Emma is a therapist and clinical supervisor at Find Your Shine Therapy, a group private practice in Tempe, AZ. She is the author of a new book, DBT Skills for Highly Sensitive People.

467: Handling Highly Sensitive Kids (& Parents!)

Emma Lauer

Do you have a highly sensitive child?

Are you a highly sensitive adult?

If so, you may be dealing with a LOT of intense emotions. High sensitivity can be a gift, but it also requires some coping skills to handle the big feelings.

Hunter talks to Emma Lauer about tools to help the HSPs.

Handling Highly Sensitive Kids (& Parents!) - Emma Lauer [467]

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Emma Lauer: What put the idea in my head in the first place to become a therapist was because I had my own therapist when I was in middle school that was helping me with some anxiety and, you know, my parents had gotten a divorce a few years before. And, um, that was what put the idea in my head originally is being a job that I could do someday.

[00:00:24] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 467. Today, we're talking about coping skills for highly sensitive kids and parents with Emma Lauer.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clarkfields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller Raising Good Humans, and now Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Press Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids. Hello, welcome back to the Mindful Parenting podcast.

If you have gotten some value from this podcast, Please help grow the show today by just telling one friend about. That's all. Just tell one friend about it, you can make a big difference, and I hugely appreciate it. And, of course, a special welcome to you if you are new. This is a great episode to join in on, because especially if you have a highly sensitive kid, you may have one.

These Us HSBs, we're out there all over the place. So in just a few moments, I'm going to be talking to Emma Lauer. She is a therapist and clinical supervisor at Find Your Shine Therapy, a group private practice in Tempe, Arizona. She's the author of a new book, DBT Skills for Highly Sensitive People. And we'll talk about what this is.

What is it to be a highly sensitive person? You may be a highly sensitive person yourself. You may have a highly sensitive child, you know, if you have a child that maybe strong reactions or they cut all the tags out or it's hard for them to regulate emotions. We'll talk about this. But you, you know, you probably are dealing with a highly sensitive child if you're dealing with a lot of intense emotions.

The thing is, high sensitivity can be a gift, but it requires some coping skills to handle all these big feelings. So Berg, I'm gonna talk to Emma about the tools to help these highly sensitive people HSPs. So I know this is gonna be super helpful episode. Let's get to it. Join me at the table as I talk to Emma Lauer.

Emma, thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting Podcast. I'm honored that you guys considered me, so thank you. Well, I'm glad you're here, and I'm excited to talk about highly sensitive kids and parents. Um, as I happen to be one, and I gather you are also, uh, now you're a highly sensitive parent, but you were a highly sensitive kid, right?

[00:03:37] Emma Lauer: Yep, I was a highly sensitive toddler, kid, teenager,

[00:03:42] Emma Lauer: now parent, yes. Yes.

[00:03:44] Hunter: How, and how did that kind of manifest in your own life and, and, and when did you sort of realize it?

[00:03:51] Emma Lauer: Yeah. Um, let's see. That's a great question. So I would say pretty early on, partly because my temperament is very different from both my parents.

Um, so I think it was sort of pointed out to me directly and indirectly as a kid. Um, and I have two very supporting, loving parents and so I was fortunate in that way because you know, when kids, uh, highly sensitive kids grow up in a temperament that's maybe very different from their own, they don't always get that and it can lead to problems down the line.

[00:04:25] Hunter: Uh, so what was your temperament like and what was your parents like?

[00:04:27] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I would say, I would describe both my parents as like very reserved, introverted. Um, I think they definitely can be sensitive in their own ways, but my temperament was definitely like much more outgoing, like bigger emotions, at least like that showed on the outside, as opposed to maybe like internalizing things more.

Um, so yeah, in a nutshell, I would say that was kind of the main difference.

[00:04:53] Hunter: I bet you got a lot of like, you're so sensitive or you're too sensitive, like I definitely got that as a kid. Did you? You must have gotten that too.

[00:05:02] Emma Lauer: Yeah. I don't remember hearing those words specifically, but I was told things like, uh, I have a big personality.

Um, and I was, uh, I had a teacher that told me when I was little that I was going to be on Broadway someday. So it was like more of that kind of stuff.

[00:05:19] Hunter: That's kind of a nice way of saying it. I, you know, it's funny, like the, the things we say, like, I remember watching my oldest daughter and being like, I remember having like the B word come into my head and, and then I was like, I'm not even going to think that word, not going to say that word.

I'm going to tell myself that she has leadership potential. She's got a lot of leadership potential. That's incredible. Yeah. And you know,

she, she ended up being like an Eagle Scout. So as she is, you know, she's an Eagle Scout now. So, um, she did, she did have a lot of leadership potential. Yeah. 100%.

[00:06:00] Emma Lauer: And I think that those words are so, so powerful for kids because I guarantee, I mean, I would just bet money that she internalized that in a really positive way.

Um, and those are exactly the kinds of things that kids like that I think really great. I need to hear.

