Little Bear’s Journal of Gratitude and Kindness for Anxious Times-Free Digital Download.

Little Bear’s Journal of Gratitude and Kindness for Anxious Times.

Download your FREE digital copy here (little-bears-journal-of-gratitude-and-kindness-for-anxious-times…pdf)

My hope is it will foster conversation and a time to emotionally check in with each other to fill it out.

May you always be strong and kind, with a brave spirit and a fierce mind. Always remember, you can do anything!

Peace, love and health to all. We are all in this together.

-C.

Things I have learned during a global pandemic.

1. Time is merely a judgement call, measured primarily by the sun and social norms that have all since crumbled. Being present, well trying to be, is my new norm and some days it’s damn hard.

2. The 5-step analogy of grief to describe this situation is bang on. Every step. Sometimes every day.

3. Self doubt is a bitch. This has been a common thread in my anxious life as far back as I can remember, but now, when we’re bombarding our social media and social standards with isolation and turning inward, I’ve found it to be tricky to silence that voice in my head-did I do enough, am I enough, I can’t possibly do this but I have to, while navigating the unknown-like Joe Exotic in a tiger cage with sardine oil covered shoes. See Netflix.

4. Guilt for having all the feelings when I’m not the one being asked to the front lines and I’m merely having to shelter in place is overwhelming. I am moved beyond words in thanks, admiration and gratitude to all my friends and family who are front line essential workers. I am going to unapologetically acknowledge that this is also one of the hardest things we will all ever (hopefully) go through in our lifetime and although some may view this perception as selfish, it is hard, and it gets to me some days. Please don’t mistake this for undermining the value and importance of those who are front line workers. Thank you is not enough, you are making a difference and we love you. Thank you also to those who are sheltering at home, working from home, teaching from home and navigating unchartered waters. I see you and I salute you all in an isolated solidarity. 💗

5. I consistently flow between being completely A-ok and full on panic mode. The grey in between is there, but I have to dig deep to find it. See number 3.

6. Mental exhaustion is real. I’m technically getting more sleep now than before, but I’m more exhausted than ever. Trauma, mourning, grief and uncertainty do nothing for dark eye circles and an anxious brain. Daytime naps have become a point of negotiation. So far, it’s a losing battle against an 8 & 5 yr old.

7. My ego, being a helper, some would even say a fixer has taken a blow. I can’t fix this alone, but doing anything together while isolating is too complicated for my tired brain to comprehend.

8. My idea of doing my part and taking care of those I care about is feeding them with food and love. My freezer is stocked with cooking and baking and the quarantine-15 is likely gonna be a reality up in here.

9 Patience is a test for me daily. In every. single. facet. Hurry up and wait is not something I have ever excelled at. See number 5.

10. Unconditional love and support can be found and expressed in other ways than physical interaction. I’m a hugger. This is hard, but thank goodness for technology.

11. Having answers for questions at the tip of our fingertips has made me so aware of how tech-convenient our society is which is a double edge sword when raising the next generation. Also, Siri can be quite smug and sarcastic and “Hey Google make fart noises” isn’t the catch phrase I wanted my 5 yr old to learn during a language arts lesson but hey, she knows how to Google, so she’ll be fine.

12. Wealth is not measured in dollars and cents. It’s collected in smilies and laughter from our children, self care, comfortable routines that are forgiving during hard days, chats with friends and family, in-home date nights and gratitude for the small things which are now the most important.

Please stay healthy and safe. It’s ok to feel however you are feeling right now. We are all in this together, let’s keep practicing physical distancing so the next time we can all be together, one of us isn’t missing.

#Covid19in2020

#DoYouRememberTheTimeWhenTheWorldShutDown

#ThisIsOurPartOfHistory

#ThankYou

#StrongerTogether

#YouAreLoved

#StayHomeShelterInPlace

Pink shirt day; the impact bullying has on mental health💚

As I sit here, about to pen my thoughts on this day, the weight of the message behind it brings tears to my eyes.

Today is so much more than wearing pink shirts and speaking about being kind. To me, today holds a sacred space in my heart because of past trauma and the effect that I’ve seen on mental health-both my own and in others. “Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, repeated and hostile activity marked by an imbalance of power, intent to harm and/or threat of aggression” (Alberta Human Services, 2015)

For me, bullying started in elementary school and continued from there. Grade 3-9 to be precise. It started off with “minor” name calling, alienating from peers; those I considered friends. I had little to no friends and the friends I did have came and went just as frequently as the wind blew in the Prairies of Alberta.

