Managing Your Stress (Part Two)

Can you pinpoint exactly what causes you stress?  It could be one major thing, or it could be a combination of several things. Many of us would say our current state of affairs is causing us stress. The country is slowly beginning to open back up now, but for a while, we were all feeling disconnected from our families and communities.

People perceive stressors differently and people respond to stressors differently. People often pinpoint work, finances, health concerns, and family responsibilities as being major sources of stress.  Those are the major reasons people stress but let us peel away the layers and examine why these things are stressful.

Uncertainty. This is what was (and is) causing so much stress during our time of quarantining and isolation. We did not really know much. When was it going to end? How was it going to end? What would life look like when it ended? One question would always lead to another and the not knowing was extremely stressful. Suspense and foreboding are great when it comes to a movie or a novel, but not when it comes to our lives. COVID-19 has caused many people to lose their jobs or have their hours cut.  This could lead to a lot of uncertainty. An uncertain health report could lead to stress because of all the uncertainty. Stress due to uncertainty is related to us being uncomfortable with not having control over every aspect of our lives.

Being Overwhelmed. Many of us have a lot going on with work, children, our hobbies, etc. It is easy to become overwhelmed especially when it seems like there is always something to be done and something that needs attention. Becoming overwhelmed can happen in a multitude of settings. A sudden job loss, the death of a loved one, or even a positive life event like a marriage can be overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed can become so intense that it will literally take your breath away.

Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we become stressed mainly because of the stress that we put on ourselves. We sometimes hold ourselves to such high expectations that disappointment and frustration is the only outcome. When we overcommit ourselves or have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, stress is inevitable. A great example of this would be a parent who is trying to balance work life and family life. The expectation that you can give 100% both at work and at home is not inconceivable but can be a heavy burden to put on yourself.

Comment below some of the things that cause you stress.

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Mid Week Reflection: Feelings Are Not Facts

Feelings are defined as an emotional state or reaction.  They can describe how you may be feeling at a certain time but they do not always have to dictate your reality.  We sometimes struggle with our emotions being confused as facts.  For example, feeling a little down that you did not get selected for a position at work does not translate to you being an employee whose work is not valued.  Feeling like a failure for not being successful at a new diet does not make you a failure.  You have to be careful not to let your feelings take hold in your spirit to the point where you begin to really believe what you are thinking. Beware of allowing your feelings to determine how you see yourself and the way you begin think about yourself and your worth. Separating feelings from facts is vital to our self-esteem and our overall outlook on life. We have to practice positive self-talk to convince ourselves that the negative thoughts and feelings that we have taken as fact are not true. This has to be done on a daily basis to ensure that you do not succumb to feelings which can often be misleading. What feelings have you taken as facts lately? What positive self-talk will you utilize to prevent yourself from accepting those feelings as facts?

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Mid Week Reflection: Acknowledge Your Potential

Some of us have things in our past that we wish we could change.  We have made decisions that altered the course of our lives and may have put ourselves in difficult positions as a result of those decisions.  You may be feeling that you should be further along in life than you are right now.  You may be feeling that you have spent so much time just trying to make it day to day that you have not tapped into your true potential – that thing that really defines you.  We sometimes become prisoners of our current circumstances.  We do not realize the joy that comes from reaching the fullness of what you have to offer the world in the form of your talents and your worth.  We even sometimes believe that where we have been is so terrible that we do not deserve to experience the joy of reaching our full potential.  These thoughts are what holds us back.  Dare to turn your back on what and who you were and step into your full potential. Change your mindset and step boldly into your purpose. What would you be doing now if you were not so busy looking at your past?

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Surviving Survival Mode (Part 1)

What is survival mode?

As someone who has had the experience of living in survival mode for a significant period of time, I would define survival mode as being present in the current moment and only having the mental energy to make it to the next moment.  This week we will be discussing survival mode – what it looks like and how to get out.

Let us explore a few ways that people end up in survival mode.

Traumatic life event. Unexpected life events, like the sudden death of a loved one or a life-changing diagnosis, can put you into a space where all you can do is just make it through the day. Some people can get through life-changing events while maintaining a sense of normalcy.  Others go into a lower level of functioning and begin operating at a level that is just enough to get them through the day.