[00:06:15] Hunter: Yeah, she is very, definitely a highly sensitive kid. Okay, so then why, well, let's talk about what does it mean? What does highly sensitive mean? And, and, and how, you know, how do we identify, you know, you're hearing, dear listener, you're hearing me say I'm highly sensitive, Emma's highly sensitive, Hunter's, my daughter's highly sensitive, what the heck does it mean?

[00:06:38] Emma Lauer: Yeah, yeah. So, the term highly sensitive person was coined by the psychologist named Elaine Aron, and she has a few different criteria that she uses to, like, really specifically define it. Um, so, I'll talk a little bit about how Elaine Aron, uh, the psychologist defines it, and, um, I also think of it as just generally being emotionally sensitive, right?

Meaning that when you feel your emotions, you feel them really intensely and really acutely, right? They come up really fast and strong. Um, you might Perceive, and Elaine Aron talks about this too, perceiving things in your environment, um, differently than other people would, meaning that you pick up on things that are very subtle that other people might not pick up on, right?

Um, basically meaning you're, like, very sensitive to environmental cues, so, like, the comments someone makes, the mood in the air, look on someone's face, the tone of their voice, like, those kinds of things. You pick up on that stuff a lot more easily. Um, Elaine Aron talks a lot too about being very sensitive to even things like medication or environmental changes or like the kinds of foods you eat, basically the idea being that it's like in our cells, you know?

Um, and, but for the purposes of my book and as a therapist, I think about it mostly in terms of, um, I have big feelings and I feel them intensely and I feel them like It's not just the emotion, it's like a bodily experience that's also intense, in addition to being like an intense.

[00:08:04] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, I can completely relate to that.

I mean, that's, that's the whole reason why I turned to mindfulness. I was like desperate for some relief from the, the, the roller coaster that I was on. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And CBT was specifically designed for that. For sure. Yeah, yeah. And so, so you, you probably identified yourself as some way highly sensitive by the time you're a teen.

You, you, uh, let's kind of just like, just to kind of wrap up the missing pieces of your story, what you, you dove into this work, I assume, because, you know, that, that sort of like quest for self understanding, I imagine.

[00:08:46] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I would say so. Um, I think there are a few different pieces to the puzzle, but that is definitely a big piece, and I think that's very common amongst therapists for sure.

Um, the, what put the idea in my head in the first place to become a therapist was because I had my own therapist when I was in middle school that was helping me with some anxiety, and you know, my parents had gotten a divorce a few years before, and um, that was what put the idea in my head originally is.

That I could do someday. And I also, you know, it's always interesting, always stimulating. Uh, the, obviously the gratification from helping people, um, there are a lot of positive things about it, but yeah, over the years as I've learned more from my work with people and just, you know, continuing training as a therapist, I've definitely learned more and more about.

Regulating emotions and making, I like to say, making friends with your emotions. 

[00:09:41] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, awesome. Um, you, so if we imagine that our kids are highly sensitive, what kind of things are we looking for in our, in maybe in kids or adolescents that might show that they might be highly sensitive and not just, I don't know, We, sometimes we think they're like doing these things to get, get to us.

What, what are some things we might see?

[00:10:07] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I think something that I would pay attention to, especially if you yourself as a parent are maybe don't identify as highly sensitive, is having this feeling of like, I don't understand why this is a big deal. I don't understand your emotions or I don't understand why you're reacting this way.

Uh, so generally like, You know, kids or teenagers having really big emotions in response to something that, from your perspective, is, like, not a big deal, you know, um, which part of that is totally normal. It's not exclusive to highly sensitive kids, obviously, right, because, like, When you're a kid, you're still learning and your brain's still developing, right?

Um, but that's the first thing that comes to mind, I think.

[00:10:49] Hunter: Just those big reactions. That was the whole thing with me and my, my highly sensitive daughter was like, these really big reactions all the time. And I was like, oh my god, I, that triggered my, my temper and I had to like, deal with that, right? I didn't want to have those big reactions to her big reactions to everything.

Um, okay. So, We, you know, we want to talk about, like, so, let's imagine, right, like, I imagine that oftentimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Sometimes we can see these things in our kids. And then we can sort of see them in ourselves. So I'd just love to talk about some of the things we, the skills we can identify, you know, to help highly sensitive people, whether they're parents or whether they're kids.

So maybe we can kind of think about it, um, Maybe you can talk about it sort of generally, and then we can dive into like, what, how we, how we can help parents and kids, and I guess we have to talk about what DBT is too, because that's when we're, we're all about. So anyway, you dive in, let me know.

[00:11:59] Emma Lauer: Yeah, so I can start with DBT because I think it's So, DBT, not a lot of people, if you've been in therapy, you've maybe heard of it, but, um, most people haven't, right, so DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and it's a type of talk therapy, um, you know, what people traditionally think of when they think of therapy, um, and basically, DBT is all about learning positive coping skills, and again, like I said earlier, kind of learning to make friends with your emotions, learning to understand your emotions.

learning how to kind of work with your emotions rather than feeling like they're working against you. Um, so it's really, DBT is all about like tangible skills that you can start using right away. Like it's very, very skills based and practical and it's about changing behavior also. Uh, it's a big part of it.

