Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rebecca's No Good, Very Bad Day Turn Around

I woke up one morning last week and before I had even rolled out of bed, I realized that my day was going to be completely different than the one I envisioned before I went to sleep last night.  A series of text messages greeted me with things I needed to take care of that I just hadn't anticipated. That followed by several emails I wasn't expecting with more things I needed to do.

My head began to spin. I wanted to just go back to bed.

My house hadn't burned down. There was nothing catastrophic. But I was rattled. My to do list had just more than doubled and I had challenges I wasn't sure how I was going to work out yet, including needing the Harry Potter wizardry required to be in two locations 25 miles apart at nearly the same time. At rush hour. During tourist season. On the Gulf coast of Florida.

Now normally, I am a really good problem solver. I take pen to paper and write out everything that needs to happen and I work it out. Or I just stare at Facebook for a while until I'm ready to move forward.

But I had a full day planned already. Between clients and work with colleagues and events with my kids, I didn't have time to just stare idly at my computer. Drats.

One of the things I've learned through all the years I've been teaching brain-based, relationship-centered information that is now in my book Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families is that when we're dysregulated (not in a calm, rational place), we need connection and contact with other people. There was a very, very long time in my life where it was just too painful for me to reach out when I was having a hard time, so I've had to learn how to do this. It doesn't come naturally for me. But I've had enough practice now and had enough wherewithall to pick up the phone and reach out to a good friend to talk it through once I finally admitted that I was getting nowhere with the piece of paper. (Or Facebook)

I found myself lamenting, as I often hear my clients do, about how there was nothing catastrophic, so why was I feeling like such a mess? Why couldn't I do this by myself? I didn't see the reason I was so out of sorts. Why couldn't I just pick myself up and move on? I hadn't had breakfast and it was nearly 11am. My thinking was cloudy. My desk was a mess. I couldn't find papers I needed. But my friend didn't judge me. He didn't tell me that I was being unreasonable. He simply said, "It sounds like you're on that yellow thingie you talk about in your workshops."

Yes, yellow light. Emotional brain. I couldn't think clearly because I wasn't firing on all cylinders. When someone is on a yellow light, I advise everyone slow down and just stop for a little while. Going full speed ahead, while it is what we cognitively think is the best idea, will only lead to more trouble, more dysregulation.

Just yesterday, I had a mom who shared a story about when her daughter was on a yellow light. She knew it was best if they just stay home because her daughter was having a hard time, but that "rational" brain took over and she found herself, with her child now in a full-blown tantrum, getting on the bus to go to their scheduled activity. They didn't make it far before she realized it was not going to work out and they got off the bus to walk back home.

I listen to my clients and learn from their examples. Well, I'd like to think I do, anyway.

I found myself asking out loud, "What do I need when I feel like this?" My wise friend simply said, "I'm not sure what you need." And then he was quiet and he waited.

Finally, in that silence, I knew that I needed a hug. I needed to be in direct contact with someone who cared about me. It's always a risk to reach out to someone else. I found it interesting that Lissa Rankin wrote about this very topic that same day in her newsletter (vulnerability vs neediness). I knew what I needed and I knew there was a chance that the person I decided to ask may or may not be able to meet that need at that time. But I've learned over the past few years that it is important to ask. If I don't ask, no one knows what I need and no one is going to meet that need.

So, I held my breath and asked.

Turns out it was doable. I got my hug, was held for a little while, and then I was able to go on with my day, fully emotionally present. Not just getting by or compensating, like I would have otherwise done.

Connection really does heal.

I write about how there is nothing more important than relationships. But I live it, too. Sometimes it isn't very pretty, but that's not what is most important. The most important thing is that I embrace myself and my journey and all the messiness that goes along with it.  After all, this is Consciously Parenting, not Perfectly Parenting.

What an important experience this turned out to be for me! As I think about my kids and the bad days they occasionally have, it does help to remember that sometimes we all just need some quiet time with someone who cares about us. A hug, some down time, a snuggle, a nice foot rub, like my 9 year-old likes after a hard day, can all make the difference and completely turn a "bad" day around. It's like an emotional band-aid. Balm for a wound.

What do you do when your life gets messy? What do you do that turns your day around? Please share with us in the comments below.

1 comment:

Morning Seeker said...

I just found your blog by accident. Phenomenal. Best part? I'm in bradenton, were basically neighbors. But to your article: when my day is messy, I breathe, or get some coffee, or take a "mommy-time out". But I'm noticing more and more that maybe, I just need to hug my little crazy men. I think the thing that scares me is when I try to turn my day around and it doesn't work. You know, when the coffee doesn't get rid of the stress-headache or the hug doesn't take away my anger when the three year old leaves my arms to hit his brother for the fifth time. When these things don't work, we pile in the car and go somewhere different. And if a change of scenery doesn't do the trick, we go to our only relative in town, and she often gives me the needed help. And if it doesn't, at the end of the day, I remember that tomorrow is new.