Autism Program Bonus Lesson #6

Bonus Lesson #6 - Using The Mind TRACK to Happiness Process In The Heat Of The Moment

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Transcript of Bonus Lesson #6 Below:

This week in your weekly video, I introduced you my five step Mind TRACK to Happiness process as a tool to shift you out of the stressful thinking lenses and into being solution focussed about the challenges you are facing.

The five steps come from the acronym of the word TRACK and stand for:

T – Thoughts

R – Reality

A – Aim

C – Choices

K – Know Your Plan & Action It.

The first few weeks on this program, we have pretty much exclusively focussed on the thoughts and reality steps to alleviate your stress and help you to come to terms with the reality of the events you are facing.

These two steps are ongoing and require awareness of the thoughts that trigger your stress and adjustment to the reality thinking upgrades.

It’s not about perfection.

You cannot possibly sift through every single belief in your subconscious that could potentially cause you stress in the future and upgrade it.

It doesn’t work that way.

It’s going to be a matter of regularly staying aware of your thoughts and then deliberately upgrading them as you recognise those unhelpful stressful thinking lenses effecting your moods.

As you practice this more and more, it will just become second nature to you to do it.

Remember, I have personally had to walk my talk in regards to my own depression and anxiety, so I know firsthand, that it does get easier and you start to do it quicker so you’re not rolling in that pit of shit forever.

So, when it comes to the TRACK process you will inevitably be moving up and down these steps from moment to moment.

Tomorrow we’ll be moving into week four of the program and I’m going to be starting to shift your focus towards the Aim step of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process.

This is where you’re going to get really clear on the goals you want to set for your child and for yourself, so you can start moving into a more solution focussed approach about the challenges you face.

This will require you to get specific about what you want, break it down into do-able steps, investigate what’s happening for your child that’s presently stopping you from already experiencing what you want, and then moving in that direction.

When we’re working towards our goals, it can take some time to work out what you’re wanting, how to get it and to create action steps to move towards it (which is essentially the A-C & K parts of the TRACK process – Aim, Choices & Know your Plan and Action it).

It’s going to require some forward planning so when you’re faced with certain challenges, you’re going to know what your strategy is and you’re going to remember what your goal is so you can implement it and move in that direction.

For example,

If you know that one of your goals for your child is to help them manage their emotional regulation skills and you’ve done some research as to how you can do that and have some action strategies to try in the moment, then when your child starts to emotionally react, you’re going to know what to do because you planned for these moments ahead of time.

This is so powerful because that takes you out of reacting from survival mode and responding in ways that can make their behaviour worse.

I remember when my son Ryan was a toddler and going through a stage of throwing epic tantrums.

I had researched what I could do about them and how I could handle them and had some great strategies in place.

I can’t remember specifically what strategies I was using on him at the time, but I do remember silently wanting him to throw another tantrum so I could practice my strategies.

I had gone from dreading those tantrums to eagerly anticipating them, which sounds strange, but because I had a plan, I was not reactive. I was pro-active, so the TRACK process can be really empowering for you.

With that said however, some situations are going to require you to use the TRACK process in the moment without prior planning, and there can be empowerment in that too.

Here’s some examples of how you could do it.

Example A:

You’re running late. The morning has taken a downturn. No one is co-operating. You have a million things to do before you get out the door and you’re starting to get flustered. How do you apply the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process?

Step One – Thoughts: The first thing you do is identify the thoughts that are in conflict with reality. You don’t have to go through each one of the stressful thinking lenses. You just need to recognise that you’re rolling in them and it’s not helpful.

At this point, you may also recognise how your child might be in conflict with reality and rolling in those lenses too.

Step Two – Reality: Then you have to accept the reality that’s in front of you. You can argue with it all you want and you can wish it wasn’t so or think the kids should have behaved differently or think that the morning should have gone differently to how it’s going, but the reality is what it is. The sooner you accept that reality, the sooner you’ll free your attention up to focus on what you need to do about that reality.