[00:12:53] Hunter: Stay tuned for podcast right after this break.

[00:13:01] Emma Lauer: So it's generally broken up into four sections. So DBT teaches mindfulness, Mindfulness, which I know you talk a lot about in your book, um, and, or in your new book rather. And in both of them, um, mindfulness, distress tolerance skills, which I call those break loss in case of emergency skills. So like when the emotions are their most intense, like the most distressing and you just need like immediate relief just to bring it down a bit so you can at least like function.

Those are the distress tolerance skills. Um, Emotion Regulation is another section. And then lastly, uh, DBT teaches Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills, which is all about Relationships and helping people build and maintain relationships with others because sometimes if you have really big emotions, they can get in the way of that.

[00:13:53] Hunter: Okay. All right. So these sound really useful. Stress tolerance, the what to do in case of, you know, if, if everything's hitting the fan, like this is where, What we want you to do with the mindfulness, the understanding of what's happening, the lessening our reactivity, emotional regulation, and then how to then bring this into the world with other people.

So these are all kind of, these are like the ways to kind of cope with the challenges of being highly sensitive, right? But you also say like there's a bunch of gifts in being highly sensitive. Can you elaborate on why you say that being highly sensitive is a gift before we dive into some of those skills?

[00:14:35] Emma Lauer: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think it's a huge gift. I mean, I feel like I could talk for an hour about all the different, wait, I can, you know, rapid fire off the first things that come to mind, but, Yeah, I mean, I think it's a gift in that if you, your emoticons will first of all back up and say that DBT teaches you to see your emotions as messengers, right?

Like, basically, your emotions are popping up, even if they don't fit the facts, as we say in DBT, they're still inherently valid, right? They're popping up for a reason. So if you have intense emotions and you learn to see your emotions as messengers, right? Like, maybe they don't fit the facts, but they're popping up for a reason.

It's a gift because then you can tune in and say, like, okay, this is giving me information about what's going on within me, what's going on around me. I can use this information to better understand what's happening right now for me. So that's one way, right? Like, you're more in tune with those messages that your body is trying to tell you about.

What's going on around you, about your values, about your history, about what's important to you, about so many things, right? That's, your emotions are based in all of that. Um, so there's the gift of being more connected in that way. I think that with big emotions can come big passion. And I think that's a gift for the people around you.

You know, if you're passionate, excuse me, about the things you love and the things you're interested in, your high sensitivity really can drive that. And that's fun and engaging and interesting for the people around you. So those are the first things that come to mind. Um, I think that being loved by someone who's highly sensitive, when you're loved by someone who's highly sensitive, you can really feel it and you feel that person's passion, you know, similar to what I was just saying a second ago.

[00:16:13] Hunter: Um, so yeah, those are the things that come to mind off the top of my head. Did it take you a while as like a highly sensitive person to kind of see the gifts of it?

[00:16:21] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I would say so. I think that I learn more and more as the years go on. Um, like, my understanding of it now is definitely totally different than it was when I was, like, a teenager, college student, even, even though I didn't necessarily see it as a bad thing at that age, I understand so much more fully now, how not only, uh, is it not a hindrance, sorry for the double negative, but it's, you know, a positive.

[00:16:51] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, um, I, I was always told that this is my artistic nature, you know, that that, that was what it was, actually, I remember my dad. I remember like being like 11 years old or something and like crying on my bed or something and just anyway my dad like rubbing my back he was being really sweet and just saying like oh Hunter this is this is your artistic nature and then he was like And then he's like, and life's just going to always be this way.

[00:17:30] Emma Lauer: And I was like, Hey, that's a beautiful son. So my book was downhill really that gets real dark, real fast. I know.

[00:17:37] Hunter: I was like, Oh my God, he was right in some ways, but you know, it's like, it wasn't actually that helpful in that moment. 

[00:17:49] Emma Lauer: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of thoughts. So both my parents, my mom, before she was a stay at home mom, she was a civil engineer and my dad was a, uh, or he is a computer scientist.

And, uh, so my, and I, I think I considered myself as having that artistic nature when I was a kid and my parents were both, you know, being more engineer types or like we, I don't entirely understand.

[00:18:12] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. They didn't. Yeah. I guess I had that advantage. Like my dad is an artist too. So he, I was like a positive, like wonderful thing.

Like I feel like I was encouraged to be an artist the way some people are encouraged to be like a doctor or a lawyer, you know? But that's that. Yeah. With the civil engineer and the computer scientists, they were like, Oh, this is great. I don't understand this child.

[00:18:35] Emma Lauer: Yeah, my dad definitely more so than my mom because my dad definitely like really, uh, nurtured my love of reading and writing and movies and music and all that.

But, um, yeah, very, very different than my parents for sure.

[00:18:47] Hunter: Okay. All right. So big emotions. Can equal big passion. I think that's true. My, yeah, like my brother in my wedding, he, you know, he did this whole like speech and we talked about my enthusiasm. And so it's like, oh, that's really sweet. And I guess that's like, that's like big passion and things like that.

