Anxiety and My 11-Year Old

low angle photography of brown wooden dock at golden house

Anxiety is part of my daily life – and has been since I became a mom 11 years ago.

Last week, my 11-year old had an anxiety attack for the first time.

It was so easy to identify – because I live with it, too.

He sat at the kitchen counter, eyes wide, brows furrowed, tears welling up.

He said: “Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just feel so scared all of a sudden and my heart is racing and I don’t know why.”

And in that moment, I took 5 seconds to thank God for blessing me with years of learning how to live with anxiety, because as it turns out, I’m pretty damned good at it.

Here’s what I taught him.

“You’re feeling a feeling called anxiety.

Feelings are just vibrations in your body.

Vibrations in your body can’t hurt you.

Right now, you’re resisting the feeling.

I know it sounds silly, buddy, but do the opposite like on Opposite Day (an elementary school favorite, by the way).

Let it just be there in your body.

Find it there.

Where is it? Is it in your chest? Where else? In your throat?

What color is it? What shape is it? Is it hot or cold or both?

Now just picture it and allow it to hang out in your body.

Take a deep breath, and say: This is anxiety. It’s a vibration in my body. And it can’t hurt me.

Now, when it’s ready to go, visualize it leaving your body.”

Then we went on a walk around the lake and breathed the fresh air and enjoyed the peaceful, centering power of nature.

I shared with him what anxiety looks like when I feel it in my body.

It’s red, looks like a wisp of cloud, is hot, and lives in my chest and makes my throat feel tight.

And when I allow it instead of resist it, it never lasts more than 5 minutes.

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