We know that when it comes to the challenges of raising children with special needs, managing stress can be a huge stumbling block. One of the most difficult aspects of stress is our perception of the world around us. The more negative our view, the more difficult it is for us to turn off the stress hormones that are affecting our health. According to Go Big Coach, Kristen Howe, these thoughts are called poisoned perceptions.
We know that stress isn’t going anywhere, so we need to establish a way of moving through it.
“Times of stress are also times that are signals for growth, and if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity.” – Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski
Reframing perceptions is something I’ve been ‘forced’ to work on while raising children with special needs. My boys are young adults now and I haven’t always been aware of how my fear was impacting future outcomes for them and for me… I got to the point that my stomach wrenched when the phone rang or when the answering machine (boy does that ever sound dated!) was blinking when I returned home. I was always expecting the proverbial sh** to hit the fan. I lived in a state of fear…
So, what is a poisoned perception? Basically, when you have negative expectations – your actions support these and then the negative expectations are realized. You say “I knew this was going to happen” and you now have proof that you were right. Is that not what you often end up telling yourself?
Essentially you become a negative proof-based magnet for failure – Call it an energetic mismatch for achieving your desired outcome. Thing is, we can drag our kids into this trap too!
I have heard this all before. I am sure you all have heard this, too. The answer, as I am also sure you have heard, is to change your thought patterns and beliefs. What is striking about this is that when you feel down, when you are feeling insecure or fearful about the challenges you and your child are facing – how do you possibly feel positive and create new patterns of thinking? We are creatures of habit and we know what we know.
So, if we have not had the experience of the positive outcome –
how do we change our thoughts?
The answer comes in two forms. The first is finding the energy to do things that are a risk. For me this came in a form of ‘letting go’. Instead of doing something big, (like letting a small child walk to school on their own) choose tasks that are small. For me this could have been ‘not going to recess’. (Yup, I used to go to recess for fear something would go wrong.) The best way to build confidence and shed the negativity is to succeed at a small task that you know you and your child can handle. All the small tasks can all be ones that can lead to achieving bigger goals, but instead of being overwhelmed by the size of the big goals, focus on what you can do now, to move toward achieving a big goal.
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran
Remember that failing at the little tasks does not mean you have failed at the big goal. It is just a piece of the plan and clearly not the right one. This is where the learning comes in. It took a while and I’m still reminded today – that when something goes wrong (and oh yes, they still do!) this is a time of learning for me and for my children.
Think of today as ground zero.
The second element that can be helpful is letting go of the past. Think of today as ground zero. The past does not exist. When old thought patterns creep into your mind, tell yourself “today I start at zero”. There will be many days where you are starting at zero again. Now depending on how bad your past is, you may want to consider doing this with the help of a professional counselor. But overtime, this process will gradually quiet the ghosts from the past.
With Support & Knowledge
We Can Accomplish More With Less Stress
Think about this as you are contemplating your life and what it will take to achieve your goals while you support your child in achieving their own. What is your mind-set? Do you engage in negative self-talk and what can you do about it? If your goals are big, try and chunk the steps down into doable actions tasks, or get some help – we can accomplish more with less stress, with the right kind of support and knowledge.
In Good Health!
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