Numbing Vs. Soothing Yourself

We all numb ourselves from time to time.

I numb myself by standing at the pantry mindlessly eating potato chips. I numb myself by scrolling on the Internet or watching a TV show.

I used to numb myself with an extra glass of wine.

What are things you do to numb yourself?

Numbing yourself is normal, and it’s also good to notice when you’re doing it.

Why? If you’re numbing yourself out a lot, it might be good to think about soothing yourself too.

Instead of checking out, you’re checking in. Here are some examples of how to soothe yourself:

> Mindfully sip on a cup of coffee, with no other distractions. Pay attention to the temperature of the coffee, the smell, the taste, the feel, the sound, the look. Use all your senses to be present in that moment. If you catch yourself thinking about something else, gently bring your mind back to the coffee.

> Talk with a friend. Let yourself be heard, and hear them as well.

> Take a walk. Stretch. Exercise.

> Get a good night’s sleep.

When you soothe yourself, you build your resilience. You fill your cup, your emotional capacity.

That way, when something stressful comes along, it doesn’t bother you so much because you’re not at the end of your rope. You’ve got rope to spare.

Soothing yourself is a beautiful, simple way to help you manage your button, the things that annoy you. It helps you maintain your composure and be kind to yourself and others in difficult moments.

Learn about yourself: I created a PDF for you to print out and use at home. Click here to download. Circle things that are soothing to you. Think about ways you numb, and ways you soothe.

Again, here’s the link to Soothe Yourself:
https://jeanettehargreaves.com/soothe-yourself/

To hire me to speak with your group, contact me here.

What is Corporal Punishment?

Since my twins were born, I’ve tried to be the best mom I could be.

I took my babies every year for their checkups at the pediatrician’s office.

Every year, they gave me paperwork about parenting. I read those pages like the Bible. They taught me about nutrition, screen time, and helmets for bike riding.

But they never talked about corporal punishment, the intentional harm of a child, for the sake of discipline.

I was spanked and slapped as a kid, and I know others who were paddled or whipped with belts and sticks. I thought it was normal, and the way to teach a child respect, so I did as was done to me. When my kids were young, I yelled at them and spanked them.

But it didn’t feel right to me, so I stopped, and got help.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

> Spanking is hitting.

> Research shows that people who experience corporal punishment as a child are likely to have adverse effects in their lives, like greater amounts of stress (that was me!).

> There are some states in the US that ban corporal punishment in schools. There are some countries in the world where the corporal punishment of children is illegal in all settings, at home and at school.

> There’s an organization called End Violence Against Children working to educate our governments about this issue.

> Some Christians believe that Proverbs 13:24 gives parents direction to hit their children. I have my Master’s in Divinity and I researched this. It’s just not right. Ask yourself: What Would Jesus Do? (Look at the stories of the Prodigal Son and the times when Jesus blesses the children.) An expert in Biblical research, Samuel Martin, has written three books on the subject. If you’d like to see his work, click here.

But back to my story…

I’m upset my pediatrician didn’t teach me about corporal punishment. So, I made the PDF I wish my pediatrician had given me at my babies’ first year checkup. Click here to download and print. Feel free to share it, or take it to your doctor’s office.

I don’t consider this an urgent issue (just  about 100 years ago, Wyatt Earp was taming the Wild West with his six-shooter), but it’s time. We know better, and we can do better.

What’s your experience with corporal punishment?

Here’s that PDF:

Hire me to speak with your group. Contact me here.

What is a mentor?

Let’s talk about mentorship.

Mentors are people you learn from. Sometimes they’re family, friends, or community members. Sometimes they’re authors or people you hire (like me).

You can identify one of your mentors if they say something that feels like it speaks directly to you. They also have a quality to their life that you’d like to have in yours.

We each have mentors that appeal to us. I have my mentors, people I follow, and some I meet with.

Choosing your mentors is personal. My best friend or my husband might not like my mentors (they have their own).

When it comes to learning from your mentors, there are levels. Here are some examples from my program.

1. Read their words. You learn not only from their words, but from how they make you feel, what’s “in-between” the lines. (You can read my book and my blog.)