Step Three – Aim: Now that you accept your reality, you can now refocus on what you want – we need to get out the door at 8am.

Step Four – Choices: What are your choices, options, solutions that are going to move you in the direction of getting out the door on time. Who needs what? What’s their next step? How can you motivate them to want to co-operate? How can you meet them where they are at and help them feel good about what’s next.? What has worked before that’s worked before, that you can use in this moment? How can you manage the time you have left? What jobs are more of a priority than others?

Step Five – Know you plan and action it: This step gets you taking that next step, and then your next and your next.

So, here’s how the conversation might go in your head in the heat of the moment, in regards to this situation.

[Let’s set the scene. One child is running around the house with one sock on. One is watching TV and eating breakfast at the same time. You’ve still got to do your hair and tidy up the kitchen. It’s 7.30 and you’ve only got 30minutes before you need to get out the door].

Here’s how the TRACK conversation might go:

“OMG, I’m running late again. Why is it I can never get out the door on time. Why doesn’t anyone listen to me. I just get ignored all the time. I can’t seem to get anything right. I’m such a…… Jac, stop. You’re in conflict with reality!

The reality is you’re running late. Fighting with this reality is only going to make you later. It is what it is. So, what do we need here?

Okay, I’ve got 30 minutes to get out the door.

Tommy needs to finish getting ready and brush his teeth.

Josie needs to finish her breakfast and brush her teeth too.

I need to finish getting ready too and tidy the kitchen.

Okay, how can I do this?

What if I get myself ready first, forget the dishes for now? If I get to them, I get to them.

When I’m ready, I can then look at what Tommy needs.

Josie’s happy for now eating her breakfast so I reckon I could get Tommy ready first by engaging playfully with him because that often works well, and then I can let him be and focus on Josie.

Okay, what’s my plan?

I’ve got 5 minutes to finish getting ready. I’ll give myself 10 minutes to work with Tommy and then 10 minutes to work with Josie and then 5 minutes left over. If all goes well, I might be able to throw some dishes in the dishwasher or if Tommy or Josie drag the chain, I have another 5 minutes up my sleeve to deal with that.

Right, let’s get going.”

See how much more productive we are when we are moving up the TRACK process?

Those stressful thinking lenses take up so much of our attention.

And like I’ve said before, your mind will find evidence of what you have your attention on.

If you keep directing your mind to roll around in the stressful thinking lenses, you’re not directing your mind to find solutions.

Here’s an example of how you help your children to use the track process.

[Scene: Tommy goes to the kitchen to get some Nutrigrain but finds there’s none left. He starts to have a tantrum about it.]

Parent: Tommy are you okay? You seem very upset.

Tommy: There’s no Nutrigrain!

Parent: Oh no! That’s not good is it? I know you love your Nutrigrain. Isn’t it so frustrating when something doesn’t go the way you want it to? But what are we going to do? If there’s no Nutrigrain, that’s our reality, isn’t it?

What could we have instead? What might be really yummy for your tummy. (even if you’re talking to a teenager, you could still say this as a playful way, mocking the situation).

[Parent then offers some solutions trying to make the alternative sound so much better than Nutrigrain anyway to help shift their attention. The child chooses bacon and eggs on toast which you offer to make them – and mentally add that time to your morning schedule. The plan is actioned. ]

In this scenario, the child’s thoughts were recognised and acknowledged by the parent. The parent empathised with the child and quickly directed their stressful thinking lenses to reality.

From there the parent start to focus on the aim of still having breakfast and how the other choices that were available.

The final step was moving into action in helping the child to make the alternative breakfast choice.

She how quickly a child could be moved up the TRACK ladder?

Now, I realise that this scenario won’t always go as smoothly, however you can use this TRACK process multiple times in a single scenario by finding different ways to attempt to move the child into accepting their reality and moving into the solution focussed steps of Aim, Choices and Know Your Plan & Action It.

Here is one more example of how to help your child with a difficult situation using the TRACK Process.

[Scene: Child is struggling with doing a task like homework, or a new skill she’s not been able to master. Her emotions are quickly gaining momentum].

