All posts by emmaoconnor

Tricking myself into exercise

Fuck weight loss goals…
(tricking myself into exercising)

Today I exercised!
Please throw me a party.
I NEVER feel like doing any, and would much rather sit on the sofa….Netflix, glass of wine, you know?
So today I went to a body balance class for the 3rd week in a row….
Yes I said week, not day, don’t laugh.
Did I mention I work 3 days per week inside a gym….? Probably shouldn’t mention that….
I’ve never been naturally sporty, never enjoyed proper team sports, came last in all the school athletics and believe my grandma stopped taking me to the tennis club out of sheer embarrassment!
Despite this I always had a go… hitting the tennis ball against the wall over and over again, taking myself on runs, practicing athletics at lunch time, riding my bike, going to gymnastics, and as I got older joining a rowing crew and going to aerobics (yes if you’re thinking fluorescent lycra, you’d be right). From memory my parents NEVER made me do this stuff, I just wanted to…. And I dunno whether my drive came from the fact that TV was so boring, and a treat back then, not to mention no video games! Or because I always thought I was fat. (Looking back now at old photos, this was not true… but it’s what I thought.) Maybe it was just fun!

So what has happened?

Sitting here on the eve of my 43rd birthday, (on the sofa) broadening middle aged hips, Kids to be an example to and this idea that I want to live a BETTER second half, with them, for them… and I can’t get motivated for more than 2 days, can’t get my arse off the fucking sofa! Honestly!
(And I still think I’m fat… dammit, thought I’d be over that by now.)
But still no motivation.?!

I know all the reasons why I should exercise… I work at a gym, I see in person all the reasons why exercising is, you know, generally a good idea. Bouncy, fit, healthy, bendy, strong, people. I also know exactly why exercise helps with mental health. It causes the “release of endorphins, which relax us and make us feel good. Exercise can reduce your stress and anxiety, and can help you make new friends”. This is an actual quote from my book… you know that I wrote to help other people feel better about themselves! Oscar Wilde’s quote ‘I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself’ comes to mind….

I want this, but seemingly not enough to DO anything about it!?

So with all this, how have I managed to attend 3 weeks in row? Well I’ve tricked myself. I have created a time slot between swimming lessons that includes this particular class… If I don’t go, I’ll be sitting around at work doing nothing, probably complaining about work, so I might as well go.
And afterwards, even though I feel like my hips may collapse (literally) I feel better… WAY better.

After giving it 3 weeks I actually feel stronger, like I could actually DO that roll down to a plank from downward dog for one whole second, instead of falling directly onto my knee caps. I somehow feel more empowered, like I got this!
I am doing this for me, to get a bit stronger, healthier and if i’m lucky a bit more bendy. (And happier of course) During this class I am not thinking about work, my kids, whether we need milk… I am literally focused on a single point on the floor trying not to fall on my arse… and really hoping my knee caps stay where they should. Getting into my body, feeling it, knowing it and accepting where it’s at, and remembering how to treat it (me) better.

That body balance class is now part of my weekly routine, and a tool in my happiness tool belt.

In my adult life i’ve had periods where I’ve been really dedicated to exercise, and looking back on these, there are a couple of really powerful reasons why I stuck to it at the time, and also why it ended.

Firstly I did it with friends. Three of us decided to learn to run, actually it was 2 of us, and the third was our teacher (she was pretty frustrated I think). But then, once we’d completed our 5k I seem to remember they both went and got new jobs, (selfish!!!) and somehow we couldn’t fit it in anymore.

Secondly I had a goal. Those same friends, plus a few more dragged me into doing the moonwalk. It was AMAZING. A marathon walk through Edinburgh from midnight till 7am. We trained together, laughed with (at) each other and had the time of our lives… but once the goal was achieved we stopped. Probably should have set another goal….!?

And thirdly, It was simply part of the adventure. My hubby and I decided in all our wisdom to ride our push bikes up the West Coast of Australia, aiming to go from Margaret River to Broome. It was hard, emotional, educational, and one of the best things we have ever done. I have never felt so strong and happy, nor as free as I did on that trip. We didn’t make it all the way because we ran out of money, and had to stop and get jobs… In a pub, where we ate and drank all our good work away… This is probably not for everyone….


