One of the things that helped me the most with my struggles with anxiety was somatosensory training. At its most basic, somatosensory training helps us learn to pay attention to the way emotions feel in our bodies. This then allows us to address these emotions and keep ourselves regulated throughout the day. I love Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia and My Body Sends a Signal by Natalia Maguire to help kids learn about somatosensory training.
The other thing that helped me with my anxiety was NOT ignoring or “stuffing” my emotions. There are many books out there about taming (AKA “stuffing”) emotions, but few about accepting them and honoring them. Studies show that I’m not the only one who suffered from increased anxiety as a result of trying to stuff it. So I love Marcy’s Having All the Feels by Allison Edwards. I use it to help children learn that it’s okay to feel angry, sad, or worried.
I’ve yet to find a book that gives ides for ways to honor emotions. I often work on this only as a side-note to the Zones of Regulation and social skills. Once kids are able to identify others’ emotions I’ll start by talking about how we can respond to emotions with “expected” behaviors (saying, “I don’t like that” or “I need a break”) and “unexpected” behaviors (hitting, yelling, throwing, etc.). Once they get the hang of that we talk about ways to honor emotions such as…
- Red zone – setting boundaries. I use the phrase “making things fair” (staying away from things and people who are unfair, telling people when you don’t like what they’re doing, telling people how you feel when they do unfair things, talking to an adult about things that are unfair, etc.)
- Yellow zone – making yourself safe (staying away from things that are unsafe, telling adults when you feel unsafe, wearing a mask during a pandemic, etc.)
- Blue zone – honoring what’s important to you (making art, giving “thank you” cards, apologizing and trying to “make amends” or trying to be fair, etc.)
- Green zone – taking care of yourself (drinking water, eating healthy, exercising, taking photos, etc.)
Side Note: For kids who are having trouble keeping their behavior expected I also use a lot of books by Michael Gordon like When I Lose my Cool . If you visit his book list here you can find the FREE kindle editions of a couple of his books, but they all advocate for “stuffing” feelings and label uncomfortable feelings like anger as “bad” so I tread lightly with these.