Well hello there. It’s wonderful to be with you again. The last few weeks we started the tradition of taking a deep breath together. Let’s do it again, shall we? This time maybe even close your eyes.
Now, relax and settle in. Settle in so I can tell you a story.
Actually, I’m going to tell you about a story. About a storybook.
One of the children’s books that sits in a special spot on my shelf is the Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. It is a hardback copy. Or it was. Now the spine is loose from all the times it has been read. The ribbon attached to the book to mark the page is faded and frayed. The corners of the book are no longer sharp, but rounded, and the blue fabric of the cover has worn away in these places to show the grey of the board underneath.
It is a book that has been well loved. It is a book that has been well traveled. For it was the book that I took with me to all of the doctor appointments for my son when he was little. And there were many. For four and half years we went from place to place to place as we determined why he was sick. And Winnie-the-Pooh came with us.
A well traveled book that now sits on a shelf. Which may be a bit like how each of us is feeling in these New Times. We used to travel to so many places without thinking much about it. And now here we are. Feeling a little shelved.
And over the last few weeks of these New Times we may have also felt like we were in the story instead of reading it. Maybe there have been days you have felt like Eeyore (‘This is impossible. I can’t do anything right’), or moments you have felt like Tigger (‘come on! come on! Let’s tackle these eleven projects we’ve avoided for years! And get them all done by lunch! It will be FunFunFunFunFun!’). Or Owl. Or Rabbit. Or even Pooh.
Today, though, is about Piglet.
Cute. Sweet. Worried. Anxious. Piglet.
In each chapter, with each new adventure, Piglet comes along with trepidation tinged with excitement. And that may make Piglet the bravest of all. Because worry is heavy. And Anxiety is exhausting. And to keep moving forward anyway? That’s the sign of someone of strength. And courage.
And even with courage and strength and bravery, it might be nice to put down anxiety and worry, right? So let’s give Piglet some tools for doing just that. Tools we can use, too. Tools we can teach our kiddos, share with our friends. Tools that allow us to change our story. In Winnie-the-Pooh, each chapter title begins ‘In Which’. And so will ours.
Chapter 1: In Which We Name It. As the What If’s and And Then’s are swirling in your mind, stop and name them: This is Worry. This is Anxiety. Each time your mind tries to keep telling stories, stop. Stop the story. Name the emotion. Stop the story, name the emotion. When the stories are swirling, it amplifies the anxiety within us. With each retelling, our brain retriggers the production of adrenaline and pushes us farther in our fight / flight / freeze response. When we stop, and acknowledge what we feel, we stop this process. We are getting grounded—calming the brain and the body.
Chapter 2: In Which We Frame It. Give worry a time frame. One time a day when you let the worries come out. Not when you are hungry, not when you are tired. Sometime in the middle of the day you can set aside to let the worries happen. And when it isn’t that time of day? And they still try and get our attention? You gently say ‘No, not now. Now is not the worry time.’ We can also give our worries longer time frames—for example, some of us may be worried about school in September. That is not a worry for now, that is a worry for August. So if it is insistently swirling in your head you very firmly say ‘No, not now. Now is not August.’
Chapter 3: In Which We Distract It. When our anxious brain is swirling with stories, it can be difficult to slow it down and change the story. Here’s one way to do that. Hold you head veeerrrrry still. Then look around the room just by moving your eyes. With each thing you see, name its shape instead of its name. For example, instead of calling it a door, call it a rectangle. Look all around for all the shapes—squares, triangles, circles, etc. Keep looking all around the room until you feel peace again. We’re distracting one part of the brain by activating another—and this quiets the anxiety.
Chapter 4: In Which We Sense It. (also known as distraction, part two). Take a deep breath. Let it go. Take another one. Release it. Do each of the following, one at a time, with a slow breath. Look around the room and name five things you can see. Breathe, see the first thing. Breathe, see the second, etc. Now name four things you are touching. Then name three things you can hear. Followed by two things you can smell and finally one thing you can taste.
Chapter 5: In Which We Practice It. Worry and anxiety are our fears of the unknown. And befriending our fears helps us become comfortable with discomfort. How do we do this? We practice on the small stuff. Worried about the stock market? Listen to that tersely voiced message and call your coworker back. Uncertain about how to homeschool? Google how to fix a clogged drain. Tackling a small worry helps us build muscles for the big ones.
Chapter 6: In Which We Let Go. Externalization is the technical name for how teenagers manage their feelings by foisting those emotions onto their parents. We can use this technique no matter what our age, but we’re going to give these emotions away to something other than someone we love. It might be a stuffed animal. It might be a photo. Or maybe a rock. Some object that we can hold and whisper our worries. We are giving them away. Allowing ourselves to breathe out concern and breathe in calm.
At the very end of Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne wrote “Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that Enchanted Place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”
Today, Piglet is the hero of the storybook. Today, tomorrow, forever you are the hero of your story.
And I’ll always be here for you, here in the Enchanted Place.
Want more tips and tricks for your inner Piglet? The doors of Evolving Parents are open, and I am here for you. We can chat over the phone / FaceTime / zoom for 15, 30 or 50 minute sessions. click right here, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get connected.
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Here’s week 2: Feeling alllll the feels.
And week 1: how to build a schedule