

Let’s separate the two things that I’ve mentioned above. One of them is to be playful and goofy: this is the ability to laugh at situations that other people might find ridiculous, but when you laugh they become light hearted and funny. If someone takes them seriously instead of laughing then they become a serious situation that needs to be untangled. A simple example would be if you drop accidentally a spoon full of tomato sauce and it splashes your pants and everything around you: you can choose to swear and clean it up getting more and more mad because on top of it the stain in your pants will be hard to get off. Instead, you can choose to start laughing and clean up with a smile, saying, darn! it had to be tomato sauce! and then put your pants in the washer and let it take care of the stains. That split second when you decide how you’ll react to an accidental mess, decides what energy you will bring to the table during dinner. So in this type of situation, being able to laugh and take things as they are makes you more resilient to real messes in your life because you can put in perspective when it’s really serious and when it’s just inconvenient and it’s easy to fix if you keep a lighthearted attitude.

The second play that I was talking about is to actually take time to play. It could be a game on your phone, computer, Xbox, switch, etc; or it could be playing cards with your kids, or sitting after dinner to play a board game with your family. These moments that you take to play, as if you were a kid, are fundamental to put the rest of your life in perspective. You know when your game doesn’t go the way you wanted, it’s ok. When you loose at the cards game with your kids, but you have all been laughing and being having fun for an hour or so, that’s a great feeling. Being able to keep playing as adults serves many purposes: creating a distraction, sharing fun moments with your family, being more resilient when you face a tough level in a game and you will have to redo it several times before moving to the next level, finding entertainment that engages you instead of sitting passively in front of the TV set or your computer.

I guess my post today is about the many ways that we can disconnect from the drama of life, the deadlines at work that stress us, the pandemic, and news all over the world that make us cringe. But with that disconnect also comes perspective and entertainment that recharges you and serves the purpose of refocusing you and connecting with a side of yourself that finds enjoyment in the simple and lighthearted moments of life. So, repeating myself here, drop everything at least one time this week and go play! If you can insert these play time every week, the better!

How to avoid making the same mistakes

This is a question that I always keep in mind since my divorce. My experience was that when I got separated I realized I had changed so much without even seeing it. Little by little as things happened -I enrolled for graduate school, had two beautiful babies, moved far from the city, started teaching and doing research-, I got lost and became someone else. I can’t really put my finger on the exact moment I realized this, but it was clear that I needed to spend some time reconnecting with who I used to be to understand where I wanted to go. So, with the help of my good friends and a lot of determination, I started asking myself: what did I like? How did I use to feel when I felt happy? and more questions like these to find myself again.

The result was an amazing journey! I realized that there were so many things I loved and I had completely abandoned, like taking care of myself, calling my friends and having long conversations, going out for dinner with friends and co-workers, reading, travelling and more. So little by little I got myself back on track with my feelings and thoughts and promised myself to never again become anybody else but my true self.

Has this happened to you? I know, you might not even know how to answer that. That’s how I used to feel. I remember one fall my brother visited us and after spending a week together, he commented that I had changed so much. In my mind I thought, of course I changed, I have two babies now and I live in a different country and many other reasons to justify it. But he was right, and that comment stayed with me and it reappeared after my separation with renewed force. Who had I become? How had I lost myself so much? Who was I anymore?

So, thinking that this is a process that takes place internally and many times we are not even aware that we have become a different person than we once were, I am going to give you a guide that maybe can help you measure how much you have deviated from your own true self. This list is not in any particular order, except for the waking up portion, because if you’re still deep in your slumber you won’t be making any real changes. But after that moment of realization, the rest of the points need to happen in no particular order.

