Do you have a little worry wart in your family? Is it you? This new book, Make Your Worrier a Warrior, might be just the thing you need. My kids worry about everything from the first day of school to spelling tests to who is invited to which birthday parties. All the while, I’m worried about my volunteer jobs for the PTA and whether I’m going to have enough time to cook a decent Thanksgiving turkey! All this anxiety is for the birds. So I really appreciate psychologist and Ph.D. Dan B. Peters‘ advice. He explains why we all worry and how to feel better below:
KK: What is The Worry Monster?
DP: The Worry Monster is a mythical creature that picks on us and bullies us into feeling worried and scared. He activates our “survival response” or “fight or flight” response by telling us that we are in danger and that bad things will happen (i.e., “Your mom is going to forget to pick you up; people will laugh at you; you are going to fail”). He is very sneaky and quietly lurks, waiting to use his tricks against us. The Worry Monster wants us to avoid people and situations, not fully engage in life, and not become all we can be.
KK: What prompted you to write this book? Tell us your personal journey as a father and doctor.
DP: This book came out of years as psychologist, speaker, father and someone who knows the Worry Monster, and his friend, the Perfectionist Monster. I have been working with wonderful, bright, creative and conscientious kids and their families for years, and over time, found myself combining several schools of thoughts and strategies in a way that made sense to people and were successful in driving the Worry Monster away.
At the same time, my 3 children were getting older (now 13, 11, and 9) and having their own battles with worry and fear. I wrote this book to give people of all ages simple, useful information that they could utilize in their life to live with less worry and fear.
KK: What are the Top 3 ways to Tame the Worry Monster?
1. Know that you are built to survive, and that we all have a fear center of our brain known as the amygdala (a-myg-da-la) whose job it is to sense danger and activate us for battle or escape in the face or threat of danger. The amygdala sends messages to our adrenal glands to pump massive amounts of adrenaline through our bodies to be super human fighting machines. The adrenalin and re-routing of our blood supply from our head and stomach makes us feel bad – headaches, dizzy, upset stomach, butterflies, etc.
2. Our thoughts trigger our amygdala and survival response. When the Worry Monster tells us a worrisome thought (“You are going to forget everything you studied”), we go into survival mode, even though we are actually safe. If we change our thinking to a more rational thought (“The test will be hard, but I studied and usually do fine”), our amygdala turns down and we go back to a relaxed, non-fearful state.
3. Since our thoughts trigger our anxious feelings, and then cause us to behave in a certain way (i.e. avoid, cry, act out), if we change our behavior, it also changes our thoughts and feelings too. This means that everything you DO to take a stand against the Worry Monster (i.e. speak in front of the class, look someone in the eye, go to a party, try out for a team) reduces the Worry Monster’s power. Since the Worry Monster is a bully, like all other bullies, when you stand up to him, he gets weaker and usually decides to pick on someone else. Also, doing the things you are afraid of makes you feel more confident and stronger in all aspects of your life.
KK: Is there a way to turn your Worrier into a Warrior?
DP: Absolutely! I have seen it time and time again my office and in my home. These techniques and strategies really work. Teaching your child about his or her brain and how the survival response works; how your thoughts are responsible for your uncomfortable feelings; changing your thinking can make you feel less worried and scared; and that doing the scary thing (or taking baby steps towards it) makes us less fearful and feel stronger – makes Worriers into Warriors.
KK: Can your tips also help Moms and Dads?
DP: Yes they can! These skills and strategies work for people of all ages – parents, teens, tweens, children.
In fact, in the parent book, I write about how the Worry Monster had the nerve to visit me when I began writing this book. (I should have known he would not want me to tell the world about him and how he works!) I used the same strategies I use with my clients and children to drive him away. I highly recommend that parents look at their own experiences with the Worry Monster and use their experiences to relate to their children, as well as motivation to join their children in driving the Worry Monster away.
The Worry Monster is strong, but when we team up against him, he gets small and powerless.