Firstly, the parent recognises his own thoughts around the child’s escalating emotions:

He thinks, “Argh, here we go again. This is going to be another meltdown. I don’t have time for this. I’ve had enough of this being so hard. Now John, you need to stop. This is not helpful. The reality is your daughter needs help right now. She’s learning something new and it’s frustrating for her. Take a breath. Accept this reality and let’s help her. It’s going to be a lot quicker to do that, then it is to keep thinking she shouldn’t be behaving this way. Right, let’s get to work.”

Can you see the dad was very quickly adjusting his thoughts to be in alignment with reality first and getting himself into solution focussed mode before he started helping his daughter?

Now he will have the headspace to be present to her problem and offer her some assistance.

Dad: Hey honey, I see you’re getting frustrated with doing this. Do you want some help?

Daughter: I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I can’t do anything right. I’m so useless. Everyone else finds this easy. Why do I find it so hard?

DadI know sweetheart. It is really frustrating when you’re trying to do something the first few times. You know that’s how the brain works.

Daughter: But my brain is stupid.

Dad: Your brain is beautiful and unique and it just needs a little extra help, just like in that cartoon we watched the other day where the character needed help to do his homework. What happened there? They broke it down into steps and did one thing at a time.

Maybe we could do that. What is it that you’re trying to do? What’s the first thing we need to do to get there?

And off they went. Dad refocussed his daughter on what she was trying to achieve and looked at the steps needed to get there and broke it down one at a time.

Can you see how he started by acknowledging and empathising with her thoughts but quickly aligned them with reality – the reality of how the brain learns and the reality of her brain being beautiful and unique?

As he moved into refocussing her, he gave reference to the cartoons because this was a great way to demonstrate the reality of learning and also a proven strategy that she could relate to, for tackling a problem

She already had evidence that that approached worked for the cartoon story, so she may be more open to it possibly working for her too.

When using the TRACK process, we can get creative about how we move our child up the ladder when we get to the solution focussed steps – Aim, Choices & Know Your Plan and action it.

We just need to get them from the thoughts step to the reality step first, which can sometimes prove to be the hardest parts.

You may also find that while you’re in the solution focussed step, your child goes back down into the thoughts step and you’re needing to move them back up again.

That’s okay, we do this too. Remember this process is about awareness and adjustment, not perfection.

This Mind TRACK to Happiness Process may even be something you could write up on a poster to show your child how to manage challenges they face.

Use it for simple things that aren’t emotionally triggering to get them used to practicing the TRACK Process when they are calm and the rational, learning part of the brain is online.

The more they use it when calm, the easier it’s going to be to use it when not so calm.

Remember when a child is feeling emotions of stress, the learning part of the brain shuts down, so this isn’t a time to be teaching them a new skill.

However, if they’ve already learnt the skill out of context then in the heat of a moment, you are simply reminding them of the steps instead of teaching them.

That said, some kids when they are in the thick of an emotion may be resistant to these steps and you may need to creatively shift them up the ladder without referring to the steps at all.

Now, before you put this lesson into practice, I just want you to remember that you won’t always be able to use the TRACK process in the heat of a moment.

The situation may need more deliberate thought put into applying those steps, so that’s exactly what we’re going to start to focus on in next week’s video and lessons.

How To Put Today’s Lesson Into Practice

Start with something easy that you are feeling emotional about and see if you can begin using the Mind TRACK to Happiness process on the fly – meaning you’re not spending a lot of time on it prior. Instead you’re going to just do it in the moment.

Make it easy on yourself to begin with though, so you can get used to the steps and moving yourself out of the thoughts step, into reality and then into the solution focussed aim, choices and know your plan step.

Also, find a situation where you may be able to use the TRACK Process on your child to help them through something challenging too, but remember to start with something relatively easy when they are relatively calm until you get familiar with using the steps in the moment.

In tomorrow’s lesson, we’re going to start looking at clarifying your goals and understanding why you’re not already achieving the goals you set out for your child or yourself.