First, you need to wake up! Awareness is key to start any change in ourselves. Like my mentor, Tony Robbins says, there are two things that can wake us up: the first one is having so much pain that we can’t take it anymore, and we realize we need to change; the second one is when something traumatic happens to us and shakes us to our core, like separating in my case. I believe that there’s a third one: being still and going deep inside ourselves to find answers. For this last one to work we have to want to do it and being consistent with whatever method we choose: meditation, support group, prayer, mantras, yoga. Any spiritual practice that you have or would like to pick up will nudge you to take a look inside and evaluate if you’re in the wrong path.

Second, after you realize you need to course correct and commit to develop your potential awesomeness I think being accountable for your choices keeps you in shape. What I mean by this is that you need to tell someone about what is happening to you and share with them the changes you are making to go back to your true self. That way, your friend, partner, sibling, whoever you choose, will be able to cheer you and remind you to keep it up along the way. We are better together, there’s no doubt about it.

The third important aspect is to be honest with yourself. If you hide things from yourself, none of this will take you closer to your true self. Honesty is looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself what you need to hear. From ‘I love, and I have your back’, to ‘that was a massive mistake and you need to own it’ or ‘stop whining and move on’. No matter how hard this sounds, honesty with your inner self is the best way to not repeat the old mistakes. In my case, I constantly catch myself falling back into old comfortable habits and looking the other way. But, not for long. As soon as I realize this is happening, I jump to my feet and declare, ‘No more!’ I’m not this person and I don’t want to be this person, raising your standards will keep you on your toes and that’s where you want to be to grow.

Finally, the fourth, that is connected to the previous one, is be uncomfortable. We all tend to fall back into easy, and comfortable habits. That’s a trap! It means you’re letting yourself slip into your old self that is no longer who you want to be. Feeling uncomfortable with aspects of our life means we are pushing ourselves to grow by facing new challenges. Of course, not everybody feels this way and you don’t have to. Of course, you know when being uncomfortable is too much and it might also be a sign that you’re doing something that is not aligned with your inner self. But when you want to better yourself, some level of uncomfortable action is necessary.

I think this topic can be expanded further and I’ll post another article about it soon. Hoping that this will help you get closer to your true inner self and back to your path if you have lost it.

What not to say to an anxious kid

One of the things you can’t say to a kid (or anyone, really) having anxiety is: everything will be all right! That’s exactly what they don’t need to hear, or even worse try to find a way to fix it. At the time the person is feeling anxious, they can’t really calm down at will or change the way they’re reacting to the fear. It takes time to learn how to do it, and practice. An anxious mind usually does one of these:

  • Catastrophize: they think that the worst that can happen will happen (be late, fail de exam, loose her friend, ultimately, die)
  • Fear of fear: no matter what they’re thinking it feels scary (people will laugh at her, nobody will care, etc.)
  • Obsessive thinking: they start playing scenarios in their mind over and over, without being able to get out of the cycle and ultimately shaming themselves for it.

To help them practice a way to calm down before the anxiety gets out of control I will give you some tools. But before moving on the tools let me just give you a tip for when the kid is already anxious and getting the feeling of overwhelm.

  • Hold their hand or give them a hug, if they allow it. If you are calm, the physical touch is very grounding and supporting.
  • Listen to them. If they don’t talk, wait and maybe ask them, what are you feeling right now? What thoughts are spinning in your mind? Don’t push them, give them space to get it out.
  • When they are calmer, you can take three deep breaths with them, making the exhalation (count to 8) longer than the inhalation (count to 4). This breathing calms down the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response.
  • The last thing you can try, after they’ve calmed down, is focus on things they can see, hear, touch, smell: this will anchor the grounding feeling in the present and will allow the prefrontal cortex, rational mind, to reset and gain control again.

