How to Be Calm Amid the Chaos
with Josephine Atluri
Life is full of chaos and uncertainty, especially when you have a child with ADHD, and especially when you’re also living through a pandemic. Join me and Meditation Coach, Josephine Atluri, to learn the techniques to shift your mindset, calm your mind and body, manage your stress, and move through life and parenting with purpose. The techniques and practices Josephine teaches us during this episode will help you create the life you want for yourself, and for your entire family.
Josephine AtluriJosephine is an expert in meditation and in overcoming adversity to find joy. Through her unique journey on her path to become a mom of five, Josephine weathered many ups and downs with IVF, international adoption and surrogacy. Channeling her experience to find calm and courage and to focus on perseverance, she now helps others navigate life’s curveballs, through group and individual online meditation training and her “Responding to Life” podcast.
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Josephine Atluri (00:03): It comes down to what you feed your mind and if you're feeding it constantly just negative thoughts, it doesn't really have anything else to hold on to. So when we introduce just another thought process, another interruption in your pattern of time, by introducing something positive, then slowly over time, whether or not you're really buying into it at the moment, then just doing it daily. You start to introduce something else into your mind. So our mindset is just so far
Penny Williams (00:39): Welcome to the Parenting ADHD Podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD, straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD-aholic and Mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.
Penny Williams (01:08): Welcome back to the Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm really excited to be talking to Josephine Atluri for this episode of the podcast. And we're going to talk about calm and how to find calm, amid chaos, both in general, in our lives and in parenting, but also I'm sure we'll touch on as well, remaining calm and navigating during a pandemic during a time when things are so different for us and for our kids. Thanks for being here, Josephine, I'm really excited to share some of your insights and wisdom with everyone listening. Will you start by introducing yourself?
Josephine Atluri (01:49): Yes. Thank you, first of all, so much for having me on your show, I really appreciate it. And I'm excited for our conversation today in terms of my work, be calm amid the chaos. That's essentially what I offer to my clients, to parents, and I help them essentially overcome adversity to find joy in their lives. And we do this through, meditation sessions and workshops, as well as my own podcast called responding to life where we talk about health and infertility and Parenthood. And this all began when I started my own fertility journey that encompass 13 years, that involved IVF international adoption and surrogacy to eventually create our, our modern day family of five kids through those traditional methods. And it's a lot of the things that I learned throughout that journey that I took with me and felt as my passion that I needed to, to help others go through similar issues, whether or not they're going through infertility or not. It's all applicable even as we parent our own children. I coupled that with my meditation training and it is a great passion and my purpose to help people use techniques from meditation techniques, from mindfulness to help them deal with everyday stress and anxiety so that they can be fully present in life and leap in the joy that they can get from from daily life.
Penny Williams (03:27): Yeah, I've found starting to practice mindfulness to be so helpful for me in parenting, but in general in life, of course. And it's really, really helped me to remember one of my big parenting mantras, which is my child. Isn't giving me a hard time. My child is having a hard time because while we're really mindful about what's happening, when we can step back and really be present in that moment with what's happening, we can really have much more of a positive response and a helpful response. Yes, absolutely. Do you want to talk a little bit about different practices that you're incorporating? You mentioned meditation, is there specific meditation? How do parents really get started in practicing the things that are so important to help them really be calm themselves and to help the rest of the family calm?
Josephine Atluri (04:29): I love that question. So I approach meditation when I'm trying to teach new people and just a very straightforward, and I understand as a mom of five, I fully understand how difficult it is to manage so many different things at once. And then the thought of adding a whole other thing to do into our lives, such as meditation, if you don't already do, it seems so daunting. And the way I like to approach it then is to introduce it as different techniques that you can use for stress management. And essentially the way I teach meditation, they are made up of these different techniques that you just put together. But what's beautiful is that if you're having a stressful situation in the middle of your day, you can pull out one of those techniques that I teach you in meditation and use it right there to help calm you down, to help give you that moment of clarity and focus so that you can respond in a more mindful and positive way.