About the Author:
Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, is co-founder and Clinical Director of the Summit Center, specializing in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and families, with special emphasis on gifted, talented, and creative individuals and families. Dr. Peters speaks regularly at state and national conferences on a variety of gifted, learning, and parenting topics. He consults with GATE and special education departments and trains teachers and parents in understanding, teaching, and raising complex children to be engaged in the classroom, at home, and in life.
I know most of the country has started school. But here on the East Coast, the time is the now (or even next week!). If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, a great new book just came out for you. Author Carolyn Dalgliesh wrote The Sensory Child Gets Organized: Proven Systems for Rigid, Anxious or Distracted Kids. She hopes her tips can make school–and life–a little easier and a lot more fun. Check out my Q&A with her below, including her top 5 tips for going back to school. Dalgliesh knows what she’s talking about–she’s got a sensory child of her own.
KK: How do you deﬁne a sensory child? CD: In my book, The Sensory Child Gets Organized, I use the term “sensory” to deﬁne children who are rigid, anxious, or distracted as a result of autism, ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder or sensory processing disorder. Though there are a number of proﬁles and diagnoses for a “sensory” child, the core challenges are similar for many; attention problems, inﬂexibility, anxiety, social and emotional difﬁculties – all that make for overwhelmed kids (and parents!) as they navigate daily life. I believe in focusing on the challenging behavior or task and coming up with ways to support it.
KK: Why do parents of sensory child need this book? CD: Sensory kids navigate the world through a different lens and parents need help creating physical environments and sensory organizing strategies that speak to their child. Early on, as I was learning how to support my own sensory child, I felt like there was a major gap between the essential clinical support we received and the practical solutions that we really needed to make life at home easier for our child and our whole family. My book gives parents the sensory organizing tools of structure, routines, and visual aids that can be used anywhere, anytime and for almost any situation. My main goal is to help parents, caregivers and teachers bring out the best in these innately talented kids by providing practical solutions for every day living.
KK: What are your top 5 tips for getting sensory kids prepared and organized for Back-to-School? CD: For a sensory child, back-to-school isnʼt about a week or two but rather continuous supports over a couple of months. For the sensory child, I like to think of back-to-school as a three-month process that starts with supporting a new classroom with new routines, then moves to getting stuff home and back to school, and ﬁnally homework strategies. Initially, we want to focus on what might be the immediate challenges as our kids get back to school and start with these ﬁrst:
When it comes to back-to-school, our ﬁrst priority will be supporting their experiences around new people, a new classroom and new routines they will encounter when school starts. (more…)
Want to jumpstart 2013 with positive thoughts, new goals and increased happiness? May Cause Miracles may do the trick for moms who enjoy self help books and can devote 5 to 10 minutes a day to this project. (That’s really all it takes–I’ve been reading right before bed, and I get all calm and relaxed.) I’ve completed Gabrielle’s Days 1 and 2, and she’s inspired me to face my biggest fears–and not be so scared of them. I can’t tell you if it’s going to work until I do 38 more days, but I’m digging it. Who doesn’t want to kick anxiety to the curb? Or add a little happiness to life? Count me in! I’ll totally drink that water.
My husband loves when I get on these kicks. He abides by the most basic rule in the universe: When Momma is happy, everyone is happy–and vice versa.
What’s so successful about May Cause Miracles is its accessibility. Gabrielle takes complicated, multi-layered philosophical ideas and breaks them down so they make perfect sense. Her easy, friendly style makes her relatable and irresistible. She’s grounding her advice on old but sound psychological and metaphysical ideas, especially a program called The Course. She writes that our fears are just limiting beliefs. “They’re just smoke and mirrors, a bit of mental sleight of hand that leads us in the wrong direction in life.” In order to create everyday miracles (meaning positive thoughts, a can-do attitude and happiness), we need to label what scares us, be willing to change our beliefs, to surrender to to a higher power (God or your inner self or whatever inspires you), to practice and to forgive. “Finally, there is love,” Gabrielle writes. “Where there is fear, there is no love…living with an open heart and embracing love as our true purpose is essential to living a miraculous life.”
