Beat Back the Stress With a Sound Bath

We’ve been at this social isolation thing for well over a month now. Admittedly, those first couple of weeks were the hardest. No matter your circumstances, you have been affected by this crazy time we are living through. There have been enormous challenges to face as we’ve adapted to a new way of doing things, as we try to continue the learning at home for our children.

Whether it’s learning from home, working from home, lack of alone-time, too much alone-time, no more free time, too much free time, economic insecurity, technological issues, behavioral issues; you name it . . . it’s hard. We’re right there with you.

While the JOY Team at Song of the Heart Studios is absolutely devoted to the growth and development of your child, we care about YOU the caregiver as well. It’s like the old adage: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” The primary caregiver of the family carries a heavy load. We want you to thrive too!

One of our favorite moments in our Little Learners classes is the cuddle time, or “music bath”. There’s something special about slowing down your body and listening to some beautiful, relaxing music, letting the sounds and melody wash over you. It is a proven fact that certain types of music can calm your nervous system, release feel-good hormones, and decrease stress. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have said that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.”

Wow! Best of all, relaxing music doesn’t require a doctor’s visit or a prescription. So here’s a prescription from your JOY Team: find 5 minutes in your day when you can get away from everyone that you have to nurture, and give yourself a sound bath. Put on some earphones as you sit on the back porch. Or take some music with you while you take a bubble bath or long shower. Close your eyes and let a beautiful and relaxing song wash over you, calming your brain and body.

Don’t have 5 minutes? Don’t know what music to put on? Is just finding music too much work? Sometimes anything extra, even something relaxing and pleasurable, is too much work.

So how about this?

Take 3 minutes right now. Just 3 minutes and listen to this song. Click play then sit back exactly where you are close your eyes.

Don’t you feel better?

Wishing you well . . . .

Beat Away the Stress

Ahh, Springtime. It’s finally here! The wisteria and tulips are in bloom. The weather alternates between sunny and rainy. We’re shrugging off the winter blues and producing more Vitamin D. You’d think it would be all sunshine and flowers . . . but the modern parent knows better.

Spring also ushers in the end of the school year rush. You know what I’m talking about: teacher appreciation week, field day volunteering, planning your family’s summer schedule, supporting your students through standardized testing, finding the perfect Mother’s Day gift, getting the yard in order before the weeds take over . . . . All this on top of our regularly scheduled programming? It never ends.

Even here at Song of the Heart we’re feeling the crunch! We’re gearing up for our big blow-out Family Jam and our upcoming Bonus Week, not to mention preparing for Summermusik (it’s going to be SO MUCH FUN!)

So if you’re anything like us, you’re feeling a bit stressed.

Did you know that music therapy studies with critically ill adults and children have shown that music can reduce stress, anxiety, and even physical pain by as much as 50%?

Here’s some ideas to musically battle the stress and helps your kiddos cope too:

  1. KEEP THOSE ROUTINES IN PLACE. Sing that bedtime song. Keep coming to your Kindermusik class. Children thrive on routine and feel safe with predictability. It gives them a sense of security.
  2. THROW IN A DANCE PARTY. Turn on a family favorite tune and dance with your kiddos for 3 minutes. The blood will pump, bathing your brain in oxygen and oxytocin. Cortisol levels will dip. You’ll all feel refreshed.
  3. I LOVE YOU RITUALS: Sing that Twinkle Twinkle ritual we’ve been working on all year. Use it at diaper changes. Use it at bathtime. Use it before mealtime. Use it at bedtime. Take the time to slow down, intentionally touch, make eye contact, be playful, and connect with your little one through a simple song.
  4. USE YOUR KINDERMUSIK AT HOME MATERIALS. Did you participate in our Rainbow Connection? Maybe you accessed your online materials for the first time. Wasn’t it fun? It only takes 5 minutes, but it is the perfect way to connect with your child and reinforce their musical learning at home.
  5. POP YOUR FAVORITE KINDERMUSIK CD IN YOUR CAR. By now you have the whole year’s worth of albums in your library. Which was your child’s favorite? Turn it on while you run errands and let them jam out and relive their favorite Kindermusik unit. Or maybe put on a playlist of your favorite music and educate your kids on popular music from your generation.

 

We hope you can integrate music into your daily lives in a way that is fun, joyful, and stress free.

 

Being Enough

8

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

Maya Angelou

For as wonderful as the holiday season is, it does not come without its challenges for me (and many others). Earlier in the year, I had convinced my family to take a trip to San Diego with our gift money, so that I could escape the shopping and the hassle of decorating. However, as it turns out, our trailer needed some repairs to make it road-worthy in a storm, and it wasn’t something we were going to have time to do. So now, the kids are excited that there will be presents, my husband is excited that he doesn’t have to drive anywhere or fix a trailer. And I’m so not-excited, as the all the things I was hoping to avoid are inevitably falling back in my lap. Le sigh.

