How to Help Kids With Anxiety
If I claimed there was a single simple tool that calms anxiety, releases unwanted emotions, relieves physical pain, removes blocks to love in relationships AND washes away limiting beliefs about who you really are and what you can do…
Admit it. You’d think I was selling something.
But then, if I said this tool was completely FREE, indestructible and gets more powerful with each use… would you pick one up on your way out the door?
Introducing the Picnic Blanket
Years ago a friend shared this simple tool and after a time or two it became my own. I couldn’t remember how to do it exactly her way, plus mine needed sound effects and dramatic lighting (how like me). I’ve since shared it with hundreds of others and they in turn have made it their own. If you believe in a higher power and go with your heart, you really can’t mess it up. Here are the variety of circumstances our family has found this tool useful for:
Use It When…
A teenager wants to quit running cross-country because of uncomfortable feelings about some cocky upperclassmen.
A child feels anxious around other children, or being away from mom or dad.
A son/daughter believes they “struggle with History” or “is not good at testing” and continues underperforming in this area.
A friend has gone through a painful breakup and needs comfort.
A toddler can’t sleep for fear the wet pesticide he ran across on the neighbors lawn will also kill little boys.
An unexpected change at work is humiliating and you want to quit even though the job pays well.
Someone is in pain with an accident or injury and no anesthetic is available.
A family member is nervous for an upcoming tryout or audition.
A teen is running scared and running away from a poor choice they wish they hadn’t made.
You are openly criticized by friends or family for your choice to go against the norm (fill in the blank :/) and it just feels bad.
Also works if …
You’ve felt shame over something you did in the past. You may even have apologized for it, but the shame and guilt persist.
A preteen is nervous to sleep away from home for the first time.
A young adult is carrying past hurts they know are holding them back in their ability to put themselves out there with others.
You feel friction in one of your primary relationships and want to be free of your part in the turmoil.
You want to feel more joy in doing mundane or difficult things that must be done. (ugh)
Someone betrays or abandons you (in ways large or small) and you no longer want to feel beat up about it.
Maybe you just feel blah and can’t identify why. You just know you want to feel better about being alive.
Why it Works – Emotions are a Choice that can be undone
It’s not so much the circumstances themselves that cause us pain and suffering, rather, it’s the feelings we attach to our experiences and the story we tell ourselves about it that really burdens us. These feelings we carry around reap greater joy or greater burden for weeks or even years to come.
In truth, there is a small space between the moment a thought/memory runs through our mind and the next moment when we attach an emotion to it. When we believe that the thought and the emotion are inseparable, we find ourselves falling off the steep rim of the gulf of misery.
Working the Gap
However, by observing our thoughts and resisting the attachment of an emotion for just a moment…THAT is the point of power for humankind. We can say, “Well now, isn’t that interesting?” and choose to stay on the canyon rim of the gulf of misery. That moment that we throw it in Park and refuse to go flying over the edge reveals a hidden passageway to immense freedom and power over our circumstances. We are in charge and can actually choose to associate a given emotion to an arising circumstance or not.
What we aren’t taught in Kindergarten is that how we feel about present circumstances is our choice entirely. This is really quite powerful. Victor Frankl, a psychologist imprisoned with thousands of other inmates in a Nazi slave camp observed,
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The first time I noticed the gap (that space between stimulus and response) I was driving down University Avenue in Provo, watching in my rearview mirror as carefully hand glazed dining chairs tumbled off my trailer into oncoming traffic. I’d spent two weeks refinishing 10 chairs and was taking them to the upholstery shop for the final touch – tapestry seat covers. For a moment my heart and stomach leapt into hyperdrive. But then in my awareness there was this gap…and I moved into it. I thought, “what if I reserve getting upset…for later?” I scrambled from my Suburban to rescue three broken chairs from oncoming cars and jogged along the roadside scanning for broken bits of wood. After securing the chairs again (double knots are better.) I drove on, ignoring this place in my brain that said I had an obligation to FREAK out.
But it felt so peaceful, like shelter from a raging storm there in the gap… that I never did get around to freaking out about the chairs. Once the seat covers were on, I pieced the backs together with wood glue and filler. These three chairs have served our family another decade at least. Their scuffed carved arms and shoulders remind me of …the gap. And my first victory in finding it.
But for those times when the most agile Jedi Mind fails to tuck into the gap, there is emotional release therapy…enter, the picnic blanket visualization.
Common Questions about this Visualization
What do you do with a black gob of feelings that you realize are no longer serving you? Perhaps have tried to forget about or give these unwanted feelings away. Maybe you found it hard to leave it and not take it back home with you. Use this tool.
Changing other People
Does this tool change other people? No, the only person this changes right away is you. And you’ll feel better about your part immediately. The gift to others is that the change you’ll notice in yourself actually creates a new space for others to respond more openly and lovingly to you.
