This spring I read a couple of new books on anxiety, one geared more towards children and one written for parents of children who have anxiety symptoms.
What To Do When You Worry Too Much, Dawn Huebner
This is a great book written for kids who struggle with anxiety in some form. In kid-friendly short chapters, the authors explain what anxiety (or worry) is, how to recognize it, and how to begin to interact it with if differently to get some relief.
- Using logic (realistic self-talk that replaces catastrophizing)
- Designating a “Worry Time” in order to spend less time with the worries
- Externalizing the worry, so you can talk back to the Worry Bully
- Resetting your system via activity (exercise or distraction) or relaxation (deep breathing, favorite memory, progressive relaxation)
- Self care to prevent them from coming back (adequate rest, exercise, etc.)
The book is best when read by both the parent and child, and then they can use the ideas and shared vocabulary to address the child’s anxiety. There’s some exercises throughout the lessons, some of which I may incorporate into my work with clients.
Anxiety-Free Kids, Bonnie Zucker
The authors describe the symptoms of anxiety, and the different ways in which it’s typically manifested in children (generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.). Lots of case studies are used, making it easy for parents to see what their own children’s struggles are. The author then describes Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used to treat children struggling with anxiety.
“When your child avoids situations that evoke anxiety, this is called avoidance behavior….However, each time that your child avoids something because it makes her feel anxious, the anxiety wins and becomes reinforced and strengthened, and your child loses. But each time your child does something that makes her feel anxious, she wins and the anxiety loses.”
She walks parents through the task of developing a list of anxiety-provoking situations, from least challenging (and anxiety-inducing) to most, which is structured as a ladder that the family will “climb.”
The author then describes more ways to get relief from anxiety through:
- calm breathing
- progressive muscle relaxation
- relaxing imagery
- perspective (think of the big picture…)
- scheduled “worry time”
- positive self-talk
- talking back to the anxiety
- challenging cognitive distortions (replacing thinking errors with more helpful thoughts, instead of catastrophizing, all-or-nothing, filtering, magnifying, mindreading, overgeneralization, etc.)
“Anxiety breeds self-doubt, which may weaken or threaten self-esteem, overcoming anxiety can be an incredibly powerful boost to your child’s confidence in himself.”
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
This book was a re-read for me, and I might have found this meaningful book even more impactful this time around (with a few more years and life experiences under my belt). It’s such a powerful book, and
Frankl is the father of logotherapy, which is centered around people needing to identify and pursue meaning in their lives. He survived concentration and extermination camps in 1942-1945, and throughout part 1 of this book he weaves in stories about human suffering and loss, as well as resiliency and meaning which was found in even the worst of circumstances. He outlines stages that he identified of the prisoners’ psychological reactions. In part 2 he goes into more details about logotherapy.
“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” -Nietzsche
“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish.”
“These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way….No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any of destiny.”
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.””
“The crowning experience of all…is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more- except his God.”
The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown
This was the first in a series of three books by Brown, the other two of which already have a prominent place on my bookshelf. Because I read them out of “order,” this one felt like a review in some aspects, but still is full of important truths.
“Many of the truly committed compassion practitioners were also the most boundary-conscious people in the study. Compassionate people are boundaried people.”
“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness- the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our live that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.”
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
The author introduces the concept of 10 Guideposts, to set and strive for. I like the phrase “cultivating” that she uses, as these are decisions and efforts made day by day, even moment by moment- never arriving at perfection yet growing in the right direction.
1. Cultivating authenticity…letting go of what people think.
2. Cultivating self-compassion…letting go of perfectionism.
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit…letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” -Terri St. Cloud
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy…letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith…letting go of the need for certainty.
“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”- Anne Lamott
6. Cultivating creativity…letting go of comparison.
7. Cultivating play and rest…letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
8. Cultivating calm and stillness…letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
9. Cultivating meaningful work…letting go of doubt and “supposed to.”
10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance…letting go of being cool and “always in control.”