Let me be clear, I am not a therapist or psychologist. I’m a mom that has done a lot of work on my own mind so I can be a better person, mom, wife, daughter, friend.
Why is putting our feelings into words beneficial? A brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists which appears in the journal Psychological Science, may give us the answer. Verbalizing our negative feelings makes excessive or persistent sadness, anger and pain less intense.
Do the work yourself to see.
When you recognize the feeling of uneasiness stop.
Either verbal label the feeling or write it down. “I am feeling anxious, nervous, uneasy, apprehensive.” You get my drift. According to science the response in your brain happens because you have switched roles from the one suffering to the observer.
2. I describe how I’m feeling. I do this outloud or in a journal. This is very similar to the first exercise but goes into more detail allowing further detachment. “I’m feeling really anxious about sending my student to campus. There is a tightening in my stomach. It feels like a knot. My pulse gets faster. My hands start to sweat and jitter.” Give as much physical detail as you can.
3. Play your anxious thought out.
Bonus exercise I learned from Brooke. Take 10 minutes and do a brain download. Set a timer so you aren’t distracted.
Just write for ten minutes….even if you start by writing I don’t know what to write down. The thoughts will come. Ding!
Now go back and look at what you wrote down. Strike through anything that is just a thought….something that cannot be proven in a court of law. Those are the things your mind is telling you to freak out over and aren’t necessarily true.
It’s amazing the control you will begin to feel over your emotions.
Next look at what is left that you determined are facts.
What thoughts do you have about those?
Do you absolutely know that to be true?
What if xyz did happen? What is the worst case scenario?
What would you do? Then what?
What I find after doing this is that I feel more control or confidence that I can handle it, I can figure it out. The anxiety does diminish. I do this myself, I’ve done this repeatedly with my younger daughter. I even started telling her we were doing the exercise together and why. Now she knows how to do the work herself. Now when she’s not in a place where she can sit and write things down to process she calls me to work through the thoughts verbally.
Sister, this is an exercise in restraint for me. I want to jump straight into fix it mode when she does. But I have to remind myself that me fixing it is not empowering her. It’s not allowing her to develop her own tools.
This is something you can teach your student how to do when they are feeling anxious. I’ve done it with my daughter. Now when she can’t write things down she’ll call me. “Let me talk myself off the ledge” she’ll say. She knows it works!
Here are some additional resources that can help you develop this process for yourself.