Helping Kids Get a Good Night Sleep

The changing seasons and daylight savings often lead to sleep difficulties for kids and families. Each day the sun sets later in the evening and many kids would rather stay up later. Children who do not get enough restful sleep are at risk for increased emotional outbursts, distractibility, and falling asleep at school. Many children have difficulty waking in the morning and sometimes an extra hour of sleep can help. The Sleep Foundation recommends children ages 3-5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, ages 6-13 get 9 to 11 hours, and ages 14-17 get 8 to 10 hours. These ranges can vary slightly but a good rule of thumb is “How much sleep does it take to wake rested?” It’s a good time to review healthy sleep habits.

The following tips will help children get a good night sleep:

-Exercise 60 minutes per day. Often recess and physical education at school are not enough.

-Develop a bedtime routine. Having the same bedtime each night can help get on a rhythm for sleep and wake cycles.

-Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. The light produced by a television, computer, and/or cell phone activate the brain into thinking its daylight. Turning off electronics and engaging in relaxing activities can get the mind ready for rest.

-Calming activities before bed like reading a story, taking a bath, using either of the relaxation examples below, and listening to soft music can help the body relax.

-Essential oils such as Gentle Baby and Lavender can be used to promote rest.

-Reduce or avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can stay in the system for 4 to 6 hours. Even pop with dinner can keep them awake at bedtime.

-Warm liquids such as tea or milk can also encourage calmness. Avoid this tip if your child struggles with nighttime bed wetting.

Practice tensing and relaxing muscle groups to promote calmness.

Take a deep breath in. Squeeze your hands into fists while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your hands and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself, “My hands are relaxed”.

Take a deep breath. Raise your arms over your head while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Release your arm back down. Repeat three times. Say to yourself, “My arms are relaxed.”

Take a deep breath in. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your shoulders and exhale. Repeat three times and say to yourself “My shoulders are relaxed”.

Take a deep breath in. Tighten the muscles of your belly. Hold your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your belly and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My belly is relaxed”.

Take a deep breath in. Tense the muscles of your legs and bottom while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Release your legs and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My legs are relaxed”.

Take a deep breath in. Squeeze and curl your toes and hold your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your feet and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My feet are relaxed”.

Take a deep breath in. Squeeze all the muscles of your body while holding your breath for 3 seconds. Relax your body and exhale. Repeat three times. Then say to yourself “My body is relaxed”.

Use imagery like this to foster relaxation.

Lie down or find a comfortable place to sit. Breathe in deeply and out even more slowly. Close your eyes. Imagine you are floating on a soft fluffy cloud. You feel very safe on the cloud as it softly cradles your body. Your whole body feels heavy resting on the cloud. Notice your feet. Your feet feel very relaxed. Your feet feel so heavy that it would be hard to lift them even if you tried. Notice your legs. Your legs feel very loose and comfortable nestled into the cloud. There is a nice warm feeling traveling up your body, filling it with peace. Notice your stomach. It feels calm and filled with warmth. Be aware of your chest. Your chest is relaxed as it moved up and down slowly with each breath. Next notice your neck and shoulders. They feel soft and heavy. Feel the backs of your shoulders resting on the cloud, sinking in gently. Feel how relaxed your head is right now. Your head feels warm, pleasant, and heavy. Your head and face are very relaxed. Your mouth and eyes are free from stress. Allow your thoughts to come and go without worrying about anything. Everything is okay and you are feeling very calm and good. Enjoy the warm sensation calming you as it travels all around your body filling you with peace and relaxation.

If you continue to have concerns with your child’s sleep you can always contact your pediatrician or a mental health therapist.

Understanding Bullying Behavior

It can be painful to see your child bullied by others, causing you to be very protective and angry at the children causing them pain. It can also be painful to know that your child may be the bully. Either way, it is beneficial to understand what may cause youth to lash out at one another. Bullying behavior, at its core, is an unhealthy coping tool children develop to deal with some kind of stress, trauma, or insecurity. It is a way for a child who feels powerless to get power.

