What I Learnt From Hot Rooms, Intense Smells, Heavy Purses, And Crowds …

This afternoon, I attended a visitation. I never anticipated that this visitation would make me think so much about self-regulation. Here’s what happened.

When I arrived, I met a few friends outside of the funeral home. While I thought that it would be busy, I didn’t realize that even minutes before the visitation officially started, there would be a lineup right out the doors and through the parking lot. Slow moving lines with lots of people cause me stress, but I chatted quietly with my friends that I haven’t seen in a while, and that helped. In a few minutes, we heard from some employees at the funeral home that the lineup was actually for another visitation, and we were escorted into a different room instead.

After connecting with the family members, we went to walk around the room and look at the photographs. All around the room, there were huge displays of beautiful flowers. My nose started to tickle. I got a funny feeling in my throat. I think that all of the flowers were causing an allergic reaction that just intensified as we made our way around the room. 

This is when we saw some other friends. We stopped to talk. It was great to see them (although I wish under better circumstances). Quickly, the room which was pretty empty when we arrived, was filling up. 

  • It was really stuffy in there.
  • My purse felt so heavy.
  • I was surrounded by people, and even more were coming over. People kept moving closer as they circled around the room.
  • There were more conversations. While I was chatting with some friends, I heard others behind me and beside me, and I kept trying to keep watch of the friends that I came with as well as others that came over to visit.

I took my purse off my shoulder. Why was it so heavy? First I put it on the floor. Then I held it in front of me. After that, I held it behind my back. Floor, in front, behind, repeat … Somehow the heaviness of the purse just made the room feel warmer, or maybe it was the increased number of people who made the temperature rise. Either way, I couldn’t stand still. I kept shuffling around. When the friends that I arrived with looked at me and said that they were going, I quickly headed out with them as well. 

We were probably only there for about 20 minutes, but it felt like hours. Thanks to Stuart Shanker and the Self-Regulation Foundations Courses, I know that many invisible stressors were at play here today, and all of them were making me feel dysregulated. Granted, I am an adult, and based on my continued learning about self-regulation, I did some things that worked well for me. 

  • I took a few deep breaths.
  • I tried to get engaged in a conversation so that I could forget about some of the other stressors around me. 
  • I went through the dialogue in my head about why I came: refocusing on what was important.
  • I moved into a more open area of the room so that it didn’t feel so crowded. 

But now at home tonight, I think about what happened today and I think about my students. Sometimes what dysregulates one person (adult or child), does not dysregulate others. If a child is experiencing multiple stressors in an environment, will he/she act out? If he/she does, will I take the opportunity to find out why? I think back now to behaviour that I’ve noticed in my classrooms over the years. When it’s only a couple of students experiencing difficulty, I wonder how often I reframe behaviour. Do I ask, “why this child” and “why now?” If I did, would the answers to these questions change my approach and ultimately change the child’s behaviour? I think that they might. 

I keep coming back to how I felt after such a short period of time today. I imagine what this would have felt like if I wasn’t in this room for 20 minutes, but 6 hours. This could be a classroom. I could be a student. And while the “adult me” might be able to articulate what’s bothering me, would the “child me” be able to do so? Would the “teacher me” take the time to ask? If my questions didn’t yield any answers, would I do some detective work to find out more? I definitely will now. Will you? 


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