These days life is moving at warp speed, and no one experiences the pressures of that more than our children.
People of all ages experience anxiety at times, but in many cases, our children seem to be running a life theme of worry. And that is no way to live, especially when there are choices.
For most of my life, I have been fascinated with how we humans can come back to center within ourselves and be truly happy. I have been a sort of “connoisseur of mindfulness”. Some people collect coins or china dolls. I collect simple, on-the-spot techniques to bring myself back to where I want to go, i.e. a peaceful, focused and happy life.
This collection—a huge self-help toolbox that includes play, yoga, breath and journaling—is seemingly endless. It is there for you and your children whenever you need it—a first-aid kit for anxiety.
Now remember, anxious children need another thing to “do” like they need another reason to be fearful. So, a relaxed attitude is a successful one when working with children with anxiety. First, try these five techniques yourself. As you feel inspired (not pressured, inspired), you can say to your child, “I found something that is helping me release tension and feel better. I thought we could try it together. It takes just a couple of minutes. Are you game?” And if they say “No”, there is no pressure. You can honor their choice and choose for yourself. They may come around when they see how it works for you, but that is not your goal. Your goal is to be okay yourself, and then emanate that “okayness” to them in a friendly and accepting way.
Here are five simple tools to bring yourself to calmness and focus in the flow of life. You or your child can choose one first. As you feel like choosing another, do so.
1. The Five-Five Breath
Inhale through the nose to a slow count of five. Hold for two. Exhale to the count of five. Do five of these. If it feels good, you can work up to holding the breath for three, four and five. If you feel strain or pressure, go back to the number that feels effortless.
2. Change your Brain
Using both hands, press your thumb to each one of your fingers in turn, starting with the index finger, and ending with the pinky. If you like, you can add particular sounds. In the path of Kundalini Yoga, we use Sa (press index finger), Ta (press middle finger), Na (press ring finger) and Ma (press pinky).
3. Get Physical
If you feel pent up, you may not be able to do the first two techniques. First you may need to dance and sing wildly to your favorite music, yell into a pillow and punch it, shake your entire body, or go for a vigorous run.
When my son had more energy than he knew what to do with, or if he was anxious or angry, we would make a game of timing his run to the end of our block. He would try to beat his own time until he was out of breath, simultaneously replacing negative focus with positive.
4.What is Going Well?
Find something that is going well. Speak or write about it. If you have to start in an anxious place, let it speak first. Then notice when it begins to move to a better feeling place, and grow that feeling. Turn your attention to those things in life that you love. Write and speak about them and feel a glow radiating from your heart. Grow the glow!
5. Your Unique Flavor
Write about and speak to your “five best”—what you most like about yourself; what gifts you bring to the mix in your family and with your friends. This is not about matching up to someone else’s standards (not even your parents). This is your story of what is unique about you. What flavor do you add to life?
So there you have the beginnings of your toolbox. As we say in yoga, begin where you are because where you are is just fine. Allow yourself to make the choice to experience at least one of the five. Stick with it without all the mental “shoulds” that cause anxiety. Most of all, let the experience of these techniques inspire you to slow down, live the life your heart calls you to, and share peace and happiness with your children.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta
Shakta Khalsa has had two big loves for over thirty-five years—children and yoga. She is the founder of Radiant Child Yoga, a mother, and author of five yoga books, including Fly Like A Butterfly. Visit her here.