When our guest blogger, Misha, participated in the Brain Highways online program, she learned how to be her son’s brain facilitator. But for the past 15 years, Misha has also been working in the field of public health. Motivated by what she learned about cortex responses (while in our pons and midbrain courses) and the current reaction of many to Ebola, Misha felt motivated to share her thoughts in this blog. Note that Misha says these opinions are completely her own, lest people try to connect them to an official statement of an organization or group.
It’s all over the news right now and has monopolized conversations. Everyone is talking about Ebola.
What should be our response to all of this news? It’s tempting to be filled with worry, anxiety, and fear. Ebola is a deadly virus to be sure. When we don’t know much about a disease or exactly how we can get it, our mind can fill with panic. Then, instead of staying curious (in our cortex), it’s easy to lose perspective and move into our pons (flight or fight/survival mode).
We’ve also sure seen a lot of finger pointing and blame when it comes to Ebola. Assigning blame, however, doesn’t help make the situation any better, nor does it help us all move forward.
Did you know that many health organizations have had to recently shift a great number of their staff away from their research and important everyday public health work in order to field calls from people who are scared, angry, enraged, and completely panicked? So, instead of being available to frontline workers or finding solutions, they have to use their time to calm the frenzy.
This doesn’t seem like the best use of talent or resources. But this is what happens when we allow the sensationalism of the media and our fear of the unknown, cripple us from logic and appropriate responses.
So what should be our response? What can we do to help? There are a number of cortex-based actions we can employ in a time like this:
-Be a source snob
-Have a grateful heart
Be a Source Snob
Instead of believing everything you hear, let your brain filter information based on fact, reason, data, and trusted sources. On matters such as an infectious disease, you probably aren’t going to get great answers to your questions through headlines, pictures from social media, or sound bytes. There are, however, some really great articles that do a wonderful job of laying out the facts.
What is the anatomy of a good article? A good article or website about Ebola will define what it is, how it’s transmitted, how to prevent it, how it’s treated, what the major symptoms are, and so on.
For example, I read a great article the other day that explained the R nought or R0 number for various diseases. The article explained how contagious a disease is by the number of people that can catch the disease for every one person who is infected. Spoiler alert in case you are wondering: measles, HIV, influenza (the flu), tuberculosis, hepatitis and other viruses have a much larger R0 number than Ebola.
So, lay aside any conspiracy theories, and stay thirsty for knowledge and facts. Become source savvy, and please consider limiting your media diet right now.
I once heard that compassion is really just passion in action. We know that compassion is an important part of our cortex journey. So where do we start?
Keep those in the front lines working with patients, family members, and health workers in your thoughts and prayers. Learn about ways you can support efforts and give generously. Most West African countries lack basic infrastructure to stop the spread of Ebola. Many non-profits that have a well established presence in these communities are requesting funds to purchase hygiene supplies, protective gear, and other needed materials. Truly learn about organizations before you give as, unfortunately, many scammers try to profit from panic.
Stigma is also a huge issue surrounding Ebola. Many people are being shunned, not even being served food or allowed into places of worship because of the stigma surrounding being on a contact list. People need compassion. Think of practical ways you and your family members can help.
Have a Grateful Heart
Finally, perhaps the best way to stay calm amidst the panic is to have a grateful heart. If you went to turn on your shower and warm water came out, think about how blessed you are. Do you have plenty to eat? What a luxury to not know hunger. If you live in a part of the world with great public health infrastructure, don’t take it for granted. Thank an EMT, or firefighter, or healthcare provider. Sometimes, we just need to pause and take the time to count all of our blessings.
By changing our perspective, choosing to practice compassion, refraining from finger pointing, and filtering our information, we are poised to be ambassadors of hope. We can be a voice of reason in our conversations with family, coworkers and friends. We can make a difference and (hopefully) shift the collective energy from panic to peace.
This is one of my favorite stories, and it’s perfect for setting the stage for the Clean Slate Challenge.
