Friday, January 17, 2014

Anxiety, swimming and letting go...

My friend Rachael and I were chatting the other day, and sometimes talking to her is like a confessional – she’s one of those friends you can tell anything to and it’s kind of, well, therapeutic. So we were covering all the random topics we tend to, toilets, weird words like weenis, basketball games and violin lessons, then we got to anxiety. Ohhh, that’s a big one. Because it’s everywhere.  It’s in me, it’s in her – it’s in our kids and in our daily life. I once a read a statistic that stuck with me, about 8% of kids suffer from some sort of anxiety; I would wager in our area it’s much higher.

Anxiety is tough. How much is too much? When do you worry about your worries? When do you let them go? Many a mom knows the empathetic feeling of that quick read in the moments that her kid is walking off the bus or to the car. We do a covert scan – are they smiling, do they look nervous, what was their day like? Happy? Sad? Anxious? Were there boy problems, girl problems, teacher problems, academic problems….? Then we can react accordingly. We can sooth them or say suck it up. We can say, yes, that sounds awful or maybe you could try to be a little more empathetic yourself.

Oddly enough, I just read this in Alea’s swim newsletter taken from Dr. Aimee Kimball, about zenning your thoughts. And we have a lot of thoughts in our house….boy do we! Though this in reference to swimming, I think it can be taken to just about any facet of our life, especially our general well being.

Accept and Release
 If you've ever taken yoga, instructors often teach you to focus on your breath or the muscle you are working. Zen thinking is very similar. Basically, if you have a thought that is irrelevant to your race/practice or detrimental to your performance, you don't judge it or dwell on it, you accept it as simply a thought and then let it pass quickly through your mind, returning your focus to the task at hand. For example, if you say to yourself, "What if I don't win? These other swimmers are just as good as I am," you wouldn't want to follow that by thinking, "Why am I thinking that?!?! I should be confident!! Maybe I really won't win. What would others say?...". Instead, you simply accept you had a thought, imagine it departing from your head, and focus on your breath/race/clear your mind. Don't give thoughts extra energy unless you want them to stick around.

I love this. We waste time on negative, irrational thoughts and so much energy. If only we could let them go so easily. But, really, why can’t we work on the letting go just like other activities. I work on my back hand in tennis and my forward fold in yoga. Alea works on her breast stroke and dive in swim and Kiyah on her double pirouette. So why not take the mental effort to work on letting the thoughts go. Mind you, there’s a big difference in letting them go and trying to rid yourself of them. For many of us, the thoughts are part of us, regardless of what they may be about. But they take us over when we give validity to them. I love this piece and how it advises the swimmer (or anyone) to accept the fact that the thought exists, and then let it go. Whether you imagine it leaving by giving it some sort of visual (putting it in an envelope and sending it far, far away) or physically throw or blow it away or even say something to it to bid it good-bye like (Ok, Thought, time for you to go) – let it go.

Believe me, I’m not making light of anxiety or repetitive thoughts- these can be scary, scary challenges. But I do think what has worked a little in my house at least is to acknowledge what’s going on. Don’t be afraid or ashamed, and then shoo it along.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Days and Dr. Seuss

It’s 8 AM on the first back to school after winter break. Here I am, sipping coffee in the quiet house, gazing outside into the oh so cold morning (record breaking cold at that) and the kids, wait, the kids are still upstairs asleep. Because of that record breaking cold, we get one more day of winter break.

I’ve discovered there are two schools of moms out there when it comes to snow days, cold days, weather days – no matter what you want to call them – two schools exist. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, either, just take a look at Facebook. That’s where you’ll find the pleas of the one group of moms begging the schools to take their children back, “Why close schools in single digit weather, that’s babying the kids,” they cry. Do they forget that not all kids get driven to school and some wait for the bus (unattended) in the wee, cold, dark hours of the morning? Do they forget not all southern kids have North Face jackets and enough winter gear to keep them safe on that wait?
The other side consists of the moms who relish the time their kids are home. They’ll bake cookies and create Pinterest worthy crafts, or maybe take 6 girls out to lunch or have a football game in their basement for the neighborhood boys, feeding them bowls of homemade chili. Or maybe some make up this side who just want more day to sleep in, avoid the rush for a bit longer and have another homework free night. Either way, they are the ones who send their county thank you’s via Facebook when the school closing announcements go viral.

So yes, another day of winter break. I love it when I’m up first and can savor those few moments of sleeping kids and quiet house. Right now, I climbed over boxes of Christmas decorations, remnant needles from the Christmas tree and laundry baskets full of clean pajamas to get to my computer without spilling my coffee. I’ll take this so called snowless snow day and enjoy one last day of winter break. Maybe the girls will clean their rooms or get an edge up on studying for what’s yet to come. Probably not. I doubt we will make that Pinterest craft, either. Well, maybe Kiyah will…And those days, even those snow days, of PBSkids and early bedtimes are long gone. There will be dance class and swim practice tonight regardless of closed schools and single digit temps. I’ll still have to hurry someone along and make sure bags are ready for the early morning tomorrow. But one more day, ahhhh…..thank you!

I’ll still be a tiny bit sad when I look at the boxes of Christmas decorations that it seemed we just took out. Will there still be excitement next year to decorate and pull each ornament out of the box and hang it on the tree? Sometimes I feel like time is a big game and we’ve got to learn how to play it the best way, savoring all of that time in between turns, even when it’s not your own or something exciting isn’t happening in the game. Time goes so fast, just like winter break, so an extra few minutes to play is welcome. They’ll get back to school, Moms, no matter which camp you’re in, don’t worry.

And I love this quote, it’s been playing a lot in my head these past couple of days as the holidays and 2013 have ended… as Dr Seuss says, “"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

So you probably figured out I’m in school two of the winter storm days…I love an extra cold day with my girls at home.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! (So I'm just a week late...)
May this year bring you all good health, beautiful moments and a grateful heart.