And the biggest secret… I’m pretty sure as a kid it was mostly just for fun…

Did you notice, none of those included a weight loss goal?
Fuck weight loss goals, let’s go out and have fun, dance, play, climb, ride, run, whatever you like!
And if you’re looking for diet and exercise advice… there is plenty of amazing advice out there… just don’t ask me…

No More Miss Nice Girl…

Fuck off little miss nice girl…

This post will include swearing…. lots of swearing… because to be quite honest, I’m sick and oh so tired of biting my tongue.
You see, I AM NICE. Nice is the mask I use to face the world. Making sure I am liked enough to get through the day, making sure I don’t upset anyone, and absolutely ensuring that I don’t have to deal with any confrontation. So I swallow my words, bite my tongue and for want of a less used phrase, keep calm and carry on. For a very very long time, little miss nice girl seemed to be my friend. Keeping me going, getting me friends, keeping me employed, and making sure on the surface I am a total fucking swan.
Lately though, she has not been working for me, she is now the insidious fucking bully in my life. My long necked swan is turning around and biting me in the arse.
She’s even physically fucking with me. My jaw is fixed and tight, as I literally hold onto my tongue all day long. My neck aches as I swallow my words, and my belly is a balloon full of untold stories, and unspent emotions.
Little miss nice girl, It really is time you fucked off.
The problem with you is, when most people see me, they only see you…. so when they catch a glimpse of angry, upset or pissed off, they simply can’t handle it. (And for some reason I am too afraid to show them passionate or dancing… ?)
That time I let pissed off out of the bag at work, both shocked and horrified my team. One of them (let’s call her little miss pissed off) felt so put out she felt she needed to tell me off…. For telling her off. That was somehow OK. You thanked her for her feedback… You really fucked with me there Nice Girl.
By only and always being you I have allowed myself to be bullied, ridiculed, thrown under the bus, and probably worst of all invisible…. Unacknowledged…Overlooked… Never good enough.
Yet outwardly “you are the picture of calm”… Noooooo, Under the surface I am full of rage, and love and ambition and fear… my little swan feet never stop paddling.

Nice Girl….
You see, you make me constantly search for approval, yet never feel approved of.
You are the source of my anxiety.
You are the reason I feel spent after social media, (and social occasions) constantly comparing myself, my family, my life, my business, placing my self worth in how I think all that looks next to other people’s highlights. (WTF!!?)
You hold me back, your fear of what people think puts me in freeze, stops me in my tracks.
And ALL that SHOULDING has to fucking stop!

Fuck off little miss nice girl.
Your need to be all things to all people has left nothing for me.
Fuck off little miss nice girl.
You are a liar. You tell everyone everything is OK, when sometimes it just isn’t.
And please stop trying to tell me it’s not ok to be not Ok…
Fuck off little miss nice girl…
Or…. at the very least, step back and let the others out. Passionate, pissed off, angry, assertive, joyous, dancing, sad, scared, ambitious, all of them count too. Not just you.

Fuck off Little Miss Nice Girl.




Anxiety is a bitch

A sneaky little bitch

(excuse my language there)

Today after  well… years we had a wobble.
I always refused to believe that ‘anxiety is forever’ and ‘all’ we could do was ‘learn to live with or manage it’… I still believe this, BUT, it takes a decision, and effort, and  today it sneaked back in.

Well, Daniel has had a week off school with a chest infection. A normal childhood illness equalled a change in routine, a week away from friends, and a week away from school. Add the worry he had about being ill, and viola!
Honestly, we’ve probably dropped the ball a bit. Everyone has been unwell in the last 2 weeks, I’ve been stressed and overworked, and it’s January… And we haven’t been doing our ‘Everyday Happy’ homework.

What did we do?
We started by calling it out. Anxiety is sneaky. It can look like other things, like a tummy ache, or a headache, but if you don’t call it out, it wins. Naming it, and accepting it allowed him to move on and take effective steps to overcome it.

We marched up and down the hallway. The fight or flight response is the body’s ancient response to real or perceived danger. It instantly releases a mass of cortisol and adrenaline around the body, stress hormones that cause increased heart rate and hyperventilation. All good if you’re running from a tiger, not so good when you’re in the house… Queue marching. Physical activity of any kind burns off the hormones and helps to calm down.

Talking nonsense. We got talking about the end of the day, and I suggested catching up with friends. This allowed his brain to think passed what he was anxious about. Then we added some jokes and some decent preteen sarcasm.

Framing the day in a positive way. Today we just had a chat about gratitude (rather than writing anything) His first one…”I haven’t vomited yet” I was also grateful for! I can’t remember the other things we said, friends I think, probably food… it doesn’t matter though, the effect was positive.