Okay. So we, we have, it is a gift. It can be a gift and it can be a curse because you're just feeling everything so intensely. It can really feel like A rollercoaster, at least from my own experience, I remember it really are, uh, you know, that was one of the gifts of mindfulness was that it like steadied the waves of this rollercoaster and I was able to kind of process all these feelings.

What, um, what are some of the first things that you help people do as when they start to understand they're highly sensitive to help them learn to, to cope with this? Mindfulness.

[00:19:45] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I think that, well, DBT considers mindfulness the foundation for all other DBT skills. So the way that DBT is structured is that you teach mindfulness before you teach any of the other skills, because the idea is that you have to be able to do the skills mindfully, right?

Like, we can teach the emotion regulation skills and the distress tolerance skills and the interpersonal skills, but if you don't have the mindfulness foundation, then those other skills aren't really going to work. So, starting with mindfulness, which is, you know, the awareness of what's happening, right?

So, being able to pause and focus your attention and tune in on it internally. And again, without judgment, right? Without judgment being the key to mindfulness. Which means that understanding your sensitivity as a gift and as a positive thing, um, that, that's helpful in that moment, right? Because that can help take away the judgment, right?

You, just because you're feeling that intense emotion in that moment, it's not inherently bad, right? Even if it feels way outsized, you know, whatever the situation is. It's inherently valid, right? It's not a bad thing to be feeling intense emotions so it can help you tune in without judgment, right? Being able to pause, notice what's going on, slow down.

Um, so the without judgment piece, the self compassion, self validation piece, which we can talk about more because those are sort of skills in and of themselves.

[00:21:08] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, there's a lot there. I mean, you know, the whole thing about, like, just tuning in without judgment. And it's like, because You're having a feeling and it's so intense and there's this feeling of like, I've just got to get out of here.

And what Emma's saying, what Hunter Elvin says is like, no, no, you don't want, actually what you don't want to do is get out of there and distract yourself and get away from it. You actually want to tune into it. And you want to feel, uh, you want to feel it, which is like this feel, you know, this is the, we, we have an uncomfortable feeling, we have a distressing feeling, we have a, you know, and, and, and it's funny because sometimes I say, yeah, like mindfulness is not like rainbow sparkles, like shooting at your ears and floating on a cloud of bliss because you're actually sitting with these things that you're sitting with the I've got to get out of here feeling.

And hanging out with it, right? Tell us about that, like, in your own experience.

[00:22:07] Emma Lauer: Yeah. Yeah. So my personal experience and my, definitely my experience with clients as well, um, is, you know, it, basically you can think of your emotions as messengers, right? And that's what, part of what DBT teaches. And the, their job is to be heard and to send their message and have their message go through loud and clear, right?

So you, the way you can think of it is like, if you try to distract, numb, shut down your emotions and validate your emotions, those messengers are just going to get louder and louder and louder, and they're going to keep coming back. It's going to come out sideways one way or another. It's going to pop up again because it's like, Hey, you're not, this is important, you're not

[00:22:42] Hunter: hearing me.

I know. I think of them sometimes as like, Mindful Mom, Mindful Parenting. So then we sit with it, we pay it, give it attention. How, when you describe your own process of like giving it attention or you describe it for your clients, what, how do you describe it?

[00:23:11] Emma Lauer: Yeah, I think that something, a go to strategy that can be helpful is to name the emotion, which I talk about a lot in my book.

There are different tools for just this process, and I explain in the book, too, why, the scientific reason behind why this is helpful. And I know, I remember reading in your book, too, this, you know, it's the common phrase, name it to tame it, right? You've maybe heard that, your listeners have maybe heard that before.

So naming the emotion, step one, and then also being able to notice where you feel in your body, right? Like, I am anxious. I feel it at, like, the base of my chest and in my stomach. I feel like a pit in my stomach. And just being able to name it and mindfully notice the feeling can help it start to dissipate because you're giving it the time of day it deserves and naming it will help it feel more manageable.

[00:24:02] Hunter: Yeah, it does kind of shrink it. It's weird. I would feel it like in my throat, the anxiety, and I would just like close my eyes and be like, okay, throat, throat, throat, you know, just hello, hello there. And sometimes I say, Oh, you know, like the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, he says, say, you know, hello, dear anxiety.

I see you there, right? Just like greet it. Hello. Hello, old friend. I see you there. And, and Emma was talking about how that really does help to dissipate it, despite our aversion to wanting to, to be there with it.

[00:24:37] Emma Lauer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And also being able, saying hello and also then being able to say, like, you're trying to tell me something, like, I hear there's something, there's a reason that this is popping up right now, if there's something you're trying to tell me.

[00:24:50] Emma Lauer: And it's okay, like, you know, you're nervous about a big presentation or whatever. It's like, yeah, that, this makes sense. I hear you. I hear you, Anxiety. 

