Monday, June 10, 2024

Play It Out

When one of our kids was in elementary school they had an IEP.  One of the written allowances was extra time, or no time limit at all, when it came to test taking or projects. Being on the clock caused his extreme anxiety to kick into high gear and he would either shut down and nothing would get answered or he would just guess at everything just to get done. (Or on more than one occasion he would take off running!)

The older I've gotten, and the more in tune with my own anxiety I have become, I have seen the same to be true with me. No, I don't rush to bubble in whatever random answers will finish the task the quickest, but being on the clock for sure triggers my anxiety. Whether I am on my way to an appointment or cooking dinner in the kitchen, when I have a certain time limit restraining my freedom I feel trapped and paralyzed. 

When the child I mentioned before was going to counseling, his therapist worked with him at trying to look ahead, far ahead of the task at hand, to the final outcome. This would help to level the playing field a little bit and would help eliminate the "what's gonna happen if..." question that causes the anxiety.

I have thought about that a lot over the years. I have tried to begin to do this myself too, since me and my child are so much alike! And honestly, this practice has helped to counter countless anxiety-inducing fears over the years.

For instance:

Let's say I am on my way to an appointment and traffic has the arrival time on my GPS creeping up minute by minute. I begin sweating and my breathing becomes shallow (I know this seems a bit excessive to those of you who do not struggle with anxiety), but in that moment I cannot control any of that. But what I can control is the mental battleground that is causing my body to respond this way. I begin walking forward in time and mentally role-playing the scenario out. Traffic has me walking into my appointment 5, 10, 15 minutes late. What happens next? 

This actual scenario has happened. Last year. I walked into my appointment and literally started crying when the person at the counter said I was too late and they gave my appointment to someone else, and "when would be a good time to reschedule"? I wanted to say, "Never! I need to have my appointment today and be done with it!!!"


What happens when I proactively walk this out though is that I can settle into that option being a pretty good chance at happening BEFORE getting there and falling apart. I can call the office and tell them I'm running behind and see what my options are before getting any farther down the road. Or maybe I show up late and the front desk checks me in anyway and I walk right into my appointment.

But in either one of these outcomes everything really is ok. I have either had my appointment and it's done. Or I have to reschedule, which is for sure a nuisance, but again, it's done for today and I am ok.

This next one happened today. This week is hair week for our ethnic-haired beauty and we have a new thing we are doing. I was so nervous about it because I want my daughter to like it and I want it to be what she wants, but I was doubting my white mama skills in executing it the right way. I also know I have other responsibilities this week, because you know...being a mom... and doing hair typically takes about 8 hours of my time. (yes, you read that right)

So I'm sitting here starting to get all worked up, wondering if I'm going to actually be able to get it all done in time, especially since it is new hair. And here it comes again...the reminder to take a deep breathe and walk out all the scenarios. In this one, I alone am the one trying to put time restraints on this to-do. We gave ourselves plenty of time (we've learned a lot over the years) before she goes off to camp or have any outside obligations. This allows us to work in stages. So what if I don't finish it today or tomorrow like I am wanting to? Why can't I squeeze in another hour here and there throughout the week? Nothing will happen to her, to me, to our family if the hair doesn't get done in the next 2 days like I'm making myself feel like I need to.

This practice works like a charm when trying to herd little kids around. Early on into parenthood I decided that I would always try to NOT be in a hurry with the kids. Because, as every caretaker knows, for some reason as soon as a kid senses that we need to hurry they begin moving like they are wading through molasses and this mama would lose her ever loving mind! And that is not the mom I want to be. (This also clearly becomes a recipe for disaster to my aforementioned child who struggles with feeling like he has to be in a hurry!) So I would practice looking forward. What if we don't get to the grocery store and then back home in time for the nap that will ensure a happy heart at the event I'm playing this evening. Nothing. Nothing would happen. I might have a slightly grumpy baby from a late nap, or no nap. I might have to rearrange the rest of my afternoon. I might even have to cancel something. But the day would go on and it would be OK.

I KNOW this is easier said than done, but the next time you feel the heat rising in your body or the fear and anxiety bubbling just under the surface, try to stop, take a breathe and start looking forward.

And most of the time, life will just go on.

There might be a need to pivot the day or some of your other plans.


Everything will be ok.

And in those rare circumstance where something terrible does happen, God is in that too. You can give that to Him.

He promises to provide because he truly does care about the best for us, even if the scenario ends in the worst case scenario.

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