Part 1: How to Strategically Manage Anxiety
By Hallie Bulkin
You know those AHA moments? I had one this week…and it really opened up my eyes.
I had to take the metro from Virginia to Maryland and then later that same day from DC back to Virginia. Let me tell you a little secret…before this experience I have NEVER taken the metro alone…EVER! So I was a bit anxious about taking the metro and the anxiety built up over the week before the big day.
I am NOT usually an anxious person. Well, except for before I travel (and apparently when I have to take public transportation underground) I tend to get a bit anxious…but that’s a whole different story 😉 What I want to point out is how I felt about this, how much energy was spent in the process and how I was able to minimize some of my anxiety the day of the big metro ride.
I Gotta Feeling…
Anxiety is not a feeling that I typically have on a day-to-day basis. I usually experience it before traveling and apparently also when doing certain things for the first time (i.e., taking the DC metro). In the end the experience was fine (and I was proud of myself…go me!) but I really disliked the metro during rush hour with the body heat, smells, crowded trains, limited time to get on/off the crowded train, etc. If you have ever experienced Anxiety then you know it is not a good feeling.
Energy Level & Minimizing Anxiety
For the week leading up to the day that I had to take the metro, I kept thinking about it and told myself I would deal with it the day before. That was my strategy that seemed to work well.
The night before the big trip, Vlad helped me pull up the Metro system and map out both of my trips. Knowing where I was going, how long it would take, which train lines to take in which directions was helpful. I could feel my anxiety going down.
Even with everything planned by the end of the day I was EXHAUSTED. When I got home I felt like I could go to sleep for the night!
The AHA Moment
While experiencing overwhelm and anxiety I went…AHA…this is what some of the kids that I work with feel like EVERY DAY…ALL DAY LONG!!! When they are not in control of their environment or feel a lack of control it can be very unsettling and DRAINING. What about when we rush them into a new experience and don’t give them a heads up or explain what we will be doing next? They have NO strategy and we just expect that they “go with it”. I see this all too often and it is a problem.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all seen kids have “behaviors” followed by a parent yelling at them for “misbehaving”. Did you ever stop to think about what may be going on in the child’s head? Was the child prepared for the situation? How would you feel if you constantly were pulled out of your routine and thrown into a new situation on a daily basis? What if you didn’t have a stable routine? For some this works, for others it creates high levels of anxiety. THIS is what many kids feel like, especially kids with special needs and/or sensory needs who have trouble regulating their environment(s).
The Bottom Line
Many people do MUCH better when they KNOW where they are going, what they are doing and what to expect. The same goes for children, especially children with special needs who are trying SO HARD to regulate their schedules and environments.
Stop and think about what you do to encourage success in your life and your families. Are you setting everyone (including yourself) up for success or is everyone trying to get by flying by the seat of their pants? Be sure to comment and let us know!
PS – This is the first part of two articles on managing anxiety. After getting some responses we will provide our commonly used strategies for both typically developing children and children with developmental delays, sensory needs and disorders.
Hallie Bulkin is a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Visalus Distributor. She strives to help others receive the support they need to make a positive change in their children’s communication skills and has a passion for helping others live healthier lives. If you’d like to know more about helping your child communicate or creating healthier habits, Hallie is happy to answer your questions. Visit her website: http://littlesproutspeech.com