While they’re in a calm or positive state, you can help them pin down the moment when the feeling of anxiety starts, which is already in itself hard for the person. A way to start being aware of when the anxiety is triggered, is to notice these things:

  • Does it happen at a specific time of the day?
  • Is it related to a specific event? For example, if your kid starts feeling anxious when someone is visiting the house, that will allow him or her to prepare in advance and then you can apply breathing techniques or relaxation exercises.
  • Has it happened repetitively over the past days? at what time?
  • Is there a specific thought that triggers the reaction? For example, I’m stupid, I never understand anything, I won’t be able to (fill in the blank)

These are some of the questions you can ask your kid to help her understand the cause. The kid needs to notice what, or who, or when the anxiety starts. You can jot them down for them to become aware of the answers and be able to add other times or situations. Then, it’s possible to go a step forward and try some techniques that I’ll describe below.

Preparation in advance is key. Here are two ideas to help them prepare.

  • Journal about things she/he is grateful for: if your kid is old enough, this exercise will help him/her to create the habit of thinking about what she likes and appreciates. After having at least a week or month of journaling, tell her to re read it before bed, or even in the morning to prepare her mind to focus on positive and fun things instead of fears and what is lacking.
  • Visualize your dream spot: when you use visualization, your mind can use all its creativity and in this case to make up a space that is safe, fun, calm, happy. It could be a made up place or somewhere the kid loves, the beach, grandparents house, a farm, riding in the car, etc. The more details he/she can create in her mind, the better. Also ask them to use all their senses: how does the place smell? what do you see? what do you touch? what colours surround you? what do you hear? Practice going to the happy place daily if you can so it will be easy to go there in seconds as soon as they feel the anxious thoughts surfacing in their mind. This way, they will ground themselves and feel joy instantly, taking the focus away from the fear and obsessive thinking

Remember, we can train our minds to live in fear and uncertainty, or in safety and joy. The more you let your mind become fixed on fears and things you can’t control, the more anxiety will be damaging and paralyzing. I would also like to add that what we call anxiety is actually stress that isn’t useful (like reacting with ‘fight or flight’ response because we might get stuck in an elevator when we are walking in the park). Some stress is useful and can appear in moments of great excitement and joy. So training your mind to understand which stress is unwanted can be achieved by putting in place simple habits consistently. And I can’t stress enough that the key here is the consistency and patience.

If you have more question about anxiety or would like more tips to create habits to break the pattern of anxiety, send me a message to valmaurercoach@gmail.com. You can also book a free call with me in my website.

Happy learning!

Coach Val

Create space for your kid’s feelings

Kids grow in spurts, I think all parents have noticed this. But do you know that they also make leaps emotionally as they grow up? Imagine the confusion they feel when they hit preteen years and later become teenagers. I know, we’ve all been there but it doesn’t mean we are experts, especially with others. If we were lucky to be contained and framed by our friends and family we were able to navigate it and come out on the other end like a pretty centered young adult. But a lot of people are not that lucky. When we see our kids struggling to make sense of their emotions, the best we can do is to be present and listen to them. We tend to tell them very quickly, it’s ok, don’t worry! Instead of staying with them and letting them feel whatever is going on at that moment.


When my teenage daughter started having anxiety and panic attacks, my first reaction was to say, don’t feel that way, all is ok. But that was like shutting her off instead of opening the space for her to talk about it and explore what was the problem underlying this feeling. We then opened a dialogue and started working with a coach to see what was causing these feelings, but what was very important was to learn how to manage her reactions to the feelings by understanding them. It is crucial to be able to give your kid tools that they can use when they feel the anxious thoughts starting to flood their minds and before the physical reaction is out of control. These tools are mainly habits they need to incorporate to their daily life that will create a safe go-to place when they start getting anxiety. 

As a parent, it’s important to remind ourselves to let them feel what they feel. By acknowledging their emotions you teach them empathy and self compassion. They also learn that all emotions and feelings are a normal part of each of us and it’s ok to feel them. The point is that if your kid finds him/herself in a situation where the emotions become too overwhelming, especially fear, they can use strategies to calm down their mind instead of letting it spin out of control. Be with them and love them by letting them be uncomfortable in their growth.

If not now, then when?

Today I’m sharing with you this video I made a while ago where I talk about not waiting to start your journey to the life you are dreaming about.