2. Use their words, adopt their vocabulary. A lot of my clients adopt the phrase, “In our house, we value _(insert your value here, like kindness)__.” (My book has specific phrases you can use to strengthen your relationships at home.)

3. Listen to them speak or watch videos of them. You learn unspoken things from listening to their voice, watching their body language, and seeing how they treat people. (Here’s a list of videos where you can see me speaking.)

4. Meet with them personally. You learn from how they treat you. (From texting to meeting in person, there are ways you can work with me. You can even become a certified Temper Coach to help other families.)

Who are your mentors?

Am I one of them?

What are your thoughts on mentorship?

Share this post with someone who might find it useful. Talk about it with them.

What does the Wicked Witch want?

The New York Times has a feature right now called “The Primal Scream.” It’s about working mothers in America. They have a hotline you can call to scream, to vent, to say what you want to say for 1 minute.

What if you could sit down and talk to yourself, the part of yourself who screams, or who wants to scream? What would she say?

What does she want? What does she need? How does she feel? What does she care about? Like, really care about deep down in her soul?

When I first decided to stop yelling, I called it the “Anger bug,” something I wanted to squish, something I had inherited from my dad and granddad.

But over time, I learned that the bug wasn’t something to squish. I had a friend who called it the “wicked witch” instead. That “wicked witch” was a part of me, and ignoring her, trying to squash her, just made her more furious.

I’ve been with many mothers who hate on themselves for yelling. Over and over again, I gently say, “Mama, you did the best you could. You were doing your absolute best in that moment.”

I show that part of themselves some love and attention, and they weep.

The hard part is that many of us who yell didn’t grow up with the most nurturing mothers. It’s hard to nurture yourself when you haven’t experienced a lot of nurturing.

Here’s one thing you can try:

First, think of yourself in a good mom moment, a time when you gently put a Band-Aid on a booboo, a time when you laughed at the mess they made, a time when you stomped on the floor playfully right alongside them.

Now speak to the screamer inside of you. What does she say?

Does she want to stomp her feet? Sweet! That’ll feel good! Let her!

Does she need a good scream? Do it. Go outside and give it a good yell. Or if you’re worried about the neighbors, find a pillow to scream into.

Do you ever see your kids and how they love to scream or be grumpy sometimes?

Pretend for a moment that the screamer inside of you loves to be grumpy and pissed off sometimes. After all, it’s fun to break a dish, especially if you have to wash them!

Can you give yourself permission to break a dish safely? Or perhaps let her write a note about all the stress, all the things she hates, and then burn it (safely in a grill of course). Relish in the sound of breaking glass, or the heat of the flame. Throw your head back and let the wicked witch give a good cackle. Can you hear it? What do you hear in her voice?

Underneath all that stress, all that grumpiness, all of that worry, all of that anger, there’s something very deep.

A deep, deep need.

The need to be heard. To be seen. To be loved.

So if you’re a mom working on her hot temper, that’s what you can do today, even if just for a moment.

Look at that part of yourself and see her. Listen to her. Honor her.

You might find a little love goes a long way.

Contact me to get certified, become a Temper Coach and help other families to stop yelling.

No one gets “in trouble”

In her book The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey (a teacher) cites research about rewards and punishments.

In a  nutshell: They don’t work.

She says, “Applying pressure in the form of control is the single most damaging thing parents and teachers can do to their children’s learning. Whether in the form of threats, bribes, deals, surveillance, imposed goals, evaluations, or even rewards and praise, control is the enemy of autonomy.”

This is not only true for academic learning, but for learning behavior too.

And if you grew up in a place like my childhood home, you have NO IDEA how to raise a kid that way. (When I was punished for lying, it didn’t make me want to be truthful. It made me want to be better at lying!)

That’s why there are so many parenting coaches and programs now, because we know better. Now we just have to learn and practice how to do it.

Here’s how I teach it in my program:

No rewards. No punishments. No yelling. No hitting or spanking. No random consequences.

No “if / then” parenting, “If you do this, then you’ll get a reward,” or “If you do this, then you’ll get punished.”

There’s no manipulation, but there are boundaries and expectations.

The primary expectation in my house is kindness, for all family members. We have values like safety, health, love, and respect.

