The Spam Caller in Your Mind
This week I had the most delicious experience, at least for me it was! Some of you new to this may not know it but I have just started working with 9 and 10 year-olds, teaching them mindfulness based strategies to overcoming stress, anxiety and worry. Now, this is the same stuff I teach adults and that may make sense to you, but you might be thinking, "What do 9 and 10 year-olds have to be upset about? Come to find out they are upset about the same things we are, it's just that the circumstances are slightly different. And, it all stems from the lesson that I taught them this week! Here it is:
LESSON ONE: It’s Not the Situation; It’s Just the Story Worry Brain Is Telling You
The problem is not the text, or the dark, or the playdate, or the playground or the Birthday party (for us adults: it's not the bills, the job, the in-laws, the spouse, the kids). These things are manageable. What is troublesome is what your mind is telling you about those things. What is happening in the mind is you are creating “what-if” and worry scenarios. This “Worry Brain” is not a good friend, it won’t help you to handle the situation, it is actually in the way of clear thinking. So, I want you to know that you have a choice, that while the “Worry Brain” idea of the situation may come first, and will likely be the worst, it is not the only accurate idea of the situation.
I then asked if they knew what a spam caller is and what do they want? If you asked me what a spam caller was I would likely say, “A spam caller's job is to make everything sound urgent to sell you something. What does they know about what you need?” So, instead of the spam caller you can substitute the “worry brain” and say, “What does the ‘worry brain’ know about what I need? It's just their job to make everything sound urgent!”
I gave them a cartoon picture depicting a worried character and asked them to name their “worry brain” and gave them a few suggestions: “the buzzing of the worry bug”, “the overprotection of protector brain”. Or, you could just call it “Bob” or any other name that has no meaning to you. I then asked them to share what they named their "worry brain" and they said things like: Fart Face, Stupid, and Pierre (so cute!!)!I then asked them to "stamp out" their worry brain by drawing a stamp or a circle with a slash through it and without my prompting they wrote things on their stamp like: get out of here, go away, adios, and not wanted! I love this!!
Lastly, I asked them to name something that worries them often or something that is coming up that is worrisome and write 3 "what-ifs" the "worry brain" would likely say about it, things like: what if I fail, what if I let my parents down, and what if I look stupid. Then to the right of those they wrote 3 "what ifs" that were the outcome they wanted to see, things like: what if I do well, what if my parents are proud and, more importantly, what if I feel good about it. It was amazing to see how excited they were to do this exercise. I'm grinning just thinking about it!
So, my question to you is what is the name of your "worry brain". Maybe this seems like an elementary exercise, but the purpose behind it is to help you realize that just because you may be set to a default of worry, stress, anxiety, or fill in the blank, does not mean that is the only choice for your experience. When we can recognize that we have choice in the unpleasant emotional experiences we have, THEN we can choose differently. I dare you to do this exercise and I really want to know what you named your "worry brain" or maybe it was your "stress brain" or "anxiety brain"? I'm sure you can come up with something better than Fart Face, although that one is pretty accurate ;)
Peace,Erin "kiddo joy slinger"