Two monks were about to cross a deep river when they came across a young woman who was afraid to do so. When she asked for their help, the younger monk turned his back on her since members of their order were forbidden to touch women. Leaving her alone on the shore, he crossed the river. Yet, without saying a word, the older monk lifted the woman and carried her across.
However, once on the other side, the younger monk came after the older monk and began berating him for breaking his vows. And as the day went on, the younger monk would not let up as he continued to express his disbelief that the older monk had actually touched the woman.
The older monk did not initially choose to respond. But finally, at the end of the day, he turned to the younger one and said, “I only carried the woman across the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her all day.”
So, how many of us “keeping carrying that woman” (i.e. can’t let go of the past) —and how many times does that then magnify an already not-so-great encounter in the present?
Enter the Clean Slate Challenge. The goal of this game is to view whatever is going on . . . as if it were the only record on the books. Here are some examples of how that might look:
Is that way of thinking easier said than done? Absolutely. That’s why the point system of this challenge takes into account that truth. Here are the three simple rules:
1. If you get through an entire encounter by truly staying in the present (no time traveling to the past), you give yourself five points.
2. If you catch yourself thinking about something from the past (triggered by whatever happened in the present)–but you don’t say that thought aloud–you give yourself two points.
3. If you actually say that thought aloud—but you cut yourself off right away and don’t say any more than one sentence—you give yourself one point. (This is still better than going into a full-blown blast to the past.)
Now, if you’re not yet motivated to take on this challenge, then consider this question: What happens if we do keep bringing the past to the present, when we don’t wipe the slate clean?
Well, in such case, we’d then “carry” all the frustration, disappointment, and angst of past teacher interactions to every conference. We’d be way more irritated when our spouse forgot to do whatever we asked. Our dread (which is really just fear of the future) would escalate as soon as we noted our child couldn’t do something predicted by others. We’d definitely become more impatient and annoyed as soon as our mother-in-law was even a few minutes late and a whole lot angrier when our child, once again, broke something.
But then, here’s the telling question that may finally inspire us to truly adopt a clean slate mindset. Would any of those intensified negative emotions actually help the present situation—or would they only make everything worse???
I, personally, have been having fun with the Clean Slate Challenge. For example, I’ve been married for nearly 31 years, but I recently had my “first” dinner with my husband. It was delightful in every way, and I marked myself down for five points.
Didn’t do quite as well when he said we weren’t returning something we just purchased after discovering it wasn’t what we really wanted. Now, if I had only thought, “Great. This is just going to join all the other purchases we have never used, stacked up in the garage,” I still could have given myself two points.
But no, I had to go and say that. Yet, as soon as I did, I immediately thought, “Darn! I didn’t hear his comment as the first time we didn’t return something we didn’t need!” But since I stopped myself from saying anything else, I still got my one point.
You might be thinking: What if the other person isn’t interacting with us with a clean slate?
Well, if we’ve truly adopted the clean slate mentality, then we’d now only be “confused” by whatever that person was saying—and confusion would be a lot better than any of the other negative emotions that show up once we’re triggered by something in the past.
So, I really encourage you to take the Clean Slate Challenge. It’s a fun, “tangible” way that truly helps to keep our minds focused on staying in the moment. For example, over the years, I’ve certainly heard how staying in the moment was good, and I was convinced of that.
Yet, doing this challenge seemed to catapult me forward with this desirable mindset. Simply, it’s a doable that stops old, negative, subconscious tapes from playing or (at the very least) makes us aware of when such tapes are creating more havoc in the present.
And . . . let’s face it: A little healthy competition often helps get the ball rolling, right? So, here’s what I’m throwing out there. Who do you think will find it easier to keep a clean slate—males or females?
To find out, I challenge everyone to take the Clean Slate Challenge for at least the next 24 hours. Then, post (below where this blog appears on our Brain Highways Facebook page) how many points you racked up–noting that even one point rocks! We’ll add up the points from both the males and females—and then declare which gender wins.
