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“No one ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than one can bear.” -George MacDonald
It seems that anxiety is on the rise, especially with our youth. Our youth feel pressure to succeed and meet the high expectations of others at home and school. It is quite easy to understand how our youth today could become overwhelmed with worries and stressors. We can help our children learn to manage worrying thoughts by helping them to focus on one day at a time. Focusing on today without worrying about tomorrow will help to relax a mind overwhelmed with worries. A tool I like to call Brain Plate is a simple technique that can help children and teens focus on one day at a time without worrying about things days, weeks, even months ahead. They will know they can deal with Friday’s worries on Friday, they won’t lose the rest of the week worrying about it. Here is how you can implement the Brain Plate tool.
Help your child understand what happens when the mind is overloaded.
The best way to teach this tool is to help them understand that their brain is much like a dinner plate. You can introduce the tool by saying: “If I sat a plate in front of you and put a week’s worth of food on it, and you had to eat all of it, how would you feel?” Then you can explain that is what we are doing to our brains when we worry about a week’s worth of worries. It is too much food for our stomachs to digest just like a bunch of worries is too much for our brains to digest.
Make a Brain Plate for your child.
You can use a paper plate and divide the plate into four sections representing the sources of worry for your child such as: Home, School, Friends, Family, and draw lines in between the sections with a pen or marker. Then (in pencil) begin to fill in the sections on your child’s plate the worries of TODAY only. So, for example, if the child has a field trip today, you can write “field trip” in the school section. The only reason your child would need to think about something tomorrow would be if your child needs to do something for it today. For example, if your child has a test tomorrow you may write “study for test” in the school section.
Refer to the Brain Plate when your child is experiencing stress.
The reason for using a pencil to fill out the brain plate is so you can fill out the plate on a daily basis. This will help your child get used to filling out the plate and learning to think only about things that pertain to today. With teenagers, this tool can help them to deal with the stress of academics in addition to all the social pressures of high school. Once your child has gotten into the habit of thinking about one day at a time, you can use the tool on an as-needed basis. If your child begins to feel overwhelmed with worry again, remind your child of the Brain Plate tool, and even model using it yourself.