Home Articles posted by Harold Life Education

There’s lots we can do to help ourselves calm down if we feel scared or anxious.

Fear and anxiety

Fear is a normal and healthy emotion – although it’s not very pleasant. It often has physical signs like feeling sick, tense, shaking, sweating, or getting butterflies in the stomach. If we’re scared or frightened because we’re in real danger, we need to respect that fear and act on it (i.e. run away from the angry tiger that is chasing us and shout for help).

Anxiety (feeling worried or nervous) is generally fear in the wrong place. We can feel anxious about something that hasn’t happened, might not happen … or something that isn’t happening at the moment (like messing up a test or a date; or people being mean to us).
Think of it like a see-saw: With fear, our response to a threat is balanced and in proportion to a real threat; with anxiety, we are weighed down and more fearful than is necessary.

What can I do?

If you feel anxious, there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better:

Say it: Talk to someone you trust about how you feel: it usually helps to get things out. They may be able to help you work out a good plan for dealing with your anxiety or its root cause.
Services like Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline also offer to listen and support you.

Breathe: Breathe in for 3-5 sec, out for 3-5 sec. Keep on until you feel calmer. Some people like to draw the sides of an imaginary square or a star while they are doing this. It’s a great thing to do while you’re waiting to make that speech in class, or sing solo at assembly.

5,4,3,2,1 Grounding: Think of five things you can see, four you can touch or feel, three you can hear, two you can smell and one you can taste. This lets your upstairs brain get back in control. It’s a really good thing to try after you’ve had a fright when you need to calm down.

Relax: Your anxious body is like a stack of stiff raw spaghetti. Lie down, and working your way up from your toes let it relax and become floppy like cooked spaghetti. Maybe try this if you can’t sleep at night because you’re all worked up over something.

Distractions and apps: We can use activities to take our mind off things (“distract ourselves”). Try telling yourself jokes, drawing stars, reciting times tables, or listing all the characters in your favourite story as you wait at the dentist. There are also lots of apps available to help with anxiety that work by either distracting or calming us.

Exercise: Works as a distraction and also to release emotions and tense muscles. Walk, swim, dance … do yoga or stretches. It will all help.

Calming jars, and bottles: Put glitter, sequins, beads, food colouring, water and maybe hair gel or clear glue or in a bottle or jar and screw the lid tight. Shake it and imagine that’s how your jumbled thoughts look when you’re anxious. Watch how everything settles after a few minutes if it stays still. Try shaking your jar when you’re upset, and calm down as it does.

Happy place: Find one in your head – or in real life – and go there when you need to.


 “Coping Skills Spotlight: 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Technique”. Retrieved from: https://copingskillsforkids.com/blog/2016/4/27/coping-skill-spotlight-5-4-3-2-1-grounding-technique 11 December 2017.

Mental Wellness Counselling.com, 14 December 2017. “How to[HO4]  Make a Glitter Jar for Meditation”. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMUrRnj68wI 13 December 2017.

The Brain from Top to Bottom, McGill University, nd. “Managing Stress”. Retrieved from: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/outil_jaune02.html 12 December 2017.

Women and Children’s Health Network, 14 April 2016. “Stress – Learning to Relax”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1738 11 December 2017.

Useful links

“What is Resilience?”, “Loving Ourselves”, “Handling our Feelings”, “What are Feelings?”, “Stress”, and “Managing our Functions ” Life Education Factsheets.

“Calm Down and Release the Amygdala[HO6] ”, 16 January 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs559guIGDo 12 December 2017.

PreschoolInspiration .com., 13 November 2014. “Six ways to make a Calm Down Jar”. Retrieved from: https://preschoolinspirations.com/6-ways-to-make-a-calm-down-jar/ 13 December 2017.

Kidsline http://www.kidsline.org.nz/Home_312.aspx

Youthline https://www.youthline.co.nz/contact-us/

What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz

Change is a part of our lives. Changes often make our lives happier and better – but sometimes they don’t. It helps to have strategies and support to deal with these times.

What are talking about?

Losses and changes can go together (like when we change schools we may lose some friends but we’ll make new ones). Sometimes they’re big, sometimes small. We usually deal easily with small losses (like losing a pen, or not passing a test); and also with changes that are small (switching teams), expected (growing up), or happy (a new family member).

What might it feel like?

Big changes or losses can make us feel a lot of different emotions. We might feel:

Angry               Sad                  Scared             Frustrated       Relieved          Shocked

Lonely              Tired                Sorry                Nervous           Confused         Distracted      

Sick                  Ashamed         Guilty               Responsible     Excited            Disbelieving

How can I deal with what I’m feeling?

Look for the good or the growth. Try to see the change as opening the door on a host of opportunities and adventures: like seeing a different part of the country or world, making a fresh start, the chance to make new friends, or the chance to try something new.

