"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Our oldest son, now 10, can be quite an anxious boy who worries about all sorts of things. Today is the first day of school for 2012 and he has been anxious for days. Back in 2009 his anxiety was causing many problems and my husband and I had run out of strategies to help him so we took him to a child psychologist. 6 sessions later, he was a new boy! I just wanted to share with you today the biggest strategy we learnt as it's helpful for adults too.
Is there anything you worry about that causes a physical reaction as well as the emotional reactions? Next time you face that worry, here's what to do.....
Change the red thoughts into green thoughts.
Once you have identified exactly what the red thought is, take some really deep/slow breaths to calm you down (which also reduces any physical reactions) and try to think about all the positive or 'green' things about your worry. As my son was younger at the time of his counselling the Psychologist used the terms red and green to explain his thoughts, but for older children/adults we can refer to them as 'rational' and irrational' thoughts.
Here's an example to explain what I mean. My son is so worried about starting school tomorrow. We can easily identify this as his BIG read thought but we then ask him to tell us some 'green' thoughts about starting school, like the fact that he knows his teacher, he has some friends in class with him, the school is not new to him, he knows most of the teachers in the school as well as where everything is in the school..... Breaking down the worry and doing some deep breathing helps our son deal with his worry in a rational way. Sometimes finding the 'green' thoughts can be tricky but they are there and it just helps us shift to more positive thinking. It doesn’t take the worry away entirely either but it certainly helps.
Now when faced with a problem, instead of saying 'I can't do that', our son also has the skills to break it down and deal with one step at a time until the problem is solved. He is training his mind to see positives instead of negatives that make him sick and stop him from trying or participating.
These simple techniques have made the world of difference to our son – even though he needs a refresher every now and then. Hubby and I even find ourselves using them when we face a stress or issue. I should also add, that as a Christian family we always emphasise the importance of prayer in combating worry.
The verses above from Philippians instruct us to think about things that are pure, noble, lovely and true. I don't know about you, but thinking about those things is easier for me if I aim to keep my mind full of positive thoughts.