For Kids
Helpful Strategies

Helpful Strategies

Many people think that we just have to deal with a lot of anxiety. That it’s a normal part of life and there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, that’s partially true. Anxiety is normal – we all feel anxious or nervous or scared and sometimes it can even be helpful. It makes us react when we’re in danger, or sometimes it makes us work harder or push ourselves more. But when anxiety gets too strong, it can actually stop us from doing the things we want. It doesn't protect us, it actually can make things worse. To fight back, we have to strengthen our Mind, Body, and Spirit. Here’s how we do it in cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT):
 
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, we learn that anxiety involves three things: 
  • your body
  • your thoughts
  • and your actions. 
     

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Mind

Ever notice how you think about things has a lot to do with how you feel?
 
Like, if you think “I’m going to fail my math test.” Then how would you feel? But what if you thought about all the other things that are true like:
 
 “This is going to be a really hard math test because I’m learning a new thing but it will get easier the more times I do it.” 
 
“Mistakes are OK – everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we learn.”
 
“OK, I’m not going to fail, but if I don't do as well as Id like, I’ll feel bad for a few minutes. Then I’ll probably try to figure out the things I didn't understand so I’ll feel more prepared for the next one.”
 
Anxiety can make us think that something bad is about to happen, and then make us believe that we can’t handle it if it does happen. It’s really like a bully – threatening something bad all the time. 
But what really happens? The thing we worried about is usually doesn't happen and even if things don’t go perfectly, you usually handle it and move on.
 
Challenge anxiety every time it says something bad is about to happen by not letting it threaten or scare you.  As you’ve seen yourself, most of the time, even when things don't turn out well, they do turn out OK and we are able to deal with it and move on. 
 
Next time anxiety is telling you something bad is about to happen, like you might fail, or you might say something stupid, or you’re not going to be able to handle it if you’re not with your mom or dad, try to challenge it. Try to think about all the facts, not just the worst possible outcomes. Remember, you’ve been in similar situations before and you’ve been able to handle it.  

Body

We know you’ve heard this before, but it really does work!  When you feel anxious, your whole body is tense and tight. Your body thinks there’s danger and so all the systems are ready to run! Take a few deep breaths, that will tell your body that there’s no danger. A few deep breaths help you feel more relaxed and then you can go ahead and do what you were about to do. Try to listen to a relaxing song or any kind of music that lets you relax and breath slowly. Paying attention to making all your muscles feel relaxed can really help when you’re feeling anxious. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Spirit

The real trick is to do things that are a little scary over and over again – first in easy ways and then the harder ways. The more we do it, the easier it gets. Like the first time you tried a roller coaster, your body told you it was dangerous, then you felt a little nervous, but then when you tried an easy one it was actually kind of fun and your body learned that it wasn't dangerous. Then you tried another one and it was even more fun and not scary that time. Then you were ready to try the big one and couldn't wait to go on again! Your mind and body learns through your actions that things aren’t as dangerous as you might have thought. That you can handle whatever comes your way.  
 
Your spirit and positive energy can move you to do some of the things that you may have been avoiding because you were worried you couldn't handle it. Well, remember, anxiety is just a bully – and it always lies – tells us that bad things are definitely going to happen. When we don't believe it and do the thing we were worried about doing, we usually find that it wasn't so bad and then feel proud that we did something that was tough.  Like we said, start with small, easier goals and then work up to harder ones – you’ll get there. 
 
Need more help? Want to think or talk more about this? That is a great idea! A little bit of practice and help with this can make things a lot easier for a long time!  You should talk with a parent or a trusted adult and tell them about the worries or fears that you’ve been having and ask if they might be able to find a therapist or doctor in your area to help decide if you could benefit from treatment.