- Published: 1 March 2022
- ISBN: 9780143776611
- Imprint: Penguin
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 224
- RRP: $30.00
Letters to You
Words of Support and Inspiration for Difficult Times
To read when you are feeling anxious
I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling anxious right now. It isn’t a nice feeling at all - I know from experience!
Maybe you are feeling anxious because of something that has happened, or might happen. Maybe you have no idea why you are feeling this way but are struggling to calm your mind. But the first thing I want you to know is that anxiety is temporary. This feeling will pass, so stay with me.
First, slow down your breathing. Try to breathe in while you count to four in your head, hold for seven, and then breathe out for eight. Focus on your breath and keep doing this until you are breathing slowly and calmly.
There is a really popular tool that I was taught for dealing with anxiety. It is called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method, and I want you to give it a go with me.
First, notice five things that you can see.
Then four things that you can touch (one of them being this book!).
Three things that you can hear.
Two things you can smell.
One thing you can taste.
It might seem like a weird thing to ask you to do, but this tool can really help ground you and help your mind to know that right now, in this moment, you are safe. All you need to focus on is the present, and nothing else. You can’t change what has happened, and you don’t know the future. When you are feeling anxious, one of the best things you can do is simply be in the moment.
My friend Genevieve Mora, the co-founder of Voices of Hope, struggled a lot with anxiety as a teenager and has learnt a lot about it. I have asked her to write to you too, as someone who has lived through it herself and understands how you might be feeling.
Remember, your anxiety is not bigger than you. It will not take you out. You are strong, you are brave, you can do this. One minute at a time.
You have got this.
I want to start by saying that anxiety is something I know all too well . I remember first feeling anxious at the age of ten, and to this day it’s still something I experience, although to a much lesser degree.
That feeling in the pit of your stomach, the rush that goes through your body, your mind racing a million miles an hour, the sweaty palms, shaky legs . . . I know wh at it’s like, so let me start by saying you are not alone.
I learnt a lot through my journey, and I would love to share with you the things that helped me the most when I was struggling, in the hope that they will help you too.
1. Positive mantras
I found it helpful to repeat these thi ngs to myself in moments of angst
- Anxiety is temporary
- It cannot hurt me
- Thoughts are not reality
I would repeat these over and over again in order to calm myself down.
2. Sharing the load
In the moments when I was feeling anxious, telling someone I trusted how I was feeling meant that I could be supported through that moment. Having someone (in my case, usually my mum) sit with me and encourage me to use my coping skills made what seemed a scary situation less scary.
I totally agree with what Jazz said above – this is a technique I used a lot in order to ground myself and help myself focus on the present.
4. Sit with it
I learnt that in order to overcome anxiety, I had to face it. This meant sitting with that uncomfortable feeling you and I know all too well, until it passed. Through this process, I was reminded time and time again that it always does pass. Sometimes it could take a little longer to fade, but it always did. Trust me on this.
Yes, anxiety is uncomfortable to feel and experience, but I also know that it ’s possible to get through these moments and you do too, because you have got through it before.
Be kind to yourself. You will be OK. Breathe in, breathe out. You’ve got this.
TIPS AND TOOLS
BY DR KIRSTEN DAVIS FROM THE PSYCHOLOGY GROUP
Here are some ideas for dealing with feelings of anxiety, which may help you feel more calm and able to cope.
DOES YOUR ANXIETY FIT THE FACTS?
Fear is an essential survival instinct. Anxiety evolved as a mechanism to keep us safe when there is danger that is causing a serious risk to our life, health or wellbeing. Our natural action urge is to fight the threat, to run away and avoid the danger, or to freeze. (This is known as the fight/flight response.)
The goal in managing anxiety is not always to get your emotional level down to zero. Instead, it is to regulate your emotion to a level that fits the facts of the situation. The experience of anxiety itself is not harmful . . . although it is unpleasant.
Ask yourself: right now, is my life in danger? Am I about to get injured or hurt? In almost all situations the answer is no.
The next step is to ask ‘What is the threat?’ Try to discover what might be causing you to feel anxious. Some examples include:
- lots of ‘what if’s
- worrying what others think of you
- predicting that bad things are going to happen
- ruminating over something that has already happened
- worrying about Covid-19
- uncertainty about the present or future
- fear of failure at school.
Some of the things that you are worrying about might make sense, but the level of anxiety you are feeling may be too high relative to the actual threat. So now you can work on reducing your anxiety to a level which is appropriate to the threat or stress you are facing.
ANCHOR YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS TO YOUR BREATH
When you are anxious, and your fight/flight response system is activated, your body prepares to protect itself by increasing your breathing and heart rate, and diverting blood flow to major muscle groups. Your breathing can become rapid and shallow, and you may gasp, sigh or hold your breath. This contributes to the physical sense of anxiety you are experiencing.
Check in with your breathing. If you are taking more than eight to twelve breaths per minute, you need to practise a breathing exercise. Aim to slow your breathing to about six breaths per minute (so one breath cycle, in and out, lasts ten to twelve seconds).
Place a hand on your stomach, between your ribs and belly button. Place your other hand on your chest, just below your collarbone.
Keep your shoulders and chest still and breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe right into your stomach and feel the rise and fall of your hand as you breathe in and out.
As you breathe, count slowly to ten — in for five, out for five. Repeat until your breathing is calm and slow.
CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Ask yourself . . .
- Is this going to matter in a few minutes, a day or a week?
- What am I predicting might happen? Is there another possibleoutcome?
- If the worst happens, what could I do to cope with it? Could I live through it?
- What would I say to a friend in this situation?
- How could I think about this situation to make me feel better about it?
Keep a notebook by your bed, and write down the thoughts that keep you awake. In the morning, go through and problem-solve what you can.
‘Postpone’ your anxiety — have a time of the day ‘booked in’ to do your worrying. If worry comes up earlier in the day, tell yourself you will have time for that later. When the time comes, you may find the worries have faded. Worry is often short-lived. And worry can be helpful — it is our brain’s way of thinking through a problem.
Create distance between you and the thought in the very moment you notice it. Say ‘I notice I’m having this thought’ and let it pass.
It wasn’t until I did that test that I really thought about how aspects of my personality and my strengths could affect my mental health, through my reactions and approaches to things.
ecades of research overwhelmingly shows that the number one factor that helps us adapt to challenging circumstances is social support.
Breathing covers a spectrum of needs, and it is important to know the best way to breathe in order to meet our needs at any moment, and how best we can move through sleep, rest, activity, exercise, sport, play, work, stress, ill health and recovery.
Dear Girls, You are prohibited from reading this book until you are twenty-one years old.