Kids have a lot to deal with in their emotional lives at the best of times. As we’re all locked down to protect ourselves and others during the pandemic, they have even more to deal with and most of their normal outlets and coping mechanisms are unavailable to them.
Children are receiving messages that the simple act of going outside is something filled with unseen danger. That people outside their household, even if they’re family and friends, are somehow a threat and they must keep distant from them. In these circumstances you shouldn’t be surprised if something simple, even something familiar and routine, causes a surge of anxiety in your child.
(All of this is suggested as a way to help a child, but it’s an exercise applicable for anyone who feeling an onset anxiety.)
When Anxiety Strikes
Anxiety can spike over anything and, as often feels the case, over nothing. Whatever the cause, known or unknown, it can be overwhelming and frightening. If you can, help your child take a breath and say aloud, “my brain is responding to something it doesn’t like, and it’s freaking out.”
Let them know it’s okay. That everyone’s brain sometimes freaks out at things and that, whatever it’s freaked out at, it’s not going to be as bad as it thinks.
Point out that cats get freaked out, too. Cats are always walking around looking like they have everything together (that’s why we have the phrase ‘cool cats’, right?). But even they have anxiety. Ask your child, do you know the one time you’ll always see an anxious cat?
When it’s a wet cat. A wet cat is never calm and collected. A wet cat is a freaked out cat.
And that’s what you have now. You have Wet Cat Brain.
“I have Wet Cat Brain”
When a cat gets wet, that cat freaks out. And, when your brain senses something it doesn’t like, it can get freaked out. Luckily, you can help both the wet cat and your Wet Cat Brain at the same time.
Picture the poor, wet, freaked-out cat. Can you see it’s fur sticking up at crazy angles? Is its back arched? Are it’s eyes darting everywhere, looking for somewhere it can run to escape the wet? This is kind of how your brain looks when it freaks out over something
Calm Cat. Calm Mind.
Now, we’re going to calm the cat and, at the same time, calm your mind.
Imagine you pick up the cat, all wet and freaked out, and begin to softly stroke it’s fur. Stroke between its ears and down its neck. Stroke its back. Stroke its sides. Imagine you keep stroking the cat, feeling its soft fur beneath your fingers. Each time your hand passes along the cat you brush off a little water. With each stroke, the cat gets just a little bit drier, and just a little bit calmer.
As you feel the soft fur around your fingers, and the warmth of the cat beneath your palm, you can feel the cat becoming calm and you can feel your brain becoming calm.
The cat was freaked out, and that’s okay. Your brain was freaked out, and that’s okay. You can just keep stroking the cat until the cat is calm, and your brain is calm.
Imaginhero is a therapy tool that teaches kids how to use visualization, creative thinking, and mindfulness to deal with anxiety, stress, and confrontation. It teaches them that imagination is their superpower.
Turn anger into super-strength, raise forcefields to block negativity, meet new people with the confidence of a superhero, stop negative thoughts with a freeze-ray, use your laser vision to laser focus on a task. Each superpower you imagine is something you can use to help you deal with challenges in your everyday life.