When I posted my survey for parent's of anxious kids (what?, you haven't seen or answered the survey yet? Well you can find it here: http://www.auntieanxiety.com/survey.html) and then shamelessly asked for feedback from everyone that I know by way of email and social media, I expected to get at least a few responses from the community as well as some of my friend's.
So, I did get those responses (and Thank You to all of you who took the time to help an Auntie out) AND I also got some personal contact from friends who shared their personal experiences and who put their own questions on the table for me. While it was not what I expected, I am grateful for the opportunity to provide some useful information for my friend's (and hopefully the rest of you will benefit as well - hey we are all in this together, right?) 😊
Since I love to "preach" about walking toward our fears and talking back to our anxiety, I am, once again, going to walk my talk with this one. I'm jumping into it with both feet, even though it scares the hell out of me to step into the political arena. I am willing to do this, though, because I know this is one of the most current and timely issues for most (if not all) families today! The specific "humdinger" that my friend shared is "how do parent's talk to their older kids about the current political crisis without scaring the hell out of them?" 🤔
Yep, that is a humdinger for sure! Now my friend actually led up to this question by sharing that her sixteen year old had actually told her that she needs to "get a grip" because her anxiety is "over the top" around all of the "political crap that is going on". Wow, what an insightful young man!
So how many of you are aware of how your anxiety impacts your children? I led off my survey with this question "What are your biggest challenges in dealing with your child's anxiety?" and very purposefully the first answer is "dealing with my own anxiety". Folks, Anxiety is part of everyone's life AND we cannot expect our kids to deal with theirs if we are not dealing with ours! I know you've heard it before (and I'm gonna go ahead and repeat it anyway): picture the flight attendant standing there and going through his or her spiel about how you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself if you have any hopes of helping anyone else out. Another way to say that? Deal with your own anxiety first if you want to have any chance of supporting your children (or spouse, or parents, or friends, or neighbors....) with their Anxiety (or anything else for that matter!).
So now you are saying, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard this all before, and I know this intellectually, but how the hell do I put my oxygen mask on with all of this crazy bullshit that's going on right now?". Well, folks....here are my thoughts and suggestions (and they are just that..."my" thoughts and "my" suggestions, so take what works for you and leave the rest....):
What if we start by noticing our tendency to "catastrophize". That's a fancy word for what our anxiety does when it makes a life or death situation out of something that is not a life or death situation. Yes, I know that some scary shit is going on for a lot of people right now and I am not suggesting that we not be awake and alert and ready to take action. What I am saying is that unless death is imminent, we have a tendency to overreact. Our amaygdala is meant to scan the environment for danger and to sound the alert....when there is imminent danger. If we overwork our alert system then it will start to break down. So it is up to us to stay calm (alert, but calm) and use our intellect to plan and respond rather than to react and lose our shit!
One of the tenants that I live by and would like for you to consider is this: mistakes are simply opportunities in disguise. Last night I read a piece on Facebook by a woman named Susan Keller. In it she talked about so many of the "opportunities" that I have contemplated since the election happened. I won't share the whole thing (you all know how to do a search for Susan Keller and the phrase "I can't believe I'm saying this" if you want to see the whole piece), I will simply give you a taste:
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today's Jon Stewart.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone." - Susan Keller
OK, when I attempted to just share part of it, I couldn't decide what to include and what to leave out so, there, I gave you a gift, you don't have to google it or search for it on Facebook, you now have the entire piece!
So how do you ponder these ideas, work on changing your thoughts (technically you are working to reframe your cognitive distortions), plan for actions you can take as a citizen of the United States, AND how in the hell do you talk to your kids about all of this?
Afraid? Me too! Just remember that we are all in this together and moving toward our fears is the only way for any of us to discover just how courageous and powerful we truly are and, trust me, you can do this 😊
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor