Last week I found myself in the ER with my 7 year old son. He hit his head on concrete while playing, hard enough to draw blood. Things moved pretty quickly as I pulled him into the car and drove to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Pretending Not to Be Freaked Out By The Crimson Red On His Head
I admit, I don’t like the site of blood, especially when it’s that deep crimson kind. This was exactly the kind that was coming from the gash on my sons scalp. As I was driving, my head swirled with worries about all the possible outcomes, while doing my best to seem enthusiastic in keeping him engaged in conversation about his favorite topic: Pokemon.
Thank God For Pokemon!
The one thing I gratefully remember from my college anatomy and biology class, was the importance of noticing drowsiness or sleepiness after a head injury. Remembering this helped me to think up questions about what little I knew of this cartoon fascination of his. In asking him questions regarding the “evolutions” of characters and details of “leveling up” I was able to gauge moment by moment where he was at in terms of attentiveness, as nothing lights him up more then to answer questions about Pokemon
A Storm of Feelings Building Up
We arrive to the emergency room and while Im rubbing his back to soothe his frightened sobs, Im answering the nurse’s questions at the front desk. In one of the pauses in our exchanges, she stopped to quickly type away at her computer and I became aware of how loud my head was pulsing when…it happened. With one glance it was as if my biological pause button was pushed and everything swirling within me, came to a screeching halt.
What did I catch view of?
A single string of white beads that lined my wrist. Yes a string of fake pearls that in those few seconds afforded me a precious pocket of silence that was just enough to noticeably loosen the knot in my stomach.
What in the world would a bracelet have to do with gifting me a tiny oasis in the panic inducing situation such as that one?
An Oasis In A Bracelet
The bracelet on it’s own is nothing fancy. I have often paired it up with a variety of colored crystal and lace bracelets to match whatever I’m wearing that day but it’s had a very specific function for me in my day to day life aside from the ornamental aesthetics.
I have a relationship with those fake pearls as weird as that sounds.
I made a choice years ago that I needed to make it as easy as possible to practice self care in big and small ways and that bracelet was one of the small ways. I decided that I would use that bracelet as a way to practice gratitude in the in between pockets of time throughout my days. Practicing gratitude I decided was a small way to practice emotional/mental self care
How did I use it you might ask?
I’d run each bead through my pointer finger and thumb while stating one thing I was grateful for, one bead at a time. I’d muster up the effort to do this while:
Driving in traffic
Waiting in the drive-in line at the bank,
Waiting for my turn for a job interview,
Tending to one of my son’s many fevers in the middle of the night,
Sitting in my coach seat waiting for the plane to take off
Watching the trailers and announcements before the movie at the theatre
Using Gratitude As A Ladder Out of Many Funks
It was this same bracelet that had helped me climb out of worry, fear, feeling stuck or sadness countless times. Most mornings, I wore this bracelet because it went with everything I wore and with the intention to use it as a fashionable tool of self care.
While there was no room in this situation for me to sit in a corner and run these beads through my fingers for the one thousandth time, simply looking at the beads, pivoted my attention to the moment and looking back, helped me stay open to the most favorable outcomes.
By simply looking at those beads every now and then through the moments I was …
…navigating the insurance protocols with the practitioners ,
…soothing my son while answering his panicked questions in a filtered way that was honest yet minimized his fear
…coaching him through the head stapling process
…my thoughts were continually lassoed in and kept from projecting into the future or raking over what should have been. It was not the beads themselves that had this effect, but the relationship I had built with those beads over the years. My brain associated those beads with a very specific meaning and purpose and while I could not engage with those beads in my habitual way, simply looking at them pulled me away from being drawn into what would of been my reality, years ago, of unproductive panic.
I seized many moments in the past as opportunities for mini- self care sessions and on this particular day, all of those accumulated mini-sessions paid off in a beautiful way by carrying me through a hauntingly intense time.
Big Results From Tiny Steps
Once again, I’m brought to the awareness that small steps in making change is not only the most sustainable way to maintain self care efforts in the long term, but there is the accumulated benefit. Having a gratitude bracelet is different than simply carrying a lucky charm because the time spent deliberately practicing gratitude has a more profound effect then simply adorning oneself with something that one thinks brings luck
The Brain Science On Gratitude
The effect of having practiced gratitude consistently, science has backed up, actually rewires the brain. My looking at those beads is more than recalling a memory of many moments spent in gratitude, it’s an activation of very specific parts of my brain that induce me into a higher functioning state of awareness. Read about some of the science here at Psychology Today and here at Inc.com
Staying Loose, Open and Alert
I was able to talk with the nurses and ask for things that I know would relax my son better in preparation for the staples and inquire about what we needed to do, to get the services we needed so we could leave asap.
Years ago I would of tailspinned into paralyzing worry and anxiety.
Sharing The Gift With You
Gratitude relaxes us and gives us access to more of our brain and buffers us from triggering the instinctual flight or fight response. Although my weekly rhythm of blogging once a week was missed for the first time since I began this blog, last week due to my son’s accident and the care he needed, I couldn’t wait to share with you the big gift that came from this to tiny self care tool.
How do you help yourself into practice gratitude?
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I’ll be going on a much needed vacation starting next week and taking a break from blogging. Until then sending you love, a reminder to take care of yourself and a big thank you for stopping by!