Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Oh, these fuel-ish thoughts!

March 22, 2013

Please don't feed the monkeys

I sat and waited for my friend to meet me for lunch at a local place. I was trying not to do anything else. I was not succeeding.

When you’re waiting for someone to meet you, or call, or return a text, it’s easy to think fuel-ish thoughts (the kind that adds to anxiety):

Where is she already?

12:30. Wasn’t this the time we said?

It was for Wednesday, right?

Today is Wednesday, isn’t it?

Or were we supposed to meet Thursday?!

Is she trying to call me?

Is my phone on? (Yes!)

Should I check again? (Yes, it’s on!)

Did she forget?

Did she have an emergency?!

Is she all right?!!

All that mental garbage, piling up, muzzling my good spirits of ten minutes ago as I congratulated myself for finding parking so close-by… and with 90 minutes still on the meter!

But now fuelish spores exude from my monkey mind, infecting this happy camper. Downer thoughts. Not worth a damn. Powerless to alter current reality:

I am sitting alone on a wooden bench in a restaurant. My friend, who agreed to meet me for lunch is now… 22 minutes late. Make that 23. Whatcha gonna do about that, monkey mind?

Grass wallpaper. Potted palms. Bamboo fountain. Ah serenity. Except for the noisy diners. But actually, they’re perfect. From every part of the room happy folks enjoy a mid-day break with good food and good company. Eight friends over there (a birthday celebration, perhaps) swap personal updates and laugh it up.

I wish I was sitting with my friend enjoying the same. But she’s not here… yet.

I should just call her! Damn. I don’t have her number!

But you know what? That’s fine. Really it is. She’ll get here when she does. And in the meantime, I’m taking notes for this blog. Trying not to do anything else. Because nothing else is needed. It’s nice to sit here.

Are we out of milk? I’d better…

Shut up! No need to think about what I could or should be doing instead of waiting here. So I’ll just sit and breathe. In. Out. Ohmm. Present moment… Wonderf….

Maybe I made the mistake!

Maybe my friend is waiting for me somewhere else and wondering if I blew her off?

I’m hungry.

Do I grab a table and order something?

Do I want to buy lunch for myself if she doesn’t show?

We’ve got food at home and I’m 10 minutes away.

I don’t need to spend the money. I don’t think I should…

Sigh. Anyone want a monkey?

Filed under: Humor,Meditation,Mindfulness,Yoga — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 3:08 pm

For Teens: What do you do when you’re stressed and don’t know what to do?

April 1, 2010

Life's a balancing act, so don't forget to breathe.

Life's a balancing act, so don't forget to breathe.

The sun’s back after dumping about 4 inches of rain on us yesterday. OK, maybe it was only one inch, but still, it was seriously stormy. So in the spirit of the new month and a new season I did some digital spring cleaning and stumbled across this old email from a stressed out 7th grade boy.  I decided to post his question and my answer just in case any of you can relate. I think I helped the kid. Maybe my advice will help you too.

Hey Annie,

You came to my school recently and talked to us about stress. I sometimes get stressed because I have so much to do I get that mixture of mad and sad. Then I do stuff that I don’t want to do. I also want a little more INDEPENDENCE and my parents tell me that if I do my responsibilities without being asked that will help me get more independence, but that’s really hard for me to remember to do that. Can you help me?



Hi Kevin,

It’s totally normal for you and everyone else to get stressed at times. But I’m guessing that you want to be able to get rid of the “mixture of mad and sad” when you feel it and to have more control over what you do.

Stress knocks people off-balance. Getting “back in balance” or re-centering reduces stress. It’s that simple. There’s a special kind of BREATHING called re-centering breathing.  It can help you when things get rough. When you do it, it can help you stop a stress-response before you lose control and end up doing stuff that you “don’t want to do.” This kind of breathing isn’t hard to do, but  it takes practice. The trick is to remember to do it while you’re feeling stressed.  Here’s how it goes:

1. RE-CENTER. Sit and get comfortable. Put your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs. Relax. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose, but with one difference…pay attention and visualize the air coming in. Then visualize the air going out. BREATHE IN SLOWLY… THEN LET IT OUT SLOWLY. (Continue with this special kind of breathing for 20 seconds)

2. ASK YOURSELF: What did I notice? Some kids say: “Things slowed down.” “I felt calmer.” “I feel more relaxed.” Some say that their thoughts got quieter. Some say, “Nothing happened.” or “I almost fell asleep!” There are no wrong answers.  It’s all good.

