Saturday, October 26, 2013

Put Your Mask On

Earlier this year I attended a workshop in craniosacral therapy and found it to be totally amazing.  If I try to describe it then I sound like a crazy person but long story short, it rocks!  I've been wanting to take my kids in for a session every since.  Last week, after a month long waiting list, we finally got my son in.  See, I had heard it can help with SPD.  I love my boy's energy, his enthusiasm, and his amazing insights on life.  I also see his struggles and frustrations as he tries to control himself and finds that he is lacking in impulse control.  Everyone has struggles, and on this earth we are meant to struggle.  It's just that he struggles so much more than the average kid and so  I made the appointment to see if life could get a little bit easier for him. (I will update on how it worked another time.)

The session went well, I have never seen him so zen calm except when he is sleeping.  He would also have times when he would start stretching and flexing his limbs and give deep sighs, then back to total calm.  It was very interesting for me to watch and at the end of the session the CST told him that things should get a little easier.   Then he said "Mom, I think you need to get up here now."  I wasn't expecting it but I was happy for the offer.

So, pretty much instantly he said  that he needed to work on my adrenals.  Then, he asked me to drop all the things I was holding that were not serving my highest.  I don't know if he meant God, but that is how I heard it and thought, yes, why am I holding all these things?  Worries don't serve my Highest, and I realized that I was holding a lot more than I even knew.  I dropped them one by one with each breath.
I will still need to make sure I don't try to pick them back up again, I'm helpful like that.

My session was wonderful in ways I'm not really sure how to describe so again I will just say that CST rocks!   The most interesting part of my session was that word, adrenals.  When he said that my brain was like "ah ha!"  Other then meaning stress I wasn't sure what they did exactly.  Later that day I did some research.  Turns out they are affecting much more of my life then I knew.

I found an article on adrenal function or rather dysfunction that described my life pretty perfectly.
Get up, drink coffee... coffee...tired  Also, too busy for breakfast, scarf down something at 11 maybe, forget to eat again until I am starving at dinner time.    Most likely the afternoon coffee also has a high sugar item to boost me back out of zombie get the picture
What I learned was that when you are hungry your body goes into fight or flight mode, so if you already have a busy life and maybe your children spike your adrenalin multiple times a day, it really is best to avoid getting hungry.   Add to that a few cups of joe and you have a recipe for cortisol overload.

This constant state of "fight or flight" leads to a lower immune system, allergies (I've had tons recently for the first time in my life,) memory problems, and many other things.  It seems though that this is the normal and expected state of almost every american parent.

Now, I can't get rid of the stress of a meltdown from one of my children but I think I can remember to eat.  I'm actually programming my phone to remind me for the next week so I get in the habit (memory problem.)
I can  also do a better job  avoiding sugar when I'm feeling hungry or tired. I'm not giving up coffee completely but at least for now I'm going to not drink it after my morning brew.  I'm letting my body be able to feel reality, and if it's telling me go to bed at 8:30 then I probably should.  I will catch up on New Girl some other time.

So far, this not having coffee in the afternoon is leaving me yawning at soccer practice, and realizing I want to go to bed between 8:30-9:30 instead of my usual 11:30-12.  Also, because I didn't pump myself with caffeine, I get to do something about it.  I get to sleep! I don't feel like having a glass of wine to wind down, because I've been winding down since 4 o'clock.
I shared on Facebook that without my afternoon coffee I had uncovered that I was exhausted and needed to go to bed early.  I thought that if I got any reply it would be something to the tune of "way to go!" or "I need to sleep more too."  Nope!  I was met with encouragement to drink more coffee.

Why are we so against slowing down and resting?  I don't understand why we feel we must be busy and peppy to be successful mothers.  While I don't understand it, I do feel it.    There is a mom at the school who if you compared her with other parents,  looks like she is high.  I mean, not really, she doesn't have the glassy red eyes.  But she seems to be in this sleepy sort of state that after I thought about it today, I think is just what the dictionary would call RELAXED and not jacked up on caffeine.  She walks slower, talks slower, and has a presence of calm. Now what if, that mom is going at NORMAL speed and we are all racing on hyper speed.   I fear that is the case.  We need to learn from her!