There are several risk factors that can lead to bullying behavior. People who bully are more likely to act out aggressively, are easily frustrated, may dislike following rules and may see violence as a way to get what they want. It is not uncommon for bullies to have seen hostility and aggression, or even violence in their home. Often, children who bully feel insecure in their relationships, from feeling that their parents are not involved enough in their lives, to having been rejected by someone, to feeling that they only way to gain acceptance by friends is to be a bully. Deep down, a child who is hurting others is most likely feeling hurt, or has been bullied themselves. They may feel aggression toward others gives them a feeling of control at a time when they feel powerless.

If your child is the one doing the bullying, it can be difficult to ask for help, as they are often seen as the “problem” child and are getting in trouble at school. These children often need love and connection the most, even though they are asking for it in a problematic way. Practicing openly discussing emotions to prevent them from bottling up and turning into aggression is crucial. It is important to validate those feelings by saying that their anger, fear, or sadness are normal emotions and that it is okay to feel this way, while helping them to understand their behavior is not okay. Do not be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional to support your child in learning healthier ways of coping with their overwhelming emotions.

Teachers and other important adults can help support these youth by avoiding harsh punishment. Punishment, especially yelling or aggression, tends to be reinforcing, as it provides the attention children are seeking. Children will seek negative attention when it is easier to get than positive attention. This negative attention adds to the negativity that already led to this behavior in the first place. Seeing the child behind the behavior and avoiding labeling them as “bullies” can be healing. Being a mediator between children in a safe, neutral setting, and making sure both children feel validated is a way to help work through the issue in a healthy way.

Understanding the causes behind bullying behavior can help us be more empathetic to a young person who is expressing a need in a negative way. Parents of children who are bullied can use this information to help their child understand that they are not getting picked on because of who they are, but because the other child has problems of their own that they most likely cannot see. The best way to respond to bullying is to acknowledge that it is an attempt to get a need met and responding accordingly. For adults, that means attending to positive behavior and providing healthy ways for youth to build social connections and a sense of power and self-worth. For youth, that means not fighting back against or giving in to bullies and instead responding with assertive compassion. Acting kind and confident deprives bullies of the reaction they are trying to get. Overall, supporting all children to learn healthy ways of expressing themselves, enhancing strong relationships, and building self-esteem can help children on both sides.

Family Change During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of tradition. Whether it’s Christmas Eve at Grandma’s or, as it is in my family, all the women getting together days before to make rouladen and semmelknodel. But for more and more families each year the holidays have become a time to prepare for new traditions.

According to the Stepfamily Foundation, 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day. The pressure to have a stress-free, perfect holiday where everyone is pleased is very real. This can feel even more important when going through family change.

Family change during the holidays may mean accepting new family members and some of their traditions, going to and from multiple homes rather than experiencing the holiday in one place, being uncomfortable, or changing tradition after years of doing the same thing in the same place. It can also mean having the opportunity to try something new, creating new friendships, discovering bravery and strength, and cherishing the time together with loved ones more deeply.

Change is not easy, but inevitable. We can choose to fight it or embrace it. As the holiday season approaches, if your family is going through some change, keep these tips in mind:

Have Realistic Expectations:

It is tempting to want to provide children with a holiday so wonderful that they do not feel sad. Their feelings about the changing dynamics and relationships will happen regardless of how many presents they have or how busy their schedule is.

Include Children in Making Decisions:

Involve your children in decision-making where it makes sense and answer their questions to the best of your ability. When possible, include them in the process of creating new traditions and saying goodbye to old ones. Being transparent with the planning process will help your children anticipate the changes and new activities rather than just reacting to whatever happens.

Validate the Experience:

Let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay. Acknowledge their feelings, normalize them, and provide opportunities for them to express themselves authentically. It is possible to feel sad and happy in the same moment and it is important for children to know that we are all capable of happiness in the midst of loss or pain. Don’t shy away from the tough stuff because ‘it’s a holiday and we’re supposed to be happy!’ Instead, use phrases like, “I know you’re [insert emotion] about [insert situation], at the same time, it’s time for you to go with your dad to your grandparent’s house. I love you.”