The details to the bullying I experienced are not pretty and really unkind. I experienced physical, verbal and mental abuse-sometimes all at the same time. I can’t even tell you how many times I was told to “just walk away”, “don’t let it bother you”, or my personal favourite (insert sarcasm here) “you need to toughen up” 🤦🏻‍♀️. I was pushed, tripped, spit on, cornered on the playground, ignored, and at age 11 I was told by the “popular kids” that they wanted to take a death picture and that I’d be better off not here; just to name a few things.

Pink shirt day means inclusion, spreading kindness, advocating for change, standing up for the beliefs and rights of others when they struggle to find their own voice. Our society has evolved so much over the past 20-something years, but yet, bullying and mental illness is still happening, likely worse than 20 years ago because now there’s also cyber bullying which is a whole new realm.

Did you know that children/youth who experience perpetual bullying are 7-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims and that 1 in 3 children/youth have been or are being bullied?

So, what can we do? We can collectively, as parents, caregivers, educators, friends and mentors, come together and rally to end bullying; for our children and adults. We can teach kindness, inclusion and acceptance and lead by example for our children. We can wear pink or any other color that reminds us to celebrate love and friendship. We can teach our children to have a voice and not suffer in silence, to ask for help when needed and not be afraid to be different.

Today, the bullying stops here, so mental illness such as anxiety, depression, low self confidence and thoughts of suicide can be reduced and those affected can begin to heal.

Be Brave, Be Strong, Be Kind and stand up for what’s right.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”-Maya Angelou

#KindIsCool

#BeABuddyNotABully

Here we go again…first day of school and all the feelings.

Verklempt. One word that sums up my last two days perfectly.

So much beauty and gratitude far outweighs the pensiveness of these transitional days.

I’ve watched them both like a hawk in the passing weeks of summer. I’ve seen them grow and blossom into more confident, strong, capable little beings; eager to tackle the excitement of all that the first days of school brings.

I’ve seen the apprehension in the littlest ones eyes as she looks to me for reassurance when we talk about school, making new friends and all the new uncertainties in her growing world.

I’ve seen the smile on the biggest ones face as he lists off all the things he gets to do this year with all the friends he’s missed over the summer and I’m feeling all the feels. All of them. I hope and pray we’ve done a good job to prepare them for yet another year of growth and change.

To combat my own anxiety, I’ve kept my mind and body busy. Busy baking, busy writing, busy thinking, busy remembering; how their little fingers used to wrap so tightly around mine, how they relied solely on us, as their world to keep them safe and nourish their zest for knowledge through endless games of hide and seek and answering the 1000’s of questions to the best of our ability.

Every year I think it would be easier, but every year it’s just the same.

A glutton for emotional punishment, I throw on all the songs that have an important meaning in my kids life-like an 80’s montage as I flip through baby pictures and reminisce in the days gone by and day dream of where they’ll be in the future, trying so very hard to breathe in the sweetness of the present and relish in all the time we spend together. My heart is full of pride and so much love, a my brain is working on overdrive checking off the mental to-do list and my gratitude is extended to all the teachers and educators and support staff for everything that you do for our children.

Happy first day and first week!

May you always be strong and kind with a brave spirit and a fierce mind. Always remember, you can do anything.

And never forget to hug your parents and brush your teeth!

-Love, Your Mama Bear

To our Superheroes….

🗣 Shout out to the support systems, to the members of each of our villages, to the friends and family and friends who are family. To the doctors and therapists, Educators and mentors.

🗣Shout out to every one of you who has shown up, been there, sat through it, given a hug, given advice, sat in silence, rubbed a back, wiped tears, comforted and consoled.

🗣Shout out for perhaps not knowing the exact words to say but saying something, or nothing. For building us back up when we broke utterly and completely…sometimes for the third time that month, week or day.

🗣Shout out for your kindness and love, even more so when we don’t love ourselves.

Thank you for being superheroes. For wanting to be in our circle, even at points where we may push you away.

Thank you for silently and gently, or obviously and loudly being on our side or telling us that we’re off base and to check-in and regroup.