Josephine Atluri (05:33): So I'll break this down in terms of how to start, and then I can go into the different techniques that you can use in a meditation, and then outside of one as a coping strategy. So I like to start off by saying that it doesn't have to be long to meditate. It can really just be a matter of a few minutes. And really what you're doing there is you're allowing your brain to create a new neuro pathway. So just like you would have your child learn an instrument or a language, it takes practice. And every time they do it, even if it is for a couple of minutes, they're just creating a stronger pathway in their brain to help them access it better. So when you practice meditation, even if it is just for three minutes every morning, then you can just get to that calm point much easier because you've already established that in your brain.
Josephine Atluri (06:27): So that's one, the second is to set yourself up for success, tie it to a ritual that you already have that you never, never not do. So for example, in the morning, if you brush your teeth, you can do it before or after that way, you'll know you'll always do it. And it, and again, it's short. So just three minutes before, three minutes after, and it's great in the morning because it sets you up for almost this roadmap of how your day should be, because you can set an intention or you can just set a feeling of calmness that you can carry out through your day and just return back to, I find myself that if I don't do it in the morning, then the rest of my day can feel chaotic. And in fact, my husband will even notice on those days when maybe I missed it, that something was off.
Josephine Atluri (07:16): And there was usually that, like I had not set a roadmap for my day. Right. And then the third tip is to be very compassionate and kind to yourself when you're starting meditation, because, oftentimes we go in with expectations. We think it should be one way. And then it turns out not to be that way. And then we just stopped. And so it really requires us to be kind to ourselves and flexible much like we are with our own children and trying new things, trying different meditations because not one meditation doesn't work for every person. So being flexible in and trying new things and seeing what's right for you. And then the last tip is that you're going to have thoughts, that's my spoiler alert. And everyone feels like whenever I talk to someone who's new to meditate or thinking about meditation, but it's kind of on the fence.
Josephine Atluri (08:10): They always say, I can't do it. I can't turn my mind off. And that was something that I said myself, because I'm constantly, I have a ton of to-do lists and all these things running through my head. But the idea isn't to turn off your mind, rather it is, it's like this dance and this rollercoaster of achieving stillness and silence for a moment. And then all of a sudden, you remember, you have to do an email and then you, you allow that thought to just gently go away. And then you return back to your stillness and silence using your breath or your mantra. And then it's just this dance. It just will keep happening. And so knowing that that's going to happen, kind of relieves the pressure and the stress of trying on meditation. And the best part of that doing practice is that it's really applicable to daily life.
Josephine Atluri (08:59): So for example, if you're with their child and they are speaking to you and they are in need of something, but then your mind gets distracted by something that you need to do for work well in that meditation practice that you're doing daily for a few minutes, your mind is already has practiced how to return back to that present moment. And so then in that moment with your child, you can gently acknowledge that thing that you have to do for work, but then return back to your child who's in front of you and is in need of your presence and is in need of your attention. And so that is how I try to just gently guide people when they're starting meditation or they're on the fence about it to really be clear about these are the best ways and practices for you to, to get started.
Josephine Atluri (09:49): And the reason why it really does apply to your daily life. And so, that seems to help people out a lot. And, and then in terms of the meditations that like the different components of an actual meditation, I teach, we start off usually with a breathing technique. And then we witness how our bodies are feeling, do a body scan very quickly. And then we proceed with the main focus of the meditation, whether that's a mantra or a visualization, affirmations, doing gratitude, doing loving kindness, there are many different things that you can use and then always ending with a gratitude. And so when you break it down into those parts, all of those parts, you can pull out and use in daily life, as I had mentioned before, right? So say for example, your child is, is just starting to spiral. They're getting really hot and they can't bring themselves down and is thereby affecting you in that moment.
Josephine Atluri (10:55): And so rather than reacting in a way that you've been conditioned to do over time, to really be able to be in that space with your child and help them, you need to help yourself first so that you can respond in a more mindful and clear way. And one way to do that is just happen to your breath and do a breathing technique, which is what they teach people. When you're giving birth, you're utilizing breathing techniques to help you through pain. And so in that moment, you don't even have to leave. You could physically take a step back from your child, but you don't have to. And then you engage in a breathing technique. It can take seconds, but in that moment, what's happening is that you're moving you're in that state of stress that fight or flight, that sympathetic nervous system, and then using your breath, which is the gateway.
