Avoid Overwhelm with These Essential Strategies
When my son, Tim, was one day old, I looked down at him in my arms and felt petrified. He was tiny and helpless. I wondered how I’d ever cope. It’s normal for any new parent to worry, but, when your baby has an array of health and developmental issues, the fear is magnified.
That was 19 years ago. My baby grew up; along the way he’s struggled with a host of physical disabilities and with learning delays to match. He’s a SWAN (Syndrome Without A Name). He needs supplementary oxygen and extra help with his breathing at night. But, he does he lead a full, active life. He’s studying at an outstanding college, he smiles a lot, he has friends and he has fun
What I want to share with you are seven strategies that I developed to deal with overwhelm.
1) Remember to breathe.
When we get worried, we take quick, shallow breaths that do a poor job of oxygenating our brains and muscles. We get short of breath, which adds to our feeling of suppressed panic. Our child picks up on the uncomfortable atmosphere. Their breathing may also become fast and shallow. Therefore, remember to breathe. Here is a quick exercise that you can do any time: breathe in “Love” and breathe out, “Peace”. Say these words silently to yourself as you continue to breathe in and out. Your breathing will naturally slow down to a comfortable, healthy pace.
2) Visualize your child happy, healthy and well.
Give yourself a regular time each day to do this – perhaps when you’re sitting by your child as they go to sleep at night. Picture him or her, radiant with good health. Imagine this in vivid detail: pink, healthy color in their cheeks, a happy smile, strong limbs. Imagine it even if you don’t believe it. Say it or sing it to your child, like a lullaby: “You are happy, you are healthy, you are well….”
3) Give yourself rest.
I used to be tempted to finish jobs late into the night. But, one day a wise friend told me that I had to look after myself, in order to look after others. I finally got it. When you rest, your own native wisdom flourishes. It’s amazing how solutions to problems emerge spontaneously after a nap.
4) Find your support group.
The other babies in our wonderful local group did not have special needs. But Tim and I always felt included. We both enjoyed the feeling that we could have a good time, without having to worry about the next medical test. Nowadays there’s plentiful on-line support, with opportunities to meet like-minded people locally. You can also find, or start your own, local group through Meetup.
5) Nurture your relationships.
Tim’s dad and I almost broke up during the early months. We opted for relationship counseling through Relate. Gradually, we learned how to listen to one another without judgment, and how to support each other in developing our own interests. We still argue sometimes. But this verse by the mystical poet Rumi sums it up:
“Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
The same applies to all your loved ones: your other children; your parents, and parents-in-law. Find ways to be present for them. Find ways to accept help from them. Above all, appreciate them.
6) Value your child’s team.
Dame Kelly Holmes, the British medium-distance athlete who won two gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics, says she couldn’t have done it without putting together a team of experts – including a coach, physio and doctor – to help her reach her goals.
What works for an Olympian also works for you and me. My son’s team has included doctors, teachers, social workers, therapists, an osteopath and even, on one occasion, a great lawyer.
In a talk I attended, Dame Kelly confessed that her team also included two angels who, it seemed to her, actually held her up by the shoulders as she zoomed to the winning line. I love that sense of trust in a higher power. I hope your team also includes regular help from the divine – whatever that means to you.
7) Enjoy the present moment.
The past is over. The future has not happened. But this moment now, when you can cuddle your child, or talk to your partner, or have a laugh with your other children… these moments are real. Enjoy the simple pleasures contained in the present moment. They are life itself..
Suzanne Askham is a mother of two (one with complex special needs) and a meditation facilitator. She is the author of ‘Coping When Your Child Has Special Needs’ and is currently writing ‘This One is Special’ – her son’s story. Join the conversation at suzanneaskham.com
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2015 Magazine