Sometimes when I’m sitting in class, I become overwhelmed. My head starts to spin and all of these thoughts come flying at me without much warning. Trying to focus becomes like trying to pin the tail on the donkey, after your friends have spun you ’round and ’round. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on where the butt is, the furniture from across the room enters your view. As far as I know, for me at least, there’s no way to stop this besides just letting it happen. Sitting/laying down helps, but that still doesn’t stop the ceiling from twirling.

I’m getting dizzy and nauseous just thinking about it — that’s basically what having anxiety in class is like for me. Just when you start to focus on what’s being said, an intrusive thought comes bursting through the door like an uninvited party guest. Needless to say, some days I find it really hard to focus on lectures. Which is a huge problem! I’m what educators would call an auditory learner, which means that although I can also learn by reading and sometimes prefer it, in subjects like math, history and computer science, I learn by listening.

In high school, whenever I took tests in history or math, it wasn’t the board or the textbook I was remembering; it was my teachers’ voices — the way they changed as they gave their lectures and examples. This also included remembering when teachers would make jokes, make grand arm gestures and repeat concepts. That technique got me through countless exams in high school and in college.

With an increase in my mood, I’ve also been experiencing a surprising amount of anxiety. Usually my mood and anxiety have an inverse relationship: when my mood is low, my anxiety is high; when my mood is high, my anxiety is low.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve recognized the need to get academic assistance. If I can’t focus in class, I won’t learn. There were many ways to approach this. I could increase my medication, I could increase counseling or I could go to the accessibility services at my school for help. I decided to go to accessibility service to find out my options, and with the support of my counselor we created an academic assistance plan. I was really surprised to find they had agreed that recording lectures would be beneficial. They handed me a smart pen, or Echo, and some paperwork (because there is always paperwork), and I was good to go. The smart pen will record lectures for me and upload them to an application on my computer, where the notes I take while recording will also show up.

I’m excited to see how this will affect my level of anxiety and am forever grateful the people at my school recognize how debilitating anxiety can be. But having this opportunity made me curious as to how anxiety is handled at other colleges. Sadly, it didn’t surprise me when I learned that many don’t recognize the ill effects anxiety and depression have on learning.

If you think you need academic assistance, seek it — go see a counselor or trusted advisor who knows your situation. Having a professional ready to go to bat for you will make the process a little easier. If your school refuses to give you help, your new counselor can give you tips and tricks to get you through classes and this experience. The way people perceive mental illness is changing — speak up, and help bring change to your part of the world.

Follow this journey on Adventures of Shy Girl.

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Let’s not sugarcoat it: Life can be hard for anxious kids. Even simple, everyday tasks can seem big and scary when they come with sweaty palms, a pounding heart and the feeling that something — anything, maybe even everything — is about to go horribly wrong. Anxious kids may feel like it’s their job to stop a disaster from happening, or even like they’ve done something wrong and need to fix it. That’s a lot to shoulder at any age.

But they’ve done nothing wrong; in fact, those anxious feelings have some hidden advantages. It’s kind of like having a secret superpower. Here are 11 interesting ways anxiety can actually be a good thing:

1. You are creative.

Often, the people who worry the most have great imaginations. You are able to see situations in new and inventive ways. Your imagination is like a muscle; the more you use it, the more creativity can come out of it.

2. You prepare your body to perform at its best.

Having a little bit of anxiety can actually help you perform better at all sorts of tasks, both physical and mental. It’s like having your own secret rocket fuel you can channel into highly effective action, especially if you use it to prepare beforehand.

3. You are observant (and self-aware).

A little bit of anxiety might just save your life because it makes you more observant about your surroundings and aware of what’s going on inside yourself. You notice things that other people are more likely to take for granted.

4. You are leadership material.

You take into account the possibility of multiple outcomes when making a decision–a characteristic of a great leader.

5. You are a good friend.

When you’re anxious, the entire world can feel like a terrible, horrible, no good and very bad place to be. But we promise, it’s almost always better than you think. In fact, researchers have discovered that people almost always think better of you than you expect, and your friends value your friendship more than you can even imagine.

6. You are trustworthy.

Even if people can see you’re a little flustered sometimes, they don’t mind because it shows that you care about the people around you and what’s going on. They’re much more likely to trust you than someone who’s completely calm and composed all the time.

