Anxiety, Avoidance, and How to Retrain Your Amazing Brain

Sometimes anxiety can drive you to avoid things that are worth avoiding, but then there are the other times when it drives you away from the things that would be brilliant for you. Understand why, and learn a technique to retrain your magnificent brain so you can expand your world and move more bravely into it.

The Take-Aways

Anxiety happens in all of us from time to time. It’s a really normal, healthy response that’s designed to keep us safe. Anxiety comes from a brain that thinks there might be trouble ahead, and gets us ready to physically deal with the threat through flight or fight. (And humiliation, embarrassment, separation from a loved one, missing out, not being able to do something you want to do can all count as threats.) This can create a really strong drive to avoid whatever it is that triggers anxiety. Sometimes that avoidance will make sense, but sometimes it can actually drive us to avoid things that would actually be really good for us. The good news is that there is a way around this.

The brain learns through experience. The more you avoid something, the more you’re teaching you’re teaching your brain that the only way to feel safe is to avoid that situation – but, the more you do something brave, the more you’re teaching your brain that even though you fee anxious, you’re okay. The way to re-teach your brain to push through anxiety is with something called a stepladder. The idea is that you step gradually through increasingly anxiety-inducing experiences until you are able to do whatever it is that you’ve been avoiding. 

For example, let’s say social situations trigger anxiety for you. Develop a stepladder starting with a social situation that gives you a little bit of anxiety, and slowly and gently working through steps that increase in difficultly. You might start your stepladder with going out with your family to an unfamiliar place. This might give you a little bit of anxiety, but it’s manageable. Do that a few times until you start to feel that you can handle that. Then move to the next step in the ladder. This might be going somewhere familiar with one friend. Then next step might be going somewhere unfamiliar with a couple of friends. The steps are completely up to you. Do each step as many times as it takes for you to feel okay. If a step feels as though it’s supercharging your anxiety, it’s often a sign that there is too much of a distance between the steps. Just drop back to something that feels a little safer until you’re ready to move up to the next step. 

Every time you do a step, you’re teaching your brain that even though you feel anxious, you’re safe. There is no hurry to get through any of the steps, so you might stay on a certain step for weeks or months, and that’s okay. Take as long as you need until you’re ready to move to the next step. By gradually exposing yourself to these situations , you can actually re-teach your brain that you’re safe, that you’ve got this, and that there’s no need for you to avoid the situations that trigger your anxiety. Be patient, and be gentle with the steps, and you will surprise yourself with what you can do.

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Sydney! We’re coming to you. The Resilient Kids Conference is a one day event for parents and professionals who live and work with kids and teens. 

Can’t make it? There’s now an ONLINE option so you can watch from anywhere in the world, with the recording available for 4 weeks after the conference. 

I’ll be talking about anxiety in young people, but this information is relevant for ALL OF US. We need to  change the way we think about anxiety and respond to it - so let’s talk about how. I’ll give you practical, meaningful ways to support and strengthen your kids and teens with in ways that will serve them not just for now, but for the rest of their lives. 

Two things I know for certain. 1. All kids have it in them to be brave and do the things that feel bigger than them sometimes. 2. Parents and their important adults have the most profound capacity to strengthen kids and teens against anxiety and build their confidence and courage. 

I love these conferences and I know parents walk out feeling excited and empowered. 

Since 2016, the Resilient Kids Conferences have attracted up to 800 attendees at a single event. It is beyond beautiful to see parents, educators, and many other professionals stream through the doors in anticipation of a soul fulfilling experience. By the end of the day their faces are beaming, and so is our teams. It’s a community of people, redefining resilience together.

I’ll be joining Maggie Dent, Michelle Mitchell, and Dr Justin Coulson. In person, online and group license tickets are available for this event.

Tickets (online and live). Link in bio.
When times feel uncertain or your own anxiety feels big, come home to the things that make sense. 

Come home to each other, to stillness, to play, to rest, and conversation. 

Come home to listening more openly and caring more deeply, to nature, and warm baths, and being more deliberate, to fighting for what we can control, and the soft surrender to what we can’t. 

Come home to stories, and music, and to the safety of your tribe. 

Come home to that part of you that is timeless, and strong, and still, and wise, and which knows that, like everything that has ever felt bigger than you for a while, you will get them and you through this.♥️
Separation anxiety can come with a tail whip - not only does it swipe at kids, but it will so often feel brutal for their important adults too.

If your child struggle to separate at school, or if bedtimes tougher than you’d like them to be, or if ‘goodbye’ often come with tears or pleas to stay, or the ‘fun’ from activities or play dates get lost in the anxiety of being away from you, I hear you.

There’s a really good reason for all of these, and none of them have anything to do with your parenting, or your child not being ‘brave enough’. Promise. And I have something for you. 

My 2 hour on-demand separation anxiety webinar is now available for purchase. 

This webinar is full of practical, powerful strategies and information to support your young person to feel safer, calmer, and braver when they are away from you. 

We’ll explore why separation anxiety happens and powerful strategies you can use straight away to support your child. Most importantly, you’ll be strengthening them in ways that serve them not just for now but for the rest of their lives.

Access to the recording will be available for 30 days from the date of purchase.

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