I’ve been treading water rather unsuccessfully over these past few months – which is why you haven’t heard much from me. Even though I’ve regularly told myself that I’ve been swimming really well through my daily challenges – almost at Olympic level – I truly have not been. In fact, I’m really not even that great of a swimmer ~ so instead of swimming, I’ve been treading water as I try to balance the challenges of life as a special parent with the challenges of well……life.
How about you? Are you treading water as well? Or are you swimming?
While many of us as special parents tend to experience one or the other at some point along our parenting journeys, a lot of us will most likely spend a disproportionate amount of time treading. It’s how we survive the often chaotic waters of our lives and get through the NEXTS: that next surgical appointment; next diagnosis; next IEP meeting, next specialist appointment, next therapy session, next misunderstanding about our child, whatever it may be. We’ve become experts at treading our preemie and special needs waters so well but,given the nature of treading, we’re not going anywhere.
Definition of Treading: ‘A technique swimmers use to stay in a vertical position in the water while keeping their head above the water’s surface.’
Three (3) things that can be detrimental to you when treading:
- You’re stuck – you don’t move forward and/or to safety.
- You’re pretending – we’re kind of fooling ourselves because with treading, you have the appearance of calmness on top (your head above the water) while your legs are feverishly working/fluttering underneath.
- You’ve lost hope – treading is temporary (& downright exhausting) and leaves us asking: How long? What else?, etc. It’s simply not the best way to manage your life in the long-term.
As a special parent, it’s really tempting (and easier) to tread just to get through it all. I get it ~ and treading sometimes is not a bad thing ~ actually it’s pretty healthy because it gives you a little reprieve/safety net within your situation. Treading all or most of the time though is not good.
So I want to give you two (2) things to try that will hopefully help you stop treading and start swimming (i.e. moving forward)!
1) Start Centering
Centering is an ancient technique that helps you to stay grounded by focusing on the here and now and not on any potential negative or unknown thing that may lie ahead. As soon as you wake up, before you even get out of bed to start your day, do the 1st step of centering yourself which is: deep breathing. I want you to try to do it like this to get the most benefit:
- Lie on your back
- Place one hand on your stomach
- Take a deep breath in through your nose
- Use this breath you’ve just breathed in to push against your hand (NOTE: your shoulders and chest shouldn’t move, only your stomach)
- Exhale slowly and deliberately through your mouth
Do this 5 times– and as you do, focus on breathing out (i.e. eliminating) any anxiety you may be feeling about your day ahead. As you get the hang of it, you may also try incorporating ‘centering breaks’ throughout your day and at the end of the day before you go to bed. For now, I want you to just focus on doing it in the morning.
2) The Art of “No”
Try saying it now: “noo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo” – kinda hard, huh? It’s funny that most kids have this word down packed and don’t have a problem at all with saying it. They are very mindful and protective of their space and things. Why do we lose this ability when we become adults?
Many times we know intuitively the situations we need to say no to ~ even as the word yes is somehow mysteriously coming out of our mouths. Saying no may help to minimize some of the overwhelming feelings you are having and give you back some of your power that you have unconsciously given away.
So I challenge you to consider this: before you say yes or commit yourself to anyone or anything ~ pause~ and ask yourself these three (3) things:
- What will I gain by saying yes? [benefit to you]
- What will I gain by saying no? [benefit to the other person(s)]
- What will happen if I say maybe? [checking the urgency of the situation]
Honestly answering these will help you figure out where you need and want to spend your time and energy…..and where you don’t.
Over the next couple of months, I encourage you to try incorporating Centering and Saying No in your life and let me know how it goes. If either or both of these strategies helped you to start swimming a little more and treading a lot less ~ as a parent and a person!
Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below or drop me a note just to say hi! I look forward to hearing from you.