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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Mindfulness Helps Kids and Adults Handle Stress

Florenza Denise Lee is a radio talk show host, author, speaker, certified life coach, and children’s mindfulness coach.

Her book The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog teaches children the benefits of breathing and experiencing the present moment.

In this interview, she discusses her work with veterans, military families, and recovering addicts with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: In The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog, Max keeps chasing his own tail, thinking that if he can catch it and tie it in a knot, it will stop causing him so much pain. Do you see any parallels with your work in addiction recovery? 

Florenza: As a previous director of a women’s home (for addiction recovery) as well as an advocate for our veterans, I believe that the way we respond to pain most surely parallels the way Max felt in my book. 

Max was not to blame for his pain, but he was responsible for how he responded to his pain. I share this thought with both my residents in the home as well as veterans. 

Of the women in the program, more than 85% were there due to abuse they encountered as children. This carried over into their adult years and resulted in them having addictions. 

Our Veterans face similar challenges. Many experienced untold encounters that caused them to develop conditions such as PTSD, etc. Like Max, they have pains that are not necessary their fault, but also like Max, they try to come up with their own solutions which result in negative habits that prevent them from fully enjoying life. 

Catharine: As the wife of a veteran, you've experienced first-hand the challenges of military life. In your opinion, how can practicing mindfulness benefit military families?

Florenza: I believe that Military children are the most resilient, caring, nurturing children there are. They truly understand life from a very different perspective. Because of all the “noise” that comes with being a Military child, the best gift you may give them is the ability to learn the practice of Mindfulness. 

Our children sadly live in a very fast paced, unpredictable world. When parents deploy, they are gone for extremely long periods of time. Sadly, they may return with physical injuries, such as Lexi’s dad in my book, Welcome Home Daddy, Love Lexi. Other times, they come home with mental injuries such as TBi (traumatic brain injury) or PTSD, etc. 

Military children have to learn to adjust to all of this and still be “children”. By teaching them how to practice Mindfulness, we give them the tools they need to effectively live with the stresses we call Military life. 

Catharine: I’ve heard from some Christians who integrate mindfulness with their devotional practice and others who are concerned that it might conflict with their beliefs.

What's your perspective on this as someone who's worked for a faith-based organization and is pursuing a master's degree in Christian counseling?

Florenza: Thank you for asking this question. I just recently had this exact conversation with a group of ladies in a book club I host weekly. I shared with them that Mindfulness isn’t something we add on to our lives. It is already present; we just need to develop a way to train our bodies to what it is naturally trying to do: feel our breath. 

I believe Mindfulness is very applicable to any religion, especially Christianity. We believe that God created us from the earth, what better way to recognize this belief, than to allow ourselves the ability to tune in to our bodies and listen to the beautiful rhythm it has. To just plug in/connect with our whole being.  Mindfulness allows us to experience the moment without assigning judgement, overly reacting; to simply be present.

Catharine: You’ve described your life coaching as “like having glasses for your mind.” I love that image, and I think it’s a great way to describe one of the benefits of mindfulness practice. How do you help your clients shift their focus and see more clearly?

Florenza: Thank you for the compliment for my tagline; I too love it. I believe part of being a great coach is assisting my clients in seeing their current situations from a different perspective. Sometimes this perspective is from an outside-in view, other times, it may be from an elevated perspective down. 

Ultimately, I want them to understand that we may not have control over the situation, but we do have complete control in our response. My grandmother used to tell me as a child, 
“Now, Florenza, we cannot stop birds from flying over our heads, but we most certainly can stop them from building nests in our hair.” 

I want to help my clients prevent emotional birds from building nests in their minds. Mindfulness teaches us the very act of being calm and to listen to our internal rhythms. By learning to hear this rhythm, it brings clarity.

Catharine: What does ‘mindful teaching’ mean to you?

Florenza: When I use the term ‘mindful teaching’ what I imply is more along the lines of ‘mindful coaching.’ We are created to be Mindful, we simply need to be trained in how to listen to our bodies’ instructions.  I breathe and my heart beats without me telling it to do so, it is natural. 

When I focus on what my body is naturally doing, it allows me to tune in to my basic place of being. It is very empowering! 

Catharine: What do you do in your own personal mindfulness practice, and how does it help you with your work?

Florenza: As a Believer/Christian, I believe in the power of prayer, but I also know how Mindfulness has helped me reach in, whereas prayer helps me reach up. 

I can truthfully say had it not been for me learning about Mindfulness and how it transforms lives, I don’t think I would be having this interview with you; I would have given up on being an author, publisher, life coach, etc. The challenges that come with being my own, “one clown circus” can be daunting. 

When I am faced with a difficult task such as creating my own website, or developing a query letter, bio, developing an eBook, or navigating the world of printing, it can be like a series of tidal waves; one after the other after the other. Had I not learned how to pull away, and pull in, to meditate, and learn to the power of the breath, I don’t know where I would be. 

I believe this is why I am so passionate about sharing this with children. I believe if they could learn early, like 5 or 6 years old, how amazing our planet would be?! 

Rather than bullying and fighting due to frustrations and fears, children can learn to meditate, which reduces stress and anxiety, improves performance, and helps us gain insight and awareness through learning to observe our own mind and increase the level of attention we give to others. 


related posts: 

Breath-Based Practices for Mindfulness or Stress Reduction

Mindfulness and Yoga for Young Children: Tips, Books, Apps, and Activities

Three Ways to Handle Negative Thoughts and Strong Emotions

8 Principles of Trauma-Informed Yoga and Mindfulness Teaching