7 Tips to Help with Anxious Feelings
Since March 2020 it seems that we have been living in an alternate reality. What first felt like an extended snow day slowly turned into a global pandemic with serious racial injustices happening around our nation.
As summer comes to an end and we are preparing to begin a new academic year, children and parents face new worries as they make tough decisions to have their child learn remotely from home or follow a hybrid model within their school buildings.
Here are 7 tips to help with anxious feelings, for kids (and adults!).
1. Know what the feeling looks like and feels like. Anxiety in children can show up as anger, lack of focus, defiance and difficulty sleeping. It is important to understand what takes place in one’s body when feeling anxious so it is easily identifiable the next time.
2. Practice Coping Skills. Practicing various mindfulness strategies and coping skills when kids are not feeling anxious helps them develop the tools for when they need to use these skills. Free to Be Mindful’s Mindfulness Classes for Kids help with this. Weekly classes are FREE and virtual for everyone’s convenience.
3. Positive Mindset. Practicing gratitude and initial positive thinking every day helps children notice the good things that are happening - and not just their anxious thoughts. Read more about implementing mindful gratitude here.
4. Visualization. Help your child picture positive settings and take steps on how they can be successful in the situation. Role-playing situations that seem challenging can also be beneficial.
5. Positive Affirmations. Help your child identify positive statements they can repeat to themselves every day. These statements can increase their confidence to try things which may challenge them. Some examples can include, “I am smart and kind.” “I can do hard things.”
6. Face Fears. Avoiding situations that don’t feel good reinforces avoidance as a coping mechanism. This can be a challenge when a child is school avoidant, for example, but it is necessary to face fears. Provide your child with emotional support as you try tough situations together. When necessary, elicit the support of school and mental health professionals as well.
7. Feel Success. Help your child identify and experience success in areas they enjoy. Building confidence in some areas can help with others. Also, celebrate the small wins as children take baby steps toward success in the area which challenges them.
When speaking about big emotions to children, it can always be more impactful to tie in literature. I personally love New Jersey native, author, illustrator and creator of The Worry Woos, Andi Green. Her book Don’t Feed The WorryBug is relatable to children of all ages. The main character, Wince, faces many worries, and notices that “The WorryBug” keeps growing the more he worries. This continues until he figures out what works and takes a firm stand against The WorryBug. The story helps kids create a strong mindset so they too can conquer their worries.
The Worry Woos are a perfect addition to any home and classroom library, and they are also a great resource for therapists to use with children. I personally highly recommend them! Check them out at https://www.worrywoos.com/.
We - adults and children alike - can all learn from Wince and The Worry Woos as we face a new academic year with new routines and experiences. Experiencing anxious feelings can be very overwhelming. However, working on mindset and practicing coping skills can help a ton for many “big feelings.” Of course, if anxious feelings get in the way of living a life of ease, seeking help from a licensed mental health professional would be beneficial.
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and a Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked with children and families for two decades. Vanessa is the owner and CEO of Free to Be Mindful - a private practice located in Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Vanessa is passionate about helping moms, kids and educators with mindful living, mental health and personal growth through efforts including:
Host of the Free to Be Mindful Podcast which provides bite-sized tips and guided meditations to anyone working with kids
Founder of Amiga Moms, a supportive network for 21st century moms offering educational events founded in mindfulness
Public Speaking and Professional Development for parents, educators and young adults on topics such as mindfulness, building healthy relationships with kids, self care, mental health and more.