Stress Secrets

Today, I physically felt my stress level rising. Our family has a lot happening right now. Not horrible things, just changes. Even so, a feeling of weight began to creep upwards through my chest. I had to remind myself to breathe.

What caused such a reaction? A combination of events. Tomorrow, I begin teaching at a new school. My daughter also begins her first teaching job. We are moving to a new house on Saturday. And my youngest son is starting college classes next week.

Each of the things listed is exciting! My new school is awesome! Our new house is beautiful, and the details will all work out. I’m proud of my daughter, just having a little trouble with the “mama bear” complex. And my son? I am still learning how to let go.

For a few moments today, I was unable to separate these events. It was as if they were all morphing into one big problem, a problem I could not solve. I took a few deep breaths. My head began to clear, and one beautiful thought entered my mind.

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of welcoming groups of new students to their music room. We will make connections, discuss expectations, and establish routines. We will play games, listen to music, and read stories. I will be exactly where I am supposed to be. ❤

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

Those other things will continue to be out of my control, and that is ok. If the stress begins to rise, I will remind myself to breathe. And if I’m still struggling at the end of the day, an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is sure to help.

I guess my secret is out. 😉

Inside my Head


Memories
Reminders
Fears
Prayers
Occur in a mere
Sixty seconds

Images
Lists
Problems
Answers
Circling thoughts
Take control

Whirling
Spinning
Crashing
Linking
Hypnotic space
Easily lost

Wake up!
Eyes wide
Ears open
Life surrounds

Be still
Fully aware

Face reality
Move ahead
Be engaged
Time's too short
To remain
Inside my head


Rollercoaster

A rollercoaster often starts out slow, moving upward, tension building as it climbs. Once it reaches the top of the first incline, the real adventure begins. Twists, turns, rolls, and spins jolt the whole body. Squeals and screams express excitement and/or fear, depending on the rider. Then it stops, just abruptly as it began. Cue feelings of relief.

When I was younger, rollercoasters were a thrill. Riding over and over, I would laugh and scream, loving that rush of adrenaline. That is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I once had an anxiety attack in front of my kids involving a rollercoaster.

We had taken a family vacation to Kansas City. A fun road trip which would include shopping, museums, eating, and an amusement park. The kids were excited. Each had a favorite activity on the list. And everyone was looking forward to the amusement park. Everyone except me.

Looking back, I now realize anxiety crept in before we even arrived in Kansas City. Any mention of the park would cause my stomach to nervously turn and tears would start to form. I would suddenly feel tense, my heart racing. And then I would push it all away, trying to breathe and focus on the activity at hand.

What I didn’t realize, was that pushing these feelings away did not get rid of them. It only buried them temporarily. And when we simply bury feelings, they are sure to resurface at some unsuspecting moment. When they do, controlling them becomes almost impossible.

We stood in line for a ride, the Patriot, I think. As we waited, I felt sick. I found myself taking deep breaths, working hard to keep it together. I told myself, “You are not being logical. There is nothing to be afraid of.” But I could not seem to accept what I knew to be true.

As we approached our turn, I didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were frantic, not making any sense. Once the gate opened for our family to take our seats, I couldn’t get on. Embarrassed, I said, “I can’t do this,” and walked through to the exit.

My tears could not be held any longer. I was so mortified. My family was having an adventure, and I was missing out. Not wanting the kids to see me so upset, I attempted to pull it together.

As my husband and the boys took off to ride more rides, my sweet Rachel hung out with me. We got snow-cones and sat and talked. She reassured me that it was ok. My embarrassment was not erased, but I knew my family understood.

I did manage to return to that ride before our day was done. Somehow, I pushed through the anxiety and rode the darn thing one time. Once was enough. I certainly cannot say I enjoyed the experience, but there was a brief sense of relief. A few minutes of overcoming the illogical which often accompanies anxiety.