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know what we do instead of punishing a child. We do three things:

1. Maintain your composure. (Try yawning on purpose.)
2. Talk about feelings, “You’re feeling ____ because ____.”
3. Talk about values, “You care about ____.”


We do these three steps over and over. It helps build autonomy, integrity, and self-awareness. And when we maintain our composure as parents, it helps our children learn how to self-regulate too.

But what do we do instead of rewards?

It’s basically the same. Talk about feelings, “You’re feeling proud of the work you did.” Talk about values, “You care about your work, and you like to do a good job.”

In addition, if they’re feeling really good, teach them how to celebrate and express their happiness. Dance in the kitchen. Run around the block. Raise your hands in the air together as a family and give a “WooHoooo!”

If you’re working on making this transition, to have a house with no rewards or punishments, catch yourself when you’re successful. Celebrate your own small victories. Smile to yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. Raise your hands in the air and say, “Yes! I’m doing it!!” You’ll motivate yourself that way.

It feels good to feel good.

That’s true intrinsic motivation (no rewards or punishments involved).

Hire me to help you make this transition. Contact me here.

How to talk to your kids about the Bad Guys

As a mom, I have a new perspective on fairy tales.

Sometimes, we read stories on the couch as a family. I know those stories impact the thoughts and lives of my children. And I find myself feeling uncomfortable with some of our most classic, beloved stories.

Do I want to read my little girl stories about ugly old witches that want to kill young women just because the young women are beautiful? Uhhh… No.

What does that story tell about old women? And young women? And what does it say about relationships between women? Yuck! That is not what I want for me and my little girl.

I want her to be valued for her heart and mind, not just for her pretty face. And when I’m an old woman, I want to be wise with my own beautiful, well-earned wrinkles. And I want to teach my daughter (and my son too) that women love and support each other.

And in that story (Snow White), the men have one of two jobs: that of killer or rescuer. The hunter’s job is to hunt down Snow White and kill her. The prince’s job is to rescue Snow White. Yuck! That’s not what I want for my husband and my little boy.

I want my son to be valued for his heart and mind, not just for his ability to fight or rescue. And when my husband’s an old man, I want him to be wise with his own beautiful, well-earned wrinkles. And I want to teach my son (and my daughter too) that men love and support each other,

and that women and men love and support each other too.

So how can I read a story about the “bad guys” while maintaining this story of love I want to teach my children? What do I say about the Wicked Witch or Darth Vader or Voldemort when my kids look back at me in shock and ask, “Why do they hurt people mama?”

Here’s how I respond. I take a big breath and say, “Everyone’s doing the best that they can.”

Let me explain.

We used to call those stories about the good guys and the bad guys battles of “good vs. evil.” We used to say the bad guys were “evil.”

Now I have a different perspective. The perception of someone as “evil” is just a way we give ourselves permission to hate. When we call them “evil,” we get to hate them. We love to hate the bad guys. We love it. We roll around in that hate like a pig in you-know-what. Yummmmy.

But what about love? Isn’t love the thing? Don’t all our wise people keep shouting, “Hey (ahem — tap-tap-tap is this mic working?), what about LOVE?”

Can we really love the bad guy? Really? We’re having so much fun rolling around in all this yummy hate-mud over here. That big love shower — it looks a bit frosty, a bit nippy…

So how do we love the bad guy?

(And when I say love them, I mean really, deeply, love them. The kind of love that makes you weep.)

This is how we love them, those big, bad, beautiful, dark bad guys:

We see their pain.

When I see stories of bad guys, now I see pain.

> Darth Vader’s in pain — you learn about his journey from handsome, love-sick Anakin to Vader, Lord of the Dark Side. He’s doing the best he can with the awareness he has, and he wears a mask to cover his face, to cover up his pain. Upon his death, when the mask comes off, he tells his son Luke that Luke was right about him, that there was some good left in him after all.

> Voldemort (He Who Shall Not Be Named) from the Harry Potter series is in pain. You only get glimpses of it (it’s a little more expanded in the books), but he had a terrible childhood. Voldemort can’t do any better — he’s doing the best he can, and maybe his pain is made worse because they don’t even say his name — they don’t see his pain — they don’t even recognize him as a person.

