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PARENTING: FROM TIGHTLY WOUND TO COME UNDONE

Kelly Bos

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HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT TENSION

Stress appears to be the norm for most of us, and for many of us it is chronic. Most parents I know are operating at some level of stress at all times. We try and pull it all together, the work demands, the school forms, tidy rooms, a meal schedule and the list goes on. We feel it in our necks and stomachs, it is visual by the complex schedules listed on the calender, and we hear it with the constant alerts on the phone. The stress can manifest in our moods and how we parent and we fluctuate from smiling and patient to the angry and losing it.

My friend had one such she's come undone day in the car highlighted then by a ditty her daughter started to spontaneously sing about how she has two mothers, one nice and one mean. She felt ill at the lyrics, a virtual tale of two Mommies, but felt she couldn't entirely disagree. We don't want Jeckyll and Hyde parenting but so often we are running on empty and the energy to feel healthy and well enough to keep an even and balanced disposition. My life coach friend Shauna once painted a great picture of balance stating that for a tight rope walker, tension is needed and too much slack would be bad. This is the same with stress and anxiety. A little bit helps us, with motivation, resilience and the protection of ourselves and our family. It is when the tension is always high, we have an issue. This chronic stress can hinder our self regulation and cause a 0-100 reaction in seconds or a slow boil throughout the day. Sometimes you know you are actively worrying and other times your subconscious is doing it all for you (hello teeth grinding!). If you are looking to keep that balance despite what your kids have done to their bedroom, regardless of how late you were at school pick up, and independent of work stress, help is needed.

IN THE MOMENT HACKS:

BREATHE:

An easy step is to take a deep breath and unwind! It sounds trite, but it works. It fills your body with a big burst of oxygen and give you that two second break from a hair trigger reaction. Breathing also sends a message to brain that tells your body to calm down and relax which can help you gain perspective.

ASSESS:

This sets you up nicely for step two. Before blowing up, take a quick assessment of what is actually bothering you. Think about it, your kids could be up to antics in the back of the car, fighting, teasing, singing an annoying song, and some days you can roll with it. Now add in feeling ill, not getting enough sleep or the distracted stress of thinking about a mistake you made at work and quite understandably, you are more likely to lose your cool. The real things eating away at you have nothing to do with what is going on in the back of the car. If you could tease out what is going on before you erupt or emote, you will no doubt be less reactive.

BE PROACTIVE:

Are you taking care of yourself? Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities in your schedule. A good nutrition and exercise routine can be powerful. Exercise releases endorphins, and as Elle in Legally Blonde says ,“happy people don't shoot their husbands” or more to the point snap, so readily at their kids. I recently had a client share that her self care was making sure her child had everything ready for school. Although that might have made everyone's day calmer and in turn run smoother, this was certainly not self care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do for yourself, make a list of things you once enjoyed or modify things you once did that could still work for you now and be creative.

Our moods can flux, we are human, but taking time to breathe, assess and be proactive about our reactions and moods can be beneficial, not just for our relationships but also for how we feel and view of ourselves. Think about how you can create a more balanced tension in your life.

For an Exponential Increase in Merry This Season

Kelly Bos

 courtesy of pexels.com

courtesy of pexels.com

Adopt the Gratitude and Giving Focus

It is said to be the most wonderful time of the year, or the most stressful, and for many of us a bit of both. The key to merriment is to focus on what is important. The holidays are often experienced as a time to remember the purpose of it all through spiritual beliefs and enjoying traditions gone by. They are also known as a season of giving. Giving can feel wonderful. Studies show that volunteering and sharing our good fortune financially is good for our health lowering cortisol levels and even helping us live a longer life, a way to feel more merry and bright. Gratitude is full of similar health benefits.