Choose Your Battles:

As frustrating as it might be to keep your cool when emotions are riding high, be your best self for your children and cherish the time you have with them. Think beyond the one difficult day or moment and set a positive example for them. After asking a family member what they wish someone had said during their first Christmas Eve without their children she replied, “I wish someone had said, ‘It’s one day.’ Any day could be Christmas Eve, look at all the other days you get to spend with your kids; enjoy the time together, whenever it is.”

Plan Ahead:

Avoid unnecessary stress by communicating wants and needs and having an exit strategy. If things get particularly challenging or a child is overwhelmed by their emotions know where you can go and how you might respond. Talk with a trusted friend or family member ahead of time about your concerns and do what is right for you. Talking with someone may help you clarify what is most important to you during the holidays.

The reality is, the idyllic picture-perfect holiday does not exist, no matter how “intact” your family is. What children want and need during the holidays, regardless of circumstances, is a relaxed, fun, and loving time with loved ones.

Anxiety in Children

What it Looks Like

Anxiety can look different from one person to the next. Anxiety is excessive worrying or fear, but people, especially children, may have a difficult time expressing those emotions, or they may not even realize that is what they are feeling. As a result, anxiety may not be the obvious culprit, but might look more like an anger problem or an attention deficit issue. Here are some indications of an anxious child:

-Irrational or excessive fear

-Worrying about worry

-Difficulty with transitions or changes in plans


-Withdrawal or Avoidance


-Trouble concentrating

-Fidgeting or Restlessness

-Difficulty sleeping/fatigue

-Difficulty with the unknown/asking many detailed questions, often about adult issues

-Being very particular/excessively trying to exert control over situations

-Complaining of physical pains, especially stomach aches

Some of these behaviors may be normal if they aren’t causing significant problems, or they may indicate other issues, so it is important to get the opinion of a mental health professional.

Why We Have it

We all experience anxiety from time to time, and we can thank a part of the brain, called the amygdala, for this. The amygdala’s job is to protect us from dangerous situations. When it senses something dangerous (whether real or not) it tells yours body to either get ready for a fight, run away, or freeze. This happens so fast, we often don’t have the chance to tell your brains when there is nothing to be afraid of, and before we know it, there are hormones and adrenaline rushing through us- which can change our breathing, heartbeat, make our muscles tense, make us sweaty or give us a stomach ache.

Think of your anxiety like a smoke alarm. A smoke alarm will go off any time there is smoke, whether you just burned a piece of toast, or there is a fully raging fire. Your amygdala may be getting you ready to fight a wild animal, and it doesn’t know that introducing yourself to a new friend is not actually dangerous, it’s just an unfamiliar experience.

So think of your anxiety as your protector, guardian, warrior, or super hero. It wants to keep you safe. Now the only question is, how do you let your protector know when you don’t need protecting?

A Few Strategies for Coping with Anxiety

1. Choose an object to hold your worries: Anxiety will get worse if we just hold onto in and never let it out. Denying fear or never telling anyone how we feel can make it worse, and at times this can turn into anger. It can be helpful to talk to a friend of family member. Other ways to let out our fears would be to write them out. This can be through journaling, or writing down thoughts to keep in a safe container, or destroying them in some way (like ripping or crumbling the paper). We may need an object to hold onto our thoughts and fears for us when they feel overwhelming. This can be a stuffed animal, a “worry stone,” or crafting your own “worry pet” or “worry doll.” Sometimes we need some support in carrying those big feelings.

2. Distract Yourself:  Sometimes, it may be necessary to simply get your mind off of your problems. This can be done in many ways. What makes you happy? Listening to music, dancing, going for a walk, spending time with loved ones, engaging in something artistic, or exercising are a few examples. The key to making this strategy work is mindfulness. This means, that when you mind wanders back to those fears or unpleasant thoughts, bring your focus and attention back to your activity and think about what it is you like about it and engage your senses. For example, if you are out for a walk and your worry about that upcoming test creeps up, bring your attention back to the sound of birds singing.