[00:25:02] Hunter: Like, yes. Yeah, like it's okay that you hear that whole like radical acceptance. Tyra Brock wrote that book about it and just that it feels so weird, like we want to say no, no, no, no, and we're saying like actually no, you actually want to kind of say yes.

And so this is like this awareness, this Being able to be with this. This is at the heart of DPT, and this is about this idea, and you talk about it in your book, this idea of like expanding your window of tolerance, right? And, and so, cause I imagine that like when things like people have big feelings, Like, anxieties or fears or whatever the big feelings are, like, our response is to often, like, close down and get comfortable, right?

But then, and, like, you know, do something that's comforting, like, maybe that's distracting, like, get on the phone or eat or, I don't know, watch, like, a ridiculous amount of Gilmore Girls, you know, whatever it is, right? Like, But that actually just makes that window of tolerance smaller. And can you talk a little bit about that, this idea of, of that, that kind of, that window of tolerance?

[00:26:13] Emma Lauer: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so the concept of the window of tolerance, it's taken from trauma treatment and trauma therapy. Um, and the idea is, Well, it's complex, but basically, in a nutshell, the idea is that we want people to widen their windows so that they are spending more time in their window. And we say if you're up out of your window of tolerance, you're hyper aroused, so hyper aroused is like a panic attack, agitated, you can't, your prefrontal cortex thinking part of your brain is like, shut off, you're just like, fight or flight.

Uh, fight or flight mode, and then if you're down out of your window of tolerance, you're in what we call a hypo aroused state, which means that you're dissociated, numbed out, checked out. Um, and if you're in your window, you're generally, you're present, you're mindful, you're in the moment, and you are, for the most part, regulated, but you're still going to be feeling stuff, right?

Like, you might bump up and down. Or get kind of close to the top of your window, right? And it doesn't mean you're not in your window, you're feeling your emotions, but you can tolerate it without becoming hyperaroused or hypoaroused, is basically in a nutshell what it means.

[00:27:24] Hunter: That's so cool. Okay, so I can see how all these four things really overlap with each other, right?

Because we've been talking about mindfulness, and then of course it talks about emotional regulation and distress tolerance. Tolerance, and things like that. Maybe it would be helpful, like, to think about, you know, I think all these things that Emma's sharing here are things that can be, like, explained to kids and talked about, you know, openly, like, in the house, if you have those highly sensitive kids, or you are highly sensitive, just kind of talking about these things can help normalize them and make it happen.

You know, part of what's in the repertoire, right? Um, okay. Then, so you start with mindfulness and then where do you take people?

[00:28:09] Emma Lauer: Uh, so after mindfulness, taking people where in terms of, uh,

[00:28:14] Hunter: Oh, um, as far as like helping them handle coping with their high, high sensitivity and their challenges with it.

[00:28:22] Emma Lauer: Yeah.

So then after you're able to really use those mindfulness skills to tune in and I think the next step and the next skill that you use or whatever happens next really depends on the situation. Sometimes if you're like at a 10 out of 10 or you're, you know, really, really distressed and the emotion's really, really big, you might need something like a distraction skill just to bring it down a bit so you can just have like a little breathing room, you know?

Um, so, you know, you mentioned a second ago that sometimes if we're outside our window, we might not with like TV or staring at our phones or whatever. And that's not the kind of thing I would recommend on any kind of regular basis. But sometimes if that's the case, What you need to stop yourself from just, like, totally losing it or doing something you're going to regret later or whatever, then that can be a helpful tool, you know?

Other times, if, you know, maybe the emotion isn't quite so intense, maybe it's more, like, mild anxiety, some more mild fears, you know, whatever's coming up in that moment, using a different kind of skill, like, um, Taking some time to write out a little bit about what you're feeling and what you think it's connected to and a little bit of the context to help yourself sort of make sense of things.

That can also invite more, like, self validation, which is going to then tame the emotions a bit more. It might even help you problem solve if that's, you know, where you're at and that's helpful in that moment. Um, it can also, once the emotion is sort of, like, tamed, settled a little bit, then you maybe have space to, like, use those interpersonal effectiveness skills if that's, you know, whatever the situation is, if that's what it calls for, right?

[00:29:58] Hunter: Um, so I guess. Short answers. Depends. I, I used to, I, I wrote it out. I was having like, uh, an anxiety, like, real anxious moment before I, I went and I traveled to, uh, Wyoming to do talk in September. And I, like, in the Denver airport, I'd start freaking out. Like, why am I doing this? Like, what am I doing? And I just like, had this like, little, little cry in the airport.

As he called my husband and he suggested that. And I, to me at the moment, 'cause I was freaking out and I was like, okay. And I wrote it out and that did help. And then I, and then I meditated and that's what brought me back. Stay

tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break,

what are some of the distress tolerance skills or the, you know, the, the break glass in case of. In case of emergency skills. I mean, that might be that our, uh, our, our, our, you know, Grey's Anatomy, uh, uh, run or whatever.

[00:31:09] Emma Lauer: Yeah. Um, so very classic case of emergency skills. The first thing that comes to mind, I think probably the most popular DBT skill in this area is something called TIP.