The best time to start acting towards your dream is now. For me, it took a couple of wake up calls that I mention in my video and finally I was able to see that I needed to take action to make my dream come true. But it doesn’t need to be that way for you. You know what your dream is, don’t wait for the ‘right’ moment, there is no such thing. The more time you spend thinking about it, you are not getting closer. Action is what will take you closer.

To start today, you can take action by writing down those ideas you’ve been keeping in your mind. After writing them down, think of any action you can take this month, this week, today to get closer to one of them. It’s that simple. Also, I like to talk to a good friend that is already working towards her or his dream and maybe you can become accountability partners. Have weekly calls and tell each other what progress you made. If you would like more tips, give me a call and we can chat. I offer a free 30 minute call to help you get clarity and focus.

Here is a summary of the tips:

  1. write down your ideas
  2. choose one or two to take action in the short term
  3. talk to a friend that is also taking action towards her/his goals
  4. hold each other accountable by having a weekly or biweekly call for support
  5. once that idea is a reality, start on 1 again, or even better: never stop the cycle

Hope you have a great day and keep learning!

Val

When they say you can’t do it…

The saying goes: “When they say you can’t do it, prove them wrong.”*Do you have someone in your life that is always saying you can’t do it? We all have one of those, and we feel we need to prove to them all that we are capable of. Every time we come and share with them our ideas and plans for the great projects we have, they slowly but surely make us feel like they won’t work: Have you thought about this? I have a friend that tried that once and the totally failed. Oh! wow, that is ambitious! With all these little comments they start planting seeds of doubt and fear that, by the time we get home, they are already sprouting in our brains.

There can be two types, someone closer to you or just and aquaintance. When they are closer to you, it’s a little more tricky because we love them and we trust their opinion. That’s when I say: be careful because you will still love your aunt even though you don’t follow her advice, or listen to her criticism, right? Even if it’s a sister, a father, you can still love them deeply and not listen to their doubting voices. I loved a quote someone once told me: You decide who you give a mic to in your life. No one else! Not your friend, or your mentor, or you mom. Not everyone should be allowed to have a say and you owe it to yourself to protect your dreams and stand guard by your precious mind to keep it in the best state possible to carry out your plans.

When it’s someone you just know and it’s not that close to you, it seems easier but it’s not necessarily. You know that friend of a friend, that is crushing it in her business? And then you meet her for drinks and when you talk about your project, she has a ton of opinions and advice that you just didn’t ask for and make you doubt every little decision you were going to make. Ugh!

In all my years I have dealt with this negativity in different ways, but lately I decide that instead of dreading talking to them, I will use them as motivators. Because, you see, I like talking about what I’m doing and I think that anybody that is working towards their dream should be able to express their passion for it and be themselves. As I often say, the spoken word has an incredible power. You know we learn by reading and a lot more by listening. So hearing the words come out of your mouth also is incredibly powerful. And even if you will have some people doubt you, there will be many carried away by you and your passion and those are the ones you want to have close to you. Of course, as we know, freedom comes with consequences, one of them being that anybody you are telling about your dream will have an opinion and you can’t shut them up after. So, for example , to that friend of a friend that so freely offers advice, you can politely say: oh, thanks for that, but when I need your advice, I’ll ask for it. I’m not really at that stage yet. Cue smile and sip of your drink. And in you mind, you actually can visualize yourself removing the mic from her hand with care and putting it away.