> There’s a book and a musical called Wicked about how Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, became the Wicked Witch. How? You might have guessed — it’s a story of pain that began before birth.

> I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Today I want to be an unkind mom.” But sometimes, I end up being unkind to my kids, or my husband, or my friends and neighbors. Not because I’m evil, and not because I’m a bad guy. When I’m unkind, it’s a sign of pain, of hurt. Sometimes, there’s hurt happening in the present moment, but often, hurt from the past (from my own childhood) is creeping back into the present. Sometimes the pain is so painful we keep our unkindness a secret, to hide it from the world and in some ways, we even try to hide it from ourselves. I used to yell every day behind closed doors, and blame my kids for it.

So where does this problem end? The stories we tell about good and evil, the stories we tell about ourselves. The way we let ourselves be unkind and at the same time get to be mad at others for their unkindness.

Here’s my answer: the story about good and evil ends on my couch with my children when I read them a fairy tale. It ends when they fight and hurt each other and instead of punishing them, I teach them how to love and make up. It ends when they tell a story about a kid in school that got in trouble and I reflect and say, “Maybe he was having a rough day.” It ends when I’m driving on the road and I have compassion for someone who cuts me off. It ends when I apologize for being unkind to my kids and admit, “I’m sorry. I love you. I’m doing the best I can, and I’m trying to do better.”

By calling the problem “pain” instead of “evil,” there’s a chance for healing to happen. As long as we fail to see that Voldemort is a person in pain, we’re putting a stopper in his chance to heal. He remains evil in our hearts, our minds, and our books forever. But when we see that he’s a person in pain, it’s a lot harder to hate and hurt him, and that’s when the door for healing opens. For him, and for all of us.

If we can change this way of thinking around fairy tales, it can change the way we think about ourselves too. It makes it harder for us to hurt and hate others. And it opens the door for our own healing.

Now, does all of this mean that it’s ok for the “bad guy” to hurt others? No. Hurting others is not ok, but learning how not to hurt begins with us, in our own hearts, in our own minds, and in our own houses. I’m learning how not to hurt my own kids with my own unkindness.

If there’s such a thing as evil in the world, it’s a tendency we all have to sometimes forget that people are people, and we all have pain.

I’m not the bad guy and neither are you.

When I think about it, it’s truly awesome (AWE-some) the power we have as parents. In tiny moments every day, we have the power to change a story and maybe, just maybe, change the world.

So who are the bad guys to you? Who are you “fighting” with? Don’t just move on to the next thing on the internet. Set down your phone, close your eyes and breathe for a moment. Think about this question. Let it settle into your bones.

Write me: jeanette@thelowpressurelife.com

The Case of the Butter

As a kid, I grew up on Frosted Flakes cereal. For breakfast, I poured myself a bowl, added milk, and then put a scoop of sugar on top. Yum.

But as an adult, I found myself less interested in eating those kinds of foods. So about two years ago, I hired a nutritionist to take me grocery shopping.

At my HEB store in Austin (the one at Mopac and Parmer), she showed me where to find the nutritious food I was looking for. In some cases, it was on the shelf right next to the old foods I used to buy, I just hadn’t seen them yet.

So I bought a few new items and brought them home. One thing I brought home was butter from grass-fed cows. It tasted so good to me, like soft cheese. I craved it. But my husband and kids thought the grass-fed butter was gross. So I put it on a plate next to our old butter.

And for the last TWO YEARS, I’ve been buying both kinds. The regular old butter and the new grass-fed butter. Over time, my family got curious and tasted the new butter more and more. Every once and awhile, I checked with them to see if they were ready for me to stop buying the old kind of butter. They kept saying, “No, not yet,” until one day they were ready. That was a month ago. So I stopped buying the old kind. Now I only buy the new kind, the more nutritious grass-fed butter, and it’s the only one we’re eating as a family.

If one day they ask me to buy the old butter again, I will, with ease.

Here’s the lesson from the butter. It’s the key to creating a shift in your family: Take the pressure off them to change. The ONLY PERSON you can change is yourself. So if you decide to improve your nutrition, do it, but don’t force it on them. Forcing it, “shoulding” them, puts you in a power struggle. Yuck.

