With the feeling of trauma and tension and recent shootings it seems like a good time to share a therapy tip I had for working on emotional regulation and anxiety.
As of late own anxiety has increased. For many kids the quarantine and other changes have already put them on edge and any extra stressor seems to be amplified.
One therapy tip I have for you today:
Give anxiety a silly personality (optional with poorly done accents)
One of my clients with panic attacks has been working with on many things such as coordination and emotional regulation.
He did not like the Superflex Program. I use this program with many kids as a great fun way to talk about certain behaviors typical of kids with sensory processing disorder. The cartoon characters have been a great assist for many kids and families to address inappropriate behaviors.
More on the Superflex program later.
This client thought those characters were “creepy.” Ok, not every program is for every kid.
A few months back, we were in a session and I imitated his anxiety with a heavy (poorly done) Eastern European accent.
He LOVED it and kept requesting I do the voice. Soon he was making impressions with me.
I had him name it. He named it “Gerald” after a character in a book series he was reading.
I said things like. “I’m Gerald and I LOVE to make you worried.”
Eventually we were lightly tapping along certain points on the body inspired by the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and making our own affirmations.
*PS you can do EFT style meditations for yourself on the app Tapping Solution. The Tapping Solution began after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to help survivors and their loved ones emotionally cope after that tragedy. They have short meditations for adults and children as well on topics such as feeling safe at school and sleep.
Back to my client with anxiety. Our affirmations while tapping sounded like:
“Even though Gerald is very convincing I don’t have to listen to him”
“Even though I am worried, I can remember to take deep breaths”
And “Even though I am worried I love myself.”
He liked to add, “and I know Jesus loves me” as he has a religious background.
I thought that was endearing.
Integrating body-based techniques to any emotional regulation work is such powerful stuff. I have been working his reflexes as well and the results have been amazing.
The other day my client and proudly told me of a time he defeated “Gerald!” He also listed ways he could defeat him such as by taking deep breaths or asking for a sensory tool.
He was also proud to tell me that he participated in all but one of his physical education P.E. exercises.
His anxiety episodes have also significantly decreased.
Last session he also made a character called Sick Man that makes him feel physically sick.
One other client I see made robot-themed characters such as “Lazy-Bot” and “Anger Laser.”
Remember that in the moment of when these characters are “”in control” is not a good time to talk about them.
Instead I find that it is better to use them to discuss what happened when a kid is regulated. Creating your own language with characters allows you to talk more freely about it without kids feeling shame. After everyone is back to feeling calm that is when you can talk about what could have done differently.
You may even say “wow you didn't let ___ stay in control this time, great job.”
The book Cartoon Magic (by Joyce C. Mills, Richard J. Crowley) is a great easy read for more ways to help children use techniques to resolve common problems such as fears of monsters, nightmares and social isolation.
I hope you have fun with these with the kids under your care.
In an upcoming blog we will talk about the fear paralysis reflex how it can affect the nervous system and signs that it is not integrated.
Let me know if you make your own characters with kids.
I am so happy to welcome so many of you to this journey to constantly learning and improving with me as a pediatric therapist.
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