Anxiety: how and why to be calm when a child is anxious

In today’s video I’m talking about why it’s important that we remain calm when a child is distressed. I also share a few ideas for calming ourselves and what to do if you’re not longer able to be (or pretend to be) calm.

Transcript

Please note, the transcript is auto generated

of all the different things that you can do to support someone who is anxious or worried or panicking or angry um one of the most effective though perhaps most challenging to master is actually to be calm yourself so to respond to that anger or anxiety or panic with calmness um and the reason for that is pretty cool it’s to do with neurobiology i love a bit of neuroscience um essentially we have what’s called mirror neurons in our brain and they mean that we respond uh to other people and our bodies kind of fire in similar ways to their bodies of firing so if we are with someone who is anxious angry um kind of you know things are tricky for them then things begin to feel tricky for us but if we’re with someone who’s calm then things begin to feel karma for us now the issue with this and i’ve mentioned this recently in other videos is that if we’re anxious and the person that we’re with is anxious then our anxiety kind of yeah butts off each other and we become more and more anxious between us and that’s really challenging and what we want to do is to co-regulate to calm things down and to help the person we’re supporting to feel less anxious so this is about us being calm so that their mirror neurons have a chance to respond to our calm now we can’t walk into situations of distress when someone else is overwhelmed and not managing and just become not unless we’re like a sociopath or something so we need to learn strategies in order to create calm or at least present calm so that the person we’re supporting can respond to our calmness with their calmness and things begin to calm and then what we find is as they calm our neurons respond to their calm and it’s a virtuous cycle so it’s it’s a good thing um there are lots of different things that you can do in terms of creating the calm for yourself my favorites are to have some broken record phrases and to say those in our slow low low voice so that’s slowing down our speech lowering the tone and lowering the volume because that’s what calm sounds like so slow low low and broken record phrases are just phrases that you feel really comfortable saying perhaps you know the person you’re supporting well and you know these are phrases they want to hear they might be around you’re safe it’s okay i’ve got you or you’ve managed to get through this before you can get through it again or we just need to get through the next minute there’s all sorts of different phrases you can use and i’ve got other videos on that but having phrases that you’ve practiced so you’re not having to find them at a time of worry and distress and is really helpful so those are helpful things slow low low and your broken record phrases and then the other thing i find really really super helpful is to work through kind of scripted grounding or breathing exercises so you might for example talk someone through five finger breathing where we breathe in as we move up the finger and then we pause and then we breathe out and we pause and we work our way around our hand um or you can use your box breathing where we breathe in for the count of four hold for the count of four out for the count of four hold for the count of four and carry on so it’s those kind of ones there’s all sorts of different breathing exercises find one that works for you learn it and use it in those moments and do the breathing yourself and encourage the other person to do it and things will come um or walk really being kind of unhelpful here um or you can talk through other kind of grounding exercises so a favorite for me here is five four three two one where we draw on our senses and we look for five things we can see we listen for four things we can hear we try and name three things that we can smell and you work through the sentences it doesn’t matter in what order but the the key thing here is again you’re talking through a scripted exercise and you’re doing so trying to seem calm supportive in control so this calms you as well as the person that you’re supporting all sorts of other mindfulness and grounding and calming and relaxation exercises could work here it’s about finding what works for you and then just leaning on that as much as you need to again and again and again each time the more that you practice these strategies and these scripted techniques the easier you will find to draw on them in times of distress and remember what you’re looking to do here is to convey that sense of calm to really calm things down that the other person that you’re worried about know that you’re calm you’re in control you’ve got this and they will respond in turn and in time by calming in response which in turn will calm you you’ll find that the situation begins to come if in doubt and if things begin to go wrong remember this know that your mirror neurons and their mirror neurons will mean that if you are distressed by their distress that things will just get worse so if you need to take time out you could just take 30 seconds as long as you know that they’re safe if you just need to walk away for a moment and compose yourself and put on your game face and go back to the situation that’s okay that may mean that you’re able to better manage the situation or sometimes it may be that you need to pass the baton on to another adult who takes over and perhaps you might need to kind of take it in turns depending on the level of distress and your ability uh to cope in the situation so the most effective way i think of helping someone to calm when they’re distressed angry anxious or otherwise struggling is if you can to be or at least as calm calm response to calm with calm give it a go let me know how it works for you what goes wrong what you need more help on and i’ll see you next time and goodbye from walk as well say bye bye mork bye