In part one of the series I talked about having an awareness of how our bodies deal with chronic stress and that life’s challenges can force us to check our temperature gauge to see if we need to make any adjustments.
The term regulation became a commonly used word in my family and circle of friends after the sensory related issues with Charlotte were uncovered. My husband and other adults friends of ours felt that we could relate to the dysregulation that we had all seen Charlotte experience. In our world, this looks like an inability to deal with her environment…tantrums, screaming, unable to complete tasks like going potty, getting dressed, following directions, etc. It takes sensory regulation in the form of therapy, sleep, diet, and routine to get her back on track.
We began to use the word liberally and have conversations about what we do as adults to keep ourselves regulated and comfortable in our own environment. Again, having an awareness of our own states of dysregulation and how we adjust leads us to how we ultimately manage our stress. How do you handle stress? What states of mind or activities help you feel your best, or regulated?
What do you know about yourself?
I know that I need to sleep at least 8 hours per night. This is no-brainer, right? It’s important to stop and rethink the importance of sleep. As moms, we push our DVR/to-do list into our children’s sleeping hours all the while pushing our adrenaline up and sleep patterns out of whack. I wouldn’t have survived my adrenal issues if I hadn’t made sleep a priority and let go of any expectations of staying awake past 10pm.
I know that I have the need to spend time away from my kids in order to regulate myself. After the birth of my first daughter, Dana, I struggled with mild PPD until I returned to work part-time. Making space in my brain for my own challenges, relationships, and goals is crucial to my mental health. Blogging anyone?
I know that I need to stay away from sugar, breads, and empty calories. I have always had a fast metabolism and low blood sugar issues. In order to feel comfortable and sleep well, I need to eat higher fat and protein foods that keep me full for longer. I heart bacon.
I know I need exercise but I also know that I get very tired when I exercise too hard. I need to exercise, and I love my routine of walking, yoga, and Pilates. When I recently tried to add a high-intensity hour-long cardio yoga, I was sore and exhausted even after several weeks of classes. Sadly, kicking ass in CrossFit will have to wait.
Are you really tired of being stressed out?..okay, then. Make. Some. Changes.
I’m going to use my teacher voice here with you, beause this is important. You deserve to feel happy/sane/calm/in-control. Find out who you are and what makes you feel good. Take action to regulate yourself.
(Don’t worry, you’re not turning this into anyone….unless you want to…if that’s the case and you’re a SAHM missing your old working-world days, pretend you are going to be asked about your stress level at your Year End Review.)
Here’s what my Taking Action looked like…
I realized that I felt better when I ate Paleo food, I slowly eliminated all of the foods that were making me feel less-than-great. It only takes a few weeks of eating clean food to realize the differences you are making. Lots more on that here, here, and here.
I scheduled my week to attend Pilates and Yoga classes when my kids are at school. I set up a 2-mile walking loop near the center where Charlotte takes therapy. I have learned to respect my body and it’s limits when it comes to exercise.
I communicate my needs (without whining) for having a girls’ night or date night with my husband. I also have a babysitter who watches my kids basically whenever I need her. My time away is crucial. It was important for me to recognize the feelings of anxiety I feel from being smothered by the needs of my kids or trapped in my own home. I let go of the guilt and do what I need to do to feel better. See one of my favorite blogs Momastery for some hilariously-written permission to take time for yourself.
Regulate yourself so you can regulate your children
Our children need us to help regulate them. Even typically-developing children need regulation in the form of routines, consistency, and attention. Special needs children may demand even more effort from their parents for effective regulation. Recognizing your child’s need for regulation is crucial for their development, but recognizing your need for regulation is crucial for your health and well-being.
In Part 3 of the series, I’ll discuss how our thoughts create our stress. It’s all in your head. Really.