Tips To Calm An Anxious Child

” Imagine you are driving in the car. You look in the rearview mirror and see your child trying to shrink into her seat.

 

“What’s wrong?” you ask.

 

“I don’t want to go to the birthday party.”

 

“But you’ve been excited all week. There will be cake and games and a bounce house. You love all of those things,” you try to reason.

 

“But I can’t go. There will be lots of people there I don’t know. No one will play with me. My tummy hurts.”

 

Sound familiar? As a parent of an anxious child, you might regularly find yourself in situations where no matter what you try, what effort you make, what compassion you offer, or what love you exude, nothing seems to help quash the worry that is affecting your little one’s everyday interactions.

 

In my work with anxious children, I have found it tremendously beneficial for both parents and kids to have a toolkit full of coping skills from which to choose. As you know, every child is different and some of the tools described below will resonate more than others. When you pick one to work with, please try it at least two to three times before making a judgment on whether it suits your child and family.

Don’t Worry If You Always Worry

“For most people, worrying is a form of problem-solving where you look at challenges in the future and work them out before they happen, which can be constructive. Researchers call this adaptive worrying and have identified the top five areas that people worry most about: relationships, finances, work, lack of confidence and an “aimless future. But some people worry too much. Chronic worriers fret all the time, about everything. Pathological worriers are chronic worriers whose apprehension affects their functioning. They’re just as likely to fret over a real problem, such as a job setback, as they are to stew over something that may not be a problem at all, say the weather next week.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Get Grounded

Today I thought I would teach you about grounding exercises, which are a relaxation technique often used to help manage anxiety, fear, and trauma responses. It’s a process that’s easy to learn, and it’s something you can do anytime, anywhere.

If you’d like to try this exercise, sit comfortably in your chair or on the couch. Each of these steps should last for about 5 deep breaths.

1. First, start by breathing all the way into your belly. Just notice how the breath feels – is the air cool or warm? Is there an odor?  It doesn’t really matter, just notice whatever it’s like. (5 breaths)

2. When you’re breathing steadily, I want you to notice your feet. How do they feel? Are your ankles or knees crossed? Pay attention to the weight of your feet; notice which parts of your feet and ankles are touching shoes, socks, carpet, the chair….now allow your feet to feel heavy. (5 breaths)

3. Move your attention up to your legs and knees. Are the backs of your knees touching anything? What do your thighs and calves feel like? Are they pressing into the chair or couch? Again, you’re just noticing. Let your legs be heavy. (5 breaths)

4. Notice your hips and pelvis. If you’re sitting up, notice which parts of your body are touching the seat. Are you sitting evenly? Still taking deep breaths, let your hips become heavy. (5 breaths)

5. Now your back and shoulders… pay attention to how those feel. Do you notice any tension? How do your clothes feel? Are your shoulders hunched? Each time you breath out, let your shoulders sag a little more. Roll your head a little to notice your shoulders. Let your shoulders become heavy. (5 breaths)

6. Pay attention to your arms and hands. Are your hands linked, or your arms crossed? It doesn’t matter, just notice how they are. What parts of your hands and arms are touching fabric, furniture, technology? Notice your wrists, notice each finger. Let your hands be heavy. Let your arms be heavy. (5 breaths)

7. Finally, notice your face. Relax your jaw. Relax your scalp. Breathe deeply and wiggle your jaw. Is your face tense? Smile a little bit, puff your cheeks. What does your face feel like? Let your jaw get heavy, and yawn if you need to. Just notice how it all feels. (5 breaths)

8. Now bring your attention to your whole body. Your heart rate will have lowered, and if you were feeling anxious or uneasy, you may notice a slightly calmer feeling. As you wrap up the exercise, pay attention to what’s going on in the room around you, and reassure yourself that you are okay, you are safe, and you will be just fine. (5 breaths)

 

You can work through this in a meeting, in the car, in class, or laying in bed. You can use this when you feel overwhelmed, worried, angry, or insecure. Grounding exercises are an important tool in the emotional regulation toolkit, and the more you practice the easier it will be.

Now go drink a glass of water, and give someone a hug.

Anxious

Photographer Katie Joy Crawford recently released twelve self portraits that make painfully apparent what life with an anxiety disorder feels like. Haunting photos make real for the viewer the experience of feeling one’s voice strangled by anxiety, their mind clouded, and even what it is to actually feel an absence with you wherever you go.

““Anxiety bars the sufferer from the risk of discovery, the desire to explore new ideas, and the possibility of exiting a comfort zone,” she writes in the description of her project, ‘My Anxious Heart.’ “It makes sure that it will never be alone. It finds you when you’re in the midst of joy, or alone in your own mind. It is quiet and steady, reminding you of your past failures, and fabricating your future outcomes.””

See them here.