I knew it was December 1 on Monday, because my insomnia kicked in and my eye started twitching. I’ve got all these people telling me to keep it simple, but I also have my daughter who erupts into tears every time I suggest that I need to eat breakfast before I can help decorate the house. It is a difficult balance, for sure, and requires regular patience.

Yesterday morning I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, as I was on the way to work, and also making other big decisions this week (because, that’s the way to simplify life, right? Adding, “make other big decisions about things” to the to-do list, right next to “eat breakfast” or “take a shower”).

I was getting ready to meditate and came across this clip from Pema Chodron and Oprah Winfrey:

It was transformational for me yesterday, and helped me find the patience I needed to get me through the challenges of the day. It is part of the human experience that we pass through periods of suffering—on large scales (with death, illness, and major life transitions), and on small scales (can’t find a parking spot, the clerk at the store wasn’t helpful, have to shovel the walks). And so, with that in mind, I pass on a message that I hope may be healing to anyone in our Song of the Heart community who may be suffering: You are enough.

To Soothe the Savage Beast

Those who have read this blog regularly know that I often talk about mindful parenting (here, here, here, and here, for instance), and how Kindermusik, with its focus on whole child development, has helpedme be more connected to my kids. It’s no wonder my new favorite parenting book (Move over Playful Parenting) is Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, by Carla Naumburg, Ph.D.

One of the ways we can connect with our kids, Dr. Naumburg asserts, is by soothing them. We all get upset (just moments ago I had to break the news to my Kindergartner that yes, she does have school today, much to her frustration). She writes:

“[Our children are] young, they’re immature, and their brains haven’t yet developed the ability to figure out what is worth getting upset about and what isn’t, nor are they able to quickly and consistently calm themselves down. That’s where we parents come in. We can share our calm presence with our children time and again until they start to internalize it for themselves.” (pg. 25)

Of course, this is easier said than done, but one of the themes of this book is that we don’t have to be perfect at it, we just have to keep swimming. Oh, no, wait, that’s Dory. Well, same idea—returning repeatedly to our goal, that’s what’s important.

She mentions music as one of the tools we can use to calm our kids and ourselves. Just yesterday, in a moment of stress, I heard a few bars of George Winston’s Thanksgiving track, from the December album, one that I played often in my late-high school and early-college years to soothe my stress—and I noticed an immediate, physical calming yesterday, too.

Years ago I burned a CD of my favorite Kindermuisk lullabies. (Yes, this was before I could put together a “playlist.” But it was many years after needing to make a “mixed tape.”) They represent moments of pure joy and peace from cuddling my babies in class, and as I play the CD even today, it’s nice to see how much of a calming effect it has on everyone (this can be especially helpful on car trips, as long as the driver doesn’t get too calm).

Here are some of the songs from that album. Check them out–you can even download them for your own playlist!

Simple Gifts (this particular version I love, love, love)

Tressa’s Song

Suo Gan

The Barn Lullaby

Bubbles and Waves (perhaps my favorite on this list)

Los Pescaditos (Hmmm. . . maybe this is my favorite–tough call)

Cantonese Lullaby

And, finally, this version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Acceptance

“We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

This morning my sister-in-law told me that my nephew, who is 27 months old, got very upset when they bought diapers yesterday. While she was able to sneak them into the cart when he wasn’t looking, he was so adamant that they not come home that, when he saw them at checkout, he took the package back to the diaper aisle and left it there. Of course, he’s not really potty-trained yet, either, so she’s helping him clean up, a natural consequence.

I really love my sister-in-law, and I admire the sense of humor she had in telling me the story. I believe that one of the things that helps us through such days as parents is a sense of acceptance—or, at any rate, I’ve learned that the more accepting I am of the situation as I find it, the easier it is for me to get through such moments with a bit of humor.

These days, with my relatively new job, people often ask, “How is it going?”

I teach Spanish to Kindergarten through eighth grade students. However, they don’t come in order of age—so, my first graders come into class right after my fifth graders. I go into Kindergarten between seventh and eighth grade classes. While I try to teach some of the same lessons to multiple grades, even within that lesson I have to make micro adjustments according to which group of kids I’m teaching.

And, just as in parenting, things go more smoothly when I practice acceptance of where my students are at any given moment. The first graders come right after recess. It took me all of about two days to realize that I could either spend the whole time telling them they couldn’t go get water, or I could line everyone up at the drinking fountain before coming into class. (This happened right about the time I figured out we needed to do “Breathing Arms.”) In my ideal world, of course, they’d all have water bottles, full and ready to go. I can have a high level of expectation about that. However, it’s not the reality, and to maintain that expectation only means frustration for everyone. Such an age span means that I continually have to adjust my expectations for where the kids are at on any given day, at any particular age, with any particular mix of kids. It is good practice for my life outside the classroom, too.