3. Breathing and Bubbles: Blowing bubbles is a fantastic way to focus on your breathing and let your fears float away! Imagine that you are a bubble. As you breathe in, focus on your body being filled with air, just like a bubble. As you slowly blow out your breath, feel your body relax. Focus simply on the bubble as it gets bigger, until it leaves the wand and floats through the air. After you have practiced this exercise a few times, you can try this even if you don’t have bubbles with you by simply imagining your thoughts as bubbles floating away while you breathe in and out.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Tossing and turning. Cannot fall asleep after laying down. Frequent waking. Stress and worries on the mind. Early waking.

These kinds of sleep difficulties can greatly impact an individual’s sleep quality which can lead to issues with one’s mood, ability to function the next day, and ability to concentrate. Sleep is important to your mental health, physical health, and safety. So how can you improve your sleep quality?

Establish a bedtime

Having an established bedtime is important to ensure that you are getting enough sleep (infants: 12-15 hours per day; toddlers: 11-14 hours per day; pre-school children: 10-13 hours per day; school-age children: 9-11 hours per day; most adults: 7-9 hours per day, although some may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours per day). This helps to regulate your body’s “internal clock.”

Be consistent

Once you have established a bedtime, stick to it! Even on weekends. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.

Create a healthy sleep environment

Make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, and relaxing. Also, make sure the environment is not too warm and not too cold.

Limit bedroom activities

The bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. Other activities, such as eating, studying, working, and watching television should not be done in the bedroom. Also, remove all electronics, such as televisions and computers.

Create a soothing pre-sleep routine

Your body needs time to shift from your daily activities into sleep mode. Spend approximately one hour before bed doing a calming activity, such as reading, taking a bath, or practicing relaxation exercises. Creating a pre-bedtime routine will ease the transition from wake to sleep. Avoid stressful activities, such as work and discussing emotional issues. If your mind will not quiet and continues to race about your worries, try writing down the problems on your mind and then put them aside before laying down.

Sleep comfortably

It is important that one feels comfortable when sleeping. Make sure the mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive.

Lay down to sleep when truly tired

Lying awake when you are not able to fall asleep can be stressful. Instead, get out of bed and go to another room. Engage in a relaxing, quiet activity (such as reading or listening to calming music). Keep the lights dim. When you begin to feel tired return to bed to fall asleep. Similarly, if you wake during the night and are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes. Get out of bed and out of the bedroom to engage in a relaxing activity. Return to bed when tired.

Be cautious of napping

For some people, napping is a regular routine in their day. Napping may be problematic though if you notice issues falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. It is better to keep naps short and earlier in the day. Late day napping can impact your body’s “internal clock.”

Eat light evening meals

Eat dinner several hours before bedtime. If needed, eat a light snack before bed if you are hungry.


Exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, if it is not too close to your bedtime. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed. Exercise stimulates the body which helps activate your brain to be alert. This is great, except when you are trying to fall asleep.

Avoid electronic devices

Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Electronic devices emit a light that promotes wakefulness. Additionally, engaging in an activity on an electronic device increases brain activity which is the opposite of what should be happening before sleep.

Avoid chemicals that interfere with sleep

Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals significantly impact sleep. Avoid caffeine and nicotine for four to six hours before bedtime. Alcohol may help one to fall asleep but it will increase the number of awakenings a few hours after one falls asleep. Limiting alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, or less, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime can help to improve one’s quality of sleep.

If the above tips do not help to improve your sleep quality, do not hesitate to seek professional advice. There may be other explanations, such as a sleep disorder, that is impacting your ability to get quality sleep. A professional can help to identify the proper diagnosis and treatment to help improve one’s sleep quality.


