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Beautiful Yet Terrifying Thing About People

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As an introvert I’ve always been more the type of person to sit back and observe rather than act on things right away. This has led me to more naturally become a “people-watcher.” I also have a bachelors in psychology and I generally find people fascinating. Fascinating yet terrifying at the same time. J
I’m also shy, I have anxiety about being with people. (You can learn more about thedifferences of introversion and shyness here.) This can be especially true when I don’t know them very well. So, here is the thing that makes people both completely interesting to me but at the same time terrifying.

We are all different.

I’m someone that likes familiarity. While I may enjoy doing new things, even finding those new things to be fun and exciting. New is both stimulating and also anxiety producing. There is a fear of the unknown for me. When it comes to people, because no two people are exactly alike I often feel that sense of unknown. I can guess and surmise at what the other person might do but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it. Even with educated guesses there is still a sense of unpredictability. I need the comfort of something familiar.

A while ago I took an online parenting class from Quietrev.com (I'm not an affiliate). In it the concept of having a bridge friend for introvert children to feel more comfortable in a new situation. Looking back I can see how much the bridge friends in my life helped me. I have also seen how having a bridge friend in the form of her little sister has helped my 4 year old, Lil Bug become more comfortable a lot quicker than in the past. That familiar and nonjudgmental friend helps the child (or adult) to be more comfortable accepting the new stimuli and more confident in sharing who they are with others.

On top of the sense of unfamiliarity, Introverts often crave deeper connections and deeper meaning. Which in my case, means that when I meet people who are new or who I don’t know as well it is tedious and awkward for me to converse through small talk, which inevitably is the start of a conversation. I crave the ability to connect and discuss things that are more meaningful to me. What’s ironic about this is that at the same time that I’m desiring that connection, I’m also anxious about making that connection. Because then I am vulnerable. I am showing a new part of me. I wonder will they accept me as I am or will they find chance to criticize me.

I do want to take a moment and say that though I worry about others finding fault with me in their own eyes, that does not mean that I am less sure of myself. I still love who I am. It’s more a matter of showing them a part of me that I care about and love and the other person not seeing me for what I am. I worry that people will focus more on the negatives (more like perceived) negatives of our differences rather than the positives of those differences.

But, here is the amazing thing about making a connection with someone who is different from you.

Every person has a story.

I love stories. I have always enjoyed reading, I love how books can take me to another world, another life, another experience. I love how I can learn from the stories I hear and read. I love how they can inspire. And I also love how I can better understand someone when I hear the story of their life. There is a connection that can be made when someone tells you their story, whether you’ve experienced something similar or not. The vulnerability that occurs helps them to seem more real, more human, more loved.

We can learn from these stories that others tell about themselves. Yes, that vulnerability can be scary, but it can be something extraordinary as well. As long as we are open to understanding another person (and make that our focus) we can be edified, uplifted, and/or learn that there are reasons for why people do what they do. We can be strengthened from their example of overcoming difficult trials. We can gain insight into a difficult situation we ourselves are going through.

Unfortunately, differences can cause contention too. People come with extreme feelings about what they believe and think about the world. But, if we would take the thoughts and ideas that we feel passionate about and share them with others, listening in return, in a nonjudgmental way and in a nonjudgmental setting, we can learn from each other. That isn’t too say that any major changes would occur to our thoughts or beliefs or that someone else will change their own beliefs. That’s not what understanding someone means. Understanding is gaining a greater insight into why someone else may have a different belief than us. Likewise creating a meaningful connection is not about going into a conversation expecting to change the other person’s viewpoint. It’s about understanding and feeling understood because both sides of the conversation were open and nonjudgmental.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

When I was in graduate school for counseling psychology, I remember an amazing young woman in my class. The teacher was talking about how there will be times that we, as psycho therapists will be limited in our ability to counsel someone because of certain biases we may have. The teacher gave an example of someone who had done something quite troubling to many. But, I’ll never forget the response of this particular young woman in my class. Upon hearing what this troubled person did, she said, “Wow, he must really be hurting.” Her concern for this man who had done something many couldn’t even fathom pierced my soul. I gained a great respect for this young woman and loved her for her concern. But, what is even more amazing was I also gained compassion for the person that our teacher had told us about. It was a reminder that there are reasons to why people do things. We may not agree with everyone, but we can gain greater insight into why they do what they do and we can still love them.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