DBT is really big on acronyms, which, um, Some people find them confusing and annoying, some people find them helpful, but anyway, TIP stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation. So, I go over all these in the book in more detail, but um, The T, temperature, basically the idea is, uh, there, there's an evolutionary mechanism behind this.

So, um, it, DBT calls it the ice dive, basically changing the temperature of your body in order to help your body regulate and help your emotions settle a bit more. So, um, yeah, it's, it's wild. So I can explain it. So basically there are a few different ways to do it. One way that they teach it is by dunking your head in a bucket of ice water, which is not at all practical and sounds totally miserable, which it is.

Um, there's a little bit more practical way of doing this, which is to get the tips of your, the way I teach it to people is to get the tips of your fingers, cold by putting them maybe on some ice in your freezer, and then you place your fingers just like below your eye socket, and you hold your breath, and you bend over, and the cold, that action, and the cold on your face will automatically slow down your heart rate, it'll automatically lower your blood pressure, and your body will start to, yeah, and, um, Yeah, so DBT is really big on stressing that if you have like a heart condition or an eating disorder, yeah, it's not recommended.

There's some kind of cool science behind it. Basically, the science is that, um, you know, if you were to actually dive into some ice water, your body would need to sort of shut down to conserve energy, right? So it's gonna slow everything down. DBT has found that this specific skill is really helpful for people when they're like really dysregulated, like really anxious, really angry, really, you know, whatever the thing is.

[00:33:05] Hunter: Wow, that's crazy. And then you said intense exercise. That's interesting, because like, that's been a coping mechanism I've had. Like, I learned, taught myself to run at some point, and like, all through college, like, I would like, And then when my daughter was little, I was like, you need to go to the YMCA child care because I really need to move this energy out of my body.

Like, I call it like getting rid of my ya yas. I don't know. Tell me about what this is.

[00:33:31] Emma Lauer: Yeah. Yeah. Um, so yeah, all of that for sure. It's so, so important. Um, and yeah, as an eating disorder therapist, I'm, I'm like, I have a thing about this, because I always am checking in with people about their relationship with exercise.

Like, do you have a healthy relationship with exercise? Is this going to be something that's helpful for you? I guess that's one of the great things about DBT is that you can tailor it to people. But, um, I mean, yeah, having a healthy relationship with exercise is so, so, so important for exactly the reason you just said.

[00:33:58] Hunter: Oh, and so it is like a stress release kind of thing. The intense, Intense exercise. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And when it's Assuming and it's in a healthy context.

[00:34:08] Emma Lauer: Right, right, right, right, right. Um, yeah, I just like couldn't help myself to give that. Yeah, yeah. Um, but yeah, I mean, we want these skills to be practical for people, right?

So we teach things like, you know, stuff you can do in the moment, like jumping jacks, dancing it out in your room, playing some loud music, something, you know, whatever it is to, to get the yeah yeahs out, like you said. That's great.

[00:34:32] Hunter: I'd definitely do that. And what was the P?

[00:34:34] Emma Lauer: Yeah, so it's broken up into two parts.

The first part is paced breathing. So I teach it as 5, 6, 7 breathing. And there's an, again, um, a bio, uh, biological mechanism behind this. Basically, if you breathe into your nose and then if the out breath is longer than your in breath, it automatically kicks in to your parasympathetic nervous system.

Again, things will start to naturally slow down. So the paced breathing and then progressive muscle relaxation is. Gradually tensing up your muscles, holding it, and then letting your muscles relax, and mindfully noticing as they relax after you tense up.

[00:35:08] Hunter: These are such helpful, um, tools to kind of like be bundled together.

I really appreciate it. Yeah, pace breathing. You said five, six, seven or something. That's like inhale five, hold six, and exhale seven.

[00:35:21] Emma Lauer: Yeah, you know, that's what I was taught. I actually generally teach five, two, seven or something along those lines. Just hold a little bit

[00:35:28] Hunter: and then a longer exhale. It's basically like that's what I teach too, is like this is the longer exhale that matters, right?

Like that's the thing that matters there.

[00:35:38] Emma Lauer: I tell people that they can do whatever combination, whatever pattern feels comfortable for them. The only thing that's important is that the out breath is longer. It's a

[00:35:46] Hunter: longer out breath. Yeah. I'm, I find that so helpful. My husband found that so helpful when he was having panic attacks.

That's incredibly, incredibly helpful. Um, so this is great. So we have all the, these incredible tools, um, what I'm curious about, you know, these are tools that you're teaching to your clients. These are tools you teach them to, um, probably mostly adults, but are some of these tools kids can use as well, I imagine.

[00:36:18] Emma Lauer: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. Um, Paced Breathing. You can teach it to kids all kinds of ways. I've seen, uh, children's therapists teach, like, dragon breath, where they practice breathing out as long and hard as they can, like, pretending they're a dragon. You can teach them blowing bubbles, like, breathe in through your nose, and then pretend you're blowing a bubble out as slowly as you can.