Keep moving forward
One step at a time toward the goal, with very clear instructions. His anxious brain struggles with logical thought, so ‘get ready for school’ is too big… ‘put your socks on’ works better.

Forgive, apologise and move on.
The heightened emotional state that came with an early morning anxiety attack, and a stressed out dad, can and did lead to cross words and bad feelings. This added fuel to the anxiety, and needed quelled quickly. All it took was an apology and a hug before any of us walked out the door grumpy.
This one is hard. As adults we’re not accustomed to apologising to our kids, but it’s so important. Daniel’s anxious brain will circle what went wrong and highlight it, but the apology helps it to let go. Apologising to our kids has bigger implications too, like showing them kindness and courtesy, allowing them to see that we’re human and make mistakes, and offers them the opportunity to learn this behaviour through modelling.

I think today was a blip. I hope so anyway, but it has made me realise how well equipped we are as a family with the tools to get through. If it happens again we’re ready. We also need to keep being grateful, being kind, and doing some happiness homework everyday.

It’s so important to have tools, and to have a team to help.

So on reflection, today I’m deeply grateful for my family who is my team.

If you need some Everyday Happy look no further…

On a personal note…

I’ve experienced it before… the nameless entity which would leave me breathless and nauseous after nursery drop off, fretting following conversations with friends and drained after social occasions. Before this, I had a brief and intense dance with postnatal depression, and before that years of feeling, well, not quite right. Always nameless, always there, and never explained… Anxiety.

It was only when my eldest son developed debilitating anxiety at 9 years old, that I finally named it, squared up to it and took it on.

His experience motivated me to DO something, ANYTHING to help him… And what began as a trip through the murky depths of ‘what went wrong’, and ‘what did I do?’ soon became a journey into his, and my happiness.

I came across ‘happiness’ as a tool for a better life when someone suggested I watch ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’, a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor. (Definitely worth a watch.) In it Shawn talks about 5 scientifically proven ways we can consciously improve our performance at work through increased happiness. Gratitude, kindness, meditation, exercise, and writing a journal about your daily good, can raise your happiness ‘set point’ and lead to improvements across different aspects of life!

This caught my attention. Although not specifically about anxiety, the concept gave us a new direction… Rather than being bogged down in what went wrong, we started to focus on what was going right. Instead of only learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety, (important, but not the only work to do) we saw a bigger picture. We essentially turned our back on anxiety, and through diligence and working together, focused on happiness, and have barely looked back.

Almost 3 years on, it feels like ancient history.

Our journey to happiness went a bit like this…

The very first thing we noticed was a restored sense of empowerment, the feeling we could help him, and more importantly, that he could help himself. We began with gratitude, and looking at the positives each day. Initially this acted as a distraction, and helped to nip full on anxiety attacks in the bud. It also gave him a focus at bedtime, and helped him settle on difficult nights. Acting in kindness towards his brother, friends, neighbours, and his parents really helped him to not think about his worries as much, and gave him a sense of pride. We meditated in the mornings, went walking on the beach, and looked at homemade flash cards at bedtime each night. We tried anything we could to raise his happiness, and gradually we saw our little boy come back.

Personally, this journey found me crying, laughing, despairing, and jumping for joy. It has been my biggest challenge personally, and our biggest as a family. The fact we stood next to each other and did it together (this wasn’t always easy), means we have ended up closer as a family on the other side. Our silver lining!

I wrote Everyday Happy as my way of giving back, and helping those who may be travelling down the same road. It is a practical tool… a call to action… with the aim to empower people to lift themselves (and help their children) out of anxiety.

My mission? To change the world, one smile at a time.

I originally wrote this post for Edinburgh Gossip Girls online Magazine here!

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

In a time when so many children and young people are suffering anxiety disorders, it’s more important than ever to feed their souls with ‘art and stories and poems and music’

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering art of any kind, and are perfectly happy and live good and valuable lives, and in whose homes there are no books, and they don’t care much for pictures, and they can’t see the point of music. Well, that’s fine. I know people like that. They are good neighbours and useful citizens.