I am someone who has a firm belief in my religion, but I still find it fascinating to learn about other religions. I love looking for commonalities within the religions and also seeing how they differ. Both the things that are common and the differences are captivating to me. In college I took a world religions class and loved it. I now own a copy of the Dhammapada and I believe that the Bhagavad Gita is absolutely beautiful, though I myself am a Christian. There is truth in many places. I have also found that through studying both what I believe and the beliefs of others, I have gained a greater understanding not only of those who believe differently from me but I have also gained a greater understanding of my own faith. The examples of people like Pema Chodron, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Buddha have helped me to have a greater desire to live my own religion. My study has actually deepened my own belief in my own religion as I have come to see such parallels.

This is the case in relation to politics as well. I’m in a family where political beliefs differ among my family members quite a bit, from one extreme to the other. Yet, I am thankful for a husband who seeks articles and information about both sides of the issues. If you are familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, he is a questioner by nature. He has encouraged me to be better informed on political subjects.

My hope is that we can all have a more inquisitive nature and with that inquisitiveness, a more kind and compassionate view towards others as we hear their stories. We can learn so much from each other. We are all different, but that is a good thing. We can all bring something beautiful, amazing, and positive to this world, if we just allow others to do the same. Let’s fill the world with kindness, compassion and love. Let’s help others to feel understood. And let’s remember that every person has a story.

Helping My Young Children Prepare For A Move

This past year and a half was insanely busy for us. We remodeled the kitchen of the house we were living in, sold that house within 24 hours of putting it up for sale, and then we moved for 8 months while we built our own house. My husband is a general contractor which means we (he) really did build most of it ourselves. This meant a lot of extra hours after work and a lot of late nights for us. There was also a lot of driving back and forth from the rental to the house we were building. And a lot of changes.

As a highly sensitive introvert and also the parent of one, I've come to understand the importance of familiarity and routine. I really like to understand my circumstances and I enjoy familiarity. New and novel things can be fun and exciting at times but its familiarity that calms us. Unfortunately in the last 18 months there has been a lot of unfamiliarity but we made it through both the not so pleasant unfamiliarities but also the pleasant familiarities. Even good change can cause a lot of stress. Which is why it is important to take time to care for yourself and make sure that those you love do the same. I am amazed as to how well Lil Bug took to all the changes that we’ve had because one of the strengths of highly sensitive people is that they can feel the emotions of others. They cue into them more easily. But there is also a difficulty with this strength. We both picked up on all the emotions that were going on and at times it took some adjustments to help cope with the overwhelm of emotions. And its why we did our best at creating familiar surroundings and keeping as best as we could to familiar routines.

Unfamiliarity and change can bring uncertainty and I wanted to help my daughters with some of the feelings that they might have been experiencing. We definitely had our shares of bumps along this road we traveled but there were a few things that we did which helped us prepare our daughters for the move.

Here are those things:

1. Bring familiar things into the space

Lil Bug was almost 3 when we made the first move and Lil Sunshine was almost 1. When we made the move we made sure that the rooms we were moving into had some sense of familiarity even though they were still different. This was a little bit hard because we were moving into a much smaller rental and their rooms would also be storing things that were not originally in their rooms. But, we made sure that they had the familiarity of their beds, dressers, and toys. We also tried to bring in the same amount of light (or lack of it) that they had had in the other house. The last night, we left most of her things in her room so that she didn't feel like she was missing anything she cherished. We had to pack some more the next day, but it helped her to know that her things would stay with her. We then stuck to morning and bedtime routines to help with the transition as well.

      2. Let them get to know the new place ahead of time, if possible

We were blessed in that we were moving within the same city. It was easy to go and show our children where we were moving. They saw it before we moved in and could better understand where they were going. We were also blessed with my husband being the general contractor of our new home. We were there "helping" often and the girls knew which room would be there’s from the moment the foundation was poured. There were times that Lil Bug would just play in her “room” while Daddy and Papa worked on the rough plumbing, before the walls were even up. When we put the doors on, Lil Bug was already keeping her little sister from coming into her room. She already associated it as her room. By the time we moved in she was comfortable in the house. For Lil Sunshine, it wasn’t until we put carpet in that she was really comfortable with her new room. As soon as she saw the carpet, she flopped down on it and began rolling around.