There is much more to organizing the brain than just creeping and crawling. Yet, these movements are definitely part of the whole process. So it’s good to know that there are endless ways to organize the brain while having a good time.
Here are some creative ideas that Brain Highways parents have shared with us. Enjoy.
Michelle Jackson Cooper
My son invented the “Nathan’s Aim and Fire Creeping Game.” He hangs a Nerf target on our door at the end of his creeping lane and lays a Nerf gun on the floor at the other end of the creeping lane. He creeps to the Nerf gun, and then fires a shot. If he hits the target, he creeps a lap back and forth to the gun again. If he misses the target, he does a few vestibular activities first, and then creeps again. He likes to see how many “hits” he can get in his creeping timeslot.
Roll a set of dice and add the numbers. If it is an even number, you creep. If odd, you crawl. Depending on how challenging you want it to be, use 1 to 4 dice at a time.
Many times we have used a deck of cards to help chose between creep and crawl — black for creep and red for crawl.
A lot of times, it is math homework or online reading quizzes at the end of creep/crawl lanes. Saved a lot of precious time!
For the artist in all of us, our daughter puts a large sheet of paper on the ground and starts a drawing, adding a little to it each time she turns the end. Another favorite is playing hangman with spelling words. For other card game ideas, we’ve done concentration and addition war.
For the young boys (ages 3 to 5), in between creeping sessions, we sword fight using toy light sabers and keep our son’s mind awake by having him spin both directions while “fighting.” Great fun to keep his creeping going, as well as a good proprioception/vestibular exercise
For young ones (ages 3 to 5), we use activity type books (like Highlights magazine) and have our son do parts of an activity after a complete creeping lap. This keeps him engaged.
I hide gold treasure pieces around the house. When they find one, they put it in a little bag tied around their necks so they can keep crawling and find more. And when they venture into another room, I hide more pieces while they’re not looking (leprechauns are supposed to be tricky, right?)
Jennevieve Luther LaHaye
While we creep we like to read stories, play games like bingo, war, Battleship, and listen to music.
Tracy Keller Bremmer
At the end of each creeping “lap,” my daughter gets a penny for payment. She has to do a minimum of 40 laps (each lap is about 50 seconds). At the end of her session, she is able to go shopping at her creeping store, where we have little prizes that range in “price” from 40 to 80 pennies. She gets to count out her money and either buy something or save up for a bigger prize. These past two weeks, we did a “100 Penny Prize” if she did 100 laps in one day, and she won her prize today!
The child creeps as she makes a craft of her choosing, doing one piece at a time. I call it crafty creeping!
One of our favorite things to do is go to an athletic center, rent a racquetball court and do our creeping and crawling. Once we have done/ worked hard there, we play/honor them by a round of dodgeball or some type of game. They love it because it’s different, and they have something to look forward to.
Lisa Moerner Paul
Our newest floor time adventure is……BINGO! The boys are loving it, and the time is racing by. Earning money while wrapping myelin rocks!!!!!!
Claudia Lucia McKinney
We play a version of operator. The kids start at one end of the house and their dad gives them a funny phrase or word. They creep to me at the other end of the house, repeat the word, and then I give them a new funny word or phrase. Then they creep back to dad. Sometimes the words or phrases build upon each other to make a funny story or paragraph.
When I do Brain Highways I ALWAYS listen to music. I’ve downloaded like 20 new songs.
Stephanie Gagnon Walmsley
Philip and I pass the time with creeping and our “Fast Track” competition. The time just flies by…..
Diana Weinfeld Scherer
We do Mad Libs during creeping — Clay has to identify words for the different parts of speech, then enjoys a funny, silly story.
Creeping idea from Joey — “Mystery Toy:” Put a small toy or item into a paper sack and the child gets one clue per creeping/crawling lap that describes what is inside. After three clues and laps, the child gets one guess per lap until he or she gets it.