Likewise, if you decide to improve your relationships, like if you want to stop yelling, tell your family about it, but don’t force them to change immediately too. Having one big change at a time is enough. Your change will have ripple effects over time. Smile to yourself when you notice the effects of your work. That’s your magic.

Learn about my new offerings by subscribing to my monthly newsletter here. (I won’t spam you. It’s just me.)

Interview in Authority Magazine

This is a repost of an article. To view the original click here.

Jeanette Hargreaves of tempercoaching.com: “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees”

By Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

17 minute read

As part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanette Hargreaves, M.Div.

Jeanette is a parenting coach, author, and public speaker. She helps moms who lose their temper, and speaks to groups about stress, anger, and emotional intelligence. Her book, The Day I Threw Banana Bread and Almost Went to Jail: True Stories About How I Used to Lose My Temper (and How I Learned to Stop), is available for purchase online.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Igrew up with a dad who yelled at and spanked me as a kid. When my twins were born, I yelled and spanked my kids too, but it didn’t feel right to me, so I got help. As a mom with a Master’s in Divinity, now I help others break the cycle.

After I stopped yelling (2018 was the last time I lost my temper), I came to see it as a habit. So I teach: Yelling is a habit you can break. It’s a physical, mental, and environmental habit the whole family supports, similar to cigarette smoking. In my family we all were addicted to the rush of adrenaline we got when I yelled, because it was scary! When I first stopped yelling, the family unconsciously tried to push me back into the habit, because they missed the rush. But it’s not as obvious as smoking cigarettes, because if you were raised in a yelling family, you experience it as “discipline” or as a natural response to anger (it’s neither ideally). Yelling is a habit you inherit, and it’s simply not necessary nor useful for a happy, healthy life.

Even though my career isn’t religious, doing this work is my ministry, my calling. I’m motivated by my love for people, and I’m also motivated by the anger I feel when I think about how many families still think that yelling is ok.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve introduced myself to thousands of people with the phrase, “I help moms who lose their temper, because I used to lose my temper every day.” It sets the stage for very unusual conversations. The most interesting thing I’ve found is that people tend to fall into four groups. The first small group grew up in self-regulated households, and they don’t know many people who yell. The second small group has a story similar to mine; they grew up in yelling families but they healed from it. The third group is also small, and those are the folks who are still in yelling families, but they’re ready for the yelling to stop. The largest group, however, are the people for whom yelling is normal and accepted. They usually say, “Do you really not yell at your kids? Everyone yells.”

It’s like we live in bubbles where we have different experiences around yelling. I broke out of the yelling bubble and into the group where yelling isn’t OK anymore.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I advise fellow parenting educators to educate without pressure. Here’s what I mean: some people aren’t ready to hear the latest research or modern parenting techniques. Perhaps they’re not ready to let go of the old standbys of rewards and punishments they were raised with. You aren’t responsible for them. It’s exhausting trying to change everyone. Instead, work with people who are ready and willing to make changes in their family.

I’m giving this advice because it’s advice I try to swallow regularly, with varying levels of success. It would be nice if we lived in a world without yelling, wouldn’t it?

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Train as many employees as you can in emotional intelligence, especially leadership. Emotional intelligence creates an environment that feels safe and caring so people feel empowered towards engagement and problem solving. For example, emotional intelligence led me to stop blaming others for my situation and take ownership for my own actions. You want engaged, empowered employees. Beyond the workplace, emotional intelligence will benefit their homelife too, and if an employee is happier at home, they’ll be happier at work.

If you’re looking for evidence-based research on the impact emotional intelligence has in the workplace, Six Seconds has it (I have no affiliation).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I have my Master’s in Divinity, so I’m going to quote Jesus from his sermon on the mount. In Matthew 7:12, he sums up all the law and prophets saying, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” This phrase is also known as The Golden Rule. It came to mind one day as I taught a workshop for a group of 40 moms at a local church.

One of the women raised her hand at the end of my talk and said, “But Jeanette, my kids just don’t listen unless I yell.”

I paused for a moment. I pointed at a few things I’d written on the whiteboard. I took a deep breath and thought about her kids. I felt a lump in my throat. I swallowed and said, “This all boils down to one thing. It’s what Jesus said when he summed up all the law, and all the prophets.” I paused, “Does anyone remember what he said?” You could have heard a pin drop. The moms leaned in.