7. You are prudent.

Anxious youngsters are considerably less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than less anxious peers.

8. You are people smart.

By virtue of constantly scanning the environment for threats, anxiety can make you more attuned to social and emotional signals of others. You’re an ace at figuring out who you can trust, and you’re also really good at seeing the value in other people, even if they don’t see it for themselves.

9. You can see right through lies.

Speaking of reading people: If someone lies to you, you’re probably going to see right through it. And hey, if you like playing poker? Some types of anxiety make you really good at that, too.

10. You practice and prepare.

It might feel like anxiety keeps you from thinking straight — but sometimes that’s actually a good thing. If you’ve trained hard for an exam, a performance or a sports match, a little anxiety can help you get out of your own way and let that training kick in.

11. You are brave!

It’s pretty cool that anxiety comes with all these hidden benefits, but let’s face it, when the anxiety comes on strong, life can still be pretty rough. Dealing with those anxious feelings requires a lot of courage and confidence, and that makes you one of the strongest people in the room.

Read more from this author at GoZen.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write the article you wish you’d found the first time you Googled your or a loved one’s diagnosis. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


I know I’m supposed to tell you about my struggles and how hard it is to parent with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). And believe me, at times, it’s so, very hard. Parts of it are ugly, tough and sometimes seemingly all consuming. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my journey to better understand and accept my chronic anxiety, is that it never hurts to look on the bright side. Learning how to implement small shifts in my perception have meant the absolute world to my journey with mental health, so I thought it’d be great to celebrate some of the ways my anxiety has helped shaped me into the mom I am today — an awesome one!

I’m sensitive. Even “too sensitive,” as I’ve been told! But it’s helped me connect with my children in a way I never thought possible. By being openly sensitive and not associating shame with my vast realm of feelings, I’ve made a safe, accepting space where my children feel like they can do the same. Emotions run high in our house and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We’ve learned how to be supportive through all sorts of feelings and we now know we can better navigate them together as a family.

I also talk it out a lot. It helps me to share my challenges and victories with my inner circle. And it’s also gotten my children talking, too. From the start, we’ve been using words to help them express their feelings. I knew my new found love of sharing was paying off when in the middle of an emotional meltdown my 3-year-old son was able to utter the words, “I’m just having a tough time. I need help.” It may seem tiny and obvious, but to me it was monumental. Open communication is key to my success with GAD, and open communication is key to ensuring my children can properly identify the depths of how they feel and share it with us, the people who care about their wellbeing the most. One my proudest mom moments for me thus far!

Living with chronic anxiety has given me perspective I sometimes take for granted. When you live in an ongoing battle of sorts between you and what’s going on inside your head (sometimes your body,) it reframes life and highlights the most important bits. Even in the depths of my anxiety, the most important things in life become crystal clear. Thanks to that, I truly know the value of a unconditionally loving and supportive family. My comfort, my joy, my support and my everything is my family. Living my life with those family values at the very core shows my kids just how valuable we all are to each other and I hope one day they too celebrate our family unit!

Though challenging, isolating and at times, terrifying — chronic anxiety has not only taught me many important life lessons, but it’s also given me a new found confidence as I learn to successfully navigate it. When we made the decision to have children, my own apprehensions about becoming a mother living with anxiety skyrocketed. I am so proud to report that with plenty of professional and social support, with a new motivation to cultivate personal growth with my GAD (something I think is important to model for my children) and with plenty of affirmation and celebration of small victories, I can truly say I’m proud of the mother I’ve become — flaws and all!

Tania hold us her baby with trees in the background.

The Mighty is asking the following: If you’re a parent with a mental illness, tell us about a time you tried (either successfully or unsuccessfully) to explain to your children about your mental illness/mental health issues. How did they react? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


For the last few years, this was the talk I most feared: standing in front of a 1,000 people doing a TED Talk about my panic disorder, and exploring its relation to the domestic violence I saw in my home as a small boy.

I finally gave that talkIt was among the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and I learned something important.

First, some background. 34 years ago, at the height of a three year-long struggle with panic disorder, I sat on a brown and gold shag carpet at two in the morning and hit bottom. I saw no way out and I marked that moment by screaming a weird, breathy, nightmarish scream. Then, just a few silent minutes later, a door opened – and instead of finding a way out, I found a way in. My life took on a completely different character.

