May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, this year’s theme is “You Are Not Alone.” You are not alone in your challenges and struggles. Your students are not alone in theirs.
This issue of Upbeat News features resources to support you and your students. We’re spotlighting our new release Name and Tame Your Anxiety with an excerpt on how to plan for anxiety by taking a big anxiety and breaking it into smaller, more manageable parts.
For additional resources on anxiety, stress, grief, and more, click here.
How to Plan for Anxiety
Adapted from Name and Tame Your Anxiety
by Summer Batte
There may be something you avoid because you feel anxiety about it. A small fear (falling off your bike) may have already grown into a much bigger fear (riding your bike at all), and just using a calming strategy isn’t enough. Bigger fears sometimes need to be worked on in stages, not all at once. Just like your brain can fall for the trick of imagined danger, it can also be trained to remember that you are okay. You might want to make a plan for anxiety if there is a fear you really want
to overcome. Making a plan takes a bigger anxiety and breaks it down into smaller, more manageable parts. It takes time, but breaking it down makes it more likely that you will reach your goal of overcoming the fear.
Here’s how to make a plan to overcome anxiety:
1. Write down the steps you will take.
Make a list of steps you will take toward overcoming your fear. (A trusted adult can help with this.) Your list might be only a couple steps, or it might be longer. What’s important is to have as many steps as you think you need. The first step should be something you think would be uncomfortable to do, but not impossible. The middle steps should be more and more challenging—like bigger and bigger boss battles in a video game—so that when you get to the last step, it’s only a little bit harder than the step right before it. (But right now, at the beginning, the last step probably feels impossible. That’s okay.)
2. Decide how you will calm yourself while you practice each step.
Deep breathing or naming all the things around you that are a certain color can be good ways to remind your brain you are safe as you try each step.
3. Decide how you will reward yourself.
Overcoming anxiety is hard work, and you deserve a reward. Perhaps you can do something fun with a friend, or maybe you’ll get to pick which movie your family watches this weekend. Will you reward yourself when you complete each step or wait until the very end?
4. Start with your first step.
Keep repeating it until it becomes easy. Maybe you’ll work on it every day or every week—whatever you and your trusted adult decide.
5. Move on to the next step.
Work through your steps in order, repeating whichever one you are on until it feels easy or comfortable. Then move on to the next step in your list. You might spend more time on some steps than others, and some lists may take weeks of practice to get through. That’s okay! Listen to yourself and don’t move on until you are ready.
6. Keep going until you can do the final step with very little worry.
Congratulations! You have conquered your fear! You can make a new plan for each of the fears you want to overcome.
My Anxiety Plan
My goal: Ride my bike without worrying about crashing.
My calming strategies: Deep breathing and talking back to The Worrier.
How I’ll reward myself: Game night!
Step 1: Stand next to my bike for one minute.
Step 2: Sit on my bike without moving for one minute.
Step 3: Ride my bike in front of the house with Dad nearby.
Final step: Take a bike ride in the park.
Think about a fear you want to overcome and make a plan in a notebook or journal using the steps above.
Try one or two calming strategies you’ve learned for a while to see if they work well for you. If a strategy doesn’t work, you might need to practice it a few more times. If it’s still not helping, it’s okay to move on and try something else. There are many ways to manage anxiety and it’s best to use whatever strategies work for you.
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