Support of family and friends, medication, recognition, and prayer have helped decrease these feelings and make the remaining ones more manageable. It would be foolish to think I will never experience anxiety again. Since life itself is much like that rollercoaster, it is to be expected.

My goal is to continue learning how to live contently, despite events or circumstances. That includes times of grief and celebration. Recognizing that the rollercoaster does not control my reactions. That is on me. And admitting that I sometimes need a little help is the first step in beating those feelings of anxiety.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11

5th Grade Words of Wisdom

Why is it I’m so surprised when kids speak words of wisdom? Yes, sometimes it is difficult to catch amongst all the silliness and play. It seems to appear when least expected. Like today in the middle of Christmas Carol Bingo, for example.

I wanted the last few days before Winter break to be extra fun and relaxing. If I’m feeling stressed, I know my students are even more so. What could be more fun than Bingo? And when it involves Christmas carols, you can’t go wrong.

                                   Christmas Carol Bingo

My first class of the day is 5th grade. In the middle of our game, one of my students said, “Sometimes I have anxiety. There is so much to get done.” “Me, too,” I responded. “But sometimes music helps my anxiety.” This brief conversation, then the game continued.

It really was a fun class. We were singing along while we played. And of course, there are peppermints for prizes when one gets a Bingo. This first forty-five minutes of the day flew by.

Our game was over. All the marker pieces put away. Students were lining up to leave and face the remainder of their day. That’s when my friend from earlier walked over and gave me a hug. “I just wanted to say thank you, Mrs. Morris. I was having so much anxiety earlier, but now I’m not!”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Even as adults it can be difficult to deal with anxiety. First, we must recognize it, then find ways to cope. Maybe we can eventually learn to see it coming and feel prepared. But not kids. They need our help.

The funny thing is, in the process of helping my friend today, all be it unintentionally, his words actually helped me. I often talk about the power of music, the ways it can calm. I often forget, however, to utilize music when I’m feeling anxious.

These 5th-grade words of wisdom could not have come at a more appropriate time. Two days of school left before Winter break. Preparation for holidays and travel with family. Last-minute shopping. Joyful yet stressful times.

I think I’ll start working on my music playlist now. 😉

Here’s a good place to start. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/river/571368921?i=571369254

Baby Steps

My young friend at school who has severe anxiety and spends most of his day in the special education classroom gave me a high-five today! It was super quick. Our hands only touched for a second, but I believe it is progress. He still won’t speak to me, but I sometimes get a smile. He continues to allow me to put a music stamp on his hand at the end of class as well.

I know he has rough days at school and often indicates that he’d rather be at home. Yet he seems to be smiling more this year than I remember from the previous year. Last year he wouldn’t come to art, music, or P.E., but now attends all three. Most of the time he simply observes and that is ok. He is there, taking in what’s happening around him, participating in his own way.

His teacher and paras love him so much. They refuse to give up on him, recognizing his capability for so much more. Progress is definitely being made, yet it could be easily missed if not looked for intentionally. I see this progress as he smiles and quietly teases with his teacher. It’s a beautiful thing.

That’s exactly what was happening today after school. I walked over to him and quietly asked for a high five. He smiled but hesitated. I teased a little, “Oh please. Can I have a high five?”  Then his teacher chimed in, also teasing,  “Don’t you give her a high-five. You better not give her a high-five.” We were laughing, and just as I was about to walk away, I saw his little hand move toward mine.  I told him “Thank you” and walked away…grateful.

Grateful to make another connection with this precious child.
Grateful for the connections his teachers are making.
Grateful that the power of love can be witnessed in these baby steps.

Turbulence

During my young adult years, the thought of flying brought an almost paralyzing fear.  In my head I knew it was not logical.  After all, people flew all over the world every day.  Yet there it stood like a brick wall, ready to block my path to future travels and adventures.

The one thing I truly hated about flying-turbulence.  Even when the pilot would say, “Excuse me folks, please keep your seatbelts fastened, we are expecting some turbulence up ahead,” it still felt unexpected to me when it happened.  This sudden occurrence would bring anxious thoughts and a nervous knot in the pit of my stomach.

