Let me introduce you to Bianca and Kritz from The Big Sister Experience. These beautiful souls are on a mission to empower our girls to become confident and resilient young women.
Bianca and Kritz are literally the big sisters you wish you’d had when you were growing up.
With more than a decade of classroom teaching experience between them, they now run community events, in-school workshops, mother-daughter connection events, professional development sessions for teachers and even online courses for teen girls.
They cover real-life issues affecting our teen and pre-teen girls today including body image, mental health and social pressures giving them tools and strategies to live a happy and healthy life.
We sat down together last week and spoke about all things anxiety (via Zoom of course!), and I’m so pleased to share them with you.
What do you see as the main causes of anxiety at the moment?
If we're talking coronavirus times, mirrored anxiety and feeding off one another’s paranoia and fear is huge in terms of what’s causing anxiety today. There's neurons in our brains called mirror neurons, that actually reflect back emotions that we observe. A really clear example of that is when you go into the supermarket and the shelves are empty and you see people panic buying and even if you're not prone to anxiety, you feel it yourself and start to think "Oh, maybe I should grab an extra can or two packs of toilet paper."
Another element to this is the comparison of how I'm dealing with it compared to how you're dealing with it. Social media has a really big impact here because girls can hop on and see people making banana bread and working out and they may be feeling like, "Oh, I'm finding it really hard to get out of bed this morning and I don't want to wash my hair."
There’s concerns about how we should feel, react and behave that’s causing people that never had anxiety to start to feel it, but there isn’t one right way to feel. We’ve heard it called the “Corona-coaster”, which sums it up perfectly!
Any tips or tools that you can suggest to help with anxiety?
- Limit Screen Time
The number one thing we can do is definitely to limit screen time. It may sound obvious but it can be difficult at the moment because a lot of people are online remote learning. We also need to remember that our tweens and teens have grown up with screens and they don't always have other ideas of things to do that don't involve a screen. This is where parents or guardians need to step in. Perhaps your tween has never seen a board game. It sounds ridiculous but it's true these days. Bringing in different ideas and hobbies that are physical or that don't involve a screen really have to come from our older generations or older siblings.
- Filter Information To Reduce Overwhelm
Information overload can be a source of anxiety. Particularly in the current environment, there can be too much information from different sources and we can't process it all. Filtering the information that we’re seeing and using that as a teaching and learning opportunity to talk about what are reliable sources of information can really help. We suggest choosing one trusted source to get your news from.
- Practice Gratitude & Mindfulness
Another useful tool to combat anxiety is to practice daily gratitude and mindfulness. Even as a family, go around the family and every person lists one thing they're grateful for, or do some meditation or some mindful activity to bring some stillness back in. It’s a bit of a buzz word right now, but those who practice it will testify that it really does make such an impact in terms of anxiety and mental clarity.
Try hopping on YouTube and type in whatever you feel at that moment, e.g. meditation for anxiety or meditation for anger or stress. Find a 10-minute meditation that works with how you’re feeling in that moment.
- Keep Communication Open & Honest
Communication between parents and their children needs to be more open and honest than ever. Talking to your daughter, "I'm feeling this, this and this” then allows your daughter to feel, "Okay, I thought that and that's okay because mum did too." It's that reassurance that makes them feel like they're not alone and it's okay that they're feeling this way.
- Structure Your Days
When we feel lack of motivation and lack of direction and we don't know where we're going, structure is super important. Try sitting down with your kids to create a weekly planner. The school day is very structured according to lessons but planning out their lunch break and what they're going to do after school can be really beneficial.
It’s often that we struggle more in the times that lack that structure for example the weekends and with so many restrictions in place you might feel like "Now what?", especially now in Victoria.
On the flip side, be kind to yourself. Don't be upset that, "Oh, I put mindfulness in here and I just really wanted to watch Netflix." So being fluid with it but having a structure to work towards.
Try establishing a weekly walk together on a Saturday morning for example. Sometimes, they won't want to come. We're not in denial. Or choose a night that they cook dinner. Just put a little bit of structure in place that they know ahead of time.
If you’d like further information on how you can help your daughter with anxiety, Bianca & Kritz have some more in-depth resources available for purchase on their website. They have an e-resource that is a simple and practical guide for parents co-written with Psychotherapist, Rachael Mazzaglia and they also have a 60min webinar full of practical tips to support your daughter.