But other people, at some stage in their childhood or their youth, or maybe even their old age, come across something of a kind they’ve never dreamed of before. It is as alien to them as the dark side of the moon. But one day they hear a voice on the radio reading a poem, or they pass by a house with an open window where someone is playing the piano, or they see a poster of a particular painting on someone’s wall, and it strikes them a blow so hard and yet so gentle that they feel dizzy. Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realise that they’re filled with a hunger, though they had no idea of that just a minute ago; a hunger for something so sweet and so delicious that it almost breaks their heart. They almost cry, they feel sad and happy and alone and welcomed by this utterly new and strange experience, and they’re desperate to listen closer to the radio, they linger outside the window, they can’t take their eyes off the poster. They wanted this, they needed this as a starving person needs food, and they never knew. They had no idea.

That is what it’s like for a child who does need music or pictures or poetry to come across it by chance. If it weren’t for that chance, they might never have met it, and might have passed their whole lives in a state of cultural starvation without knowing it.

The effects of cultural starvation are not dramatic and swift. They’re not so easily visible.

And, as I say, some people, good people, kind friends and helpful citizens, just never experience it; they’re perfectly fulfilled without it. If all the books and all the music and all the paintings in the world were to disappear overnight, they wouldn’t feel any the worse; they wouldn’t even notice.

But that hunger exists in many children, and often it is never satisfied because it has never been awakened. Many children in every part of the world are starved for something that feeds and nourishes their soul in a way that nothing else ever could or ever would.

We say, correctly, that every child has a right to food and shelter, to education, to medical treatment, and so on. We must understand that every child has a right to the experience of culture. We must fully understand that without stories and poems and pictures and music, children will starve.

Written by Philip Pullman for the tenth anniversary of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2012.

Find the original post here.

Staying happy on social media

Social media can be a very happy place to visit. Chatting with your friends, checking out each other’s photos and playing games are fun things to do. Unfortunately, it can become a negative space too, so with the aim of focusing on happiness, here are some tips on how to stay happy on social media:

1. Positive posting. Share posts that are fun, funny, happy and light. This will help you, and your friends will enjoy it too.
2. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Avoid gossip, complaining and criticising, and try not to get involved in negative conversations.
3. Keep your fights offline. If you are arguing with someone, it’s best to do it in person, as it’s very easy to mistake someone’s tone in a typed message.
4. Have family members and close friends (people that really care for you) as your social media friends.
5. Take a break. Don’t spend all your time online; enjoy the moment you’re in with the people you’re with, in person!
6. Don’t take it personally. Other people’s lives can look extremely interesting on social media, but that’s because they only post the most interesting bits. Everyone’s lives look more interesting online.


Don’t forget: You control it (not the other way around), so if things go really wrong just don’t log in! You can even cancel your account.

Ecxerpt from “Everyday Happy, A Journal for Happiness”

Don’t Wait! do it Now…

Even just a little bit… Today… Now… Do SOMETHING to lead you towards your goal, your happiness, your version of your best life.
Get Up
Turn your music up
Go On…I dare you…
Here’s the thing. Waiting is a bad habit. Waiting for the ‘right time’, waiting for the ‘right person’ waiting for the ‘right thing’ to happen.

Waiting until you feel better before you take action towards happiness? Waiting to feel less tired before starting to excercise? It doesn’t make any sense! Because taking action will help you feel better. Because exercise will make you less tired.
Because Life is happening Now.
Let’s get on with it.



Susan Jeffers

Why Choose Happiness?

Realising we had to decide on happiness was a light bulb moment for me. Prior to that I had been completely bogged down in ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘who had caused this?’… And my greatest fear… Was it ‘ALL my fault?’  Exhausting.

Choosing Happiness gave us a light, something to work towards (instead of running from), and certainly helped me feel more ‘in control’ of our situation.

Choosing Happiness is not about running rings around your child and giving them everything they want just to try and ‘keep’ them happy… This is a very short term solution (we tried it!) Choosing Happiness IS about learning  (and teaching) some very simple skills, and practicing them. Choosing happiness is taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings and deciding how you are going to think, feel and act when things don’t go to plan. It is enjoying each moment the best you can, and also keeping your eye firmly fixed on your goal.  Sounds difficult for most adults! (This is where “Everyday Happy: a journal for happiness” will come in very handy.)

Six reasons to choose Happiness:

1 Happiness can lead to greater resilience for you and your child

2 Happiness can increase creativity

3 Happiness can improve health

4 Happiness can lead to better friendships

5 Happiness can improve career and financial prospects

6 Happiness creates greater intelligence and productivity

We choose happiness (or not) everyday through our daily thoughts, feelings and actions.