Thank you for at times, having no bloody clue how to handle us as we melt into a ball of anxiety and emotions but for not turning your back out of frustration or fear.

Thank you for being selfless but not forgetting about your own self; your wants and needs. Thank you for making us accountable for our thoughts, words and actions.

Thank you for reminding us that mental illness doesn’t define who we are, that are lovable and desired.

Thank you for walking this path and being part of our journey.

Thank you for reminding us that the uncomfortableness is temporary and that we will be ok, especially when we can’t see past the tears in the palms of our hands.

To our Superhero villages:we are forever grateful to you. Thank you for being true examples of what unconditional love and acceptance is. You are the fibers of this world, our world; interwoven between the chaos and contentment securely fastened with the belief and confidence that everyone deserves to be loved.

We thank you. 💚

*To each of you who’s struggling, coping or managing, you’re not alone. You are loved. You are worth it.

{📸 credit to Pinterest, what did we ever do without Pinterest! If you know of the correct artist/photographer please tag them.}

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….or is it?

🎶” It’s the most wonderful time of the year”🎶….

We’ve all seen that commercial, the one that boasts happy parents who high five each other as they frolic down the aisles of the store as if to say, “yes, we’ve made it to the home stretch of summer” all the while eagerly filling their shopping carts with school supplies…noting the bummed out kids dragging their feet behind them. Summer is almost over. Sound familiar to anyone? 🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏾‍♂️

Truth is, for some children (adults too) this time of year can be a huge trigger for anxiety.

I know for us, the last two weeks of summer are usually filled with all the last minute summer bucket list items and getting our minds and selves organized for the back to school chaos that will ensue in just a short time. It also brings transitions and the not so subtle thrust back into routines, changes in temperatures outside that bring forth shorter days and crisper nights and the excitement and uncertainty of the school year ahead mixed with the growing pains and maturity that accompanies the expectations of being one grade older. All of this can be, a recipe for what I call the emotional anxiety tornado. 🌪

In the past, this tornado has scooped us all up, spun us around like the tilt-a-whirl ride at the fair and spit us back out again; dizzier and more anxious than before.

But, having weathered this storm for several years now, I have come to recognize some of the warning signs in our children (and truthfully myself) to help ease us all into the new beginnings-before the alarm bells 🔔 start ringing.

One thing I’ve found helpful is getting us all back into a normal sleep routine. Starting this during the last 2 weeks of summer by dialing back our bedtimes and reigning in the routine helps to ease everyone back into proper sleep hygiene without it being a total shock to the system. Being over tired and not getting enough sleep tends to be a huge anxiety trigger in our household. So catch those 💤

While speaking on bedtime routines, which can often become mundane and boring for our kiddos-afterall, have you ever met a child who’s excited for bedtime? 💁🏻‍♀️🙅🏻‍♀️

Be creative with it…perhaps some Epsom salts in their bath water, or some lavender essential oil in their lotion🧴, or a new bedtime story…(I heard Sweet Honey Kisses for an Anxious Bear is a good one 😉) or a delicious smelling fizzy bath bomb🛁 or soothing music🎵 would help. We also invested in a weighted stuffed lizard🦎 for our oldest and a small weighted stuffed elephant 🐘 for our youngest, and our oldest also sleeps with an eye mask, which I’m told helps allow his brain to settle quicker. So perhaps one or two of these would work to help make those earlier bedtimes more fun. Don’t forget those gratitude journals too, or at least discuss some things that you/they are grateful for. This alone does wonders to help shift the brain from anxious thoughts to pleasant ones as they doze off to dreamland. 😴

Practice makes progress! This age old cliche rings true for re-establishing routines and introducing new ones. What we’ve found helpful, especially for young ages, is eating lunches out of lunch bags; opening containers and packages and asking for help-encouraging those self advocacy skills. This can ease the “what-if” anxiety that often partners with something new.

Toileting and dressing are two other self-help skills that could be practiced to help boost confidence in abilities and comfort. Setting aside the time to practice these skills has been a huge anxiety reducer for us. Sending them to school, knowing they can take care of and advocate for themselves was a big breath of relief!

Play! This is a big one. Children learn and explore through play. We found it helpful to role play. We let our children be the teacher 👩🏻‍🏫👨🏽‍🏫 and we were the students. We discussed through our roles, the rules of the classroom and the expectations of being a student and teacher. We talked about some of the sensory stimulants that they might experience when at school-which also transferred into new environments in general.

