Friday, September 9, 2011

Stay Out of Bad Neighborhoods (in your mind) and Mindfulness

Stay Out of Bad Neighborhoods (in your mind) and Mindfulness

As an autism parent, worry is never far from one’s thoughts. My wife and I have been attending a Mindfulness group for parents of kids with special needs. It’s part of a research project and they measure our stress levels several times (saliva samples to measure Cortisol levels, blood draw, and periodic questionnaires) over the course of the six week program. The group focuses on learning various techniques related to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. There’s a lot of Buddhist influence, but the gist of the training is to get us more focused on living in the NOW, which is where our life actually happens.

This is hugely beneficial to anyone parents a child with special needs. All too often we live in the past (did I cause this, what if I had done this treatment, what if I had done so and so when my child was younger) or the future (what will happen when I am gone, what if my kid wanders, drowns, is abused, etc.) Just getting more accustomed to spotting these thoughts is very helpful in bringing us back to the present. We often take something and “add to the story” to the point that we are focusing on the worst possible outcome. A saying that has been bringing me back to the present when I start down the auto-pilot path to doom and gloom is “STAY OUT OF BAD NEIGHBORHOODS.” Dwelling in the worst scenarios and replaying them over and over again robs us of the present moment, which in reality is all we have to work with.

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