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Developing an emotional toolbox – A guide for parents, children & young people who experience anxiety

Developing an emotional toolbox is essentially building a set of coping strategies and skills to help manage emotions. These can be especially helpful during periods of high stress, emotional instability, or when navigating life changes. Here are steps on how to develop an emotional toolbox:
  • Understand Your Emotions: The first step to creating your emotional toolbox is understanding your emotions. Recognise what triggers certain feelings in you, what these feelings truly are, and what they mean. Keeping a journal might help you record and reflect on your emotional states.
  • Develop Coping Mechanisms: Identifying what helps you calm down or handle certain emotions is key. These could include taking a walk, reading, doing deep breathing exercises, or practising mindfulness. Choose healthy, productive mechanisms that help you feel in control.
  • Reach Out To Others: It’s crucial to have people you can confide in when dealing with difficult emotions. This can be friends, your psychologist or support groups. Social support provides perspective, empathy, and assistance in coping.
Dr. Tony Attwood, a well-known psychologist, has developed an excellent idea that can help us deal with anxiety during challenging times or when we are mentally exhausted. This approach was designed for children with Autistic Spectrum conditions to help them reduce negative emotions such as anger and anxiety. However, it can be useful for children and parents who experience stress in their daily lives, as it can become a personalised approach for each individual’s needs. So, how can you create an emotional toolbox? Here are some tips to consider:
  • Physical tools: What physical activity helps you to release negative energy and regulate your sensory system?
  • Relaxation tools: What relaxation technique helps you to slowly release emotional energy and lower your heart rate?
  • Social tools: Who is the person that you trust the most to go to when you experience high anxiety? Who can help you to manage your emotions and change your mood?
  • Thinking tools: Which intellectual processes are your strengths, and how can you use them to reduce anxiety? For example, some people find that imagining a calm and peaceful place works well to reduce anxiety.
  • Special interests: Do you have any activities that you find therapeutic? For instance, reading books, listening to music, or drawing. What are your special interests?
Reference: https://www.autismontario.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/Emotional%20Toolbox_0.pdf

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