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KIRA M.  |  CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

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Tools to control your anxiety

Meet Kira M.

The first thing is to recognize that anxiety is not something like the weather that happens to you from the outside. Anxiety is something that your body comes up with on the inside because it doesn’t understand what’s going on. So the first step in managing anxiety is to recognize that you can learn, you can teach yourself how to control it.

You’re the boss of it.

Even though it has felt like, maybe for years, that it’s the boss of you, we’re going to turn the tables and we’re going to make you the boss of it. And there’s lots of ways you can do that. But that’s the first mental step.

The first mental step

If you want to own this thing, you want to shut it down and tell it “I don’t have time for this.” That’s what we’re going to start with. So that mental control component is big. My colleagues who work with younger kids have similar strategies, but they don’t express it in the same way because you can’t talk to a six-year-old like I just explained that. But that’s a big piece of it, you being the boss — “I don’t have time for this. I’m not going to let this control my day” — starting with that.

And if you believe that’s possible that you can control it, you’re going to be right. If you believe you can’t, you’re also going to be right. So that sense of belief is a really big deal.

The second mental step
The second part is working on controlling your body’s reaction and not letting it go into fight or flight. So I tell my teenagers, I’ll give you 20 bucks if you can have a panic attack and do deep breathing at the same time. It’s not possible. Your body will not let you do it.

And there’s a reason for that because slow, deep breaths keep your parasympathetic system in charge and your sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight thing where you just get kind of panicky and sweaty and shallow breathing and you just want to run or hide or whatever.

You have to teach your brain a new way.
But it’s possible.

You have to teach your body that it doesn’t need to go into panic mode because there’s no bear to run from or fight. That’s a matter of practice. And you have to recognize when that’s starting to happen and then become the boss and shut it down. So it starts with mental stuff. And then you learn how to control the breathing, regulate your heart rate a little bit, and that’s practice. You have to teach your brain a new way. But it’s possible. That’s something that I think even really smaller kids have the capacity to
learn and do.

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