Helping girls become in charge of their anxiety

Quiet time for reflection

We cannot control the parade of negative thoughts marching thru our minds. But we can choose which ones we will give attention to. Picture your thoughts as people passing by the front of your home. Just because they’re walking by doesn’t mean you have to invite them in.  Gladys Edmunds

Adolescent girls struggle with anxiety more-so than boys, and they need tools to overcome negative self-talk and worried thoughts. I love the above quote because it points out how girls have the ability to take charge of their thinking instead of getting stressed out.

None of us has control over what thoughts pop into our head, but we do have control over what we do with them. When an anxious thought arises, I encourage girls to just notice it: “That worried thought just popped up again. It’s okay, I’ve had it before and I know it will pass.” I then have them become aware of what emotions come up around it, and where in their body they feel it. In essence I’m giving them permission to think and feel whatever is coming up without judgment.

The next step is to not believe the thoughts and to not feel forced to act on them. It helps sometimes to question these thoughts: Am I fortune telling? Am I assuming worst case? Am I jumping to conclusions? Am I catastrophizing? Checking in like this can prevent girls from ruminating, i.e. chewing on thoughts by overthinking and overanalyzing things to their detriment. Girls can also imagine what their best friend or a loving parent would say to them about the issue. This caring voice can replace any stinking thinking she might be stuck on.

Finally, I use guided imagery to help girls move on. I have them imagine their anxious feelings and thoughts in a cloud overhead. I have them breathe slowly in and out through their nose, and with each exhalation, the cloud gets pushed further and further away. When this cloud has disappeared from view, they feel much calmer and more present.

This approach works in helping girls to avoid becoming overwhelmed with anxiety. They love having a sense of control over their thoughts instead of feeling at the mercy of them. If your daughter has troubles with anxiety, it might be helpful to take her to a counselor to learn these types of tools.

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