I answered, “Jesus said, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated.’” I paused again, and explained, “If the dishes need doing, or the laundry needs folding, I don’t want to be yelled at. It’s the same for our kids. If they need to get off their phone or clean their room, they don’t want to be yelled at either.”

Here’s something strange: as a yelling mom, I couldn’t see this point of view. I thought my kids deserved to be yelled at, that it was a form of discipline. I thought I was instilling respect. It wasn’t until after I broke out of the yelling bubble that I truly understood The Golden Rule. It’s a different way, a loving way, to command authority.

I’ve had literal Amazing Grace in my life, just like the line from the song: “I once… was blind but now I see.” Sometimes I wonder if my work really matters, or if the job of opening eyes is just God’s work.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Talk about stress and how to address it in healthy ways.

With emotional intelligence, the goal is to be able to identify and respond to your emotions (and the emotions of others) in healthy, helpful ways. I talk about stress as just another feeling people experience. People have a “stress response,” but our bodies also have responses to sadness, anger, fear, excitement, and other feelings. For example, you might feel a lump in your throat when you’re sad, an upset stomach when you’re scared, or tight shoulders when you’re stressed. Talking about handling stress is a simple way to ease into mental health awareness.

I’ve spoken with several organizations on this topic. For good mental health, it’s helpful to know the difference between numbing and soothing stress. For example, standing in the pantry mindlessly stuffing potato chips in your mouth? That would be numbing stress. Outside exercise or talking with a friend are examples of soothing.

2. Help employees identify red flags for mental health.

During the pandemic there have been jokes about stock-piling toilet paper, gaining the “COVID19” pounds of weight, and adopting puppies. There’s now a term for staying up late at night, “doom scrolling,” on the internet. Some people have been extreme cleaning or remodeling their houses. “Mom rage” has been trending also.

Most people know serious signs for a mental health need (such as endless crying, difficulty doing normal things, or hurting yourself or others), but a lot of people don’t know that the things we’ve been joking about during the pandemic are also red flags to reach out for mental health, a good reason to check in with a counselor.

Personally, I didn’t know you could get help for losing your temper, or for the way I used to beat myself up mentally every night, wishing I hadn’t yelled at the kids that day. Like anything, the pandemic (or an election or a natural disaster) can be a good excuse to go nuts, or a good excuse to finally get help.

A local company in Austin hired me to speak at an all-hands meeting about this topic, “Red Flags to Get Help for Mental Health.” The topic doesn’t have to be serious. You can have fun with it: “Drowning in puppies? It might be time to call on the EAP (Employee Assistance Program).” I talk about how I threw banana bread in anger, and now regularly women confess to me about things they’ve thrown, like ketchup, a cell phone, and even a block of cheese. Laughter helps ease the pressure and opens up our minds to learn.

Note: I have met therapists and pastors who did not know you could get help for losing your temper. The more we raise awareness about this particular red flag, the better.

3. Celebrate problem-solving.

At first, it feels strange to talk about problems, but when we talk about the tough stuff and how we worked through it, it creates a hopeful, problem-solving culture. I saw one organization hire an outside professional to help them settle a dispute between two groups, but after the fact, they swept the whole incident under the rug. That shows embarrassment and shame around difficulties and getting help. But what if that organization created a plaque to celebrate their accomplishment, how they addressed a problem? What if all companies had a wall where they commemorated the tough times and how they worked it out? It would create a culture where it’s ok to be human, to mess up, to get help, and grow.

The best example of this is my own personal yelling. I could have gotten help and then stayed quiet about it in my family, denying that it ever happened. But my kids bring it up from time to time. They remember when I used to lose it. It’s ok to talk about, and there’s still some healing to do. This also sets an example that you don’t have to be perfect, and it’s good to get help when you need it. By going public, it’s encouraged others to follow in my footsteps and get help.

4. Make it easy to get help.

A company wanted me to provide multiple resources for their employees, but people are overwhelmed, and they already have too many “tabs” open in their browsers, too many tasks in their lives. Give them one phone number or one person to call. That group decided to give their employees one phone number for the EAP.