Financial Distress.  Layoffs, furloughs, and unemployment have pretty much defined these COVID-19 times. The thought that you will not be able to provide for your family can be terrifying. The stress and fear associated with being in financial distress coupled with the desperate need to provide for your family could get you to the point where you begin living day-to-day with no real direction.

Being overwhelmed.  This is what put me and so many others in survival mode. Having so many daily responsibilities that could lead to becoming overwhelmed with life, we run the risk of getting not being connected to anything other than the things that need our immediate attention.

Many other things can put you in survival mode, but these are a few of the main ones. Tomorrow we are going to discuss how you can tell that you are in survival mode and how you can get out.

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Autism Awareness Month: Lessons Learned from Zion

If we were all not living through these unusual circumstances associated with COVID-19, this month would have featured a lot of festivals, walks, and other activities that seek to bring awareness to and dispel myths about autism.  Education about the diagnosis of autism and shining the spotlight on the individuals who have been diagnosed with autism is what this month is all about.  As Autism Awareness Month comes to an end, I started to think about my 12-year-old son, Zion, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and a few of the things he has taught me.

Everyone has hidden jewels.   If you ever met Zion, in the first ten minutes, you could probably tell me right off the bat the things he does not do.  He has a hard time making eye contact, he is not going to engage you in a long conversation, and he has a hard time understanding social cues and tones.  Years of advocating for Zion has made it to where I am his spokesperson, always trying to give people a different impression of him.  Zion loves to learn, my son is a fantastic writer, and my son has an eye for photography and videography.  My son is more than his diagnosis and people, in general, are typically more than what they initially present to the world.  I believe that there is something positive in everyone – you sometimes just have to take the time to find those hidden jewels.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  Zion is pretty even-tempered now but when he was newly diagnosed and before he started the therapies that helped him process his emotions, he would have meltdown and tantrums (and there is a difference between the two) several times a day.  Being the perfectionist that I was,  I would often add more stress on top of an already stressful situation because I would want to carry on with my day and complete my daily to-do list.  I would feel like the worst mother ever at the end of the day when nothing got accomplished. But I learned to change my perspective.  At the end of a tough day, my laundry may not have been folded, there may have still been dishes in the sink, and I may have never gotten to the store.  But Zion was calm.  And, most importantly, he had not injured himself or others during his tantrum.  The things that did not get done no longer mattered. And guess what? Now Zion washes and folds his own clothes, vaccums and sweeps the whole house, and can even make simple meals for himself. It gets better – don’t waste time worrying about the small things.

Everyone needs a cheerleader.  From the time I realized that my son was not reaching his milestones timely, I have had to advocate for him.  From going back and forth with the pediatrician about getting a referral to a specialist for Zion to be formally diagnosed to finding the perfect school for him, advocating is a full-time job.  But, everyone needs a cheerleader.  Confidence in yourself is great but having that cheerleader is what gives you that extra boost. Zion knows he is smart and capable of doing many things that others think he would not be able to do because of his diagnosis.  But me being his cheerleader gives him that extra boost because I am there – loud and proud – reminding Zion and everyone else of great he is, how smart he is, and how talented he is.  Just as cheerleaders stand on the sidelines and let the whole arena or stadium know how great their team is, everyone needs that person who encourages them.

I want to end this post by offering some words of encouragement.

Be kind to yourself.  There will be good days and bad days – count every day that you make it through as a win.  Don’t be hard too hard on yourself.

Accept help.  I often felt that nobody could care for Zion like I could – and to be honest, I still feel this way sometimes.  But I have learned to accept help from the people that my son knows and is comfortable with and that knows my son, his triggers, and how to calm him.  It took me a while but I finally got there. 

Don’t take the aggression personally – this is harder on them than on you.  Tantrums, meltdown, and aggressive behaviors are sometimes scarier for the child than it is for us as parents.  It took many therapists to convince me that Zion was acting aggressively at home and not at school because I was his “safe place” – a place where he knew he could release everything that was pent up in him. Don’t take it personally – your child knows your love is unconditional.

Advocate! Advocate! Advocate!  Resources for special needs children can sometimes be hard to find.  Ensuring that they get everything they need to reach their fullest potential can be very hard due to this lack of resources.  Advocating for your child will be the biggest “I Love You” you can give them. 

