How to have a Stress Free IEP:
Step One: Maintain positive expectations.
Whoa, wait! What if I miss something if my head is in the clouds with positive thinking? There is so much to think about and worry about! If I’m not on top of this, who is going to be? That may work in your world, but not mine!
That would have been my response several years ago. Three kids under three, one with special needs, and I was fueled by stress. Stress was working for me, it kept me up and running, and on top of things. Until one day, I bonked!
I just broke down and cried one day but I didn’t know why. I can do this, I can handle it, so why am I crying? What is wrong with me? I knew all this stress was taking its toll on me mentally and physically, and I knew I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how. I was scared that if I let go of the stress, I would miss something critical. I needed to stay on top of my son’s needs to give him the best opportunities in life. If I let go of stress, wasn’t that being irresponsible?
One day, while at the library with my kids, I happened upon one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books, “The Power of Intention.” I remembered reading “The Road Less Traveled” way back on my pre kid working days, and really liked the spiritual aspect of it. So, I flipped through this book and found it very easy to read, and very uplifting. I decided to borrow it, and was soon hooked. This book was exactly what I needed, and I went on to read many more of his works.
I learned that I couldn’t wait around for things in my life to change. I had to change my thinking in order to change my environment. Holding on to blame, anger and stress, no matter how justified, was only holding me back from receiving the positive results I desired.
Replacing stress and anger with positive expectations is not easy, but I knew if I continued to hold on to stress, it would continue to decrease my quality of life, and eventually lead to serious consequences with my physical health. So, even though every day it is easy to fall back into old patterns of stress, I know that if I make the effort to change my thoughts to those of positive expectations, the results will always be worth the effort. I have found the best way to maintain a positive mindset is with meditation.
I now meditate for 20 minutes at a time, and it zips by, but it didn’t start that way. I decided to start meditating for 2 minutes at a time, and this is how: Sit upright, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Count your breaths as you inhale slowly, hold your breath for a beat, then count as you slowly exhale. Do this for a few moments until all you think about is your breath. You will have thoughts that enter your mind as you are doing this. When they do, do not give them any emotion, simply observe that they are there, then visualize them floating away on a cloud. It’s important not to give your thoughts any emotion, good, bad or otherwise. Simply watch them float away. (I was always nervous I would fall asleep, so I set an alarm and that allowed me to relax)
When you have successfully reached a point where you are only counting breaths with very few intruding thoughts, bring up a picture in your mind of the IEP (or the situation that you are feeling stressed about). Visualize yourself smiling and satisfied with the results. Don’t worry about the details of how you got there, just imagine all is positive and you are feeling satisfied. Now that you have that mental picture, internalize those feelings of well-being. If that is difficult, remember a time when you felt all was well and going in a positive direction. Let those wonderful emotions flood your body and sit with them until you feel enveloped in them. Now visualize surrounding everyone in the situation with love. Yes, even that person you can’t stand that always seems to be standing in your way and blocking your success! Any anger and blame you hold will be blocking you from the positive results that you desire. Remember, this is for you and your child, not for them, so go ahead and do it! Surround every single person involved with an aura of love. Watch all the stress, anger and blame evaporate as everyone is enveloped in loving feelings of good will.
Slowly open your eyes, but remember that feeling and that picture. What is important now is that you maintain those feelings as you go about your day, no matter what should unfold. If a stressful occurrence happens, simply excuse yourself to go to the restroom, outside, or anywhere you can have a few moments of privacy, close your eyes, and bring back those positive feelings.
I’ve found, whenever I let go of the stress of the details, and hold the feeling of a positive result, the IEP goes amazingly well, and things happen I never would have planned myself to bring about a positive outcome.
This does not mean I sit around with my eyes closed and hope everything works out for the best. Quite the opposite. When I maintain this positive mental image and state of mind, people are more cooperative and more willing to help me, and new opportunities present themselves that I act on.
This has worked so well in having successful IEPs for my son, I’ve extended this way of thinking to all areas of my life. If I find myself angry with someone or filled with stress about something, I close my eyes and surround this person with love, or visualize myself smiling that the situation worked out. I don’t think about the details of how it came about, I simply visualize being satisfied with the end result. Then, I go on with my days, maintaining this positive image. It’s not always easy when there are bumps in the road, and that is why I read a few spiritual passages every day and meditate to keep me on track. I have found this effort of maintaining a positive state is always worth the results.
Raising a child with special needs is a very rewarding experience, but it can be filled with a lot of unpredictability which can lead to high stress levels. This is one way I’ve found to be very effective in reducing stress and bringing about positive results, and I share in hopes that you will find it helpful, as well.
All the best,