Our oldest was sensory sensitive at a young age, so I felt it would be helpful to explain the new noises, sights and sounds so it wouldn’t be as much of an overwhelming surprise.

We practiced walking to and from the bus stop 🚌 together and sang songs like The wheels on the bus, on our walk.

We also took our play to the school yard! Playing on all the new and exciting equipment and showing the boundaries of the school yard before school started was a great help. Our children were excited to play there everyday and slowly, we started to see their anxiety make a small shift into excitement…we were making progress!

The night before is always buzzing. Shoot for an early bedtime 🕗, maybe lead into it with a short (2-5min) kids meditation 🧘🏾‍♀️🧘🏻‍♂️ (YouTube, google and Spotify all have great ones!) for some soothing and grounding breathing exercises-yes, even those 3 year olds can do this with practice. 😉

On the day of, if there are tears and sore tummies, rest assured that it’s completely normal (even for us parents!) Patience, love and encouragement makes a huge difference for comforting exhausted and anxious Little Bears . Feel free to check out this blog post below to see what else we did in our house to combat separation anxiety.

https://christinefishman.com/2019/04/06/separation-anxiety/

From our house to yours, I’m wishing you all a wonderful first day of school. Make the most of the last couple weeks of summer and always remember, you can do anything! Good get ‘em Little Bears. 🐻🤝

Why?…peace and love.

“Why did you decide to write this book” has been a question that I have been asked at least a 100 times on this wild-ride-of-a-journey over the past 10 months.

My answer though has always, in a round about way, been the same. I want to help others; children and adults with anxiety who may be struggling too. I want to make a difference, even if it’s just a sliver of one, for a blip in time. I want to be a voice for childhood anxiety, but not take the child’s voice away. *Disclaimer though…surprise! I’m not a mental health therapist or a doctor. I’m *just* a Mom, an anxious Mom to boot, who’s worried about this next generation and I wanted to do something to help.

Since publishing this story in November, I have received incredibly kind, positive and supportive feedback about this book and it’s message. But, I’ve also received some push-back. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting some whispered comments or off the cuff remarks about my own mental illness and how it affects my ability to help.

Well, I believe, even after justifying my own anxiety, that having anxiety is kind of like my own superpower. For me, it can be very helpful-like a driving force to keep going, but every superpower also has its kryptonite and that for me, is self doubt-“what am I doing?” is a constant question in my brain.

You see, this story is personal. It’s actually felt like a third child for me. My heart and soul are woven into each page and if you read between the lines of the unspoken words, my childlike heart is there too. Which is why, I felt compelled to write this story. Having a child who also shares “big worries” or childhood anxiety-however you’d like to phrase it, I wanted to be a voice big enough that the people in the back could hear when I said “sometimes it’s ok not to be ok” and “sometimes it’s ok to reach out for help” to my own child and anyone else that needed to hear it.

I’ve been cautious-self doubt again, to want to share my child’s story as part of the inspiration behind this book for fear that my child would be scrutinized, alienated, or discriminated against even later in life. But then I realized that I was looking at it all wrong. My whole message and intent is to break down those barriers, be loud about mental health and not be afraid to talk about a subject that until recently, has been taboo or embarrassing.

You see, mental illness isn’t a contagious disease. You don’t “catch it” like a flu you don’t “get one when you’re older” like laugh lines or age spots and it isn’t a right of passage into adulthood. In fact, statistics show that 70% of adult mental illness start in childhood! Our mental well being is part of us, but it most certainly doesn’t define us; and it sure as hell doesn’t make us weak. It’s not an “excuse” or a cop out and to anyone who states “well I just don’t get it” that’s ok, just know that it makes us who we are-like freckles or a birthmark. We’re all unique, even mental illness and there’s no one size fits all tool that works for everyone-except for patience and understanding.

So, to answer the question of why I wanted to write this story, it is my hope to breakdown these myths that for generations have been “truth”. It is my hope that this book gives inspiration to children and adults to have these important conversations at a young age and as each page is turned, I hope you feel the love that went each word, know that you’re not alone and always remember that you can do anything. Even with self-doubt, misinformed comments and criticism.

Mental illness is ok. Putting others down isn’t. Did you hear me back there?

Peace and love. ✌🏼

-C.