Um, I mean, I teach that one to adults, too. It's great for everyone. Um, yeah, so there, there are lots of ways. And then, like, again, dancing it out in your room and, uh, doing some jumping jack, you know, something to, like, get the energy out. That's obviously something that can translate really easily for kids, for sure, for sure.

Mm hmm. All right.

[00:36:58] Hunter: That's awesome. Okay. So, there's so much here. So, we're basically saying, we're looking at highly sensitivity. We're looking at as a, we're looking at as a gift. We're looking at its positives. We're getting to know the feelings of it, right? We're staying with it. We're staying with it mindfully.

Um, now that piece, when you teach mindfulness to people who are coming in and they're new to mindfulness and they may Go back to a situation in their home where it's not like super supported. They may not have like a bunch of people who are practicing meditation in their lives. How do you help them create a practice where they're able to develop more mindfulness of these, of these feelings in their lives?

[00:37:44] Emma Lauer: Yeah, yeah, this is a great question and it's obviously something that's applicable to so many people. Um, I think that this is where the self compassion and self validation skills really come into play. Because, um, just because, you know, just because you're alone in this or you feel alone in this endeavor of trying to be more mindful and embracing of your emotions and validating of yours and other people's emotions.

Even if it feels lonely, it doesn't mean it's not a problem. A worthwhile pursuit, right? So, um, being able to stick with it and having skills to help yourself do that. It's definitely important. Um, and the self validation and self compassion come in where it's like, even if the people around you are maybe invalidating, you can always, that's always a tool that you have to give yourself, right?

And you can notice that, you know, again, mindfully notice without judgment, like that's where they're coming from for a whole myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with me, right? Um, and I, my feelings are still. Valid, you know? And our feelings are always, always, always valid. Even if they don't. Again, as DBT says, even if it doesn't fit the facts, um, they're still inherently valid.

So, you always have that to available to yourself.

[00:39:03] Hunter: Um, how do you encourage your patients? What kind of mindfulness practice do you encourage them to do? And how do you, how do they, How do you help them stick with it?

[00:39:12] Emma Lauer: Um, I guess practice more than anything. And, you know, we talk about progress, not perfection, right?

Consistent practice. And it's not, I mean, you're never going to reach perfection with this kind of thing. Right. Um, so it's just consistent practice over time. Um, and so. I think that teaching clients, um, to adjust their, their self talk is, is a big part of this, so teaching clients that it's helpful and okay and healing to talk to yourself the way that you would talk to your best friend, someone that you care about deeply, a younger version of you.

Um, you know, if you have a child in your life, or you know, obviously your listeners do, um, that you care about deeply, you know, the way that you want to talk to them and validate their own emotions, like directing, being able to direct that at yourself, say, telling yourself, and I say this to my son, Concie's not quite old enough to understand what I'm saying, but constantly saying, like, it's okay to feel sad.

You feel sad. It's okay to feel sad. Like, you're, you're really mad. It's okay to feel

[00:40:11] Hunter: mad. You have a, you have a one year old, you have a, uh, a new book out, you have a therapy practice. How are you practicing to keep yourself regulated through all this?

[00:40:26] Emma Lauer: Yeah, thanks for asking that. Um, yeah, because it is, it's a lot.

I try my hardest to practice what I preach, and I know that it's an ongoing practice, and I know that it's, um, again, progress, not perfection, right? And I'm nowhere near practicing this stuff perfectly. Um, you know, I get caught up in seeing my feelings, like, you know, misinterpreting my feelings as facts, right?

Like, just because I'm scared doesn't mean there's a threat, and being able to talk myself off that ledge, that's, um, Something I, you know, am continually having to practice that, especially being a new mom, um, you know, more so than any other time in my life. Um, I have my own therapist that I see, which is immensely helpful, and I think all therapists should go to therapy.


[00:41:12] Hunter: yeah. Do you have a daily meditation practice? And if so, what does that look like? Like, specifically, like, where do you sit? What does it look like? And how much time do you, you know, all of those details are important. Really helpful, I think, for people to hear.

[00:41:26] Emma Lauer: Yeah, you know, I'll be totally honest and say that I don't have a daily meditation practice.

Um, I try to practice, I do make a point to practice mindfulness wherever I am, you know, when I think of it. So I, um, And that's the beautiful thing. That's what we teach people about mindfulness. The beautiful thing about it is that you can do it anytime, anywhere, anything you're doing, right? Like, I can be actively playing with your kid and practicing mindfulness if you are engaged in the moment and noticing, like, the sound of their voice and how they're interacting with you and the look on their face and the texture of the toys.

Like, those are, that's a mindfulness practice, right? Even if you're not, like, sitting meditating. So, I try to do that. I guess, You know, while I don't have like a daily meditation practice, I do every day take a moment to, like, remind myself to be in the present moment at least once a day, I, you know, will tune in and consciously say to myself, like, I'm gonna choose to focus.

And be like right here, right now.