Gabrielle just started a live class in NYC last night, but it’s also available online, and you can download yesterday’s lesson. She’s personally presenting and teaching from her new book in this May Cause Miracles Live Course ($178). But the book is only $12.99 (see the May Cause Miracle trailer below), and there are also affordable meditations on the website. I love her fun and reassuring Spirit Junkie app, especially because it’s $1.99.
How I adore you, self help. This is a hot category right now (definitely check out Help, Thanks, Wow), so at least I know I’m not alone in my devotion. Are there any books that got you jazzed up recently?
I’ve been a huge fan of her hilarious, candid and outrageous writing at The Bloggess for years. Where else can you read about a wife who brings home a 5-foot metal chicken named Beyonce to get back at her husband after an argument over bath towels? Just two weeks ago, Lawson gave her lucky man a tree sloth, wallaby and hedgehog for their 16th wedding anniversary while their daughter Hailey freaked out and then laughed.
The book includes some of her best blogs and expands on the story of her wacky family life. She grew up poor in West Texas, wearing newspaper-stuffed bread sacks for waterproof shoes and dodging her father’s twisted animal shenanigans. He once gutted a dead squirrel to use as a hand puppet. Another time, he brought home turkeys as pets, and they followed Lawson to school where they invaded the cafeteria and pooped everywhere. Eventually, she meets the love of her life in the witchcraft section of a bookstore. She opens up about her gruesome struggle to have a baby, her lifelong battle with generalized anxiety disorder and her obsession with the zombie apocalypse.
I’ve been telling all of my friends–especially the ones who curse a lot–to buy this now. For just $25 (or less), you’ll laugh out loud and learn important information about taxidermy.
I emailed Lawson to tell her I had a writing crush on her–in a non-stalking kind of way. Then I asked her how she managed to write a book while juggling work and parenthood.
I will never delete her reply from my inbox:
“It took me 11 years to finish the book because I kept getting interrupted
with things like labor and childbirth. But in the end it was worth it. I
think the only way to balance everything (work, being a wife, mother,
daughter, etc) is to realize you’re going to suck at a few of those things
at a time while you concentrate on the others. You can’t do it all
perfectly all the time or your head will explode. Just remember that
you’re human and that all you can do is your best.”
Her secret to success is working. Even though her book came out in May, she’s still sitting pretty on the New York Times bestseller list. She’s original, out-there and totally deserving. I got lost in her book, and it was a great place to be.
It happens all the time. I start to worry about something–big or small. The worry turns into a palpable feeling of failure and self-doubt. Then the feeling dives deep into body to nag my thoughts and soul. The nagging tugs at my stomach and lungs causing butterflies and trouble breathing. The tugs, if I’m not careful, can turn into panic. Panic envelops me, making me dizzy, nauseous and fearful of death.
Luckily, none of this is life threatening. It’s just anxiety. I’ve dealt with it more years than not. In college, I’d lose sleep over exams, boys and money. In my late twenties, after a blood-letting breakup, I collapsed from a panic attack outside of busy Bloomingdale’s department store. I immediately started seeing a psychologist who prescribed Xanax. Relief came in that bottle. I also talked openly to the therapist and my best friend about my fears. At the time I had been rejected and was terrified of growing old alone and childless. My best friend took my phone calls at all hours to talk me down from my nervous ledge–and she wisely reminded me to take my medicine.
Things improved. I married, had kids and worked. But like a large mole that can never be removed, anxiety persists. Now, my nerves come undone over my new things, especially my kids. It goes something like this: Will I get up in time to get them to school? If they are late to school, will the teacher think badly of my family? If I make them late once, I’ll just do it again and again. I’ll teach my kids that being late is okay, but it’s not. They’ll be late to everything in their lives–and they won’t be able to keep their friends or get into a decent college. Now I’ll never be able to fall asleep.