Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Many things in life can make us feel anxious: taking tests, speaking in public, competing in sports or dealing with uncertainties. Some people react more strongly to stressful situations than others.
That’s OK. Anxiety can often give you an edge and push you to work harder so that you do well. But at other times, anxiety can be overwhelming and make it more difficult to focus. When anxiety makes you feel like you’re going to fall off a cliff, there are some techniques that can help you take control of your body and mind.
Anxiety causes you to focus on the question, “What if?” A big part of managing anxiety is shifting the focus from “What if?” to “What is happening right now?” Focusing on the “right now” can alleviate some of the negative effects of anxiety.
Here are some ways tips you can share with your child to help alleviate some of the negative effects of anxiety:
Deep breathing is one of the best and easiest ways to calm down your body and mind. Close your eyes and inhale deeply all the way into your stomach. Hold your breath for a count of three and then exhale slowly. As you breathe, think about that oxygen-rich blood flowing to your brain and calming your whole body. Set a target of 10 breaths, and take each one slowly, counting silently in your mind.
Tighten all your muscles from head to toe and hold for 5 seconds. Then release and try to make everything as loose as possible. Do a quick check from head to toe: Is your jaw clenched? Neck tight? Knees locked? Tighten up each tense area and then consciously loosen and release the tension.
Use the same process as in relaxation, only work your body in segments. Tighten up your legs/feet and then release. Then do the same for your torso. Continue moving up your body. Focus upon becoming relaxed and clearing your mind from any thoughts other than how your body feels when you tense and release each part.
Visualization for Relaxation
Call up an image of a place that calms you. For example, if you feel relaxed at the beach, put yourself there in your mind. Feel the warmth of the sun; hear the cry of the gulls and the crash of the waves; smell the saltwater. Take a quick mental vacation and then carry that feeling of relaxation back to the present moment.
Visualization for Success
A slightly different way to use visualization is to picture yourself succeeding in the task that is causing you anxiety. Imagine that big red A+ at the top of a test. See yourself holding a trophy. Picture yourself standing at the front of the room with an applauding audience. Carry that image of success with you. Say to yourself, “I’ve got this!” “I’m a good test taker!” “This is hard, but I can do hard things!”
One of the best ways to prevent test anxiety or anxiety around giving any performance or presentation is to be prepared. As much as possible, study, rehearse, and practice to increase your chances of success. Careful preparation will give you sense of control and power.
Finally, a great way to help your child improve managing their anxiety and to grow from it is to reflect on the situation. Have your child ask themselves these questions:
- What scenarios cause you the most anxiety? What about those scenarios is the most challenging for you?.
- What technique above works best for you? Why do you think that particular technique helps you manage your anxiety?
Help them understand it’s ok to be honest about their feelings.
By acknowledging feelings and then learning from them, you can turn a stressful situation into a future advantage, changing a negative to a positive. This helps to create a “growth mindset” that is actually encouraged by failure rather than demoralized. (For more on nurturing a growth mindset, read this!)
Sylvan helps students every day learn how to set goals, put positive learning habits in place, manage anxiety and establish growth mindsets.
Confidence grows as much as skills do! Reach out to your local Sylvan today to find out how we can get positive momentum going for your child today!