What are you going to decide today?

Managing School Anxiety

Managing School Anxiety

Advice for Parents and Carers…

At least that’s what the peice of paper calls itself… And I can’t see too much wrong with some of the information presented… NOW… After we’ve come out the other side of the dark tunnel…

But here’s the thing…

It’s makes it all seem so… straightforward… so black and white… and straightforward anxiety is not.

The more I read it, the more furious and frustrated I become. Now, after 18 months of work, trials, tears and recently wins, (and a lot of learning) we do a lot of what this ‘advice’ says. But if I had received it in the beginning, I can imagine I would have felt (more) overwhelmed, and wondered why it wasn’t so easy for us…! Why can’t I put a simple morning routine in place, and the anxiety will be gone? And he’ll just, you know, go to school? My son spent half of that 18 months (almost a full academic year) off school… A decision which this paper inherently disagrees with.

So here’s  what I inherently disagree with.

Take suggestion no. 1 ‘Maintain good communication and work with the school to put in place strategies that will help your child manage full attendance and address any concerns’.

But what if the school is the problem? What if (as in our case) the teacher is a bully? What if the children are bullies?  What if the school won’t hear your concerns? What if your child really is anxious BECAUSE of school?  There is a presumption here that the child’s anxiety is unfounded, and that the attendance (the holy grail) is the most important thing? And the strategies?.. What Strategies….? Give me some to use!!

Suggestion  4 Clear messages about school attendance- Everyone has had a different experience of school themselves, some good, some bad. It is important that all those supporting think about the way they speak about school. The key message is that school is not optional and attending is in every Childs best interests’.

Talk about strong, confident (threatening) language! Phew. ‘Best interests’ is an interesting term here.  Again, what if school actually isn’t in their best interests?  Attendance cannot be the measure of success here. If your child attends under duress and finds themselves crying or vomiting throughout the day, how are they going to learn? And what are they going to learn?  To me, all they will learn is they can’t trust anyone, not the school, not their parents… That they have to do what they’re told, regardless of how they feel! Is this teaching them to be confident, well adjusted adults? I don’t think so. It is a recipe for disaster.

Admittedly there are points that are positive and helpful… Not just for anxiety mind. Helping them break down tasks into smaller more manageable peices, rewards for facing fears,  and encouraging independence, problem solving and persistence are all great parenting and life strategies. The term, ‘you can lead a horse to water’ does come to mind though.

So after the 12 ‘suggestions’ to get your child to attend school, we move on to a very brief look at anxiety itself… It’s a normal, sometimes helpful aspect of life and (here’s the bit that made me laugh) ‘we all need to develop ways of coping with these feeling…’ What ways? Here lies the core of what this paper is missing. How to handle the feelings of anxiety… How to teach your child how to handle them…

What do you do when your child is frozen and can’t walk another step forward…? Or when they are begging you in tears not to attend school (or any other activity for that matter)? All the ‘suggestions’ anybody gave you, go right out the window.

When it comes to addressing the things that could actually be going wrong at school they call it ‘Identifying any issues that might be barriers to attending school’….  Hmmmm not the issues that may be causing the anxiety.

And then it finishes with the type of messages we give must give our anxious children through our language. The use of clear, strong, consistent language that expects compliance. Showing a united front…. Against who!!?

And lastly the obligatory ‘get yourself some support’ section. This is probably the most important thing they say.  ‘A supportive adult to share your concerns with’ I would take further to include someone who has been through it… Someone who knows how you feel, and can totally empathise without judgement. (And once you’ve been through it and come out the other side, you can help someone too!)

So how did we do it? Well after the initial freaking out, we got as much help as possible, (attended every class, read every book, watched YouTube and talked to people) and then took the information and made decisions that felt right for us and our child. We put him, his wellbeing and his happiness first. We removed him from the stressor (school) and gave him time to learn techniques, to build his resilience and to understand himself.  We stood united as a family with him and against the anxiety, which built a deep level of trust. I kept thinking, what if he’d broken his leg? He would have had emergency care, recovery, rehabilitation, and only then been asked to run. Asking my child to go to a school he was frightened of, was like asking him to run on a broken leg.  It just didn’t make sense. I also thought what if you take school out, and a child becomes anxious due to abuse or an accident. They are not going to be sent back into the situation that caused it, to help them recover…  It’s counterintuitive! So why do we do it with school?