Clean your emotional filters
Have some big decision to make, but find yourself tossed about by many emotions? Jettison all that pressure in your heart and mind in order to see more clearly some viable solutions, or to simply feel peaceful about it again.
The Zone for Healing
The energy we exist in hour by hour is not just about our immediate happiness, but it’s also about creating a biochemistry for health and wellbeing. Living and walking “peaceably with all men” is not only awesome for your facial furrow lines but also puts you in the Zone for body repair and longevity. If “All His Ways are peace” (Psalm 25:10) and God’s asking us to be “even as he is”, the way is clear.
Use. This. Tool.
It’s one way the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be called down to deliver you from bondage day by day, even hour by hour. You may find it helpful to have someone talk you through this the first few times so you can keep your eyes closed and begin committing the simple framework to memory.
PICNIC BLANKET VISUALIZATION
With your eyes closed, imagine spreading out your favorite colored comfy picnic blanket in a beautiful green grassy glen in your mind. Note what color the blanket is today, (say it’s fuzzy and sky blue, or green plush with big puppies on it. Whatever feels comfy. Speak out what it looks like.)
Sit crosslegged at one end and assign 3 attributes: color, shape and consistency to the first feeling you want to be done with. Name the feeling (eg.”this feeling of being overlooked” or “of shame for my action in the past” or “of sleeplessness or pain”). Then assign three attributes to it like “it’s thick gray cement with potato size rocks in it,” or “red hot lava flows,” or “blue satin ribbons.” Anything that comes to mind will work. Tell your mind this represents the feeling you want to dejunk. Then, identify out load a container on the blanket that will hold this feeling as it comes out, again, assigning it a color shape and texture (ie. a big black dumpster, a glistening silver hatbox or small red rubber ball).
Pull it Out:
Now open up channels all over your body to release this heavy flow of feelings you no longer want or need. (Top of head, sternum, wide open mouth, out of your navel, kneecaps, and wrists like Spiderman shooting webs). See it all flowing into the opening in the ‘big black dumpster’ on the fuzzy blue blanket. Within a few minutes the flow will decrease and trickle off to nothing, but keep watching it and noticing it come out. If your mind wanders, bring it back to what the substance represents, what it looks and feels like and what the container looks like out on the blanket. When the gunk has trickled off to nothing, nod your head that you are ready to pull out another feeling. You may as well dejunk any other limiting beliefs bringing you down while you’re here and all setup. (rarely with anyone has there been only one. I think Satan employs as many heavy misconceptions as will stick to us at once).
Give it to your Higher Power:
Once your yucky experience, heavy feelings or limiting beliefs are all pulled out and in their containers on the blanket, you look to the far side of this place and notice a person walking toward you. He is dressed in brilliant white and as He nears, you know who He is, but are still surprised by how familiar his face is to you and by how much He loves you. He smiles as he stands at the other end of the picnic blanket and reaches down to pickup the two corners of the blanket on his side. Then he picks up both corners on your side and brings them all together in his hands. You see the tremendous weight of these objects and hear them clanking against eachother as he lifts them in the blanket and draws it towards his bosom.
Then a brilliant flash of nuclear light (with sound effects, “sha-kooo”) completely envelops the blanket and its contents as it incinerates in His marvelous light.
He then steps forward to offer you a gift in return for what you’ve just given him. Take a minute to see if you can tell what the gift is. I’ve seen ancient keys, a precious jeweled box, a gerberra daisy, a cloud blanket, a white dove and sometimes the gift is to be embraced in His arms and filled with overpowering love. In fact, just see that one happening too whatever your gift is. Feeling His love is always the result of giving our burdens to Him. (I love it.)
Next, He thanks you for meeting Him here and reminds you that it was for this very purpose that He suffered and bled and died, just so He could take these burdened thoughts and feelings from you. And He will meet you here again whenever you need Him. Then he returns from where he came.
Your work after this emotional release therapy session is to notice how things are different. Your heart may be softer now, or former offenses may roll off your back, or people may actually respond differently to you now that you’ve moved heavy feelings out of your energy field. Just notice, and thank Heavenly Father. This unexpected shift is “happiness” in the great plan.
At times Life is like traveling in hyperdrive through a swirling vortex of growth and “becoming”. Not gonna lie. It can be painful. And our Real Work somehow at its crux always involves identifying burdens, and releasing them to a higher power. For me He is Jesus Christ, and you may use whoever you see as your higher power. I have come to believe “there is no pain or suffering the Savior’s words or works cannot heal” and that messages from Him are always hopeful and uplifting.
I love the way these words work…
The Real Work
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
I’m visualizing beautiful Benham Falls, created by lava flow that blocked the Deschutes River, so now the water tumbles over it. Such beauty to the eyes and ears brought about by impediment.
It’s what life is. Discovering for ourselves what our Ultimate Source has to do with our present problems, burdens and impediments.
You are meant to be well.
And to Sing.