Making Space For Calm And Reflection
Making Space for Calm and Reflection – How to implement the strategies of a Calming Corner in your daily life.
On Sunday, Jan. 17th, Pastor Kathy spoke about Calming Corners and how we can incorporate calm spaces and practices into our homes. As a former educator and lover of the study of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), I was so excited to hear her words geared not just to children but adults as well.
In SEL calming corners are described as places for children to physically go in their classrooms where they can safely work through the big feelings they are experiencing, often there are bean bag chairs, pillows, and other tools to promote self-regulation and guide refection. If you search Calming Corners on Google or Pinterest, you can easily find pages and pages of blogs showcasing beautiful spaces with steps to follow to create calming corners in classrooms or homes.
But what if you are not a crafty person or maybe you do not have space in your home to dedicate to a calming corner? I am here to let you in on a secret… calming spaces do not have to be static places. If you have the tools you need any place can become a calming space.
There are multiple steps to “visiting” the calming corner. Here is my recommended calming corner cycle, typically you will only need steps 1 – 4 but with bigger feelings, you may need to return to a calming strategy before you feel able to return to your previous activity:
- Do a feelings check.
- Use a calming strategy.
- Do a feeling check again.
- Do you feel calm? If yes, do a personal reflection.
- If you are not calm yet, use the same strategy or another strategy.
- Do a feelings check.
- If and when you feel calm, do a personal reflection.
Let’s break those steps down a little.
Recognizing that you need a calming moment. For example, are you having trouble concentrating and your stomach hurts? Is the news of the day too much? Or did a careless driver just cut you off on the Tollway? For these and so many other reasons, it may be a good idea to visit a physical or mental calming corner. Now that we are aware that we need a moment, it is time to name your feelings. What prompted you to seek out a calming moment? From our examples above you could be overwhelmed, isolated, afraid, or frustrated.
Feelings Check. Self-Regulation (calming down) like any skill that needs to be learned and then developed with continued practice, it may take time for you or a child to identify their feelings without guidance. I find that looking over Feelings wheels or emotion cards make it easier to find the words to name these feelings.
Calming Strategies. You know how you are feeling, now what? Well, it is time to choose a calming strategy. Calming strategies are tools in your self-regulation tool kit. Finding the right strategy may take a little time and maybe some trial and error, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Examples are taking 5 deep breaths while tracing your fingers, wiggling your toes, watching glitter settle in a bottle, or even scribbling on and then crumpling a scrap of paper.
As you go through the steps above, you may need to cycle through identifying feelings and working on a calming strategy a few times, but once you or your child are in a calmer place it is time for reflection.
Reflection allows for us to identify the cause of the feelings and time to think about the effects of our behavior when we were dysregulated. Reflection worksheets or social storyboards are some examples of reflection tools that we can use to assist in our reflection. If you do not have access to these tools or you are assisting a young child with their own reflection, simply asking a few questions is all you need:
What was happening when the feeling started?
What strategies did I choose?
What can I do next time?
How can I manage my reactions to other people’s behavior?
The most important thing about calming strategies and reflection is that they are introduced and practiced before they are needed. This is because when your brain is dysregulated it is not capable of learning new information. Think about a child in the middle of a tantrum. Do you think now would be a good time to teach them a new skill? Probably not. So, when you or your child are feeling calm, take some time to introduce a few strategies and practice them as much as you can. Remember that this is a process and not a destination as the value will be found within the process. And with anything, if it is a struggle the first few times you try, do not give up, each “visit” to the calming corner will build mental muscles, and soon you will see the benefits of the hard work you or your child is doing.
How even taking 5 deep breaths can change your day. Funny enough while I was writing this blog, I heard a loud crash coming from my kitchen, I jumped up and ran in to find my sister standing surrounded by the shattered remains of two of my china dinner plates. My heart raced, I was worried about her, had she been hurt by the broken plates? But also, I was angry my wedding china had been broken, be it on accident. As I felt myself wanting to yell at her the advice that I had just written about using calming strategies to work through big feelings flashed through my head. I checked to see if she was okay, got her a broom and a box to put the larger pieces in, and then told her I needed a minute to process my feelings. I stepped into the other room and took some deep breaths and then looked up replacements on Bed Bath and Beyond’s website. Once I had taken a step back and calmed down, I was then able to return to my kitchen with much more kindness to check on her and to learn what had happened. Accidents happen, plates can be replaced, but I am so happy I took a minute to find my calm before yelling at my sister today. You see in my calm mind I know yelling would have made me feel worse and would have not helped the situation at all as I know she already felt terrible.
I hope that too can find those moments of calm to help reset your thinking. Am I still sad about the plates? Only a little but I feel much better knowing that I took control of my emotions before they took control of me.
I want to challenge you to set up your own calming corner, it can either be a physical space in your home or a place you go in your mind when things get to be too much. Look over the suggested calming strategies or choose your own and practice when you are feeling calm.