Stress Management

Stress can be a negative or positive event. For example, beginning a romantic relationship, starting a new job, and moving are all stressful events.  There are a variety of types of stress, such as relationship stress, work stress, and environmental stress. Stress can be emotional or physical. What may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Every person will react to stress differently. One person may be able to adapt successfully whereas others may develop long-term emotional difficulties. Stress tends to trigger the fight-flight-freeze response. However, most everyday stressors do not require fighting or fleeing.

Stress can influence the way we think, feel, and behave. It can make it difficult to attend to tasks, concentrate, or recall information. Stress may impact your mood which often leads to anxiety, irritability, nervousness, or sadness. The quality of our work and interactions with people can also suffer when experiencing stress. Sometimes, stress may cause people to experience sleep difficulties or experience changes in their eating and drinking behavior.

Stress can also make a person sick. There are a variety of direct physiological effects on the body, such as damage to the heart and the development of ulcers in the stomach. Stress can also have a direct cognitive and behavioral effect, such as memory loss and becoming easily distracted. Secondary effects of stress include exacerbating illness and delaying recovery.

Below is a list of some signs of stress:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest Pain
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less often
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed

After acknowledging and recognizing signs of stress, there are several strategies that can be used to manage and to deal with stress.

Be proactive! Plan ahead and attempt to anticipate problems. Apply time management techniques in order to manage schedules and develop structure and routine.  Plan self-care time in advance.

Express yourself! Whether it is through writing, journaling, singing, or dancing. Discover what form of self-expression helps you to express your emotions and help you to understand the emotions you may be experiencing.

Engage in social activities! Seek out friends and nurture your social relationships. Healthy relationships can provide support and provide a safe space to talk about stressors.

Exercise! Engaging in physical activities produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Endorphins can also help to improve the ability to sleep which can also help to reduce stress, reduce fatigue, and improve concentration.

Explore nature! Go for a hike or walk in a natural environment. If you are not able to go outside and explore nature, objects or pictures of nature can also have a calming effect.

Make time for hobbies! Set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy, such as reading, doing an art project, doing puzzles, playing games, or playing a sport.

Take a break! Plan some downtime. Perhaps use this time to meditate, practice yoga, pray, or listen to your favorite music.

Use humor! Watch a funny television show or read a newspaper cartoon. Laughter can be a great form of short-term stress relief. It can lead to increased endorphins and aid in muscle relaxation.

Remember, stress management does not need to take a lot of time. Five to twenty minutes may be more than enough to help one to manage stress. If you’ve taken steps to control your stress but symptoms continue or if you’re not sure what is the cause of the symptoms, see a medical doctor or consider seeing a mental health provider. Mental health providers can help to identify sources of stress and provide new coping tools to manage the stress.

Additional Stress Management Strategies:

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: a technique that helps to relieve tension.
  • Guided Imagery: a strategy that uses imagination and breathing strategies to promote relaxation.
  • Deep / Belly Breathing: a technique that involves deep abdominal breathing that helps to release stress
  • Mindfulness: a practice involving active, open attention on the present without judgement.

Exercises to Increase Self-Compassion

How self-compassionate are you?

How do you typically react to yourself?
  • What types of things do you typically judge and criticize yourself for (appearance, career, relationships, parenting, etc.)?
  • What type of language do you use with yourself when you notice some flaw or make a mistake (do you insult yourself, or do you take a more kind and understanding tone)?
  • When you are being highly self-critical, how does this make you feel inside?
  • When you notice something about yourself you don’t like, do you tend to feel cut off from others, or do you feel connected with your fellow humans who are also imperfect?
  • What are the consequences of being so hard on yourself? Does it make you more motivated and happy, or discouraged and depressed?
  • How do you think you would feel if you could truly love and accept yourself exactly as you are? Does this possibility scare you, give you hope, or both?
How do you typically react to life difficulties?

