We all can be filled with worry from time to time but for some children, teens and adults it can be excessive. How do we work against this? How do you stop the worry/anxiety in its tracks? We simply switch gears.
Yes, the answer can be simple in nature. Think about your brain as a tool. Now think about the mechanics behind your tool. The mechanics of your brain does not allow for certain functions or the duality of certain functions. Your brain cannot worry and write at the same time. It is the act of writing that actually pulls your brain out of worry mode. Technically, you are forcing your brain to switch gears.
The same can be true with any activity that engages your hands and your mind. The activities could be endless: knitting, writing, drawing, painting, gardening, or playing basketball. The idea is to recognize the anxiety, acknowledge and then actively engage the brain in another activity.
Some research has been conducted on the subject in regards to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The American Association for the Advancement of Science states, “keeping your hands and mind busy interferes with storing and encoding visual images.” The article went on to note, “Psychological theory suggests that when we’re exposed to a horrifying situation, we take it in through two channels. One is the basic, primal sensory channel: the sights, sounds, sensations, and smells of the situation. The other is an intellectual channel: our brains trying to make sense of what’s going on, and putting it into words and a context that we can talk about.
The experimenters wondered what would happen if you specifically blocked one of these channels while the traumatic event is going on. And they found that if you were pre-occupied with a “visual-spatial task,” like typing a pattern on a computer, you didn’t encode the images and sounds of the traumatic experience as strongly. As a result, subjects who kept their hands busy had fewer flashbacks.”
We are finding we can interrupt trauma and anxiety with the mechanics of our bodies and brains. We need to teach our children that anxiety does not have control over them despite feeling otherwise. We can be active in our own healing. We can interrupt and intervene when anxiety strikes. If we act consistently in responding to our anxiety through basic repetitive hand and mind utilization; we are laying a solid framework for a calmer and healthier brain.
Today’s take-away: Help your children recognize their anxiety. Acknowledge it and teach them they have power over it. Their brain is not in control of them rather they are in control of their brain. Feel the anxiety. Do not avoid the feelings. Identify it and then move to interrupt it. Try any activity that your child may enjoy which utilizes repetitive motions with his/her hands. The child must engage in the activity for a minimum of 15 minutes or until the anxiety subsides. Approach the feelings the same way each time until the anxiety dissipates. Just remember to switch gears!