 courtesy of pexels.com

courtesy of pexels.com

Our materialism and our hearts have huge commitment issues. Here today and gone tomorrow. We see an item, pine for an item, justify how it will bring us joy or make our lives so much easier, and once received we are often on to the next shiny object. How many things do you still have that you were convinced would buy happiness? Obsolete stereo systems that take up half the room and leather jackets that at best might come back in vogue in another decade. This is painfully obvious with our kids too. We shop for that rare, already out of stock item for our child with great time and effort only to find that they have changed their list on December 23rd. When gift opening is upon us, eighteen  hours of in store and online shopping is quickly amounts to seven minutes of fun. A toddler can recklessly rip through it in two.

 courtesy of pixels.com

courtesy of pixels.com

Another thing that quickly comes and goes is time. I feel that same reckless toddler vibe as I run around from event to event. I get settled on a few things on the calendar and before I know it every minute has the high possibility of getting booked. Between the elves on shelves, the Christmas parade in every hamlet, the open houses, and trying to do the nostalgic few things you did as a child, it can become too much of a good thing. I have a situation next weekend where I have to drop one child at a parade, hopefully laying eyes on her shasay once or twice with the dance troupe before I run kid two to his school's Christmas performance. I hope I can actually stop and take it in.

I know you too are tired, overcommitted and bought double the gifts you intended already, but it's not too late to make gratitude and giving your focus. First, since it is the season of giving, instead of getting flustered with the gifts you are expected to buy or the time you need to extend, take moments to think how great it is that you are part of your family and community. When you buy your bus driver a gift, think of how thankful you are for the convenience they give your life. When asked to do another family get together, think about what each member brings to your life, or what time together means to your children. 

And whether it is gifts or time, think about what really matters, the things that last. With gifts, don't give just the shiny, give the legacy. There are so many thoughtful gifts that give back, one I recently discovered donating to is Cuso CAN fund from Cuso International. This organization is all about the exponential return. They are currently sending trained professionals to Ethiopia to help with maternal health where 80% of mothers give birth without medical assistance. Ethiopia's maternal mortality rate is 482 out of 100,000, mothers who die with issues related to chidlbirth, in Canada it is 7 out of 100,00o mothers, a stark difference. Through support, Cuso International sends passionate professionals to live in these communities to give their time for six months to two years to teach and train medical and non medical skills to those living in the community they are serving, Canadian doctors and midwives training their Ethiopian counterparts. For $10 a month you could be part of the solution helping with maternal health which leads to healthy parents and healthy care for children. A gift that can truly grow on so many levels.

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Find something that tugs at your heart strings, a cause worth getting behind, a place you can volunteer your skills and invest into that. Armed with the focus of gratitude and giving, you are sure to have a healthier and happier season.

 

I DON'T WANT TO WRITE THE SCRIPT FOR MY CHILD'S INNER CRITIC

Kelly Bos

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HOW SELF COMPASSION CAN HELP

I've been working a lot with the concept of self compassion with my clients and in my own personal life. Self compassion has specific tenets. It focuses on being kind and talking to ourselves like we would a friend, rather than hearing that judgemental and critical voice in our head. Self compassion recognizes that problems happen, but they happen to everyone and we are part of common humanity, with all of its ups and downs, which helps us not get stuck in “why me?", a powerless feeling that might make us isolate ourself with our problem. And lastly it encourages us to be mindful and be in the now, not getting stressed about the past or the future and this keeps us from being that problem through over identification. I personally find these ideas helpful when dealing with the myriad of feelings I have throughout the day. I can fully be there for myself. And if the feelings are what I would normally deem to be ugly, like jealousy or resentment, self compassion is incredibly useful, I can acknowledge the feelings are hard for me and not assign them value or decide if I “should” have them. I comfort myself through the feeling, not judge myself for having it.

For some reason we are drawn to the self flagellation. We have beliefs that if we aren't hard on ourselves or self critical we won't make changes and become lazy or stuck. This outlook does have the occasional result which spurs us on. It could be the same in parenting, you could chastise until a desired end is reached. You could criticize so much that a child could tow the line, but what else would be produced? What might that child feel regarding their self concept? What might their relationships be like? The same is true for us. Does a good brow beating make us feel better, more able to face the challenges ahead of us? Usually not. We often shame ourselves into inertia. Would we ever say these words to a friend? There is a better way. We can be kind to ourselves and get better results and I definitely want kind self talk for my kids.

