1. Identify what is triggering the anxiety and what it feels like in your body.
-Ask your child what they feel in their body when they are feeling anxious and when and where these feelings arise. For example, do they get butterflies in their stomach, do they start sweating, do they feel like crying, does their belly start to hurt, do they have to go to the bathroom. Getting children to recognize what anxiety feels like in their body allows them to take the next step in relieving that anxiety by doing things they know will calm them down. We encourage our students to give these feelings a name so they can identify with these feelings more easily. Students in the past have used, the "willies", the "bubbles", and "frozen legs" to name a few. A silly but memorable name works best.
2. Use your inner voice to calm your mind.
-Our inner voice is one of our most powerful tools. How we talk to ourselves is one of the loudest voices we have. "I am so strong", "I can do this", "I am so smart", "I am awesome", "just take deep breaths", or "I am a King/Queen!
There is a mantra for every occasion and what we need to tell ourselves changes from moment to moment. Our inner voice can help to calm these feelings of anxiety by counteracting them with positive reinforcement.
3. Use relaxation tools to release the anxiety.
Once these feelings of anxiety have been identified, the next step is to allow the student to make a choice and decide how they are going to handle their feelings. By Identifying their emotions, they are being mindful and present about what is happening right then and there. They can choose to keep stressing and making these feelings worse, or they can remind themselves to breath, use their mantras, or any of the other tools they have readily available within them to calm the anxiety. A few options that we teach are breathing techniques, finger mantras, tense and release, and visualization. There is no wrong or right one to use at any given time, it is up to the student to practice these methods and decide which works best for them in certain situations.
4. Share Success stories with each other and allow time to process and reflect on them.
Be sure to have conversations with your child about times they were able to calm their anxiety or recognize it. Even recognizing it is a success, even if their feelings got away from them! Celebrate these stories and encourage positive reinforcement for the times they used these tools. Share your own stories of when you were able to deal with stress and anxiety and what you did. Or simply when you were kind to someone else or someone was kind to you!
5. Don’t Give UP
Mindfulness takes practice, it may not always work exactly as you want it to the first time or every time. The important thing is that you keep trying these tools until it becomes a habit! Nobody is perfect and just as we train our bodies for physical activities and sports, we have to give the same care to our minds! If we are consistent in the practice the stronger our minds become and the easier it is to let these feelings of stress and anxiety pass through.