5. Celebrate when your employees get help.

At a meeting I went to, at the encouragement of leadership, multiple employees spoke up about how they received help from their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with free counseling sessions. That means those employees identified a need, reached out to get help, and finally received the help they needed. For someone in need, those three steps of identification, asking for help, and getting help, are a big deal. If you regularly share company statistics, consider including use of the EAP (keep users anonymous). It will raise awareness and keep the EAP at the forefront of people’s minds.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

This interview is a great step, so thank you for your questions. My first career was as a news producer, and unfortunately, as a news producer, I helped generate a lot of fear, anger, and sadness. “If it bleeds, it leads,” was our unofficial motto. Years after leaving the news, I learned about a movement called “solutions-based journalism.” The best use of media is solutions-based. If you have a media outlet, use it like this to raise awareness.

In addition, companies that have taken steps for the mental well-being of employees can advertise to set an example. Do you have a counselor or emotional intelligence trainer on staff? Do you offer free counseling with your EAP? Talk about it in your recruitment package. Let’s create a workforce that expects it.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues? Can you explain?

As an individual in a society, if you notice that someone has a real problem and it bothers you (they may be a person in your own family, a person in your community, or even a person in the news), try to take the focus off of their problem and think about yourself for a moment. You can’t control others or force them to get help. The only person you can control is yourself, and you might need help too. Let’s start with that extreme irritation you’re feeling — do you really think that’s helping you or the person with the problem? There’s another quote from Jesus’ sermon on the mount on the topic (Matthew 7:3, NIV), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” One example I have of this is the way I used to complain about my messed-up dad, which is ironic because we had a lot more in common than I realized.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for advice on personal interaction with a stressed individual, there are specific steps you can take. Here they are.

When someone is stressed, they’re often focused on an issue. When that happens, look below the issue to see the emotions and underlying values. Don’t engage with that person about the issue. Instead, follow these steps using a tool I call, “Connect:”

  1. Maintain your composure. Try yawning on purpose (yawning tells your body to calm down).
  2. Connect with their feelings. If you’re in their presence, notice their body language too, because their words and bodily expressions might not match up. If they’re upset, avoid eye contact to help them feel safe. Tell them, “You’re feeling ______ because _______.” Pause. Notice their reaction.
  3. Connect with their values. What’s important to them? What do they like? Take a moment to think about it before you say anything. Don’t focus on the “don’ts,” such as, “You don’t like it when…” Instead, affirm their values, “You care about _______.” Pause. Notice their reaction.
  4. If there’s a problem, often these steps will settle it. If not, address the problem using individual and group values. Aim for a win-win solution.

Here’s a simple example. A woman was complaining to me about how disorganized an event was. I felt annoyed about her complaining, and then I remembered these steps. I let go of my annoyance (I composed myself, step one) and addressed her feelings (step two), “You feel disappointed that the event was disorganized.”

She stopped for a moment and said, “Yes.” Then, she continued to complain. (This is why you go on to step three and talk about values, because you don’t want them stuck in the feeling.)

For step three I said, “You really like it when events are well organized.”

She looked me in the eye and responded, “Yes, I do,” and she stopped complaining.

By addressing her underlying emotions and values, the issue was settled.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

All of the strategies I’ve mentioned so far are helpful. In addition, making good choices for your physical body can help your mental health. In my opinion, getting a good night’s sleep is number one. That’s your body and brain’s time to rest and renew.

I did an internet search recently looking for ways to get a good night’s sleep, and found a TEDx talk by Satchin Panda called, “Health lies in healthy circadian habits.” I can’t stop thinking about it. Basically, he says there are two ways to help your circadian rhythm. First, by exposure to light. Blue light in the morning, and orange light in the evening. So get outside in the morning for blue light, and in the evening, set your screens for night mode or wear some blue-light blocking glasses. Secondly, watching the number of hours you eat each day helps your circadian rhythm. You can eat healthy foods, but if you eat for 15 hours a day, you’re not going to be healthy, and you won’t sleep well. This last bit blows my mind. If you eat healthy foods, but for 15 hours a day, it’s unhealthy! However, if you eat in the same 8–10 hour time-frame every day, it helps with the circadian rhythm, which in turn helps many things, physical and mental, according to his research. They used rats to prove this. It’s funny how rats and humans have so many things in common.