Josephine Atluri (11:48): You can then move yourself into the parasympathetic and you can start to access that rest and digest, which is the relaxation part of your system. And it's all happening because of you breathing slowly and perhaps in a pattern that allows you to focus on your present moments. And you do that for how many ever times you need to in order for you to start feeling calm. And then you can return back into that moment. And now, instead of reacting in perhaps an emotional way or a conditioned way with your child, now you can speak to them in a more clear way, in a more positive way, a more mindful way that it's helpful to them and to you as in your relationship. And that was all done in a matter of seconds, just by breathing and really taking herself out of that situation. So that's how I try to, especially with parents to approach meditation and give them tools that are useful, both in meditation and in their real life.
Penny Williams (13:00): Yeah, I think a lot of people feel like it won't translate to real life. Like, we just have this overarching image of meditation and it's someone who's sitting in the floor and is silent for hours and their thoughts never wander. And that's so far from what it really needs to be. A lot of what I see as a benefit of these mindfulness practices or meditations is building the muscle, building the skill, to be able to change your thought pattern, to change what you're thinking about to come back to a present moment. And that's really valuable to be able to shift which we need to do so often as parents and really as human beings in many different aspects of our life, not just parenting, but I love that you set the expectation that it can be a very short amount of time. And yes, your thoughts are going to wander because so many people give up on it because they feel like they couldn't control their thinking. And so they couldn't meditate or they couldn't do an effective mindfulness.
Josephine Atluri (14:14): Yes, I loved there were so many different nuggets there that I wanted to touch upon what you said. And the first, before I forget, is the issue of control and how you feel like when you're in meditation, you should be able to control your thoughts. Well, that's impossible because we have 60 to 80,000 thoughts running through our mind every day, rather than what you're controlling is your breath and thereby controlling how you're feeling in a given moment. And then you're also controlling your mindset, given whatever it is that you're using, whatever strategy it is that you're using, say it's a gratitude practice or an affirmation where you're introducing a pattern interrupt in your thinking. Perhaps it's a negative cycle of thought. You're interrupting that pattern with something different, with a gratitude where you're trying to appreciate something in that moment to help move you out of that negativity and into positivity.
Josephine Atluri (15:09): And so you do have control. And I know that's such a big thing these days is that especially when the world around us is so chaotic and there's so much uncertainty, this feeling of control makes us feel so much better. I get it. I I'm the same way. And so if you approach it in that, not trying to control your thoughts, what you're trying to do is control your breath to control your calmness and get you into a state of calm and control your mindset. So then that at least gives you some semblance of power in yourself that you are able to dictate how you're feeling and the outcome of certain events in your life. So, that hopefully it gives someone some inspiration to give it a try, especially as we're sort of floundering around and like right now where it's so chaotic and stressful, that there is a way for us to control parts of our situation.
Josephine Atluri (16:05): And what we do a quick breathing technique, I'd love to just have the listeners try it as they're doing the listening to the podcast right now, it doesn't take that long at all. There's so many that I teach, but one thing that you can do is just begin — take an inhale just, and as you're doing it, just go as slowly as you can and just count how long it takes you. And then when you feel like you're ready to exhale, just match that count to however long it took you to inhale. So if it took you five seconds, inhale, then exhale for five seconds and then on your next breath, see if you can go one second longer, count this time up to six seconds and then exhale for six seconds. And then just continue along this pattern until you really just can't take in that breath any longer, say it's around eight seconds, nine seconds, and then you can stop at that point or you can regress back down and really all that's happening in that moment.
Josephine Atluri (17:14): If you were playing along with this, it's that you're so tuned into regulating that inhale and exhale to have them match that count that you couldn't think of anything else, you couldn't think about all of the stuff that maybe happened this morning, that was upsetting to you. You can't think of all the, what ifs of the future, all the things to do that you have now, you are just in this present moment, counting your breath, witnessing your breath and thereby present. So in that moment you were coming, yes, but you were fully experiencing the present moment. And so that's the beauty of a breathing technique. And then when you use that in the meditation, you're using that to help ground you in that practice and be mindful. But at the same time, as I mentioned before, you can take that same breathing technique and use it in, in a situation where you're just getting really triggered or stressed.