YOU GOT THIS!!!!  Being a parent of a child with autism has caused me to experience a wide range of emotions depending on the circumstances.  It has exhausted me, angered me, scared me, filled me with anxiety, and has even brought me to tears on several occasions.  But it has also made me excited as I look at Zion and the handsome pre-teen he has become, it has forced me to be creative in how I ensure he gets what he needs, and it even makes me smile when I realize that my son is a pretty cool kid.  And I know that – despite the frustrations and setbacks that he may endure – Zion will be okay.  

Celebrate your child. Let the world know how great your child is. I will start. Zion is 12 years old. He loves to watch YouTube, eat pizza, swing, put together 500 piece puzzles, and as I stated before, he even likes to do chores around the house! Zion is smart, loves to give big hugs, and loves his family. He is a great kid who smiles a lot and loves to make others smile.

Celebrate your child or tell how you spread awareness about autism in the comments below!

Mid Week Reflection: Focus on the Things You Desire

There is always the possibility that something could go wrong.  You can finally start that business you have been dreaming of but be fearful that it will not take off as you want.  You can have your eye on a certain position at work but be fearful that someone else is selected for that position.  I am not here to tell you that bad things do not happen – we all know that is not true.  What I am here to tell you is that focusing on our desired positive outcome is more productive than focusing on our fears on the things that could go wrong.  Focusing on the things that can go right will keep you moving toward your goal.  Focusing on the things you fear is more likely to get you to a place where you begin to doubt your goals.  And if there is enough doubt, you will lose your motivation to even try to reach your goals.  Losing motivation will cause you to become stagnant.  To be successful, you must focus on the positive and only the positive.  What will you do to change your mindset to only focus on the things you desire?

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For? – Part 3: Perfectionism

This can look a lot of different ways.  It can be you saying that everything needs to be perfect before you even began to work towards your goal.  This thinking makes you think that everything has to be perfectly aligned for you to begin working on your goal.  Or this thinking can make you feel that everything has to be perfect once you reach your goal. 

This type of thinking makes it hard for you to start your goal of, say, writing a book because you are unsure if you will complete the book.  Or even if you complete the book, what if nobody likes it?  What if you cannot get it published?   What if there is pressure to complete a second book?  You get the picture.  Perfectionism will keep you stuck because the perfect scenario that you have created in your head may never happen.  And there is no way you can predict how things will turn out once you begin. 

The key to getting past this type of procrastination is to change your mindset.  Just like with the fear of failure, this will not come easy at first but it can be done.  For starters, you must begin to believe that everything will work out for you.  If you never believe that things will end positively, then you will never begin.  Also, you must understand that everything will very rarely align perfectly.  And if it does, it is very unlikely that it is going to stay that way.  You must keep moving forward, even when things are not lining up the way you feel that they should. 

This was a challenge for me as I began this blog.  Understanding the commitment that it would take to start and sustain a blog, I felt like everything had to be in place in my life before I got started.  I felt this way for several months until I finally realized that I would never get started if I waited until the perfect time.  So I just started.  And I have continued even when circumstances made it difficult to continue.  Understanding that there may be setbacks along the way is key to realizing that not many things will be or remain perfect.  But you must keep moving forward – even if you are moving forward slowly. 

Procrastination: What are You Waiting For? – Part 2: Fear of Failure

I talk about the fear of failure a lot in The Serenity Room.  That is because it can be linked to so many different things as it relates to how we respond or not respond to different aspects of our lives.  As it relates to procrastination, the fear of not succeeding at a task keeps us from moving towards its completion.  For example, If you are tasked with putting together a presentation as part of a job interview, your fear of not doing well during the presentation could cause you to procrastinate with creating the presentation.  This could cause you to have to rush to put it together.  The job that could have been yours now may not be due to the procrastination that then leads you to create a sub-par presentation.  The fear of failure leads us to wait until the last minute which leads you to not do your best.  This can be seen in many areas of our lives.  The struggle to get started because of the fear of the results is a common one.

