4 Real truths about anxiety that will instantly calm your child

Anxiety has played a big party in my life.  Not only because I’ve experienced it first hand (and it has actually been one of the reasons I ended up doing this for a living), but because I see varying degrees of it on a weekly basis in my coaching practise. If left, anxiety can manifests itself as:-

  • over-thinking
  • constantly worrying about things that never happen
  • feeling unsafe and needing constant reassurance
  • not eating
  • not being able to relax or go to sleep
  • refusing to go to school
  • not wanting to be without a parent or adult
  • stunting emotional growth and independence
  • being sick or having a tummy ache / headache or similar
  • panic attacks or feelings of helplessness

Getting anxiety under control is easy when you know how

As a Coach, I have uncovered some truths about anxiety that means it has no place in my life. It works with my clients too.

fred sleeping

Let’s take Finlay.  Earlier this year, his Dad’s car was stolen off the driveway. Traumatised by the incident, 8 year old Finlay was unable to go to sleep by himself.  His Mum said “He was really petrified of burglars and wouldn’t go to sleep alone. It was very stressful and although we felt we’d tried everything; nothing worked. He was beside himself and so anxious.”

His Mum went onto say “From the moment Finlay met Lisa, they connected.  Lisa understands kids really well and how to relate to them. Week by week we saw the progress. The sessions were really fun so Finlay was always happy to go and see Lisa – it was never a chore.”

It took just 5 weeks to stop the anxiety

The coaching was a mixture of drawing, talking and setting goals with rewards.  I discovered that Finlay is a great footballer and scoring goals to win is important to him. He also enjoys reading Horrible Histories  because they are about fighting soldiers who win.  Armed with this vital information, Finlay and I set to work with a big A3 pad and a box of Sharpie pens.

Finlay drew a huge battle field.  For the enemy he drew five big burglars (he didn’t really know how many burglars there were but this is how he saw them in his mind – they had very ugly scary faces).  For Finlay’s army, he drew a combination of friends, family, footballers and wrestlers.  In the middle of the battlefield was the ammo Finlay’s army required to win.  He drew his iPad, night light, his breathing exercises, his positive thoughts, lots of happy memories, the picture of Mummy and Daddy that he started to keep by his bed, his Powersuit (actually they were Batman pyjamas but hey they had special powers don’t you know?!).

“You are not going to let those burglars beat you, are you?”

They are robbing you of your sleep!” I would gently tease. Motivated by winning and becoming big and brave like the soldiers in his picture and ‘Bingo!’ the desire to change appeared.  Next, we set goals of how many nights Finlay would go to bed by himself.  Week 5, Finlay turned up  to coaching successfully having slept every night (except one) alone in his bed.  Yey!  The reward was watching his team, Manchester United play Arsenal at Old Trafford (nice reward – thank you Daddy!).  His face was a picture and he said he felt happy.  Mummy and Daddy were happy too.  They had also invested in a burglar alarm to safeguard the house.

We’ve seen such a huge transformation. He now sleeps alone which has made a huge difference to our family life. My husband and I can share a meal and spend time together again in the evenings.  Finlay’s sleeping has improved, so has his behaviour, his school work, and his zest for life. He got Start of the Week at school today and for all of this, I can’t recommend Lisa enough!”

The truths about anxiety that will help you and your child

I’m saying you and your child because if your child has anxiety, there is an extremely high chance that you or your partner have it too.  So it would be unfair to expect just your child to work on their’s without you or your partner having a go too.

It has been said that humans have approximately 50-60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of those thoughts are the same ones that we had yesterday.

This means we are feeding ourselves the same information over and over again.  And what if that information is negative and no good for us?

lisaishavingathink

Truth #1.  Anxiety Begins With a Thought

Yes, it is a favourite Coach saying:  ‘You create your own reality with the thoughts you think!” and nearly all my work stems from this powerful knowing.  How so? Let’s break it down.

It’s the thoughts which come first.  They create the feelings or emotions which in turn create the action  or  behaviour.  You can apply this simple model to any behaviours that do not serve you or your child.  Here are some examples:

thoughtsfeelingsactions

THOUGHT  I can’t do my spellings, they are too hard I’m going to get it wrong

FEELING  I’m feeling anxious and worried

ACTION  I don’t do as well in my spelling test because I’m feeling tense and worked up or I start a fight with my friend because I feel grouchy

thoughtsfeelingsactions

THOUGHT  I’m scared of the dark, everything is unsafe and scary

FEELING  I’m feeling terrified and alone

ACTION  I don’t sleep very well or take a long time to go to sleep and my school work suffers

Truth #2.  You Are In Control

When we feel as if things are happening around us, we can feel out of control and sometimes we turn into a victim.  When we are a victim of circumstances, we are passive.  We are also abdicating responsibility for our feelings. ‘That makes me scared.’ Does it? Well you can change that in a heartbeat.  You can be accountable and know that you can do something, anything…..even if that is only the way you think about it (see truth #1).

What if I told you that your  brain doesn’t know the difference between what it imagines and what is real? OK, stay with me because right now,  I want you to close your eyes and imagine there is a spider crawling up your leg.  If you are scared of spiders then I can guarantee, that you are feeling a little scared right now.  Of course, there is no spider and it’s all in your mind.  Yes that’s it, it really is all in your mind.  So at all times, you are telling your brain what to think.  If you tell your brain over and over ‘I’m safe, I’m Ok, Everything will be fine,’ it will become your truth.  Consequently, you will generate feelings of being safe and your body will respond accordingly – i.e. be in a relaxed state. 

lisaisscaredofthedark

Truth #3.  Anxiety is Energy

We are in control of it.  It is not in control of us.  We are bigger and stronger than our thoughts and feelings and we are in control of them (see truth #2).  Anxiety is our body’s flight or fight response to thinking or feeling we are in danger, but like any emotions or feelings, it is merely energy passing through our body. Nothing lasts for ever and so just like the ocean, our emotions rise and fall like waves.  If we can be accepting of all the emotions our body experiences and learn to sit with them (breathing and mindfulness help with this) knowing that they will pass, will make a huge difference to how we see anxiety.

Truth #4.  It’s What You Call It That Matters

Anxiety is a name that we have given to something that makes us feel afraid, out of control, scared, panicky (fill in the feeling it gives you or your child when they think of the word).  So it’s about calling it something else that feels lighter and not so overwhelmingly horrible.

I once coached a little girl who hated doing homework.  She said to me ‘Whenever I hear Mum say that word ‘homework’, I feel myself getting angry because it means I have to stop playing.” So we called her homework ‘Me Time’.  It meant that she had some time to herself to learn more so she would do well at school.

The associations we have with words, songs, smells, food evoke powerful thoughts and feelings inside of us which cause us to behave in certain ways (see truth #1).  What could you call anxiety that wouldn’t feel so bad and that would also feel as if it was something that was manageable?

I call it ‘having a wobble’ which feels like a small thing that I can manage.  Another client of mine compared her anxiety to a naughty puppy dog that needed training and once she knew that she could train it, she found it amusing.  That’s a far cry from those horrible, scary overwhelming feelings.  She even made friends with her anxiety!  I’ve also learned that too.  My wobbles are part of who I am and I can’t change that, but there are plenty of things I can do to help myself (no victim mentality remember as you are always in control).

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