Are you seeing red?

What I wanted to be such a glorious, exciting morning turned into a grouch-fest melt-down. It was Maddie’s first day of her last year at the magical day-care/pre-school she’s been attending since we moved to MA. I was feeling sad at the thought that this was her last year there, and wistful for those early days of day care when I would get her ready and keep her on schedule, because it was my schedule – there was never really any morning stress or worry. 

Now that Maddie is 4, we have quite a different scenario: I go in to the room of a 4-year-old who hates getting out of bed, whom I can barely lift out of bed, and whom I have to expend tons of energy cajoling and delighting and tricking out of bed just to eat breakfast; a 4-year-old who sometimes wants my help and other times doesn’t; a 4-year-old who sometimes seems like 4 going on 40, and other times 4 going on 2.  On this particular day, I encountered both!

Soon after waking, getting somewhat dressed, and eating breakfast our morning quickly dissolved into a puddle of not wanting to finish getting dressed and resistance about leaving.  We’ve been talking about the zones of regulation in my family a lot over the last few months. 

Just for a quick recap: The zones of regulation are ways to acknowledge and regulate emotions, energy, physicality within ourselves and others. 
Blue=lethargic, tired, even depressed
Green=calm body, calm mind, calm voice – even-keeled
 
Yellow=excited, super energized, outside-type-voice
 
Red=really wild, out of control, screaming

Well, we went from Blue to Red in what seemed to be the flick of a switch.

In the midst of all of this I was trying to manage my own feelings of sadness and wistfulness coupled with the excitement of the experiences that await her this year, layered with the frustration of wanting to help someone who doesn’t want my help and yet isn’t helping themselves, topped with complete befuddlement, confusion, even anger about not knowing how to handle this situation and what to do next to get us out of here and to school on time.  I felt crazed trying to maintain an outwardly Green-type energy, while on the inside Red was taking hold.

On the verge of tears, I began to maneuver her around the house like a shopping cart with a bonk-ity wheel.  This was not how I wanted this first day and new year to begin.  What to do with all of these emotions – how to salvage today?

Once we were in the car, both safely strapped in, grounded and secure, I apologized – sorry for the rough morning, sorry for rushing her, sorry for losing it and crying.  We talked about the zones – how we both went into Red and why. As we talked, I felt the feelings and gave them room to breathe and air, and in the 8 minute drive to school we both returned to Green, had a sweet drop off, and began our days.

While Maddie is old enough to understand the zones of regulation and what they mean, she’s not yet old enough to really identify what will help her get back to Green.  And as I think more about it, when anyone hits that Red zone, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what they need in that moment to get back to Green, how to articulate it clearly, and how to engage in the activities that will bring them back to Green.

For that reason I’ve put together a little tool box” of things you can try when you are feeling super stressed (Red) or moving in that direction (Yellow) to help you move back to calm and centered, even-keeled (Green). 

I hope you don't need this, but if you do, please let me know how it goes.  Here's hoping you have a
GREEN day!

Peace, Love, and Bliss,
Beth

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