Deep inside I knew the positives of flying far outweighed this one negative.  Reaching a faraway destination quickly, viewing the clouds from above, seeing the sunrise as you’re landing-amazing perspectives almost impossible to experience except when flying.

As I’ve gotten older and flown more often, my fears have begun to fade.  Oh, I still get that knot in the pit of my stomach when those unstable winds hit, but it passes much more quickly these days.  I’m also glad to say I am now able to survive take-off and landing without tightly closing my eyes and taking a multitude of deep breaths…progress, right?

Flying out of Tulsa this morning I once again experienced this unsettling phenomenon. I began to think about how it compares to life.  As each of us travels our own path, we will without a doubt encounter turbulent times-those events which shake us, challenge us, frighten us, and cause us grief.  A move, job change, loss of a family member or friend.  The list goes on and on…and it is unavoidable.

Those thoughts left me with questions. How do I respond during those stormy times?  Do I become paralyzed with fear?  Have my responses changed with experience and maturity?  As to the last question-maybe-I hope so.  But truthfully, the answer to all those questions depends on the severity of the storm.

As I continue on my journey with hope for reaching my destination, I must learn to live with both the turbulent as well as the smooth parts of the flight.  Yes, oftentimes the journey will be difficult, but it will also be beautiful.  Either way, I must keep flying and believe that it will all be worth it in the end.

 

“Casting the whole of your cares (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”   I Peter 5:7

“For this God is our God for ever and ever;  he will be our guide even to the end.”     Psalm 48:14

Champion

What is a champion?  The word often brings thoughts of athletes, winning the ultimate game.  Webster’s definition includes warrior, fighter, defender, one fighting for the rights of others, and lastly the winner of a competition.  Although I like the order of those descriptions, there is much more to this idea of being a champion.  Or at least there should be…

Do I think of myself as being a champion in my role as wife? Mom? Teacher? Friend?   Truthfully, no.  But what if I did?  After all, each role is important and has the power to influence and encourage my family, friends, students, and community.  What if I consistently worked hard at improving my skills in each role?

The official music video for Carrie Underwood’s song “The Champion” (feat. Ludacris) does a beautiful job of expressing the broadness of this word.  Included in the lyrics are invincible, unstoppable, unshakable-mixed with images of hard work, honesty, integrity, and sacrifice.  People from all walks of life, facing every kind of challenge imaginable, working hard,  persevering.

I love watching my students’ reactions to this video.  Of course, the song is energetic and exciting.  They love to sing along.  When I ask what people they notice, the answers are all over the place-football player, swimmer, surfer, soldier, someone with cancer, a person with prosthetic legs-you get the idea.

What they don’t usually notice, however, are the students, teachers, parents-doing everyday things.  They are students.  As I like to remind them, doing school is their job.  But do they consider themselves champions in that role of being a student?  This is not a naturally occurring thought for them-or for us as parents and teachers either I’m afraid…

It’s never too late for a new mindset, right?

So where to begin?  The answer will be different for each of us.  For me personally, maintaining motivation is a constant struggle.  Lack of sleep, feeling tired, possibly getting sick-anxiety levels begin to rise leading quickly to negative thoughts-I don’t think I can keep doing this, am I a good teacher, have I been a good mom-a rapid, downward spiral pulls me away from the much-needed motivation.

Sometimes the spiral slows with a prayer, a deep breath, a confession of feelings to a trusted friend. Other times it requires tears, and possibly a nap.  Thoughts begin to refocus. A successful lesson, an encouraging word from a colleague, and a reminder that what I do has value, and therefore requires hard work.

Eventually, the search for motivation begins all over again, and I look for ways to make changes and improvements in my chosen roles. And who knows? Maybe there will be that moment where I feel like a champion.

Even better–maybe someone who crosses my path will feel like a champion.