What I learned that night led me to dedicate my career to exploring the concept of psychological flexibility and to developing a form of treatment — Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) — to help teach it. You’d think a whole career’s worth of work would have made it easy for me to share this journey with the TED audience.

It was anything but easy. It was full of anxiety, but not just that. Sadness. Feeling overwhelmed.

Here is what I learned from this experience.

1. Time does not heal all things, it just covers things up.

I was determined not just to tell a story. I wanted to revisit that very moment of hitting bottom – not by talking about it, but by going there.

I had not heard that scream nor made that strange sound in 34 years …but I could hear it in my mind. There was something almost sacred about it. It was the pivot point of my entire life.

I did not want to sully the moment by practicing it as one might a performance, so when practicing the TED talk, I skipped the scream. I would do that scream one more time in my life, and one more time only. I wanted to touch that moment of hitting bottom, and having nowhere to go. 

As the time for the talk and that scream arrived it loomed over me like a Death Eater from Harry Potter. My churning insides told me in no uncertain terms this was hard, regardless of how many years had passed.

2. Underneath anxiety is something even harder, and it is not enough just to know what that something is.

About 10 minutes before I had to go backstage, I asked my wife if I could share a few private moments with her. “I think I see something important,” I said. “It’s not the anxiety of this talk that I’m afraid of.” She looked at me quizzically, since she had seen me freaking out about this talk for months. “It’s that I’m afraid I will just get up there and cry so hard I won’t be able to give the talk at all.” She hugged me tight. “Even that,” she whispered “would be OK.”

The talk tells how that moment on the carpet led me to a long-suppressed memory of hiding under the bed as a child while my parents fought violently in the other room, and deciding “I’m going to do something!” and then, wisely, retreating farther under the bed, and crying.

Now I was going to tell that story, fully and openly. Even when I rehearsed the talk alone, I cried almost every time I told this part of it. Looking out over 1,000 people who would soon be listening to me, I wondered if it was possible to walk inside that sadness with open arms, and to hug that traumatized little boy while I listen to what he has to say.

3. Turning toward pain and suffering in a loving way is a precondition to turning toward meaning and purpose.

As I walked backstage, I opened my computer and made a few quick notes, just moments before I had the “Madonna mike” put on me. Here is part what I wrote down:

This is not for you, this is for others. Let your story go out into the world. It is OK if great sadness is there. Focus on the suffering in the room and in the world; be present; bring what you have to give, and give it.

Turning toward pain and suffering as an act of loving-kindness empowers bringing love and meaning into the world. That is my life’s work. ACT is one of the most researched forms of mindfulness and acceptance-based psychotherapy, with nearly 200 randomized trials and hundreds of studies of other kinds.

That doesn’t mean it is easy. In giving this talk I relearned the basic lesson of that night on the carpet 34 years ago: Anxiety is not my enemy. What we know about suffering helps us see the suffering that is in others; and taking the time to be present with ourselves allows us to focus on what we have to give, and to do our best to give it.

All rights reserved. A version of this article originally appeared on PsychCentral.com as “What I Learned About Anxiety by Giving a Talk on Anxiety.” Reprinted here with permission.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


As all the kids line up to go to school, your son Timmy turns to you and says, “I don’t want to take the bus. My stomach hurts. Please don’t make me go.” You cringe and think, Here we go again. What should be a simple morning routine explodes into a daunting challenge.

You look at Timmy and see genuine terror. You want to comfort him. You want to ease the excessive worry that’s become part and parcel of his everyday life. First, you try logic. “Timmy, we walk an extra four blocks to catch this bus because this driver has an accident-free driving record!” He doesn’t budge.

You provide reassurance. “I promise you’ll be OK. Timmy, look at me… you trust me, right?” Timmy nods. A few seconds later he whispers, “Please don’t make me go.”

You resort to anger: “Timothy Christopher, you will get on this bus right now, or there will be serious consequences. No iPad for one week!” He looks at you as if you’re making him walk the plank. He climbs onto the bus, defeated. You feel terrible.

If any of this sounds familiar, know you are not alone. Most parents would move mountains to ease their child’s pain. Parents of kids with anxiety would move planets and stars as well. It hurts to watch your child worry over situations that, frankly, don’t seem that scary. Here’s the thing: To your child’s mind, these situations are genuinely threatening. And even perceived threats can create a real nervous system response. We call this response anxiety, and I know it well.

