Let It Go with These Antianxiety Tips
Looking for ways to help your child be less anxious? What about ways to become less anxious yourself? When it comes to stressors, do you wish you could "let it go"?
Here are some anti-anxiety tips that might help.
Watch an uplifting video. This video of a little girl playing in the snow while dressed in a sparkly Frozen costume and listening to the music is sure to delight you. My son and I love silly cat videos, but we also love funny movies and will rewatch scenes like Olaf summarizing the plot of the first Frozen movie again and again.
Get in touch with nature outdoors. Is it snowing or raining outside? Dress for the weather: Here in Wisconsin during the winter, layers are king—I prefer to wear a long down coat and leg warmers over my pants legs rather than long johns, but to each his own). A rainproof cap with a wide bill to keep the water off your face and a long raincoat can make rain less annoying, and your child might love some cute rain gear. Buy it new or at a rummage sale or thrift store to have on hand. Walking around in nature outdoors can be extra fun if you keep a list of things to look out for—an oak leaf, a yellow flower, a mushroom, a stick shaped like a Y, the bird you hear singing her song, and so on.
Get in touch with nature indoors. Research shows that natural sounds and having plants and animals around can reduce stress levels. Play recordings of gentle lapping waves, a rainforest, or birds singing. Get some indoor houseplants and perhaps some stands to be sure the plants are high enough to catch the light from a window (southern exposure is best). If you can't have a furry or feathered pet, consider an aquarium.
Use breathing techniques to cue the nervous system to calm down. You and your child can practice calming breathing techniques like these or these to use in a stressful moment, but every time you use them, you're helping the brain to learn to be less emotionally reactive and anxious. Create a habit of using them, stacking that habit onto another. Maybe every time you are about to exit your car or sit down to take some medication or nutritional supplements, you/your kids use that breathing technique.
Use a visual helper to focus on self-calming. Observing the glitter in a homemade or store-bought snowglobe that's been shaken up slowly and gently settle can be very calming.
Learn meditation and meditate. There are many types of meditation. Find some that work for you and your child. I especially love mindfulness meditation because it's so easy to do: You sit comfortably, lose your eyes, focus on your breath, and keep refocusing as often as necessary. (The work of drawing your attention back to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling gets easier the more you do it.) And here's a tip if you dislike sitting meditation: Do a little physical exercise first so you're a little more relaxed and can focus on your breathing for more than a second and a half. Hey, maybe you can stay focused for all of two seconds! Then it's three, then four... Honestly, practicing it will make it easier to stay focused over time and even if you're just a beginner, meditating for a few minutes can be very calming.
Practice mindfulness. In addition to mindfulness meditation, there's mindful walking (do it super slowly, focusing on your shifting weight), mindful chewing (try it with an orange slice, a piece of chocolate, or really, any food, focusing on the taste and textures and sensations), and mindful listening (hit a brass chime or gong, close your eyes, and listen until you can no longer hear it).
Learn yoga and do it. Kids often love doing yoga, and you and your child can do it together.
Use positive self-talk. Read the book The Little Engine That Could together with your young child to start a conversation about what you and your child can say to yourselves to self-calm when you feel yourselves becoming anxious. A child or an adult could say themselves, "I think I can, I think I can" over and over, "I got this," "It's all good," or "Breathe. It's okay."
Create art. Drawing and painting, or even coloring in a coloring book, can help alleviate that anxious feeling. So can pounding and sculpting clay.
Be aware of what anxiety feels like in your body. Pay attention to what it feels like in your body when you're anxious. Help your child to do the same. Talk about how to catch yourself early, before your anxiety gets too big and out of control. Talk, too, about what it feels like in your body when you're calm. Have conversations about what helps you feel calm. As a parent, you can say to your kids, "Oh, I'm glad I turned that TV program off and put on some music instead. I feel much calmer when I sing and dance along to this music. I have to remember to do this more often." Let them see what you do to manage your anxiety and stress.
Listen to or play mood-changing music. That might mean calming music and it might mean music that shifts you into a happier mood, or music that lets you get in touch with your grief or sadness. Music is great for shifting your mood. Pair it with movement—dancing along with a song, even a sad, slow one—can help you express your emotions in a healthy way so that you feel less overwhelmed. Playing a musical instrument can help you express your emotions and shift them, too. If you don't know how to play, bang a drum or sing, using your body and its vocal chords as your instrument.
Look into nutritional interventions for treating anxiety. Trudy Scott's book The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution can help you learn about how nutrients such as magnesium, 5HTP, GABA, and more can help with anxiety. You can discuss these interventions with a nutritionist and physician to make sure that whatever you use is right for you/your child.
Address any sensory issues. Sensory issues can often set off an anxious reaction or make anxiety worse, so be sure you learn about ways to address sensory issues, set up and work with a sensory diet for your child, use heavy work, and more. The award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child is full of sensory smart ideas and strategies for helping you and your child with sensory issues.