In life, we are presented with many forks in the road and we always hope we choose the right direction. Whether it be for work, a relationship, or our children, we are always praying we are taking the next right step. Sometimes when we are presented with these choices that vary in difficulty we really don’t know what to do, and other times our moral compass clearly shows us the way. As parents with children who have Special Needs, it’s easy to get stuck on that hamster wheel of doing everything we can for our children. This spills over to helping others as well, sometimes to our detriment. Helping is a wonderful gesture, as long as we are helping ourselves as well. I have seen more than my share of parents who have burnt the candle at both ends and ended up paying for it. I am no different than you. This is a struggle I have had for many years. I have a child with Special Needs and I teach children with Special Needs. Where did I fill myself up to make sure I had enough to give everyone? I didn’t. And that’s where my journey with Mindfulness started.
Just under two years ago I was hospitalized for a multitude of reasons and it all stemmed from not being able to practice self-care. I didn’t value myself enough to make sure that I was taken care of, but made sure I took care of everyone and everything else. We all know what it takes to have a healthier lifestyle when it comes to our bodies, but what does it take to have a healthier mind, body, and soul? This is something I never saw growing up and hadn’t the faintest idea what it even meant! This began my journey into mindfulness and what it looks like to me and in my life. I literally had to change every single aspect (job, friends, environments, even family members) of my life to make this shift into self-care. What I realized in all of this is that I hadn’t given myself the space between people, places, and situations I was encountering and my reactions to them. So if I didn’t give myself the space to figure out how to respond to these things differently then I was responding in the same old unhealthy way and expecting a different outcome. I’m sorry isn’t that the definition of insanity?
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (https:// www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/). I realized how much time I spent grinding my wheels on past events that were finished with but I couldn’t find peace with, and “future tripping” on events that hadn’t even happened yet. So the space I was sitting in was spent working and fretting over the hugely annoying “What If” thoughts that played kickball in my head all day and night. Reading and researching the theory of mindfulness and putting it into practice gave me a better understanding of what it meant to be fully present, it also helped me decrease my anxiety by more than half. This was because I wasn’t allowing thoughts of what has happened that I cannot change, or thoughts of what might happen, or situations I wasn’t looking forward to, or…or…or…the list can go on and on it I let it. I also realized that this is an ongoing practice, not a one time fix and I remind myself through the day when I feel myself start to get anxious.
When I went back to my classroom at the beginning of the next school year I had made a decision to put this into practice there as well. Giving a person coping strategies to deal with anxiety will help the aversive behaviors they are exhibiting a decrease. In other words, help someone not feel anxious and they can focus much better. And when the focus is where the mind is open to learning new, more productive behaviors that will serve them in a positive way. I started embedding mindfulness practices in my curriculum where I could. Integrating yoga, meditation, deep pressure, etc. into my students day helped their moods balance out and they were more able to regulate their bodies. They started to be more open to learning new coping strategies and I saw an increase in their expressive and receptive language. The change was amazing!
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, we need to make sure our cup is full before we fill anyone else’s up. Self-care is not selfish, it’s self-preservation and it’s honoring our minds, bodies, and souls so we can go out into the world and do the work we need to leave it a better place than it was before. We are all worthy of our own love and respect. I hope you're having a wonderful week and Shine On!