Josephine Atluri (18:19): And it's a great way to calm down. And in that moment, you can also use it to give you some reflection of what is really happening. You mentioned that earlier where I actually really loved it where you said that it wasn't something that why is my child doing this, but essentially it's what is it that my child needs and said, yes. And so when you're able to calm yourself down and be mindful of yourself in your present moment, you can almost feel yourself if you want it to visualize it in that moment, like stepping outside of that situation, almost stepping outside of your body and then witnessing that interaction between you and your child, and almost breaking it down as you're slowly breathing, breaking it down and realizing what is my child really saying through his actions, through his words. And you're doing it from this outsider perspective, because you're taking that moment to, just, to just breathe and more oftentimes than not that other person is not noticing that you aren't really fully there, that you are breathing yourself because they are offloading their emotions onto you. They're expressing themselves. And that's what they want actually. So it actually gives them a moment to be able to express themselves fully and allows you the time to come down fully to that. Then you can just have a conversation and maybe just take it down a notch a little bit for both of you. So, I love breathing techniques. I can go on and on about them.
Penny Williams (19:54): They're so, so helpful. I have anxiety and so does one of my kids and we work a lot on box breathing is what we have been using, but I love the breathing exercise that you just did because it required even more focus, I felt like in doing it, than even box breathing, but it really is so powerful physically too, we're calming our nervous system. As you were talking about a little bit earlier, that breathing is actually calming us physically. And then it also is providing an opportunity for our kids to attune to something calm. When we react in kind, they're yelling at us, we're yelling at them, we're not giving them any tools to calm in that moment. We're only making it worse. And it's really hard when you're in the thick of that to stop and say, okay, my kid doesn't mean this and I have to be calm.
Penny Williams (20:57): And, it's natural for us to respond in kind. And so when we do these just little things, we're giving them something to match. We're giving them that tone to try to be able to calm down some themselves. And it's really powerful. I probably dismissed it for years thinking that I needed to show my child that he's not behaving appropriately. And in doing so, I was just making it worse because I was reacting in kind. And then when I was able to start saying, okay, I'm just going to take a breath. And I'm going to recognize that my child needs something and that he's having a hard time. Then his intensity was reduced. It always helped at least a little bit. And we're not saying that you're going to breathe for a minute. And then the whole situation has completely dissolved and everybody's happy. It's just that we're creating a space where things can go better and be more of an effective interaction. But it also preserves our parent child relationship too, because we are really coming at it in a more helpful way instead of kind of judging and condemning behavior, which is really never helpful.
Josephine Atluri (22:26): Yes. Yeah. I love that. You bring up that point about modeling, it is very true. Whether or not we realize it, they are taking note of how we are responding in these situations, how we're responding to our own lives and in our own stressors. And, and then they do end up modeling it. And so if we can show them that there are other alternatives and that the results are beneficial, then it is a great starting point. And you're totally right. It's not as if the breathing technique is going to be some magical cure for dissolving that tension and that argument, but you will be able to at least listen better to what's happening and be able to respond in a slightly common way, which is to everyone's everyone's benefit. And I do, I love the box breathing. We do that one all the time with the kiddos, but I love sometimes changing it up and playing with, with the breathing every now and then.
Penny Williams (23:28): Yeah, I think that's a really good idea because I do notice myself kind of checking out, doing box breathing lately. And I think it's because I do really need to change it up. I've gotten to kind of comfortable with it, I guess, in a way that it's not quite as effective. And there are so many tools out there to practice these things like the parents listening. You don't have to figure out how to meditate. There's so many tools and apps. I don't know what your favorites are. I love insight timer and the calm app. Maybe you have some other things you want to suggest as far as guided practices or meditations, or even guided breathing, the calm app, you can set up different breathing exercises in there as well.
