Have you ever kept a secret?
Have you ever thought that if others really knew you, they wouldn’t want you around anymore?
I’m anxious. There’s a huge part of my physical and nervous system on high alert, most of the time.
So how can I mentor youth about how to deal with anxiety? I’d be a hypocrite right?
Well, no. Because I’m anxious, I’ve learnt the tools I need to manage this. These are the tools I teach to others.
I read recently that the highest purpose of relationship is to help the other person become the “best version of themself”. And that the greatest joy and fulfilment we can have in our own life is to become the “best version of ourself”.
I use the words highest potential. Doing whatever I can, and asking for assistance, to remove all blockages to living my highest potential. I strive to become the best version of myself. And I strive to inspire young people to become the best version of themselves.
Would you say that this is how you approach your parenting? Striving to help your children become the best version of themselves. Are you approaching your own life this way?
Being messy, anxious, stressed, imperfect, making mistakes, repeating patterns that don’t support the best version of yourself. Everyone does this.
I’m a mess.
I went to a kinesiology session recently for treatment for a physical symptom. What came up (of course) was emotional stuff and old trauma. “Are you anxious?”, she said. I hesitated as I thought to myself, “I can’t admit that I’m anxious – this is what I’m proclaiming to be an expert on helping people with”. Finally I replied, “well, I have tools”.
And it’s true. I’m a highly functioning anxious person. I teach groups of up to 28 teenagers stuff they don’t want to learn. I’m social and I have good relationships with friends and family. I did my first public circus performance at the age of 33. I write these blogs and have created my own business. I’ve experienced anxiety with all of this.
But I’ve learnt to live with and manage my anxiety. I’m patient with myself because I know it’s a neurological condition.
If I child grows up in an environment that they experience as safe, their brain grows in a way that tells them it is safe to relax. If a child grows up in an environment that they experience as unsafe, their brain develops in a way that creates a state of “hyper-arousal”. They’re always on the defence, on the look-out for danger.
This is why as highly traumatised kids get older, they can snap and get violent and aggressive about something insignificant. There’s a spectrum of what’s called your “baseline” anxiety level. There’s highly traumatised kids who need a lot of therapeutic support – high “baseline”. And then there’s the mildly traumatised kids who develop generalised anxiety – a constant state of stress and worry about things they rationally know aren’t a problem – lower but still significant “baseline”.
Now mild trauma, and perceiving the world as unsafe, could occur just from watching the news these days.
So how do you change that brain wiring? Well, neuroscience now tells us that the brain is plastic. It is changeable. Phew. The tools I teach work.
Anything that calms the nervous system works. Nature, candles, essential oils, meditation, breath work, counselling, being in the presence of someone calming etc. The thing is, this needs to be done daily and over a long period of time. There’s no quick fix here.
Luckily, striving to become the best version of yourself is its own reward. It’s in the striving that you are fulfilled. The journey becomes the destination. It’s not about being perfect or about being “fixed”. No-one ever gets there. Of course there’s improvement and celebrations along the way. And then the next challenge.
After this kinesiology session I mentioned I felt great. And then there was a fight at school. I got involved to break it up and got mildly injured. Back on high alert for the next few days.
Daily practice. Acceptance.
I was speaking to a father recently who also teaches mindfulness. His daughter had told him that “our generation just wants something to use in the moment that we need it, we don’t want to have to practice something every day”. Sorry love, it doesn’t work like that. Daily practice is essential.
Today I offer you the tools, information, meditations, etc. that I’ve used to lower my own “baseline”, specifically through working with teens.
CLICK HERE to sign up for this free 5 day Mindful Mums e-course.
Start small. Commit to a 30 minute daily practice for 5 days. You don’t know where it may lead.