So if you are on this harrowing journey, be confident that you can do it! Empower yourself with as much information as possible, accept all the help that comes your way, and then follow your instincts… Make decisions based on your family’s needs, listen to yourself and listen to your child!

Dear Friend…

Dear Friend,
I thought it might be helpful if I wrote about some of the things we do at home to help our Son in his recovery from anxiety.
I understand what you’re going through, and just how helpless you can feel, but you can turn it around, and find happiness together.
I’m a big believer that if you focus on happiness, everything else will work itself out. When I really started to put D’s wellbeing and happiness first, everything started to get better. (Don’t worry it’s not about giving them everything they want and letting them run rings around you… Tried that and it didn’t work… It’s about teaching them how to make the decision, and take action to be happy themselves.)

You may never know what caused the anxiety… And it isn’t really important, as the process of trying to find out can be awful, and will potentially have no impact on their recovery. Trying to find the cause was a huge source of guilt for me, and resulted in us spending night after night in serious conversation, giving all our focused attention to the anxiety. In hindsight this was not a good idea, anxiety had all the power, and D got 100% focused attention for being anxious… So of course being anxious was paying off… And his brother noticed too. We absolutely had to stop talking about it that way. When we stopped trying to figure it out, things started to move forward. We set a goal together (to be happy going to school) and tried to stay focused on that.

We started to talk about the anxiety as separate from Him. When he is anxious, and trying to stop on the way to school I say “I’m not stopping for anxiety’. I also say things like ‘don’t let anxiety win this round’, ‘I’m angry with the anxiety’ and ‘anxiety isn’t welcome here’. It takes away any feeling of personal attack he might feel when I do get angry or upset. It also helps me to not take his anxious behaviour too personally.
‘It’s just the anxiety tricking you into feeling this way’ helps when he’s feeling stressed and starts saying he’s feeling sick, or has a sore tummy.

Learning that anxiety is a normal physiological ‘fight or flight’ response, which is just happening at inappropriate times, has helped us understand what is going on, on a physical level. In that moment they have huge amounts of adrenalin running through their bodies making their hearts beat faster, making them dizzy and giving them a sore tummy. (Their bodies are getting ready to run from, or fight a perceived danger.) These feelings are very real… irrational, but real. Sitting or standing with them and breathing together (5 seconds in 5 seconds out) until that adrenalin has calmed down, can help them move through that moment of ‘fight or flight’.

Triggers are different from the cause. Learning the triggers and taking action to help your little one move through them with minimal fuss can be very helpful. Distraction works really well for us. Changing the subject… Quite literally talking nonsense about anything we can think of, as positively as we can works wonders. Doing something like reading a funny comic, telling jokes, squeezing a stress ball, spraying essential oils and splashing cold water on the face also work for us as forms of distraction and can help prevent a full on anxiety attack. Getting outdoors can prevent an anxiety attack by having a calming effect on the mind, as well as helping burn the excess adrenalin during or after one.

When he’s not in a freeze or panic I use other types of tools to help him. Flash cards at bedtime with our positive outcomes (things we want to happen)  have worked for us. Just before sleep the brain is apparently very susceptible to suggestion, so I harness this by suggesting “I am happy”, ‘”I am safe”, “I am confident”, “School is great”. We also have fun dancing, telling jokes and watching  comedy together.

Because school was a huge trigger for our son we reward school attendance. I have 2 jars of activities my boys can pick from at the end of each week of full attendance. One jar has free or cheap activities for every week and one has more expensive outings for once a month. We usually reward with experiences, activities and time together rather than toys… Although the odd toy works very well too!

We have also started talking about gratitude, and try to remember something good about his day together. I do this with both the boys everyday… ‘Tell me some good news about today’… can be the beginning of a fantastic positive conversation, and helps them both focus more on what they have, rather thank what they lack. (And occasionally it’s also a non starter… You just have to roll with it)

I haven’t tried this with my son yet, but have spent years doing it for myself,  and it just may work for your child. If you have a camera or phone with a camera, suggest taking some photos of beautiful things. This literally focuses the brain on what is good and right and beautiful, and helps them to start seeing themselves and their lives in a more positive light.

Finally I would say, to just ‘be there’, listen to them, and make sure that your child knows, despite your own frustration, anger and dare I say it anxiety, that their behaviour is ok and you accept and love them completely…

And, hold your nerve…

I hope this finds you well on on the path to Happiness.
Love Emxx