The other thing you can do with your closer ones is still tell them about your dream and plans, and when they come to you with: oh, I hope it works out because remember that project in school that you never finished and we had to do something a lot simpler instead. Ouch! Again, smile first if possible, and then politely say: mom, I’m a grown woman now and this is my dream, not a project fo school. I’m telling you about it because I am so passionate about doing this that my mind is constantly thinking of ways to make it work. I’m really excited and it’s what I do now. And change the subject if you want. But deep down yourself repeat over and over: I got this! I’m amazing! If it’s in me, it’s for me! I can do anything! (keep going with your best motivational phrases; sometimes I also sing a song: Can’t stop me now! by Queen)

In addition to that, I’m competitive and I hate when people say something is impossible. So, when someone tells me it won’t work because XYZ, I automatically jump into “I’ll make it work” attitude and fire my brain and creativity to find a way. What I basically do with these comments is to think about them and why they have any power over my commitment or excitement: if they’re making me doubt myself, is there something I need to explore? If there is one that really went deep and made you cringe, there is something there to be explored. I remember when a good friend was going to start her side hustle and someone mentioned that she needed to make sure she had the working permits for it. Well, that was important! She hadn’t thought about it at all and it helped her get everything in order before starting her business. So, see how you can twist the negativity of those doubters into a problem solving question? Another example would be: if someone mentions: you are so bad at keeping a schedule. Ok, you might go and get an app that will help you schedule all your social media posts or deadlines for the project, and that potential problem is solved.

This technique is called reframing. You take the doubt comment or question that bothered you and ask: Is there something I can do to avoid that obstacle? Is it really an obstacle for me now? How can avoid that mistake? The better the question you ask, the better the answer you’ll find. So instead of shrinking to a corner and doubting not only your dream but even yourself, you rise up and crush them with action and questions that will actually help you move forward with your plans.

Remember the only things we are in control are our actions and reactions. Take charge and prove those doubters that YOU can do anything you set you heart and brain on! 😄☀️🍵

What is your reaction to doubters?

*by Jasmine Star

Here for you: The HOM Movement

Yesterday I volunteered to be part of a group of coaches offering a free session to help out in these stressful times that we are going through, as a way to give back. The group is called HOM Movement (@happy.on.mondays, http://www.happyonmondays.com/hom) and we want to support people today.

This will be a 60 min coaching session using proved framework to support you through the challenge you are facing now. I am a life coach and I’m great at facing and tackling the challenges that life presents us by supporting you and working together. I am inviting you to contact me via private message if you are that special someone I’m meant to support through this movement. I’m excited to coach you and support you in these difficult times. Make sure to send me a message.

Take action: every step counts!

We can only move forward putting one foot in front of the other. The same applies to our goals: we can only get closer by tackling one step at a time. What usually happens, though, is that when we think about the final goal we get a sort of vertigo and think it’s impossible. We immediately have thoughts like: I’ll never be able to make it happen; who am I to think I can do that? My follow through is garbage, I’ll never get there! And immediately after those thoughts, we give up. With good reasons!

Quote: “The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.” Walt Disney

I recently saw an interview with Oprah where she said that success is a process just like happiness and since every process is based on action, not thought, we should stop waiting for a big idea and act on as many small ideas as we can. As you take action on these small ideas, you will see the bigger idea taking form and by the time you complete the smaller steps, you will be at the feet of your dream. I find this way of thinking is crucial to get unstuck when we think we will never make it to our final goal. 

In other words, what we need to remind ourselves is that no step is too small or insignificant if it gets us closer to our goal. Think of it like this: even if you have a Ferrari engine under the hood of your car, if the bolt in your tire is defective and breaks, you will not move an inch. Therefore, every little part of a Ferrari or a Fit counts! The same happens with every step towards your big goal. We often forget about this and tend to put a lot of energy in things that are more interesting or seem more valuable and disregard the simple ones, only to realize later how important it was and now we need to go back in order to move forward.

When I was writing my doctoral thesis, it was very challenging to spend the right amount of time on each step of the process. The research period seemed to extend itself for months, eating up all my time for my writing. Of course, writing was essential, but if I had started writing without doing extensive research on the topics –I actually had several topics going on at the beginning- I would have ended up with a lot of text with no research to back it up and I would have ended up rewriting most of it. This seems really obvious but when you are in the middle of the project, let me tell you, you question yourself a thousand times how much research is too much research and how soon you should start writing your thesis. Both steps are important and neither can be overlooked. 

