Do you struggle with anxiety or anxious thoughts? Do you find worry or anxiousness seem to creep into everything you do? If this is you or your kids, today’s blog is for you! I recently interviewed Robyn Graham about all things anxiety. Robyn recently released her new book You, Me, and Anxiety, and she shares amazing anxiety management tools and strategies for you and your kids. It is possible to live a joyful and purposeful life.
* The content in this post is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute or constitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.
Simple Anxiety Management Tools to Help Christian Entrepreneurs and Their Kids.
The difference between nervousness, worrying, and anxiety
First, it’s important to understand the difference between anxiety, worry, and nervousness.
Anxiety is almost an irrational level of apprehension or fear around a situation, thing, person, etc. It is preventative. It locks them down and prevents them from doing what their peers are doing.
In a teenager, it might present socially, taking tests, or speaking. Whereas in an adult, it could be going to a networking event, dinner party, or even parenting their child effectively.
Worrying is something you have a choice over. You can worry about something and take the joy out of today, but it won’t stop something from happening tomorrow. Worry is the influx of negative thoughts you let your mind spin into, but you have the choice to stop it with the right action.
Nervousness is similar to anxiety in that you don’t have control over the feeling, but once the thing you are nervous about is over, you feel better. You’re happy it’s over, and you can now move forward.
Whereas with anxiety, that’s not the case. If you have a speaking engagement, instead of being happy when it’s done, your mind is saying, what if they didn’t like me? What if they thought my outfit was ugly? What if no one else will book me as a speaker now? It just goes into this negative “what if” cycle over and over again, even for days. You might even get positive feedback, but because of our minds’ negativity bias, you’ll still focus on the negative “what ifs” over the positive feedback.
Anxiety takes a team effort to overcome. You need a therapist and support to navigate it. Whereas worry is a choice and nervousness is something temporary we all experience.
What to do? Anxiety Management Tools
What to look for in your kids (or loved ones)
With anxiety, there are often physical signs and symptoms as well. So if you notice changes in behavior with your children, it could be anxiety. It might be a stomach ache, a lack of ability to sleep, immense irritability or bursts of anger, or changing eating patterns. Many children with anxiety will either stop eating or use food as a crutch. It’s important to monitor these things for change in yourself and others, like your kids.
If you are worried or nervous, you might feel shaky or jittery, but if you are anxious, you can have trouble breathing or have a racing heart. If you recognize that it’s happening and identify the pattern, you’ll be able to identify the triggers. It’s vital to identify the triggers of anxiety so that you can take action to address it.
The one thing to NEVER say to your anxious child
If your child is experiencing any of these changes in behavior or other triggers, do NOT say, “get over it,” “just stop it,” or “yes, you can do this.” Those phrases don’t work for someone with anxiety. It’s not just children either; even if it’s your spouse, saying, “just get over it,” completely discounts what they are going through inside.
They are already feeling ashamed at not being able to do the things their peers are doing or embarrassed by their behavior. Telling them to get over it doesn’t work! Instead, it takes trust, time, and communication for someone to express, “I don’t like how I’m being, I do really want to do the things my peers are doing, but I can’t do it alone.”
Sometimes teens can’t verbalize that because they don’t understand the mind, body, and soul connection. If you, as a parent, realize that they are experiencing physical symptoms, but the doctors can’t find anything wrong with them, recognize it could be anxiety. If this is the case, have your child see a therapist because that conversation can at least open doors.
5-step process to work through anxiety.
Once you’ve recognized something is more significant than worry or nervousness, and it’s starting to look like anxiety, use this simple five-step process to help bring order to your mind.
Think: Why am I going through this?
Recognize what’s going on. (Has something happened or is something coming up?)
Identify your triggers (what am I afraid of?)
Take action. Create an action plan.
If something is coming up and you feel signs of anxiety, identify what it is, and create a game plan. You can also create a strategy in advance. If you have a networking event or if your child has a test coming up, how can you plan for it and have a strategy in place?
For example, if you have to go to a networking event, you might be anxious about going by yourself, not knowing anyone. Who are you going to talk to? You might be anxious about what to wear because you haven’t been to this organization before. Or it might be that small talk sends you into a spiral.
Ideas for creating a game plan
Go onto google and search “what to wear to a networking event?”
Ask a friend, family member, or spouse to come with you. Or else, you can contact the person hosting it and see who will be there, who the audience is, and if you will know anyone.
Come up with three things you can talk to someone about. You can start the conversation by asking these questions, so you have control of the conversation and negate the possibility of someone asking something you aren’t comfortable with.
Give yourself the grace of an exit strategy. For example, I’m going to go, but I’m only going to stay 30-minutes if I’m not feeling comfortable. Chances are you will enjoy it but give yourself the grace of exit strategy to take some pressure away.
Additional anxiety management tools
Here are a few other things that are useful when working through anxiety.
It’s more helpful not to frame anxiety as something to overcome but to manage. If someone has clinical anxiety, it is a lifelong journey.
Get a teammate; you can’t battle anxiety alone.
Get the help you need!
Movement is medicine for the mind. If you or your child is experiencing anxiety, do something to move. Take a walk around the block, or do something to get yourself moving to clear your mind.
Gratitude is huge! Look for the positives in your life. Take the negative thoughts and turn them positive. There is always something to be grateful for. This will help negate the negativity bias we are so inundated with.
Prayer and faith are also huge! “We can do anything through God who gives us strength.”- Philippians 4:13. Identify scripture verses you can use as affirmations.
Journaling is key. Journaling is like meditating; it reroutes the neural pathways in our brains. It can clear your mind in so many ways.
The 5 C’s journaling process
When you are experiencing this influx of negative thoughts or these physical signs and symptoms and recognizing the trigger, look at those thoughts coming in.
Catch: As you look at the incoming thoughts, catch them.
Challenge: Is this thought rational? Would it hold up in a court of law and God’s Word? Would my best friend, who loves and respects me think the same things I’m thinking about me? Would my coach think or say these things to me? Really challenge those thoughts to make sure you’re on the right track with your thinking.
Change: If you’re not on the right track, address those thoughts and change them. The key with journaling here is if you write down those negative thoughts and then rewrite the thought into a positive version, your brain will see that. You can also write down why they aren’t rational. If you are afraid the plane will crash, google how often planes crash and flip that into a positive. It’s not easy; it takes practice even to catch the thoughts in the first place.
Control: Once you start doing this regularly, daily, you will have more control over your thoughts.
Confident: The more control you have over your thoughts, the more confident you will be and the more likely you will be able to live that joyful, purposeful life you are striving to live.
Prayer is powerful
There will always be a support system for you through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You’ve got a prayer to fall back on. And there is always something to be grateful for. When you feel the negative thoughts start to build and your anxiety starts to rise, take 15 minutes and use this tool, brain dump, get all the thoughts out of your head and turn them to the positive. Those “what ifs” have to be squashed!
Knowing the signs and symptoms of anxiety is vital to support yourself, your kids, or other loved ones struggling with anxiety. Recognizing the thoughts as they come gives you the power to take action and put plans in place to help manage the thoughts and turn the negative into positives. Remember, this isn’t a journey to do alone. You will need help and support, and that’s okay! Reach out to God, close friends, family, and professionals to ensure you and your loved ones can live joyful, purpose-filled lives.