These voices often have roots. What does your negative voice sound like? And who does it sound like? You might find you call yourself similar names that were used against you as a child by a teacher or a coach. You might find that you feel the guilt that a parent laid on you every time you respond in a certain way. This brings me to my fear, if I might be the narrator and the script writer for my children, than as this key influencer I want to be aware of what and how I am saying things. When I get frustrated, use broad characterizations, tactics laced with shame, and act out of a fearful place on how a certain behaviour might reflect on me or what might be down the road if this continues, I am not speaking words of compassion nor teaching a loving response.

The good news is as I work on this in myself, I can both model this and extend this to others. This is the oxygen mask analogy on the plane. You have to give the oxygen to yourself first before you can help others. When I am living in a place of self compassion I don't have the fears, judgement, or shame directing my responses. I also stop modelling behaviours such as calling myself names when I make mistakes or am being hard on myself because kids pick it up and I am already having to redirect my daughter away from labelling herself for her actions.

The other day I was raking leaves. I was having a hard day, my feelings and thoughts were heavy and they felt intrusive. I decided to approach it with a compassionate response. It brought tears but I was okay. My daughter witnessed this and became worried for me and said she wanted to get Daddy. I told her about how when hard feelings come you can practice self compassion. You can hold yourself, tell yourself it is okay and just rest in the moment. I showed her how to give herself a loving hug and talked to her about how she too can practice it when times are tough. Other people will not always understand your feelings and thoughts so you have to be able to draw it from yourself and from your beliefs. It takes practice to change this course and awareness to change the script.  

Long Weekends: Avoid the After Slump and Savour the Present Moment

Kelly Bos

 photo credit: pexels.com

photo credit: pexels.com

It is often a “case of the Tuesdays” after a long weekend as the regular work week looms overhead and people start dreading the routine, the trip back, the packing up, cleaning up, etc. The grumblings are inevitable and pretty normal. You might like your job, or even look forward to a being back to routine, but much like the mixed emotions when thinking about the September start, there can be a sadness or some grief when the long weekend is over. There is also the opposite phenomenon with people who hate long weekends and go in already unhappy, as Rebecca Eckler wrote in Macleans, “Some can’t wait for that extra day; for others it feels like there’s a big party going on and they weren’t invited”. So there is the grief about the end, FOMO, and those who feel guilty for not doing something special enough. Do long weekends add to happiness? Generally, long weekends are seen as a good thing, a time to recharge, focus on family, a restart to be a bit nicer, healthier and frankly work more productively when one has some extra time off. But, as in most things, a lot has to do with perspective and this we have power to work on and change.

Sunday evenings often feel like the weekend is over before it's even begun.” -Catherine McCormack

 photo credit: pexels.com

photo credit: pexels.com

Savour Don't Slump:

1. Find the joy in the present:

Be mindful of all the good to be had, even if it is holiday traffic, look around for the fun in the moment you are in. And if you didn't get out of city and feel inundated with posts of friends tubing, hitting the spa, or riding rollercoasters, find something that makes your weekend special and savour that. Be intentional about finding the good and make today a great day. While you are at it, plan something great for tomorrow too!

2. Take the moment forward:

Maybe it was a busy weekend but we can happily take the memory of the laughs we had with us. Or if it was a restful time, we can remember that nap we had in the hammock. If you felt rejuvinated, relish the refreshing swim experienced beside the waterfall. Using imagery and invoking your senses to imagine an event can conjure up the same feelings as actually experiencing it.

3. Let tomorrow's worries be tomorrow's worries:

There might be a lot of work waiting for you this week, but ruminating on that doesn't help you tackle things any better when you get there. If there is something you can do to make your life easier before you go in, then by all means do it, otherwise, it is best to stay in the moment you are in and take things as they come. If you are anxious about the week beginning, write the “to do's” down and let them go. And make sure you take the breaks and holidays when you can, research shows working long hours can lead to health problems, affect your emotional regulation, affect your sleep and will likely have you working less effectively. Being on your computer the whole weekend is not going to reap those rewards.