Creeping idea from Lucas — The child gets to use their finger strength to attach one clothespin per lap onto a checker. After 3 clothespins and laps, the child can spin the checker and see how long it can keep spinning during the subsequent lap(s).
Use play dough and try to create a character of yours. Write a sentence about an animal/person you think is fun or funny!!
Dana Frankel Mauro
Uno and Go Fish have been popular at our house lately! Annelise also made concentration cards with her addition math facts through 20 since she needs to memorize these by the end of the school year. I also bought the little mini peanut butter eggs to hide around the house, and she has to crawl to look for them. We have a little bag around her neck for her egg collection!
My boys are loving making paper airplanes. I bought them a book, and they are allowed to do one or two folds at the end of each lane. We now have several bags full of paper airplanes. At the end of the week, they test fly them and only keep their favorites (and we reuse the paper from the ones they don’t want to keep).
Stephanie Knight Scarato
My kids came up with “trick or treat” eggs. Fill plastic eggs with various treats and tricks. Treat eggs could have coins, pieces of candy, etc. Trick eggs could have you stand up and do 10 jumping jacks, an empty wrapper or a quick chore. Put all the eggs in a basket and open one for each lap you creep. One egg could have a grand prize in it, like $5 or a movie ticket.
I also use regular white paper and draw a shape on it. It might be a large or small triangle, a circle, long rectangle, squiggly lines, etc. My kids look at the shape and creep. While they creep, they think about what to add on to the shape to make a picture. They draw for about 10 seconds and then creep again. They keep adding on to the shape as much as they want. When finished with that picture, they get another shape.
We do our version of scratch and wins or hidden messages. I draw circles on white paper, use a white crayon to write something inside the circle — letters that spell words, monetary values, shapes for a match game etc. Then when you color in the circle after each lap with a felt pen (darker colors work best), the picture is revealed. Both boys love this and there are endless games you can come up with.
What is Taking Care of Business?
It’s a cortex way of getting everyone’s needs met. When using this approach, we:
So, how well do you “take care of business?”
To find out, encourage your kids and other family members to take the quiz. Read each situation listed in the quiz and the possible ways to respond. Choose the answer that is most similar to what you’d likely do if you were in that circumstance.
When you’re finished, read the answers and explanations to learn which do and do not reflect taking care of business and why.
To note: This quiz includes problems that both kids and adults often face. So, if a situation seems more applicable for a child or vice-versa, just modify it. For example, a child who does not want to take out the trash can be easily changed to be an adult who does not want to do a particular assignment at work.
Last, it’s important to remember: Taking care of business doesn’t mean that we automatically get the outcome we desire. But, hands-down, it’s still the most likely way we’ll move forward.
Situation 1: You’ve heard that someone is spreading gossip about you that is not true.
a) You bad-mouth that person, as well.
b) You do nothing, and try to avoid that person as much as possible.
c) You call that person out in front of others, demanding an apology.
d) You approach the person and say that you’re thinking she may have some misinformation and would like to clarify (and then do that).
Situation 2: You’re informed of a new rule when you take your father to his health clinic. Starting today, all patients must show a photo ID. However, your father did not bring any ID with him.
a) You reschedule another appointment (and ensure your father brings his ID).
b) You firmly point out that this rule is new, and you were not informed of it previously—so it should not apply today.
c) You acknowledge that you don’t want the person checking patients in to get in trouble by sidestepping the rule, but you’re frustrated since you’ve driven a long way and your father needs this appointment. So, you ask if there are other ways to verify that’s him (e.g. confirm his address, phone number, social security number) that’s already in the computer and . . . with a twinkle in your eye, use your hands to frame his face and say, “And this could be the photo ID.”
d) You tell the person checking patients in (who knows your father) that it’s silly to ask him for an ID since he already greeted him by name.