I’d spent the better part of my childhood covering up a persistent, overwhelming feeling of worry until, finally, in my early 20s, I decided to seek out a solution. What I’ve learned over the last two decades is that many people suffer from debilitating worry. In fact, 40 million American adults, as well as 1 in 8 children, suffer from anxiety. Many kids miss school, social activities and a good night’s rest just from the worried thoughts in their heads. Many parents suffer from frustration and a feeling of helplessness when they witness their child in this state day in, day out.

What I also learned is that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety, there are a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it — many of which are simple to learn. Wait! Why didn’t my parents know about this? Why didn’t I know about it? Why don’t they teach these skills in school?

I wish I could go back in time and teach the younger version of myself how to cope, but of course, that’s not possible. What is possible is to try to reach as many kids and parents as possible with these coping skills. What is possible is to teach kids how to go beyond just surviving to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives. To this end, I created an anxiety relief program for kids called GoZen! Here are nine ideas straight from that program that parents of anxious children can try right away:

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child

Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, “Trust me. There’s nothing to worry about.” Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why doesn’t your reassurance help? Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won’t let it happen. During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex — or more logical part of the brain — gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:

Freeze — pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.

Empathize — anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.

Evaluate — once your child is calm, it’s time to figure out possible solutions.

Let Go – Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

2. Highlight Why Worrying is Good

Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose.

When our ancestors were hunting and gathering food there was danger in the environment, and being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don’t have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.

3. Bring Your Child’s Worry to Life

As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn’t help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can. Create a worry character for your child. In GoZen we created Widdle the Worrier. Widdle personifies anxiety. Widdle lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we’re in danger. Of course, sometimes Widdle gets a little out of control, and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Widdle. You can use this same idea with a stuffed animal or even role-playing at home.Personifying worry or creating a character has multiple benefits. It can help demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry. It can reactivate the logical brain, and it’s a tool your children can use on their own at any time.

4. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective

Remember, worry is the brain’s way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But I’ve found the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:

Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like “No one at school likes me.”
Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: “I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday.” Negating evidence: “Sherry and I do homework together–she’s a friend of mine.”)
Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

5. Allow Them to Worry

As you know, telling your children not to worry won’t prevent them from doing so. If your children could simply shove their feelings away, they would. But allowing your children to worry openly, in limited doses, can be helpful. Create a daily ritual called “Worry Time” that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box. During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry — anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.

6. Help Them Go From What If to What Is

You may not know this, but humans are capable of time travel. In fact, mentally we spend a lot of time in the future. For someone experiencing anxiety, this type of mental time travel can exacerbate the worry. A typical time traveler asks what-if questions: “What if I can’t open my locker and I miss class?” “What if Suzy doesn’t talk to me today?” Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.

7. Avoid Avoiding Everything That Causes Anxiety

Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse.So what’s the alternative? Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.

Let’s say your child is afraid of sitting on the swings in the park. Instead of avoiding this activity, create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal (e.g., go to the edge of the park, then walk into the park, go to the swings, and, finally, get on a swing). You can use each step until the exposure becomes too easy; that’s when you know it’s time to move to the next rung on the ladder.

8. Help Them Work Through a Checklist

What do trained pilots do when they face an emergency? They don’t wing it (no pun intended!); they refer to their emergency checklists. Even with years of training, every pilot works through a checklist because, when in danger, sometimes it’s hard to think clearly.When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.

9. Practice Self-Compassion

Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn’t wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child’s anxiety. Here’s the thing, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child’s anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not to blame. It’s time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child’s champion.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


It happens to every child in one form or another – anxiety. As parents, we would like to shield our children from life’s anxious moments, but navigating anxiety is an essential life skill that will serve them in the years to come. During my years of studying positive psychology and working as a life coach, I’ve developed many tips for the parents of anxious kids. In the heat of the moment, try these simple phrases to help your children identify, accept, and work through their anxious moments.

1. “Can you draw it?”

Drawing, painting or doodling about an anxiety provides kids with an outlet for their feelings when they can’t use their words.

2.  “I love you. You are safe.”

Being told you will be kept safe by the person you love the most is a powerful affirmation. Remember, anxiety makes your children feel as if their minds and bodies are in danger. Repeating they are safe can soothe the nervous system.