Wouldn't it be great if we aimed for relaxed, balanced, healthy american, instead of super human, coffee chugging, task juggling, sick american?  What if instead of saying to that other mom how normal it is to be exhausted, what if instead we gave her tips to be less exhausted, or offered to swap childcare so we could both take a nap or get a massage?  Let's get creative and change the expectations.

Lets dare to slow down and take care of ourselves.  As the flight attendant says, "Put your mask on first and then assist your child."  We need to breath, we need to eat, we need to value our needs instead of sweeping them to the side.   If my child wanted to skip breakfast there is no way I would let that happen.  I would lecture them about how the body needs energy, the brain needs food to think, not to mention them feeling grumpy on an empty stomach.   So, why should I let myself off so easily?  Let's put our masks on, and that "oxygen" will make us better parents.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Staring at the sky

Recently I chaperoned my daughters 5th grade overnight field trip.  We hiked into a beautiful ancient forest and stayed off the grid in cabins surrounded by flowing water and 1,000 year old trees.   I had been looking forward to the trip from the moment I got word of it because in the forest is where I feel most at home.  

When we arrived we had to hike in about 3 miles, with backpacks, and 20 some children.  About 10 minutes into the hike reality hit me, this might not be the most refreshing trip for me.  Meltdowns began to happen, specifically with my child.  See, being in a tiny car for two hours, packed in the back seat with two extremely chatty girls, well that got my girl overstimulated. I figured that once she was out of the car she could calm down with the nature setting.  Nothing calms me down more than walking through the forest. However I soon discovered that if you notice every detail of every leaf, moss, mushroom, rock, dirt, and who knows what else... you can't turn it off.  It's exhausting to be walking at a fast pace through this environment.  There is so much more color and things to notice then our typical urban landscape.  She tried strategies like only staring at the backpack of the person in front of us..  They didn't work, it was too much for her.
Now, everyone is carrying their backpack and so I had it in my mind that she MUST carry her backpack too, but about half way through the hike I thought, why?  If this environment is so daunting on her senses, does she really need the physical stimulus of a backpack as well?   I decided no, that I could carry the backpack and maybe we would even enjoy ourselves a little more the rest of the way.  I was right, but one more thing.  Tony Attwood taught me that when somebody is overloaded, and you can't leave the situation the best thing to do is talk to them about their special interest, or rather let them talk to you about it.  So, I may have asked what the most interesting thing she learned from her Harry Potter secrets book was.  Sure enough, distracted  kid hiking at a good pace in record time.   

We finally got to the cabin and it was loud but I as so proud of my girl.  She found herself spaces that were more silent, she excused herself when needed, she took care of herself without my prompting.  It was awesome! I'm glad she finally feels confident enough to advocate for herself and get what she needs.   For so long I have been doing this because she had been to timid or unaware that others weren't also totally overloaded.  

There was one magical moment for us when went on a night hike with the class.  Walking into the forest with our flashlights and curiosity.  After going for awhile our guide said, "now turn off the lights and look up."  There was the amazing sky, it was glittering and full of dreams and beauty.  I felt like I could get lost in it.  My daughter came over and hugged me, and we just hugged and stared at the sky. Being that she is a sensory avoider, I don't get many hugs from her so this was a very special moment for us.    For that moment she was just my daughter, she wasn't someone I needed to look out for.  I wasn't on alert for signs of a meltdown.  I wasn't assessing the situation for triggers.  I was just holding my daughter and staring at the sky.  This both made me extremely happy and also sad.  How often am I in alert mode vs enjoying my daughter mode?   She has proven that she can advocate for herself and I think it was a realization to me that I need to turn off alert mode a lot more and have her be just my 10 year old girl, not my sensitive girl.   Awareness is fine, acceptance is great, but way less alert is a wonderful idea.