Situation 3: You’re sitting on the sidelines during the tournament, and it doesn’t appear that you’re ever going to get to play.
a) You sit stoically, but then break down (i.e. become upset) once you’re alone with your parents.
b) You act as though you don’t care while everyone else is being subbed in the game (don’t even watch all of the game).
c) You get up and demand that the coach gives you a chance to play, pointing out that you paid your money to be in this tournament, too.
d) You are fully engaged from the sidelines, watching what players on the field do that may have earned them time on the field. After the game is over, you ask the coach to give you three specifics to work on that may result in more playing time for you.
Situation 4: Someone has just criticized you in front of others.
a) You defend yourself.
b) You say something that is critical of that person.
c) You say nothing.
d) You respond by shining the spotlight back on that person and saying, “What were you hoping I’d do with that information?”
Situation 5: You don’t like the chore of taking out the trash, but that’s the job you’ve been assigned.
a) You whine whenever you have to do this.
b) You approach your parents and say: I know that we all need to pitch in to help around the house, but you may not know . . .I really don’t like taking out the trash. Is there another chore I could do instead of that one?
c) You do a terrible job (e.g. spill trash), hoping that your parents will think they need to assign this chore to someone else.
d) You do it, but you scowl to make it clear that you don’t like this job.
Situation 6: Various co-workers never clean up their dishes or trash after eating in the staff lounge.
a) You complain about those who don’t clean up to those who do.
b) You send an email to all your co-workers saying, “Due to budget cuts, we’ve had to lay off the maid for the staff lounge.”
c) You send an email to everyone saying, “Due to budget cuts, we’ve had to lay off the maid for the staff lounge;) So, how about we agree to a day where each of us is in charge of making sure all dishes are washed and all trash is cleared from the tables? If you’re willing to do so, please email me which day(s) would work best for you to assume that role. Thanks.”
d) Pick up after those who leave their dishes and trash—and do not say a word.
Situation 1: You’ve heard that someone is spreading gossip about you that is not true.
This response does not judge the person or assume she was trying to “hurt” you by telling others false information. It also gives you a chance to clarify, without putting the other person on the defensive.
Responses “a” and “c” will only likely escalate the situation. Even if in response “c” you note what information was false, that part of the message won’t be heard since the approach is accusatory and focused on making the other person admit she was wrong.
Note that response “b” is only a possible solution if gossip truly does not bother you or whatever is being spread will not cause future problems (as a result of others hearing and acting on the misinformation) or if you can actually avoid that person. Those are a lot of variables, which is why this response may not actually take care of business.
Situation 2: You’re informed of a new rule when you take your father to his health clinic: Starting today, all patients must show a photo ID. However, your father did not bring any ID with him.
This response acknowledges that the person who works at the clinic needs to do his job as directed while also giving him an opportunity to meet your need (i.e. have your father keep his appointment).
Response “a” meets the need of the person checking patients in, but it does not meet your father’s need to keep his appointment that day. Responses “b” and “d” do not acknowledge that the person who works at the clinic is trying to follow the new rules and will likely put that person on the defensive.
Situation 3: You’re sitting on the sidelines during the tournament, and it doesn’t appear that you’re ever going to get to play.
This response allows the coach to know what you’re needing and wanting while shining the spotlight on him to give you specific ways to improve.
Responses “a,” “b,” and “c” do nothing to move you forward (i.e. get more playing time). In fact, response “c” is just likely to put the coach on the defensive.
Situation 4: Someone has just criticized you in front of others.
This response sidesteps a need to defend yourself, while asking the person who made the comment to clarify his intent behind sharing the comment. By doing the latter, the focus is immediately placed on the person who made the comment, rather than on you.
Responses “a” and “b” will only escalate the situation. If you say nothing (response “c”), you may still antagonize the person if he thinks you’re ignoring him (and he will then likely criticize you more).
Situation 5: You don’t like the chore of taking out the trash, but that’s the job you’ve been assigned to do.
This response acknowledges that all family members need to contribute and help around the house, while opening the door to explore whether there’s any flexibility in who does what job.