While your child may not have the opportunity to see each stage of their house being built, try at least once to bring the child into the home ahead of time. That way they can visualize where they are moving to when you discuss it with them.

3. Explain what is happening (and often)

I’m a big fan of knowing what is to come. I like to be prepared. Yet, I am aware that no matter how much I prepare I still don’t know what may or may not go wrong.  Even with that knowledge, I still do what I can to prepare myself and my children. I strive to help them understand what is to come. It was no different with moving. We involved them in the different steps that we took in building a new house and in moving. We explained that the rental home would be temporary and we would move into the "new, new" house.

4. Explain what will stay the same

On the day of the move, we talked to Lil Bug about how we would be moving that morning. The time had finally arrived and I could tell she was anxious about it. She had gotten used to living in the rental for the past 8 months. Even though we had let her know we would be moving and even though she could see the progress of the house, she still didn’t have a solid concept of time. When the move became “today," she was apprehensive about it. I took the time to explain to her that even though we would be moving, Mommy and Daddy would still be with her. Lil Sunshine would still be with her. Her bed, her dresser, and all her toys would still be with her. We just wouldn’t be sleeping and living in the same place. This calmed her and she then became excited that she would see Grandma, Nana, Papa and Auntie that day.

5. Let them experience the move

I had several volunteers for watching the girls during the move, but what I really wanted was for the girls to see what was happening. I wanted them to be part of the experience and see their things moved from one place to another. I wanted them to have a visual learning experience. So, those volunteers did great at keeping the girls out of the way of the movers but also they did great at helping them to understand what was going on and how to enjoy the process. The girls had a great day and they both were beyond excited to see their things in their new rooms. When Grandma came over, they excitedly gave her a tour of the new house.

All in all the girls did great in transitioning with the move. There have been a few adjustments and struggles. For one, Lil Bug, had gotten used to us being in close proximity at night. It’s been 3 weeks and she has finally started sleeping in her own bed again. But, they love it here and they look forward to being at home again after running errands.

Do you have any more tips for helping kids experience and adjust to moving? I would love to hear them in the comments.

Why Mental Health Days are Important For Your Child (and for You)

My family went through a lot when I was 15. My younger brother passed away and there was a lot of extra stress on top of that. I remember one time during that year when my mom pulled me out of school. She took me hiking in the nearby national park. It was a wonderful day as my mom and I spent time submersed in nature, enjoying our time with each other. We developed a greater connection with each other. It was also a wonderful break from all the stresses that we were facing in our lives. My mom called it a mental health day. 

I have never forgotten that day nor have I forgotten the benefits that my mom and I gained from having our mental health day. I want to share with you some of these benefits and why taking a mental health day can be beneficial to both you and your child.

1. Time to Recharge from Overstimulation

As an introvert, life can be draining. We are constantly stimulated by everything in life. We need time to recharge because when we do so, we can perform to the best of our abilities. When I first became a mom of two little girls, I became overstimulated and I did not take enough time to recharge. This led to burnout and depression. You can read more about this experience and how knowing more about introversion helped me to overcome it in my post Heartache and My Struggle to Reconnect.

One of my favorite podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. On a particular podcast, she talked about how when her in-laws go on vacation they always save a day at the end of the vacation to be at home. I thought it was a great idea. Vacations can often be filled with fun and exciting (aka stimulating) things, which we enjoy, but wear us out. Even if your vacation is more about relaxing on the beach and not as stimulating then taking a day at home before getting back to work/school will make it easier to go to back the next day. Also my daughters take a few days to readjust after being away from home. I usually try to have a day of familiarity after we get home so that they can settle back into home life.

