This is the time of year in schools where kids are having a hard time with excessive worrying. They feel overburdened with assignments, projects, preparing and taking exams. While some worrying can spur them into taking their schoolwork more seriously, it can also keep them up at night, make them more restless and tense, deplete their emotional energy and raise their anxiety. It certainly affects their daily living and learning. They get totally preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios to the point where their beliefs fuel their anxious thoughts.
In spite of calming strategies that we teach them such as:
- practicing slow deep breaths
- think positive thoughts
- use distractions such as counting backwards from 30 to 1
- use visual imagery
This mental habit is hard to change. It becomes even more challenging to break the habit of worrying if the child had success and believes that worrying helps him to be successful and may even protect him to be more responsible. They believe worrying keeps him from forgetting something. Trying to stop thinking and worrying about something often makes the anxious thoughts stronger and even more persistent.
In our quest to find ways to help kids in our practices, we came across some interesting suggestions from a book, The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy, PhD. He suggests that trying to stop anxious thoughts doesn’t work. Instead accept your feelings as part of being human, and experience them without becoming overwhelmed. He proposes the idea of “postponing worrying “. Rather then trying to stop the anxious thought, you give your self permission to actually have it, but you put it off to thinking about it later. You begin by creating a “worry period”, a time and place for worrying. It should be the same time everyday and in the same place but not before you go to sleep. Around 5:00 is a good time to consider, for about 20 minutes. During this worry period you’re allowed to worry about what is on your mind, however, the rest of the day has to remain worry free. As things happen to you in the course of the day you can write them in a little book or save it on your phone. During the worry period go over your list and if some of the thoughts are not bothering you as much cut your worry time shorter. This approach can actually change you to believe that you can control it, and help you from constantly dwelling on it, you don’t have to try so hard to suppress it.
Want more resources to help your child deal with worry? Try our Relaxation Parenting Tip Cards: