Anxiety is a message that tells us to pay attention… ‘Be ready for what’s coming next’. It’s a helpful message, but sometimes people have too much of that message. They are trying to ‘stay ready’ all the time, and that results in anxiety. Unfortunately, anxiety in children is on the rise, but fortunately, there are techniques to help.

We hope this month’s Mini POP-UP Kit gives you and the little ones in your life some tools for actively increasing calm and lowering anxiety in your life.

According to a 2017 research study, belly breaths (the kind you’ll practice in the activity) are shown to significantly lower cortisol levels AND heighten attention levels. 

Kitchen Table Question:

How does it feel when you take a big, deep breath?

 
 
You Can Calm!
 
Intro: 
Anxiety is a message that tells us to pay attention: ‘Be ready’. Sometimes people have too much of that message, so they are trying to ‘stay ready’ all the time. It’s good to learn techniques to help you bring that ‘readiness’ and ‘relaxation’ into balance, then you can be present and focused.
 
Materials: A used paper bag, tape, two pieces of paper, crayons/colored pencils/ markers
 
Goal:
Children and adults will practice techniques for relaxing and releasing stress by mimicking what the body does in stress.
 
Instructions: 

Play “pass the bag” to get your heart rate up. All you need is a paper bag and some tape. Here are the instructions:

    1. Fill the bag with air and tape it closed to make a kind of balloon.
    2. Standing on one foot, each player must gently hit the bag to pass it to the next player (or by themselves they just keep it up in the air)
    3. If a player’s second foot touches the ground, or they break the bag, or the drop the bag, they are eliminated from the game. The last person standing wins!

Now comes the educational part: Ask the kids how they feel after finishing the game.

Ask: Where in your  body do you feel that? For example, is your heart beating faster? Are you breathing less deeply and more quickly? Are your muscles tense?

While they may not be feeling anxiety right now, the physiological symptoms of stress are very similar to excitement.

Ask them to draw a simple outline of their body (like a “gingerbread man” cookie) and color in where they are feeling these effects on their body (for example, if the feel their heart beating hard, then they might draw sharp bright lines around the their heart).

Now, to practice CALM:

C: Close your eyes or look closely at one point.

A: Bring in Air with 5 deep breaths to fill up your belly all the way.

L: Remember someone or something you Love and feel appreciation.

M: Imagine peaceful Music playing along with your breathing.

Now, ask them to draw a new outline of their body, and color in how and where they feel now.

Discuss the questions below.

What changed between your two pictures?
If you can change the way your body is reacting, you can also change the effects of your feelings. How might you do that?
 
We looked at the physical effects of the paper-bag-game. When you feel anxious or worried, where do you feel that in your bodies?
 
Research says that anxiety and excitement affect our bodies in similar ways. How about when you feel excited — where and how do you feel that?

Brainstorm times when you feel too much anxiety. When might doing this deep breathing be useful?

How could we signal to each other when one of us needs to take some deep breaths when we are feeling too worried? For example, a code word, body motion, or secret handshake?

 
For the Little Ones
 
by Karen Young
A fantastic book to help children understand what actually happens in their brain when they experience anxiety. Kids can do amazing things with the right information. Understanding why anxiety feels the way it does, and where the physical symptoms come from, is a powerful step in turning anxiety around. Best for kids 5 years+
 
 by Julia Cook
This fun and humorous book addresses the problem of anxiety in a way that relates to children of all ages. It offers creative strategies for parents and teachers to use that can lessen the severity of anxiety. The goal of the book is to give children the tools needed to feel more in control of their anxiety. For those worries that are not in anyone’s control (i.e. the weather) a worry hat is introduced. A fun read for Wilmas of all ages!
 
 
For the Bigger Ones
 
Janine Halloran
A workbook that tweens and teens can work through on their own; it offers over 75 coping techniques for managing stress, anger, and anxiety.
 
Natasha Daniels
Written by a therapist who has first hand experience with anxiety, this book is short and to the point. This book is geared towards the teenage experience.

 

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