When your child becomes overstimulated, they may become cranky and irritable. Your child also needs time to recharge. Recently my Lil Bug had preschool and then that same day we had some extended family events. She was overstimulated and exhausted by the end of the day. Even though she had fun being with family, it was exhausting for her and she was easily upset and struggled with sleep when we got home. She slept in the following day. Even though she had preschool, I decided not to wake her up. Instead, I let her teacher know that she needed a break and would not be there. All the events from the day before were too much for her and she needed some time to recharge. To unwind. She needed a mental health day. She had enjoyed her time the day before but she was overstimulated and overwhelmed by everything that had happened. She needed time to recharge before continuing in the world. When she did wake up, I could tell I had made the right decision. She needed the solitude of home and the calmness of the activities that we do at home. Usually school is one of our priorities for pushing Lil Bug out of her comfort zone, but in this case it was too much for her. She needed the break. 

I’m not saying to always take your child out of school, but just consider your child and what is best for you both. Maybe you can wait until Saturday to do something different. At the end of a long week of school, think about what would help your child recharge and help them do it. If you’re finding that you are using the mental health day idea too often, then reevaluate the underlying causes of your child’s distress. Something needs to change, it’s not a matter of just relaxing. In any case, take time to assess your child’s needs and decide what is best for them.

2. Time to Think and Make Sense of the World

The next benefit is the time we have to think and make sense of the world. This is beneficial especially when you and/or your child are dealing with intense emotions, caused by heartache,
stress, or too many changes in the environment. A day, or even a half day, away from the stress that we encounter each day can help us to process all of the emotions that we have encountered. We can gain a greater understanding of our situation. And oftentimes when we take time to feel our emotions fully we can work through them more easily.

Remember also that your children, especially if they are highly sensitive can sense your emotions and
consequently the stress you feel. Adults and children are both seeking to make sense of the world. Children especially are inundated with new ideas and concepts, but adults experience new ideas, experiences, and stimuli as well. Taking some time to really process what is going on in your life helps you to make needed connections that cause you to better understand yourself, your child,
and all the other relationships that you have in your life.

As a 15 year old, I gained great insight into the direction my life wanted to go. I discussed this at length with my mom that day. It was done in a setting and at a time where I could think when needed and say what I wanted to at a pace I enjoyed. I was able to work through some of the things that I had either been pondering or that I needed to think about but had not had sufficient time to do so.

3. Meaningful Connections

This particular benefit comes from doing a mental health day with someone else, in this case my mom. She was someone I knew and loved. She was familiar to me. It was not stressful or anxiety creating being with her. We also did something that I loved to do, hiking, being in the outdoors, away from crowds. It was a calm, healthy environment for me. That healthy environment and the calm activity of hiking, deepened my connection with my mom.

As a parent, I am constantly wanting to create meaningful moments with my daughters. Moments where I am completely focused on my kids. Moments where I feel an even greater love and joy just being with them. Moments that help both my children and myself thrive. Seek those meaningful moments each day, then when you have a mental health day with your child, deepen those moments.
There will be times that we need our time alone, but it can also be re-energizing when we deepen the connection with those with whom we have meaningful connections.

4. Example

This particular benefit of that day with my mom is something I am only now realizing. My mom took the time to be flexible for me. She showed me an example of a parent who cares and loves their
child as she created time for me. She also showed me through her example the importance of taking time for ourselves, not necessarily when we want it, but when we need it.

As parents, do we not want to teach our children to take care of themselves? We try to teach them the importance of eating healthily, exercising, educating themselves, protecting themselves from
physical harm, but how often do we teach them to take a break when they really need it? How often do we teach them to process their feelings and process what they’re going through? How often do we teach them to be flexible enough to take care of themselves? And how often do we show them these things through our example?

Being an example is one of the most important ways to teach our children. Teach by example, the importance of taking time to recharge.

As an introvert parent it might be a bit harder to find time to take a full mental health day. Sometimes just an hour or two is enough. If you find you really need a full day, ask for help from friends and family. But, whether you can make it a whole day or not, try to take some time each evening to help yourself recharge. Read some ideas for recharging at the end of the day here. There is also The Wallflower Box which is a subscription box that is specifically geared towards helping introverts to recharge. I am not an affiliate with them but I love what they are doing so I wanted to share it with you.

I have found that as I’ve made time to recharge that I have become a more patient and loving parent. When my children have taken that time to unwind and recharge, they are happier. This is the last benefit that I’ll mention, the feelings of peace and understanding that come from recharging.  Let’s take some time to make sure we set a good example for our kids and teach them the importance of processing emotions and stimuli.

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