A Bright Heart tutor looks at we can do to address anxiety with some helpful tricks and treats!                            

Emilu

Emily

Bright Heart tutor Emily looks at some coping tools to help when suffering with anxiety

'Tricks and treats' - a tutor's perspective on anxiety

Anxiety. It’s a term we’re all familiar with. In recent years, mental health has (thankfully) become a more ‘approachable’ subject as people try their best to empathise and understand their peers and loved ones.

Now, in the world of Covid-19, many of us experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis – some for the first time, others having their symptoms aggravated by the current climate. As it plays tricks on our minds, it becomes more vital to address this anxiety within ourselves – as well as opening the conversation with children and young people.

anxiety
Conversations about anxiety are much needed

My background

I’ve been working with children and young people for 10 years, engaging with them, encouraging their passions and enjoying their energy. Their energy has always been utterly contagious and incredibly therapeutic.

Over the last few months, I’ve continued working with clients – though mostly online – and I’ve noticed a significant change in their demeanour, engagement and energy. Everyone deals with stresses and anxieties in different way as it manifests differently in each individual. However, I have noticed that one symptom that nearly every single student has is fatigue. Initially I was really concerned, until I realised, that nearly every single person that I have met with and spoken with is experiencing the same. We’re exhausted. This is completely understandable due to the ‘fight or flight’ human instinct that has been ignited in all of us – our bodies are knackered as we try to fight an invisible enemy, fiercely protecting one another and our loved ones.

As someone born and raised in Northern Ireland, my automatic coping mechanism to anxiety is to inject humour into whatever I can. This dry (and often dark) sense of humour relieves my stress but saying that, injecting humour into Covid-19 has been a nearly impossible task – though I often try. I’ve sat here with my thoughts, trying to think of ‘wee’ tricks to treat ourselves to help us cope with our anxiety. I’ll run through a few – and I hope they’re of benefit to you! (accidental rhyme but I ‘dig it’)

scary pumpkin
Some helpful tricks to treat yourself are considered

1. Exercise

The first trick (and I would 100% call it a trick) is exercise. The one we all dread to read on every helpful website or book that we’ve read. Exercise has been scientifically proven to help with anxiety symptoms. It’s funny that I’ve read this a million times, yet I still need at least 30 minutes of ‘psyching myself up’ on the sofa to actually take that step to, get up and start exercising. Thankfully, children don’t tend to need much encouragement to go run amuck! It’s good for them – and you (but I won’t judge if you’d rather sit down with a cuppa!).

2. Nature

Nature is one of the best remedies of all time, an inexpensive treat for sure! For most of us, just visualising nature brings us a sense of calm and quiet – it encourages near instant relaxation. Walk in nature when you can, better yet – go and stomp in those puddles, play in the mud and run around until you can’t feel your legs! Especially at this time of year, with the gorgeous autumn leaves decorating the ground – it’s difficult not to want to be surrounded by natural beauty. 

Further to this, it has been proven that visiting ‘a body of water’ – a lake, a river or the sea – is soothing to the soul, that and the smell of and/or contact with soil releases serotonin! It is an ancient belief that water replenishes your energy and cleanses your mind. I don’t know about you – but the moment I sit by the lake in Wimbledon Park, I feel like I can breathe again. It’s a calming activity for you and I guarantee, the children will LOVE feeding the ducks or swans (though please don’t use bread, try oats, sunflower seeds or leftover lettuce!).

nature scene
Nature is one of the best remedies

3. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ‘trick’ to life. Every session I take some time to engage my students with mindfulness. These activities are often based in grounding techniques that aid with concentration. They will also help someone feel more present, which is proven to alleviate and reduce anxiety symptoms. Try your best to keep your home as your sanctuary – for your sanity and also for the rest of your family! It is challenging, Covid-19 has consumed our conversations alongside our mental and emotional energy. Undoubtedly, it is important to discuss it – it is after all a GLOBAL pandemic – but our whole lives don’t need to be consumed. 

Interestingly, two weeks ago, I set homework for all my students – they needed to find an activity that relaxed them that didn’t involve technology. This led to some interesting conversations and discoveries. Obviously, technology is great, especially now as we use it to connect with people – it means children can stay in touch with their friends, play games and make conversation. However, it’s important to know that we can still live without it! When my students returned, I found it fascinating how most of them felt like music and the arts relaxed them. Colouring became a stand-out in our conversations. Colouring books are easy to find locally and online – and an added bonus is that they now have colouring books for adults, so you will be able to join in!

4. Music

Another major trick (and treat!) is music. Full disclosure – I’m incredibly biased when it comes to music. As a professional musician, music is my life – and quite honestly, my sanity! I frequently use it to engage my students e.g. writing songs to revise topics. 

Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, stated that ‘music is food for the soul’. Music has been proven to reduce stress in children and young people. Encouraging children and young people’s engagement should certainly help with anxiety symptoms – whether it is playing, singing or listening. I always lived by the motto that a home full of music is a home full of love. Of course – whenever I go home to N.I., I’m faced with Taylor Swift blasting from speakers upstairs, Shania Twain in the kitchen and some wonderful Rolling Stones echoing from the study. It’s chaotic – but it’s a nice reminder that there is energy at home. When music plays – the worries of the world melt away.

Relaxing music
'Music is food for the soul'

5. Self care

It is here that I reach my final ‘trick’, arguably the most important, self-care. When discussing self-care, people often look to the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. This, of course, is all well to remember as you watch the safety instruction on the plane before you jet off – it is an entirely different thing to remember all day, every day.

Children pick up on EVERYTHING – as I’m sure you’re all aware. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, your child will pick up on your energy. This is not said to add any more stress – rather it is a remind to care and look after yourself. Light some candles, run a bath, listen to some smooth jazz – whatever helps you relax and decompress after a long day. If you need reminding, just think of the wonderful quote (adapted) from RuPaul, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how can you love somebody else?’

Keep up the great work!

I hope some of these tricks and treats are beneficial to you. Heck – even just reading this will be a break (hopefully a nice one) from your day. The key thing to remember is that you are trying your best. Even on the days where you don’t feel like you are, you are. You cannot do better than your best! As I say to every student, after every session – Keep up the great work!

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