3. TRY IT AGAIN. Close your eyes. Relax. This time INHALE SLOWLY and evenly through your nose. Then EXHALE SLOWLY and evenly through your open mouth. When you inhale think “Breathing IN” when you exhale think “Breathing OUT.” Quiet all other thoughts. Follow your breathing. (Continue for 30 seconds)

4. ASK YOURSELF: What did I notice? What was different?

Learning to focus only on your breathing, without letting other thoughts distract you, can be very challenging. It takes practice. If you can’t focus on your breath for more than a second without thinking of other things, don’t get mad at yourself. (That’ll stress you out!) As soon as you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breathing.

5. TRY IT ONCE MORE, breathing at your own pace. (Continue for 45 seconds)

6. ASK YOURSELF: What happened that time?

Re-centering breathing is a great way to calm down so you can THINK more clearly and figure out what to do in stressful situations.

Try it for today. Try to remember to breathe every time you start to feel stressed about… anything. It will help you feel more in control of what you do and help you remember to keep your agreements with your parents. That’s going to show them that you’re ready for more independence.

Good luck!

In friendship,


Try the Breathing Challenge. Simply BREATHE as you feel yourself stressing and about to lose it. Then send me an email and  let me know what happened right after you took a breathing break. What changed? How’d you handle the situation after you calmed down?  This is how we all learn from each other!


On becoming a more tolerant, patient human being (Damn it!)

August 18, 2009

Sometimes we all need a new perspective

Sometimes we all need a new perspective

Face it, the people we live with (and love and cherish more than life itself) can push our buttons like nobody’s business. (That expression never made much sense to me but I’ve always liked the sound of it.) This button-pushing fest can be especially competitive between parents and teens. They give us “that” look,“that” attitude, etc. etc. and we just lose it. And you don’t need me to tell you that we parents do and say things that irritate the crap out of our teens.

But who’s the adult here, right? It’s bad enough to blow up (or melt down) with our own flesh and blood, but when I think about what my “moments” taught my kids about self-control, conscious choice-making, and treating others with respect, well, I want to turn myself in to the bad parent police. OK, so no parent is perfect. And we all have gone off the deep end from time to time. We need to forgive ourselves in the same way that we forgive our kids when they act… crazy.

A new school year is about to burst forth with all kinds of never-before-seen challenges to our parenting chops. If you haven’t reached human perfection yet, you might want to try this simple process. It can help you be more of the parent you want to be more of the time. (i.e., especially when someone in your family is being soooooooo annoying!)

When a family member does or says something that grates on your nerves, ask yourself:
1. What’s going on with me right now? Irritation? Embarrassment? Frustration? Boredom? Resentment? Jealousy? Identifying what you’re feeling is the first step to understanding yourself and your reactions and taking those reactions off automatic pilot.

2.Why is this bothering me so much? We just may be least tolerant of those whose behavior reflect traits that we least like in ourselves. That’s something worth thinking about when a family member starts to drive you crazy.

3. What’s my usual way of responding? What are the usual consequences of my response? How do those help/aggravate the situation? Thinking clearly about your usual reactions can encourage you to explore other options. Especially if what you normally do just makes things worse.

4. What does this person need? That’s not often asked when people push your buttons, but if you can ask it and consider the possible answers, negative family dynamics may start to shift. For example, does this person (my son/daughter/partner) just need someone to listen to them and acknowledge their feelings? Sounds like what most of us want and need at different times. So the problem may not be what the person wants, but rather their inability to ask for it directly. If you can figure out what they want and you can provide some or all of it, you might find a) their “irritating” behaviors become less frequent, b) you feel more compassion and love towards them, and c) you feel good about having freed yourself from an unhelpful automatic response. Win-win.

Begin today. Talk honestly with your teens about the challenges all people have expressing our needs and responding to family members in conscious and compassionate ways. Share with them what you’ve learned about being part of a family. (The positive legacy and the not so.) Remind them that families are forever, but family dynamics are not carved in stone. Just because two people have always interacted in a certain way doesn’t mean they can’t change. With compassion and a willingness to be honest about your feelings and your needs, you teach your children that healthy adults can continue growing in positive directions. Bottom line, just like our teens, we parents are also works in progress.

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