This long weekend create and take the good forward.

 

 

Anxious Thoughts and Things That Go Bump in the Night

Kelly Bos

HOW TO MANAGE THOSE LATE NIGHT WORRIES

How does it happen? The sudden switch from peacefully sound asleep to wide awake... and worried. Maybe a child called out for water or the dog wanted to be let out and your wander back to bed got you thinking about a conflict at work or sixteen time sensitive errands. You binged watched Game of Thrones, dreamed you finally ruled Dragonstone and you awoke ruminating/obsessing about a betrayal in your own life. Or maybe it was one of those times when you simply awoke, seemingly out of nowhere, sweaty and anxious because that subconscious went bump in the night.

Now worrying in the daytime is usually time sucking, unhealthy and provides little help to the actual problem, but night worrying is anxiety on speed with so much less reason is available to you. Cognitive distortions at their most distorted.

Many times when I have had this night anxiety I finally get back to sleep and awake the next morning only to discover that what was plaguing me at 2 am, is not even an actual worry for me. I don't really care and/or see things much more clearly in the light of day. This is that 20/20 you are unable to grasp when you are tired and pumped with worry adrenaline. 

The night is full of terrors -Melisandre, Game of Thrones

But does it have to be? There are things you can do. The sword in the darkness? Reality!

1. First ask yourself, is this a problem?

The answer might be no. If you can recognize it IS a non issue and just your brain is searching for something to worry about then nighty night you are good to call time of death on that worry. Challenge it, stay in the moment of being in bed with your only task and focus to be on going back to sleep. Try the 5-5-5 method to get present. 

2. If it is a problem, ask yourself what can I do about it? Chances are there is nothing you can do about it at 2 am. Nothing. Nightwatch called off!

3. If it is a problem that has a solution, and you feel there is something you can do, write down the solution. I keep a pen and paper right beside my bed for moments just like these. I can write down the ideas around addressing that misunderstanding with my partner; I can jot a note to pick up the always forgotten dry cleaning. Whatever I am afraid I will forget is now taken care of.You see once it is written down, you can let it out of your head and end the swirling repetition. Also keep in mind that another billion circles in the head is not likely to produce too many more angles, ideas or cautionary tales for you, just write it down and be done. Worry rarely produces new amazing results that you had never thought of.

 

These simple tips should keep those cognitively distorted “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night” at bay.  

You're Busy; We Know. Here's How to "Practice Presence" Sometimes Instead

Kelly Bos

NOW IS THE PERFECT IMPERFECT MOMENT

It was sports day at my daughter's school. I had forgotten, and it was a particularly difficult day to find the time to go. It proved to be more difficult to tell my daughter that I wouldn't attend, so I decided to make it work despite many to-dos and too little time in the day. I arrived at sports day distracted and a bit stressed.

Have you attended events without really being present? At high risk of attending in body only – my thoughts, plans and feelings of urgency took any joy or presence out of the moment – it was necessary for me to regroup.

I needed to acknowledge that although the day wasn't going as planned, I could still be there for her and for myself. Practicing presence in the busy-ness of life isn't easy.

Being mindful is a constant battle for many of us. As a parent, we must manage competing schedules and meet varying needs. Despite this we can find presence, even in the chaos, if we are intentional and practice it. Those times when we are so in the moment that the contrast is remarkable and often rare. You think, “Hey, I am here! I am really here!” and it is special, but often fleeting.

Practicing being in the present moment means letting go.

We struggle with yesterday (Why didn't I respond in a lovingly to my child's behaviour?) and tomorrow (How will I handle the co-op meeting tension?). We are missing out on the right now by looking forward or back with our should've, could've, would’ve or the conjured-up outcomes that simply could happen.

Your child is resilient...

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