Josephine Atluri (24:13): Oh, that's amazing. I have not tried that app. And you're right though. There's a wealth of tools out there for you to use an insight. Timer is great because it's, most of it is free and also they have so many, so that, as I mentioned before, you really have to try out different ones to see what's right for you. Some people really respond to having a full guided visualization, taking them to like their perfect spot in nature and helping them really witness that location to bring them a sense of peace and other people just want to hear calming music and don't want any words. And then again, it really all depends on the day and what's happening in your day. You may think, Oh, I'm just a person who likes just the music, but then one day you really need a boost of empowerment and strength because it's been a really tough day.
Josephine Atluri (25:08): And there, thankfully there are meditations that do just that, where there's someone who is guiding you through some sort of empowerment meditation, so you can just play around, but really it helps you as you continue on, it helps you to really tune into yourself because you're being more mindful, not just of your breath and your body, but also mindful of how you're feeling your emotions, your state of being, and that will help guide you. Not with just picking the type of meditation you need in that moment, but just help guide you and figuring out how to care for yourself so that you can be this supportive person for the rest of your family. If we're not taking care of ourselves, it's really, it affects it trickles out to the rest of the family. And so practicing mindfulness and all these different ways helps us to really tune in to who we are.
Penny Williams (26:02): Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned that because a few years ago, I really found that I was in such a negative space and I felt like it had, there had to be another way. There had to be something to help me to shift to just a more positive person and have a better mood and tone within the family. I was, I was so focused on the challenges of ADHD, the challenges of autism, the challenges of parenting, that that was really the only sort of stream of consciousness that I had throughout the day. And it was really affecting everyone else around me. Of course, it kept everyone in that kind of negative space too. And I, I just started researching like these studies on happiness and different methodologies out there and realized that my thoughts and the way that I think about things and what I choose to spend my time thinking about it controls everything about my life.
Penny Williams (27:04): And then that controls some of what is going on for the people around me and our whole household just made a huge shift when I realized that what I chose to think about was really controlling our life experience. I mean, overall, entirely our life experience. And I, I had read about the psychological theory, I guess I'll call it the victim versus the survivor. You can choose to have a victim mindset, or you can choose to have a survivor mindset. And when I learned about these things and I made that choice to have the survivor mindset and to really control what I gave sort of the power to and our lives, it made such a huge difference. And I was such a non-believer that your thinking decides the course of your life, right? It just felt, it just felt too easy almost. And I dismissed it for so long.
Penny Williams (28:11): And when I finally made that shift, it was just phenomenal. And then I said, why did I not give this a chance 20 years earlier, but it's never too late. It's never too late to make that shift, to practice the mindfulness, to really focus on your self-care. We talk a lot about self-care on this podcast. I actually have a retreat for moms of kids with invisible disorders called the happy mom retreat, where we get together once a year. And it's only about self-care, it's not about our kids' diagnoses. It's not about that. It's about managing those challenges ourselves and taking care of ourselves and then how that affects everyone else in a positive way. So I love you that you brought that self-care into the conversation and stress management is self care. We feel like stress is distress. Like there are things in life that are stressors, but it's how we think about them and how we address them, work on them. Sometimes let them go. That is really impactful for our own wellbeing. And then the wellbeing of everyone around us.
Josephine Atluri (29:24): Yes, absolutely. The mindset is just so powerful and it comes down to what you feed your mind and if you're feeding it constant, just negative thoughts, it doesn't really have anything else to hold onto. So when we just another thought process, another interruption in your, in your pattern of thought, by introducing something positive, then slowly over time, whether or not you're really buying into it at the moment, then just by doing it daily, you start to introduce something else into your mind. So our mindset is just so powerful and I love that that choice that you mentioned of, of being the victim or the survivor every day, you have to make that choice, no matter how positive you are every day in every situation, you always have to make that choice. And using many of these strategies will help you perhaps pause right before you have to take, make that choice as to how you're going to respond and what mindset you're going to use, taking that break and really seeing which path you should take. So hopefully that helps out
Penny Williams (30:36): And which path you want to take. A lot of times when we're so reactive later, we regret, right? We regret what we said or did, or how we said it. And by taking that breath for a minute, we're giving ourselves the chance to go forward with purpose instead of just instinctually, which a lot of times is not the best way to go. We're wired for a different existence where we had to look out for a tigers and all of these dangers that were so prevalent in daily life, and that's the way our nervous system works. And now we don't need as much of that sort of hair trigger fight or flight, but we often still end up falling into that trap of being very reactive because that's really our biology at the core. And I love that you brought the nervous system into this.