The other big trap is our own fear of making mistakes or choosing the wrong goal. Marie Forleo in her book Everything is figureoutable says, “Action destroys fear.” So, it becomes pretty clear that to actually achieve any goal we need to take action. That voice inside your head is an expert at finding all the excuses to keep you from moving forward and take the next step! More often than not, we believe our internal voice when it tells us we have no clue about what we are doing. However, let me tell you a secret: our mind tells us tons of stuff and we can pick and choose which one we want to believe. YES! It’s that simple. Why do we tend to believe the negative thoughts over the positive ones? In general, we believe they are keeping us safe, preventing us to take risks and move ahead into the uncertain future.

When you choose to believe the thoughts that propel you towards your goals and dreams, you are opening yourself to new things and, even if it can be scary, it is exciting at the same time. When you hear the little voice yelling excuses at you, thank it and then tell yourself you are in the right path, you are advancing towards your goal. And keep up the pace with all the steps ahead because every single one of them is pushing you forward and closer to your final goal.

Photo by Joseph Akbrud on Unsplash

Why I became a coach

Get to know your coach

Today I want to share why I became a coach. We all do things based on our own experience, right? Becoming a coach for me is directly connected to a moment in my life when I needed help. Right after my ex husband broke the news to me that our marriage was over, I reached out to a therapist because I didn’t want to fall into a depression, especially having two young daughters that were completely relying on me. The therapist was very helpful and after three sessions he told me that I wasn’t depressed and that it was normal to feel the way I was feeling due to the huge change that I was going through. The sessions were over.

I was happy I wasn’t clinically depressed, but I was still feeling terribly sad and worried out of my mind thinking what our life was going to be like in the future. First, I wanted to make sure I was able to keep taking care of my kids and second, I wanted to figure out how to come out of this marriage with some plan for the future. As I was watching my whole life crumble to pieces at my feet, I was worried about having the energy and mindset to make the right decisions for my family going forward. At that time of my life I wished I had known about coaching and I would have reached out to receive more help and guidance. Not being depressed was great, but I had so much more to figure out and even my own feelings and identity was taking a huge blow. We came out on the other side years later and life was good again but the extra help would have helped make better decisions earlier.

That’s why today I am a certified coach to be able to provide that extra help and guidance to people going though big changes, or small changes to be able to process feelings and thoughts in a contained way that will allow you to move forward with extra confidence and loving care.

Call me for a free clarity session. Let’s do it together!

Happy day to all!

Parent Toolbox Course is Live!

My course is live! I’m so excited to finally release my course about parenting. In the course you can find so many tips that you can use right away with your own kids.

As you try the different tips -choose the ones that make sense to you- you will see that it is fun and challenging at the same time. But above all you will be spending quality time with your kids and they will appreciate it.

You can create your account and have free access to the Welcome video and the First Class, Know Your Kid, here.

This is the first in a series of courses about parenting. This one is more general and can be applied to kids of different ages. The focus is on the topics in general:

  • Know Your Kid: you can always learn more about your kids by paying attention, being present and open to see how your kid reacts to different things, also as your kid grows he/she will change so we have to be very careful not to label them
  • Pick your battles: yes, you have to pick your battles because not all of them are worth it and it will be different in different circumstances.
  • Routine for Happiness: routine is the key to take the stress out of your everyday activities. It doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous and go things on a whim, but the things you need to do every morning are less stressful if you remove the guessing out of it.
  • Be the Example to Follow: yout teach your kids values by talking to them but most importantly by acting and doing things the way yout tell them to act and do things. Your kids are looking at you from day one to know how to behave and act.

After watching the free bundle, you can access the rest of the classes here. Get access right now and start trying the tips that you find useful to become the parent you want to be and improve your everyday life with your kids.

Let’s do it together!