Transforming Emotions, Playfully

*There is no one-size fits all solution to managing big emotions. Different bodies and minds need different things at different times. This is one example of a tool that worked at the right time and place.*

My son was having a hard time calming down after a meltdown. I was encouraging deep breathing, squeezing his fist to release anger, the smell of lavender, letting him yell and scream to get it out. I was taking my role very seriously because I wanted to help him feel better. 

I was pretty depleted and running out of ideas to help. My approach was serious. “Let’s take a deep breath into our belly.” Then, in a moment of curiosity, I tried something new that was rooted in PLAY. I forgot how powerful play can be and it’s usually the last place my mind wants to go when I’m overwhelmed.

I turned a deep breath into a game.

I pretended my finger was a bee buzzing toward him and I said “ when the bee gets to your nose I’ll say, ‘go’ then try to take a huge deep breath in through your nose. Bzzzzz… it’s coming toward you…. GO!”

Before he could think too deeply about it he was able to take 3 very deep breaths, take a couple of moments alone and come back in a better head space. We now use this tool as a strategy when I can tell he is becoming dysregulated or as a preventative approach if I know something is going to cause anxiety. He now asks, “can you make the bee a silly bee or a happy bee, or a sleepy bee” and we get playful with the different buzzing noises and emotions.

My ‘ah ha’ moment here was remembering that emotions can feel so heavy and serious, but an approach to soothing can be light and playful. When I am in a mad and angry mood, the LAST thing I think to do is get goofy and be playful. Of course, there are many moments when I don’t have an ounce left in me to get playful or think creatively when big feelings arise. However, if the moment, situation, and person are open to a little more play and a little less seriousness, the transformation can be powerful.