[00:42:24] Hunter: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I I absolutely It can be practiced anywhere, anytime. It's true. I, um, uh, yeah, and, and I think it's, for me, I forget, I forget completely if I don't have a do practice of meditation, like if I don't start my day, sometimes I then forget like, oh yeah, that's something that I value

I completely, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's cool. So, um, so for. Uh, just to sort of end with thinking about this idea, like with the, you know, we're talking about these emotions that get the better of us. And for parents, one of those, sometimes like we get so overwhelmed and we can get, you know, frustrated and angry and all these emotions can, can kind of get, you know, like a runaway train with us.

What are, what are some strategies parents can use to, to regulate the, the sort of runaway emotions in the moment?

[00:43:20] Emma Lauer: I think taking that mindful, deep breath, like some of the, if it is really intense, acutely in that moment, like those distress tolerance skills are like the tip skills, for example, taking some breaths, kind of like moving your muscles a little, breathing slowly as you just sort of like, you know, notice that you're feeling tense, notice that you're feeling anxious or angry or whatever, and just visualize like breathing it out or letting it go as you relax your muscles just to kind of get yourself into a place where you can, you know, Think a little more clearly, um, and then making a move from there, whether it's like, I'm gonna, um, you know, model stepping away for a second to take a breath and, you know, telling my kid, like, I'm going to take some deep breaths, we're going to pause for a second, and then we're going to come back to this, okay?

And then, you know, whatever, whatever the situation is. Um, and then, you know, I think something, something we haven't talked about a lot yet that I think is really helpful too is, um, when you are in a place that's like a little more, feeling a little more calm, being able to speak Give yourself the space to non judgmentally notice the context, which means, like, what, you know, these feelings are popping up for a reason, right?

Like, is there history here? Is there, CBT calls them, uh, vulnerability factors. So, basically, this is, like, something that happened earlier in the day, week, month, year, whatever, that maybe made you a little more prone to this intense moment, specifically in this situation. Um, could have been, like, a fight with your partner, you know, some, a trauma that happened earlier in the year, even, you know, it could be anything, right?

But if you're able to notice the context a little bit more and notice like, okay, what is this about for me? It's connected to my values. Maybe it's connected to like I have been feeling inadequate for many months and the stress is wearing on me. You know, it could be anything, right? Noticing the context makes it easier to self validate and that's going to soothe the emotions quicker.

And the quicker you can do that, the more Room there is for problem solving if that's what you're needing in that moment.

[00:45:24] Hunter: Yeah. I mean, you're talking about how the practicality of self compassion, right? Like, it's like when we can validate our feelings, we can tell ourselves, oh, this has been a hard moment, all of that stuff.

It's like, So practical, because then we can just get back up and start again more easily, right? Like we can respond, be more effective in like responding to life in general. Yeah, for sure. Emma, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you. Emma's book is DBT Skills for Highly Sensitive People. You can find it anywhere.

Emma, where can people find you if they want to talk more about this?

[00:46:03] Emma Lauer: Yeah, so I'm on Instagram at emma dot Lauer. Our practice is at Find Your Shine Therapy. Our website is Find your shine therapy.com and um, yeah, so you can reach us there. Very

[00:46:17] Hunter: cool. It's been such a pleasure to talk to you. I really, really appreciate it.

Thank you so much for coming on the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

[00:46:23] Emma Lauer: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was lovely. Thank you.

[00:46:35] Hunter: Thank you so much for listening. Did, did you get something outta this podcast? I hope you did. I hope it watered. Those good seeds for you to sprout and grow beautifully, and if it did, please share this episode with one friend today. It makes a big difference and I hugely appreciate it. I hope that this episode really helped your family this week and um, maybe, maybe it did.

We'll see. I'd love to know. I'd love for you to tell me. That makes all the difference in the world. Um, so yeah, did it, did it help? Let me know. You know, you can find me at Instagram at Mindful Mama Mentor. That would be amazing and help in all the ways. So I'm wishing you a great week. Thank you so much for listening.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for, uh, for doing these things that, that make the world a better place. Like just listening to things that are positive. You know, I mean, I get my things, like, I want to listen to some, I, you know, I like to, like, mix up the nourishing things and the, like, fun for the heart things, right?

Like, so sometimes I have cheese curls with my salad, with, like, big salad with chicken and kale and things like that, and I have some cheese curls with it. Or I listen to, like, my Brene Brown, um, and then my husband and I watch Love is Blind sometimes. So, you know, it's about balance, but I'm glad this is part of the balance for you.

I'm so glad. Wishing you a great week. Thank you for listening. And I will be back again next week. Namaste.

I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better and just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it. It's so, so worth it.

It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

Were you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You'll be joining. Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindfulparentingcourses. com MindfulParentingCourse.

com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse. com

Support the Podcast

  • Leave a review on Apple Podcasts: your kind feedback tells Apple Podcasts that this is a show worth sharing.
  • Share an episode on social media: be sure to tag me so I can share it (@mindfulmamamentor).
  • Join the Membership: Support the show while learning mindful parenting and enjoying live monthly group coaching and ongoing community discussion and support.