Response “a,” c,” and “d” do not take care of business because there is no acknowledgment as to why you might be asked to do this chore. Moreover, if continual whining or scowling or passive aggressive behavior (i.e. doing a terrible job) ultimately gets you out of doing the chore, you have not only missed an opportunity to take care of business, but your brain now also incorrectly registers that such unproductive behavior may be helpful.
Situation 6: Various coworkers never clean up their dishes or trash after eating in the staff lounge.
This response begins by using humor. Yet, unlike “b,” this answer also specifically notes what isn’t being cleaned in the lounge and offers a solution/doable to improve the situation. This response additionally asks, rather than tells, co-workers to take responsibility. Last, it gives yet another doable by spelling out exactly how coworkers can respond if they agree to be in charge of clean-up for a day.
In contrast, response “a” (like “b”) does nothing to improve the situation.
Yes, response “d” ensures that the staff lounge is clean. But, over time, you may start to feel as though you’re the only one being responsible and, therefore, start to judge or resent those who continue to leave their mess, as well as those who do nothing to remedy the situation.
From the time my girls were little, they learned to do something we coined “taking care of business.” That meant they figured out how to get their needs met—while staying calm and addressing the needs of others involved in the situation.
Both my girls are now in their mid-twenties, and they’re making their mark in the world. But over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up the phone where one of my daughters started the conversation by saying, “I took care of business today”—and then proudly proceeded to share how she approached a current problem with that mindset.
Last night I received one of those calls from my youngest daughter. She is the owner of the Brain Highways Center in Denver, and it turns out that the gas station right by her place was chosen by talk show host Ellen Degeneres to be part of a free gas give-away promotion. But it was top-secret until the name of the gas station was announced to the public.
So there was pandemonium as soon as the people of Centennial (a suburb of Denver) heard the news. Lines and lines of cars backed up with people waiting for their turn at the pump. Multiple police officers had to even arrive on the scene, just to keep the mayhem to a minimum.
But not everyone wanted free gas. Some of those cars had parents and their kids, who were on their way to Brain Highways. Yet, they were now stuck in a line of backed up cars with no hopes of making their class on time.
Kiley (my daughter) knew those families would be upset if they missed class. She also knew that many of them came from as far as 60 miles away, so it would be extra frustrating to have driven all that way for nothing.
That’s when she decided . . . to take care of business.
First, she walked over to the gas station to get clarification as to what was going on and why the other businesses hadn’t been notified. (The promotion literally shut down every business in that shopping center.)
She quickly learned it was an Ellen Degeneres promotion and that keeping everything confidential—down to the last minute—was part of the deal.
With that information, Kiley graciously acknowledged how the owner of the gas station certainly wouldn’t have wanted to jeopardize the promotion by breaking the rules. But, as the owner of Brain Highways Denver, she knew her families were going to be upset and frustrated if they missed class. So how could they move forward?
Here’s what “taking care of business” brought about:
1) The police officers agreed to give V.I.P. treatment to the Brain Highways families by holding off oncoming traffic and re-routing the Brain Highways families into the shopping center.
2) Brain Highways staff quickly got on the phone and called the rest of the families who were scheduled to come to classes that day so they now had the heads-up to tell the police officers, “We’re on our way to Brain Highways.”
3) The gas station owner gave Kiley $400.00 worth of gas cards, which she, in turn, gave to her families and staff to help compensate for any inconvenience they may have endured while trying to get to the Brain Highways Center.
4) The owner of the gas station came over to the Brain Highways Center that evening to personally apologize, again, for the inconvenience.
To Kiley’s knowledge, none of the other businesses in her same shopping center did anything—other than complain and get upset over the situation. My guess is . . . they’re still angry today about yesterday’s lost revenues.
But here’s the good news for those business owners and everyone else. Anyone can learn to “take care of business”—at any age. It merely begins with this mindset: If we stay in our cortex and approach situations with a problem-solving perspective, it’s possible to meet everyone’s needs.
Now doesn’t that sound like a world we’d all like to live in?