Courageous Gilbert the Groundhog is a delightful book rich in symbolism written for children and adults. Read it and practice the techniques below with your children, students, clients, and friends.
When working with children, and adults, it helps to first calm the body with deep breathing. If the body is in a state of panic or shock, it will go into the fight, flight, or freeze mode, making healthy responses more difficult. Deep breathing calms the entire nervous system, oxygenates the brain, and creates a safe feeling in the body. Deep breathing can be done at the beginning of the day, at lunch, and before going to bed. Over time, the benefits multiply as the body relaxes and feels less anxious.
We need to teach about emotions. Identifying where emotions are held in the body and how to express them is vital. Emotions tell us who we are, what we like and do not like. Fear indicates we need to get safe, anger helps us set boundaries, and sadness lets us know there is something we need to release. If we are numb to our emotions, we feel victimized and unable to stand up for ourselves. Unexpressed emotions can lead to dis-ease. Identifying and releasing our emotions empowers us to be our authentic selves, or who we are meant to be.
We are what we practice. This healing process takes time, and practicing can be done as a class, family, or in a group. Practice involves yelling into your hands, stomping your feet on the ground, and saying “It is not okay to talk to me like that. You need to stop.” And then practice walking away. Too often we are stuck and not aware that we have the choice to leave. A final practice is shaking it off. Literally.
The breathing technique in this book is called “The 4, 7, 8, Breathing for Relaxation.” I learned it from Dr. Andrew Weil’s book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and have been teaching it to my children and their classmates since 2004.