After watching the talk three weeks ago, I’ve been eating between the hours of 8:30am-6:30pm. Panda says it takes three to four months to settle into the results. I’m excited to use this simple, sustainable idea for my physical and mental health.

I grew up with a mother who constantly dieted with no success. I love that this isn’t a diet, it’s just a way of life that honors the natural rhythms in the body. The body is a system, and it’s connected to the natural systems and cycles of the earth. It makes sense to me. Creation is like a tapestry, and we’re one of the threads woven in.

Maybe I’ll write a little manual, “How to take care of a human.” It will include things like emotional intelligence and the circadian rhythm. I bet everyone reading this interview might have a chapter to add to the book.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

When I’m stressed, I use something I call, “The Perfect Yawn.” Yawning is nature’s way to tell your body and mind to calm down. I open my mouth and throat wide. I bring my shoulders down. I tilt my head side to side and give my whole body a wiggle and stretch. I sigh, let my belly drop, and massage my scalp. If there’s a moment when my body pauses before a deep breath, I wait for that perfect moment to complete the yawn. While reading this, some folks might feel tempted to yawn. Let’s all take a moment and go for it. (Yawn time.) Feels good, right? Kids and animals do it naturally to relieve stress. My little dog yawns and gives her whole body a shake.

Adults can yawn like this with purpose. I use it to help me calm down and think clearly, “How am I feeling, and how do I want to respond? How can I be helpful (instead of hurtful) in this moment? What is the most helpful action for me and those around me?”

I also use yawning to help spread calm. Stress is contagious, but calm is contagious too. Try yawning in a group of people sometime. See if the yawn gets passed around.

As a person who used to yell all the time, I needed a simple, everyday calming practice. The yawn was it.

Now, the yawn wasn’t the only thing that helped get my hot temper under control. I relied on professionals too, such as nutritionists, coaches, counselors, doctors, and massage therapists. Yelling was a hard habit for me to break, but it was worth it.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I like many books. I’m also a fan of good children’s literature. I want my children to see the world as a system, how everything and everyone is connected, and so small things matter. I’m still working on comprehending that myself. There are several kids’ books that remind me of that. I couldn’t pick just one. Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust is about how the dust we breathe today might have been the dust that made King Tutankhamun sneeze in ancient times, so it reminds me that we are connected to other people through history. A Drop Around the World reminds me that the water in my kids’ milk might eventually be the water in a whale’s gills, so we’re all connected with the water system. When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone reminds me how much we still have to learn about systems, because when we killed off the keystone species, the wolf, in Yellowstone National Park, the whole park began to deteriorate. When we introduced the wolf again, it helped bring things back into balance. Everything is a system, so little things we do matter.

Learning about our inter-connectedness has impacted my daily life. I try to buy organic food, because I know that restoring America’s soil will help us, nationally and globally. I’m also learning about organic clothing for the same reasons: organic clothing is better for people and the environment. I try to look for businesses that use responsible supply chains and treat their people with dignity. One purchase at a time, each of us can shape the future.

Family life is inter-connected too. I know if I have a stressful morning with the kids, that stress is going to be passed around my community through their friends and teachers, but if I have a calm, pleasant morning with them, that will have an impact. God willing, the impact of my parenting will be passed down through the generations, as my children and grandchildren parent with kindness and connection instead of threats.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you. I’m already part of the movement that I think could bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. It’s a simple idea with profound effects: stop yelling. More than that, it’s the idea that all feelings can be felt in healthy ways. Because when you stop yelling, you’re not stopping the anger. You’re just learning how to respond to it differently. Yelling, hitting, and throwing things isn’t helpful. Taking action to make a situation more loving and safer is helpful. You know all that energy it takes to yell? Imagine what we all could do if we used that energy to do good things. It’s possible. I know, because I harness the energy of anger for good when I’m doing my work.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

They can read my blog and subscribe to my monthly email newsletter at jeanettehargreaves.com.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

You’re welcome. Thank you for highlighting this important work in mental health.

From Authority Magazine:

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Written by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated:

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast.

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