So how do you combat this fear of failure?  The simplified answer to this question is to change your way of thinking.  Yes, I already know that it is not that easy but that is the most basic way to combat the fear of failure.  You have to question your thoughts.  Doubt your doubts.  When you set your goals, you set it with the intent of succeeding. No one makes a goal that they intend to not achieve.  But somewhere along the way self-doubt, fear, and negative thinking come into play and all of a sudden you feel that you can no longer reach the goal that you have set for yourself.  Change the thoughts that cause you to fear that you will never be successful – challenge those thoughts and move through fear.  Think about why you started your journey.  Think about the joys of success.  Think about how much you can accomplish as you reach goal after goal after goal.  The sky is truly the limit if you face fear head-on.  And if you don’t reach your goal, step back and see what was done wrong.  Then make your adjustments and try again.  Whatever you do, do not give up.

Coming Up Tomorrow: Perfectionism

Mid-Week Reflection: Finding the Lesson

When we go through tough times, we can sometimes come out distrustful, bitter, angry, or even resentful.  We probably have all had a circumstance or two that got us to a place where we could only see the negative.   And when we thought about that situation, the same negative feelings would resurface as if it happened yesterday.  But imagine what would happen if we got the lesson out of the situation and not the anger and pain?  Sometimes the best lessons come from our worst mistakes.  When I look back at the valuable life lessons I have learned such as the value of friendships and living life to the fullest, these lessons were all learned as a result of a bad decision or the pain of losing someone.  Losing someone close to you can teach you the importance of making each day count. 

During this time that many of us are being quarantined, many would consider this a “worst time”.  But even during this time, we can learn the value of family and the importance of togetherness. We can learn that the things we considered vital are just trivial in the grand scheme of things.  I challenge you to find the lessons in what you consider your worsts.  What are some of the life lessons that you have learned during your worst times?

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Special Needs Parenting: My Wish List

Before I get started, let me first tell you that this is going to be a very personal and candid post.  As you may or may not know, I am the parent of a 12-year-old who has an autism diagnosis.  As a parent of a special needs child, I experience certain frustrations that come along with having a child that has additional and specialized needs.  The following is my wish list that is based on my experiences but may be shared by other parents in the special needs community.

I Wish There Were More Recreation Options for Children with Special Needs.  I wish that I could just pick a sport, any sport that I feel my son would enjoy and just sign my son up.  My son requires a sports team that has buddies for the children that can assist them with actually playing the sport and those options are few and far between.  This sentiment could also be made for things like summer camps for special needs children that are either very expensive or have hours that are not conducive to a parent that works a full time job like myself. These camps are often either half day camps or camps that are not open every day. Not having access to recreational activities or camps restrict my son’s ability to make friends to only the people that he meets at school.  Recreation is a great way for kids to get physical activity as well as a way for kids to make friends while having fun.

I Wish Resources were More Accessible.  The best schools, therapy options, and recreation activities are in the more affluent areas.  Parents, like me, who live in more moderate-income areas have to drive quite a distance to ensure that our children receive the therapeutic, educational, and recreational opportunities that are necessary for their success.  My son is fortunate because we have a reliable vehicle and can travel to these places.  But what about the mother that can manage to keep her child fed and a roof over their head but does not have a vehicle to get to therapy or to a specialized school that is best for her child?  She wants the same opportunities for her child that the mother in the more affluent area wants for hers, but it is not as easy for her to get to it and that is not fair.

I Wish I Was Not So Worried About His Future.  Now, I already know what you are thinking – all parents have this wish.  And you are right, all parents do have this wish.  I have this wish for all four of my children, but it hits different with my 12-year-old.  I want my children to make good decisions that will lead them to have happy and productive lives.  For my 12-year-old, I work hard now to assist him with acquiring independent living skills so that he is not a burden to anyone.  My hope that if he is not perceived as a burden, he will not be mistreated.  I talk to my other children all the time about looking out for him to ensure that no one takes advantage of him or try to become his caretaker just to get access to his benefits once I die or if I become unable to advocate for him.  They all agree now but I also know the reality is that they will have their own families at some point and may not be as vigilant as I would like. This thought leads me to worry more than what is probably healthy.

Being the parent of a special needs child has required me to make modifications to ensure that my son has the same opportunities for recreation and education as his siblings.  Some barriers are reflected in this list but special needs parents are just like every other parent – we love all of our children and have no issues with walking the extra mile or fighting the extra battle to ensure that each of our children gets what they need. 

Are you the parent of a child with special needs? What would you add to this wish list?

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