Talking. Sometimes we can feel guilty or responsible for something (like when parents split up) that isn’t our fault or responsibility. Talking to someone can help us realise that. If we’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, it helps to talk or ask questions about what’s happening.

Sharing feelings. This is another way to deal with feelings like confusion, fear, worry, and anger. If someone empathises with us, it can help us realise that we’re not alone in facing this situation. It can also help put things in perspective if we’re over-reacting.

Draw on our deep pool of resilience . Loss and change (perhaps after an accident) can dent our confidence and self-esteem. We need to remember that we are all strong and can overcome set-backs if we hang in there… Nothing lasts forever, including feeling this way.

Time for self-love. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset for a while after a big loss or change – especially if someone dies. Think of it like recovering from a big injury: we’ll be sensitive, need some quiet time to heal, and should practise some self-love to get us through.

Find a healthy distraction. It might be exercise, music, dance, reading … cooking. Some time out helps our minds and bodies stay strong enough to deal with whatever happens.

Messages and memories. Moving away doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch with friends or family via calls, visits, games or online chat. Photos can also help us remember people and places. And sharing memories of someone who’s died can be comforting at times.

Hard times

Some changes or losses can be particularly hard to deal with:

  • Moving away from our school, home or country
  • Our home being destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake
  • Having something precious stolen from us
  • Big changes in health, perhaps from an accident or sickness
  • Lifestyle changes, perhaps after a someone loses a job or moves out
  • When a pet, friend or family member dies and we feel grief (sadness) over their loss

There is no shame or weakness in asking for time, help or support to get through them.

There is always someone or something that can help us get through. Find them.


Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 11 September 2017. “Changing Schools”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&id=1654&np=286 20 December 2017.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 17 July 2017. “Coping with Change – Loss and Grief”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1649 18 December 2017.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 18 September 2017. “When Parents Split Up”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1660 19 December 2017.

Useful links

“What is Resilience?”, “Grief, Loss and Change”, “What is a Growth Mindset?”, “Loving Ourselves”, “What is Empathy?”and “How can I Make Friends?” [HO7] Life Education factsheets.

Kidsline http://www.kidsline.org.nz/Home_312.aspx

Skylight[HO8] .org. Retrieved from: https://skylight.org.nz/

What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/

What is a mindset?
A mindset is a belief or an attitude that we have about something. Some mindsets are negative (“I am not good at singing”) – but they can also be positive (“I am kind to animals”).
Sometimes, our mindsets are part of the culture and history of where we live, and can even change with time (“Women can’t be doctors!”).
Mindsets may be based on stereotypes or generalisations, and not fact – for example, that: “People who wear glasses are smart” or “Boys are better at running than girls”.

How can I change my mindset?
Understanding that we have the ability to think differently about ourselves and those around us can help us to create new opportunities to grow and learn new skills.
Some ways to do this are to:
• Be curious and open-minded in our attitudes.
• Be open to learning new skills, and enjoy the challenge.
• Learn from our failures – they can teach us even more than our successes.
• Focus on the learning process, not just the achievement.
• Remember that the brain is like a muscle – the more we use it, the more it grows
• Always keep trying. Don’t give up!

Do I have a ‘Fixed Mindset’ or a ‘Growth Mindset’?
Many people have what Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck calls a ‘Fixed Mindset’. People with Fixed Mindsets believe that their talents or intelligence are ‘given’ to them, and can’t be extended or changed. They may see a test result as measuring their actual intelligence rather than simply being a snapshot of their skills at that moment in time. Focusing solely on the end result can make it easy to become discouraged when things seem hard, or don’t go well.
In a ‘Growth Mindset’, people believe that they can grow and develop their talents through time, effort, and dedication.

This means that we can learn, or get better at, just about any skill that we choose. As we practise a new skill – either a mental one such as learning a language or a physical one such as basketball – we create new links between synapses in our brains.
As we repeat these skills again and again, we strengthen these connections, and our abilities ‘grow’. Sometimes we use this to get better at something we are already skilled at, such as maths; but we can also learn something entirely new to us, such as ice skating.

When we understand that success comes from effort and practise, we can see how important it is to keep going, even when it seems difficult. Sometimes, things may go wrong. We may even fail at something we tried to do.
However, having a Growth Mindset means that we can understand that failures or changing circumstances are part of life, and don’t necessarily stop us from achieving a goal or from being successful. We can adapt. We have become resilient.

When we have a Growth Mindset, we learn to value hard work in others, as well as in ourselves. We can cope with disappointment and are able to make new plans to achieve our goals.
Thinking in a Growth Mindset encourages us to be independent thinkers in charge of our own learning, as well as giving us the freedom to enjoy the process of learning itself.