Penny Williams (31:36): We've been talking some recently on the podcast about Polyvagal Theory and the autonomic nervous system and how that really translates into behavior and unwanted behavior or positive behavior from our kids. When we can understand what they're going through in their nervous system, again, that understanding helps us to be calm. It helps us to want to go forward with more purpose and be able to really, I think, have that more purposeful parenting. And we get caught up in that chaos of the day to day. And it makes it harder if we're not practicing mindfulness, if we're not meditating to be able to stop and say, okay, this is what's happening in, this is how I want to respond.
Josephine Atluri (32:23): Absolutely. Yeah.
Penny Williams (32:25): Anything else you wanted to be sure that we touch on? I know there are so many things that we've just barely touched the surface of this, but anything else that you wanted to just be sure that was included in this conversation?
Josephine Atluri (32:40): Yeah. I'd just like to leave this last strategy with your listeners — the use of affirmations. I mentioned them before very quickly, but I have found them to be very helpful for myself and my children, because when it's really hard, I know many of you out there listening, I say it, you're making it all sound very easy, but it can be so hard when everything seems to be going wrong and nothing seems to be going right. And you keep trying all these things and it's not working. And we have used a simple phrase. It's an affirmation is a simple phrase of support and encouragement. Something like I am strong or I am worthy, or I am enough and you can use those in the meditation. They become your mantra and you can also use them outside of one. When you are feeling really low, when you really need something to help you shift into a state of positivity or just to get, stop that negative cycle of thought in your mind.
Josephine Atluri (33:41): And the beauty of affirmations is even if you're not totally bought into that phrase at that moment, you just keep saying it to yourself over time. And then your mind starts to take hold of it. So, when you're in the thick of parenting and it just seems like everything that you're doing is just not working and you're just floundering, right? I invite you to use some of those affirmations saying to yourself, I am strong. I will be okay, I have this, I got this. I am enough. And then whatever other words that you want to use that resonate for you. Everyone has something that's different, but by saying that in that moment, when you just feel like you can't do it anymore, just repeating that to yourself, almost gives you just that shoulder to lean on that invisible shoulder, to lean on and we'll help you get through that moment. And then you can perhaps go back into life with just that renewed sense of hope, that renewed sense of strength and empowerment that you need to really tackle what's in front of you. So give that a try. It's helped me out a lot.
Penny Williams (34:56): Love that. Yeah, I am enough is one of my favorites because we don't give ourselves enough grace as parents, we feel like we should be perfect. We want our kids to have the best childhood and the best advantages and to be happy and successful adults. And nobody's perfect. And we just don't give ourselves enough grace to say, I'm a great parent, even though I make mistakes. And that's really, really powerful. Again, it's amazing what our thinking can do for us both positively and negatively. But when we choose the positive, it's just, it's such a game changer, right?
Josephine Atluri (35:37): Yes, absolutely.
Penny Williams (35:39): Thank you so much for being here and sharing some of your expertise with us. It's always appreciated. And I know that this really dovetails well with a lot of the other episodes that we've had talking about mindset and your thinking and your attitude as a parent and moving forward with purpose, this gives more tools and more specific practices.
Penny Williams (36:04): And I think the biggest piece that I've taken away from our conversation is setting that expectation that it can be short and your thinking is going to stray. And a lot of the point of the practice is controlling and regulating and being able to then use that in our interactions with our kids. Such amazing work that you're doing. And we certainly appreciate it. For everybody listening, please go to the show notes. You can find links there to any resources that we've mentioned, like some of the apps that we mentioned, you will also find links to Josephine's website and social media and podcast so that you can learn more from her and connect with her work and really benefit even more from what she is doing with parents out there. The show notes are going to be at parentingadhdandautism.com/109. And with that, we'll conclude the episode and I'll see everyone next time.
Penny Williams (37:17): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.
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