Anxiety has a way of creeping up on you – getting louder & louder until you can’t hear yourself anymore. But what if you could harness some of that anxious energy and turn it into something more productive?
Donna Shea, Founder of the Peter Pan Center for Social and Emotional Growth, and Nadine Briggs, Director of Simply Social Kids, are the authors of I Feel Worried: Tips for Kids on Overcoming Anxiety. As kids aren’t the only ones who may be feeling a little anxious right now (hello, all of 2016!) we asked them how we can learn to cope with our worries – and strategies to prevent going down that awful rabbit hole in the first place.
- Learn to recognize the signs of anxiety and stress, particularly the ones that may not be the ones we commonly hear about. Anxiety and stress can cause forgetfulness, irritability, lack of focus, dizziness and a “floating” feeling.
- Most anxiety and stress is based on “what if” thinking rather than what is really going on. Anxiety is future-based thinking about unknown and potentially never-might-happen outcomes. It can be helpful to use mindfulness techniques to bring oneself back to the present.
- Focus on the good stuff. Create an attitude of gratitude and positive thinking. Write a list of things you are grateful for or that make you happy. Science has proven that positive thinking can change your thought patterns.
- Replace anxious thoughts with coping thoughts. Some ideas:
I can deal with this.
It won’t be nearly as bad as I think it will.
No one is perfect. It’s okay to be not perfect.
- Take a break and breathe. When we are anxious, our brain will cause us to want to either fight, flee or freeze. It’s helpful to take a break. Slow breathing will help calm the adrenaline rush. Try five seconds in, hold for five seconds and five seconds out.
- Create a “Nothing Box” inside your brain. This is a good one for nighttime when you are awake worrying and can’t sleep. Coax your brain into a place where it understands that nothing is going to get done about any of those worries in the middle of the night. Lock them into a Nothing Box to be taken out in the morning (and usually the light of day makes things easier to solve).
- What goes on in the news and social media can be, and currently is, very anxiety-provoking. Unplug from it and do something that soothes you. Bake, read a book, take a walk, garden, colour, or any other calming activity.
- Talk to a friend. Don’t worry alone. When you have talked out the worry, put it away.
- There are going to be unsolvable problems in life. Bad stuff can and does happen, that’s why we worry in the first place. Sometimes acceptance of that and creating ways to move forward from it is the answer.
- There are forms of anxiety that just do not respond well to cognitive-behavioral solutions. Anxiety can become overwhelming and your brain and body can get stuck in the fight or flight mode. Talking to a medical professional if anxiety does not abate may help you find relief.