I notice the same with Kindermusik. When my child is tired or hungry, being in class may be tough for her. “Should” it be? No, often she just ate. But maybe it’s that she’s going through a growth spurt and needs more sleep or food. Maybe she’s getting a bit of a cold and I haven’t realized it yet.

In Kindermusik, we follow the child. That means sometimes our kids may not feel like participating as fully as they did last week or will again next week—and it’s OK! Maybe they decide to have a full-blown temper tantrum in the middle of class because they just can’t let go of the scarf. My son regularly did not want to do group things during Kindermusik class when he was a preschooler. The quicker I get over thinking, “This is not how it’s supposed to be,” the sooner I get to, “This is how it is,” and consequently, the easier it is to just deal with the situation at hand and calmly allow the natural consequences to follow.  That may mean hanging back and letting my child participate on her own terms.  It may mean getting food, or leaving class altogether, or otherwise patiently implementing some discipline strategies.  (To be clear: I’m not saying this is easy!)  When I’m parenting from this place of self-acceptance, I am giving my kids the gift of a mom who also accepts them.

All this goes to the heart of what I believe is one of our greatest needs as humans–to know that we are loved, wholly and completely for who we are, rather than for what we do.

Just Breathe

I am here in the Kindermusik studio, having arrived late for what I thought was an 11:30 class.  But arriving at 11:35 for a class that actually started at 11 wasn’t my proudest parenting moment, as my daughter was very disappointed to spend all of 3 minutes with Ms. Carol.  Fortunately, she actually belongs in the 12:30 class, so we in fact arrived early.  A lot early.  I guess this means I’ll have time to run up to the store and get toilet paper (because, though we might need other things in our house, our toilet paper supply has reached critical status).

This, on top of everything else I’m trying to get done.  I found out yesterday that one of my cousins died, so I’m headed to San Francisco in 2 days.  Which means that all that time that I was counting on to practice my guitar for our band’s gig next week, plus plan my son’s birthday party, has quickly vanished.

Meanwhile, someone keeps getting all the dishes in my house dirty (oh, right!  That would be me and the kids!) and the laundry keeps piling up.

There is nothing like death, however, to help me think about life—I’d bet this is probably a universal reaction to such news.  We contemplate how we spend our time, about how quickly it may be over.  Or even about how, from one phone call to the next, our lives can change on a dime.  And do I really want to spend the time that I have, stressed about laundry or getting to the right Kindermusik class for the first week of the new year?  Maybe it’s OK that my daughter is wearing a nightgown today (her choice), because in the grand scheme of things it’s just not that important to worry about my preschooler’s clothes.

One of the most powerful tools I’ve learned to help me deal with stress is the art and practice of being mindful.  I probably don’t sound very relaxed today, but if I had written this blog a year ago, you would have seen a difference.

I have learned that when I spend my time thinking about the past, in an obsessive sort of way, I waste away the only moment that I actually have (now).  And I can spend my time in anxiety, worrying about what might happen in the future.  But even that’s a pretty good waste of the immediate present, since thinking about what  might happen means I will probably miss what’s actually happening right now.

Steering my thoughts towards things I can’t control will ensure that the moments that carry me through any tragedy will be wasted.  The joy of looking at the sunflowers as my girl and I drive in the car to get here, or the time that I take from writing this post to read a few words to her (she now patiently awaits the 12:30 class) bring meaning to my life.  Especially since my life is made up of moments, if I’m not aware of the soap on my hands as I wash dishes or the feel of the sheets on my skin as I lay down to bed (at least every once in awhile), I find myself unaware of much of my own life.

For me, one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to spend some time in meditation thinking about my breathing.  Jon Kabbat-Zinn teaches, “Breathing is central to every aspect of meditation training. It’s a wonderful place to focus in training the mind to be calm and concentrated.”  Or, my favorite quote of his, “Remember as long as you are breathing there is more right with you than wrong with you,” though that seems sort of dark to include today.

Have you noticed, if you have an older child in Kindermusik, that we start doing some breathing arms?  Ms. Carol always says, “OK, friends, let’s do some breathing arms.  Breathing arms up. . . . breathing arms down.”  I love that we can take this moment at the start of class to simply exist for a moment.  It sets our children in the frame of mind to learn, to be present in class.  Since one of my favorite reasons to come to Kindermusik is that it allows us to spend time just being with our kids (without worrying about the laundry), it seems appropriate that we start class this way.

Merely noticing our breathing slows it down and allows us to breathe more deeply.  It reduces stress, and, especially when kids are super-upset, helps stabilize their emotions.  There are so many benefits, you can check more out here.

May you enjoy the moments that present themselves today, and use one or two of them to give hugs to those you love.