How do you treat yourself when you run into challenges in your life? Do you tend to ignore the fact that you’re suffering and focus exclusively on fixing the problem, or do you stop to give yourself care and comfort? Do you tend to get carried away by the drama of the situation, so that you make a bigger deal out of it than you need to, or do you tend to keep things in balanced perspective? Do you tend to feel cut off from others when things go wrong, with the irrational feeling that everyone else is having a better time of it then you, or do you get in touch with the fact that all humans experience hardship in their lives?
If you feel that you lack sufficient self-compassion, check in with yourself – are you criticizing yourself for this too? If so, stop right there. Try to feel compassion for how difficult it is to be an imperfect human being in this extremely competitive society of ours. Most of us live in cultures that do not emphasize self-compassion, quite the opposite. We’re told that we’re being lazy and self-indulgent if we don’t harshly criticize ourselves. We’re told that no matter how hard we try, our best just isn’t good enough. It’s time for something different. We can
all benefit by learning to be more self-compassionate, and now is the perfect time to start.

Neff, K. (2011). Self-Compassion (pp. 13-15). New York: William Morrow.

Self-Compassion Journal

Try keeping a daily self-compassion journal for one week (or longer if you like.) Journaling is an effective way to express emotions, and has been found to enhance both mental and physical well-being. At some point during the evening when you have a few quiet moments, review the day’s events. In your journal, write down anything that you felt bad about, anything you judged yourself for, or any difficult experience that caused you pain. (For instance, perhaps you got angry at a waitress at lunch because she took forever to bring the check. You made a rude comment and stormed off without leaving a tip. Afterwards, you felt ashamed and embarrassed.) For each event, use mindfulness, a sense of common humanity, and kindness to process the event in a self-compassionate way.


This will mainly involve bring awareness to the painful emotions that arose due to your self-judgment or difficult circumstances. Write about how you felt: sad, ashamed, frightened, stressed, and so on. As you write, try to be accepting and non-judgmental of your experience, not belittling it nor making it overly dramatic. (For example,“I was frustrated because she was being so slow. I got angry, over-reacted, and felt foolish afterwards.”)

Common Humanity.

Write down the ways in which your experience was connected to the larger human experience. This might include acknowledging that being human means being imperfect, and that all people have these sorts of painful experiences. (“Everyone over-reacts sometimes, it’s only human.”) You might also want to think about the various causes and conditions underlying the painful event. (“My frustration was exacerbated by the fact that I was late for my doctor’s appointment across town and there was a lot of traffic that day. If the circumstances had been different my reaction probably would have been different.”)


Write yourself some kind, understanding, words of comfort. Let yourself know that you care about yourself, adopting a gentle, reassuring tone. (It’s okay. You messed up but it wasn’t the end of the world. I understand how frustrated you were and you just lost it. Maybe you can try being extra patient and generous to any wait-staff this week…”)

Practicing the three components of self-compassion with this writing exercise will help organize your thoughts and emotions, while helping to encode them in your memory. If you keep a journal regularly, your self compassion practice will become even stronger and translate more easily into daily life.

Neff, K. (2017). Exercise 6: Self-Compassion Journal. Retrieved from

Mindfulness: Frequently Asked Questions

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mind-body practice based on Buddhist meditation techniques, which was popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness is the process of bringing one’s attention to the experiences occurring in the present moment, including thoughts and feelings, without judging them good or bad. It involves living in the moment and being aware of the experience. Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention to what is happening now, in the present moment.

Who can use mindfulness?

Anyone can do mindfulness practice and everyone can benefit from mindfulness strategies. Find ways to cultivate strategies that work best for the individual. Even children and adolescents can practice mindfulness with some modification to the exercises or strategies.

What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can effectively reduce symptoms in many health conditions including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Mindfulness can improve well-being, physical health, and mental health including:

  •  Relieve and lower stress
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase body awareness
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Improve regulation of emotion
  • Improve regulation of attention
How can I begin practicing mindfulness?

Begin by setting aside time to practice. That’s it! After setting aside some time and space, begin to observe the present moment without judgement. If the mind wanders, as it will, return to the present moment. Do not judge yourself when the mind wanders. Recognize that your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back to the present moment by focusing on the breath.

Keep in mind that mindfulness takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you begin. It is normal for the mind and thoughts to wander during any mindfulness exercise or strategy.