The 2 Questions That Can Help You Find Your ‘Brave’ When You Feel Anxious – (A video for kids)

The 2 Questions That Can Help You Find Your Brave

Transcript

Anxiety is something that happens to every every every single person on the planet. Every person on the planet feels mad sometimes, sad, happy, excited, jealous, scared, and every person on the planet feels anxious sometimes.

Anxiety comes from a part of your brain called the amygdala, and it’s like your own fierce warrior, there to protect you. When your amygdala thinks there is something it needs to protect you from, it surges your body with a special body fuel, designed to get you faster, stronger, more powerful, more able to fight the danger or flee from the danger. Sometimes though, the amygdala can think there is something it needs to protect you from, and it surges your body, and it makes you want to avoid that thing. Anxiety feels terrible when it happens, and when you’re feeling anxious, it can feel like there is something dangerous there, and it can hold you back. The problem is, too many times it can hold you back from the things that would actually be really great for you, or important for you. So anxiety happens when there is one of two things: either a real threat that you need to stay safe from, or something important and meaningful, and it’s often the worry about messing up or missing out on that important, meaningful thing that can make anxiety happen.

The problem is, if you believe your anxiety, it can hold you back from the things that would be good for you, like school, or trying something new, or doing things with friends. All of those things can make you feel anxious. Now the thing to do when you’re feeling anxious – there’s a way to find a way through – is there are two questions that can help you feel brave enough to get the job done, or to move towards that important, meaningful thing. The first question is this: ‘Am I feeling like this because it’s a real threat, or because there’s something important or meaningful I need to do?’ Then, you ask yourself the next question, which is, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe?’, and sometimes it will be. Sometimes it is exactly the right time for you to be safe. If you’re walking past a dark alley and you start to feel anxious inside, then it’s a good idea to avoid the dark alley. That’s when anxiety keeps you safe. Most often though, it happens in response to the important meaningful things. So the question is this: ‘Is the time for me to be safe, or is this a time for me to be brave?’ ‘Is this a time for me to be safe, or is this a time for me to get the job done?’

The thing to remember is you don’t have to wait for your anxiety to go, for you to be brave. What you need to do is be the boss of your amygdala, and remember that you can feel anxious and do brave. So sometimes, that means might mean taking strong steady breaths. Strong steady breaths are like a lullaby for your amygdala. Brains love strong steady breathing. As soon as you start strong steady breathing, your amygdala will start to calm and it will help your anxiety to soften enough for you to move towards that brave important thing.

It can also help while you’re doing your strong steady breathing to have something really brave or powerful – something that makes you feel stronger and braver and more powerful. It might be something like, ‘I’m safe. I’m safe.’ And you say that to yourself. Put your hand on your heart. That can also boost it and help you to feel calm. It might be words like, “I can do this.’ ‘I’ve got this.’ ‘I made this work before and I’m going to make this work again. I can do this.’ Whatever feels right for you. And then you ask yourself, ‘What is one small step I can take towards that meaningful or important thing?’

Sometimes it will feel too hard to do the whole thing, but what you want to do is something that is braver than last time. That’s the way to teach your amygdala that you’re actually the one in charge, and that this thing that your amygdala is feeling a bit scared of or a bit anxious about, is actually safe. Your amygdala will only learn from experience, so we have to give it enough opportunities to do whatever it’s feeling anxious about so it can learn that it’s actually safe. So if your amygdala is feeling anxious about trying out for the soccer team, the more you you play soccer – the more you do it – you might start with 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. The more you do that, the more your amygdala will go, ‘Oh okay. Well that wasn’t so bad. Maybe we can do a bit more next time.’

Sometimes your amygdala might feel even bigger and even more anxious. It might make your anxiety bigger when you do that but that meaningful important thing. That’s okay. That doesn’t matter. That means that your amygdala is learning something new. So if your anxiety feels bigger when you’re trying those meaningful important things that are good for you, that’s okay. That means that your amygdala is starting to learn something new, and that is that you can be brave, even when you’re anxious.

So when you’re anxious, if you can ask yourself those two questions: ‘Is this happening because it’s a real threat, or because it’s something meaningful or important?’ and, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe, or is this a time for me to be brave?’ And if it’s a time for you to be brave, if it’s a time for you to get that job done, take a few moments take some strong deep steady breaths. Say your brave talk. Imagine talking directly to your amygdala, ‘We’ve got this.’ ‘We’re safe.’ And then do what it is that was braver than last time. Even if you can’t do all of that brave thing, ask yourself, ‘What can I do that was braver than last time?’ And that is a really powerful way for you – when you’re feeling anxious – to find the courage in you. You’re built for this. You can do this. Even when you’re feeling anxious, you can do brave.“”

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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