3. “Let’s pretend we’re blowing up a giant balloon. We’ll take a deep breath and blow it up to the count of five.”

If you tell a child to take a deep breath in the middle of a panic attack, chances are you’ll hear, “I can’t!” Instead, make it a game. Pretend to blow up a balloon, making funny noises in the process. Taking three deep breaths and blowing them out will actually reverse the stress response in the body and may even get you a few giggles in the process.

4. “I will say something and I want you to say it exactly as I do: ‘I can do this.’” Do this 10 times at different volumes.

Marathon runners use this trick all of the time to get past “the wall.”

5. “Why do you think that is?”

This is especially helpful for older kids who can better articulate the “why” in what they are feeling.

6. “What will happen next?”

If your children are anxious about an event, help them think through the event and identify what will come after it. Anxiety causes myopic vision, which makes life after the event seem to disappear.

7. “We are an unstoppable team.”

Separation is a powerful anxiety trigger for young children. Reassure them that you will work together, even if they can’t see you.

8. Have a battle cry: “I am a warrior!”; “I am unstoppable!”; or “Look out world, here I come!”

There is a reason why movies show people yelling before they go into battle. The physical act of yelling replaces fear with endorphins. It can also be fun.

9. “If how you feel was a monster, what would it look like?”

Giving anxiety a characterization means you take a confusing feeling and make it concrete and palpable. Once kids have a worry character, they can talk to their worry.

10. “I can’t wait until _____.”

Excitement about a future moment is contagious.

11.  “Let’s put your worry on the shelf while we _____ (listen to your favorite song, run around the block, read this story). Then we’ll pick it back up again.”

Those who are anxiety-prone often feel as though they have to carry their anxiety until whatever they are anxious about is over. This is especially difficult when your children are anxious about something they cannot change in the future. Setting it aside to do something fun can help put their worries into perspective.

12.  “This feeling will go away. Let’s get comfortable until it does.”

The act of getting comfortable calms the mind as well as the body. Weightier blankets have even been shown to reduce anxiety by increasing mild physical stimuli.

13. “Let’s learn more about it.”

Let your children explore their fears by asking as many questions as they need. After all, knowledge is power.

14. “Let’s count _____.”

This distraction technique requires no advance preparation. Counting the number of people wearing boots, the number of watches, the number of kids, or the number of hats in the room requires observation and thought, both of which detract from the anxiety your child is feeling.

15. “I need you to tell me when two minutes have gone by.”

Time is a powerful tool when children are anxious. By watching a clock or a watch for movement, a child has a focus point other than what is happening.

16. “Close your eyes. Picture this…”

Visualization is a powerful technique used to ease pain and anxiety. Guide your child through imagining a safe, warm and happy place where they feel comfortable. If they are listening intently, the physical symptoms of anxiety will dissipate.

17. “I get scared/nervous/anxious sometimes too. It’s no fun.”

Empathy wins in many situations. It may even strike up a conversation with your older child about how you overcame anxiety.

18. “Let’s pull out our calm-down checklist.”

Anxiety can hijack the logical brain; carry a checklist with coping skills your child has practiced. When the need presents itself, operate off of this checklist.

19. “You are not alone in how you feel.”

Pointing out all of the people who may share their fears and anxieties helps your child understand that overcoming anxiety is universal.

20. “Tell me the worst thing that could possibly happen.”

Once you’ve imagined the worst possible outcome of the worry, talk about the likelihood of that worst possible situation happening. Next, ask your child about the best possible outcome. Finally, ask them about the most likely outcome. The goal of this exercise is to help a child think more accurately during their anxious experience.

21. “Worrying is helpful, sometimes.”

This seems completely counter-intuitive to tell a child that is already anxious, but pointing out why anxiety is helpful reassures your children that there isn’t something wrong with them.

22. “What does your thought bubble say?”

If your children read comics, they are familiar with thought bubbles and how they move the story along. By talking about their thoughts as third-party observers, they can gain perspective on them.

23. “Let’s find some evidence.”

Collecting evidence to support or refute your child’s reasons for anxiety helps your children see if their worries are based on fact.

24. “Let’s have a debate.”

Older children especially love this exercise because they have permission to debate their parent. Have a point, counter-point style debate about the reasons for their anxiety. You may learn a lot about their reasoning in the process.

25. “What is the first piece we need to worry about?”

