In a previous post Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I shared the importance of building your own toolkit and your child’s toolkit for coping with anxiety. The focus of that post was on learning how to calm down the body by changing your breathing.
In another earlier post, I shared one of my favourite techniques for containing and placing a time limit on worries and anxiety, entitled The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety. While this strategy is very helpful for children, it can also be adapted for parents and teens by for instance, writing anxious thoughts and worries in a journal.
So now that you have a good foundation, let’s add some more helpful strategies to your toolkits.
Strategies to Calm the Body and the Mind
Practice mindful breathing by focusing on what happens in the body on the inhalation and exhalation. Notice the cool air entering your nostrils and warm air exiting your nose as you exhale. Notice your chest rising and falling. Just BE in the present moment without trying to do anything.
Take a mini ‘mental vacation’ by visualizing your favourite special place (e.g., a beach, a river, or vacation spot). Use your senses to help recreate the experience. Think about what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you feel, etcetera. Close your eyes and just imagine being there for a little while. Encourage your child to draw his or her favourite place and describe it to you.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation by tensing different muscles and then letting them relax completely. For example, tighten your hands into fists, squeeze for 10-15 seconds, and then let them open. Notice all the tension draining from your hands. For an anxious child, teach them to imagine they are squeezing all the juice out of lemons. You can also try tightening different muscles in your body, holding it for 15 seconds, and then releasing. Pay attention to how your muscles feel when they are tensed and when they are relaxed.
Take time for yourself. There are many ways to be good to yourself even if it is only for a 15-20 minutes. Enjoy a warm bubble bath or hot shower and let the water soothe and relax you. Try savouring a nice cup of herbal tea or warmed milk. Or, simply close your eyes and take a cat nap. Children can also learn to slowly drink a cup of hot chocolate.
Exercise. Go for a walk outside in the fresh air, practice yoga, or engage in a physical activity you enjoy. Encourage your anxious child to go outside and play, shoot hoops, or kick a ball around.
Get organized. Make a schedule and a “To Do” list so you don’t have to keep thinking about what tasks you need to accomplish. After completing an item, scratch it off your list.
Get distracted. Many activities can be great sources of distraction to take your mind off your worries. Some ideas include: Read a fiction novel. Draw or paint. Build or create something. Write poetry or a story. Bake or cook. Listen to music. Play an instrument.
Spend quality time with a friend, loved one, or cherished pet. Sometimes we just need to connect with others and be together. Talk together. Laugh together. Play together.
Hugging also helps to relax the body so go ahead, give a squeeze, and hold it for a few seconds longer than you normally would. It really does feel good, doesn’t it? Even simply putting your own hand on your heart can help your body to soften and help you to feel better.
Will you try these strategies? Please let me know how they work for you, your child, and your teen. Be creative in how you adapt these ideas for someone of any age.
What other strategies do you use to cope with anxiety? Consider making your own list of “Go To” activities and strategies to try when you or your child feels anxious or stressed. Please share your ideas below.
As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.
P.S. If you are looking for some books about anxiety, please refer to the previous post Recommended Books for the Anxious Child and the page Recommended Books for Parents. You can also browse the table below.
Image at top courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
Image at right courtesy of artur84 / freedigitialphotos.net
Image at left courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net