Anxiety often makes mountains out of molehills. One of the most important strategies for overcoming anxiety is to break the mountain back down into manageable chunks. In doing this, we realize the entire experience isn’t causing anxiety, just one or two parts.

26. “Let’s list all of the people you love.”

Anais Nin is credited with the quote, “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer.” If that statement is true, then love is anxiety’s greatest killer as well. By recalling all of the people that your child loves and why, love will replace anxiety.

27. “Remember when…”

Competence breeds confidence. Confidence quells anxiety. Helping your children recall a time when they overcame anxiety gives them feelings of competence and thereby confidence in their abilities.

28. “I am proud of you already.”

Knowing you are pleased with their efforts, regardless of the outcome, alleviates the need to do something perfectly – a source of stress for a lot of kids.

29. “We’re going for a walk.”

Exercise relieves anxiety for up to several hours as it burns excess energy, loosens tense muscles and boosts mood. If your children can’t take a walk right now, have them run in place, bounce on a yoga ball, jump rope or stretch.

30. “Let’s watch your thought pass by.”

Ask your children to pretend the anxious thought is a train that has stopped at the station above their head. In a few minutes, like all trains, the thought will move on to its next destination.

31. “I’m taking a deep breath.”

Model a calming strategy and encourage your child to mirror you. If your children allow you, hold them to your chest so they can feel your rhythmic breathing and regulate theirs.

32. “How can I help?”

Let your children guide the situation and tell you what calming strategy or tool they prefer in this situation.

33. “This feeling will pass.”

Often, children will feel like their anxiety is never-ending. Instead of shutting down, avoiding, or squashing the worry, remind them that relief is on the way.

34. “Let’s squeeze this stress ball together.”

When your children direct their anxiety to a stress ball, they feel emotional relief. Buy a ball, keep a handful of play dough nearby or make your own homemade stress ball by filling a balloon with flour or rice.

35. “I see Widdle is worried again. Let’s teach Widdle not to worry.”

Create a character to represent the worry, such as Widdle the Worrier. Tell your child that Widdle is worried and you need to teach him some coping skills.

36. “I know this is hard.”

Acknowledge that the situation is difficult. Your validation shows your children that you respect them.

37. “I have your smell buddy right here.”

A smell buddy, fragrance necklace or diffuser can calm anxiety, especially when you fill it with lavender, sage, chamomile, sandalwood or jasmine.

38. “Tell me about it.”

Without interrupting, listen to your children talk about what’s bothering them. Talking it out can give your children time to process their thoughts and come up with a solution that works for them.

39. “You are so brave!”

Affirm your children’s ability to handle the situation, and you empower them to succeed this time.

40. “Which calming strategy do you want to use right now?”

Because each anxious situation is different, give your children the opportunity to choose the calming strategy they want to use.

41. “We’ll get through this together.”

Supporting your children with your presence and commitment can empower them to persevere until the scary situation is over.

42. “What else do you know about (scary thing)?”

When your children face a consistent anxiety, research it when they are calm. Read books about the scary thing and learn as much as possible about it. When the anxiety surfaces again, ask your children to recall what they’ve learned. This step removes power from the scary thing and empowers your child.

43. “Let’s go to your happy place.”

Visualization is an effective tool against anxiety. When your children are calm, practice this calming strategy until they are able to use it successfully during anxious moments.

44. “What do you need from me?”

Ask your children to tell you what they need. It could be a hug, space or a solution.

45. “If you gave your­­ feeling a color, what would it be?”

Asking another person to identify what they’re feeling in the midst of anxiety is nearly impossible. However, asking your children to give how they feel with a color, gives them a chance to think about how they feel relative to something simple. Follow up by asking why their feeling is that color.

46. “Let me hold you.”

Give your children a front hug, a hug from behind, or let them sit on your lap. The physical contact provides a chance for your child to relax and feel safe.

47. “Remember when you made it through XYZ?”

Reminding your child of a past success will encourage them to persevere in this situation.

48. “Help me move this wall.”

Hard work, like pushing on a wall, relieves tension and emotions. Resistance bands also work.

49. “Let’s write a new story.”

Your children have written a story in their mind about how the future is going to turn out. This future makes them feel anxious. Accept their story and then ask them to come up with a few more plot lines where the story’s ending is different.

Read more from this author at GoZen

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