Remember the game of hot potato? The idea is to get rid of the potato. It’s hot and uncomfortable to hold so you pass it off to the next person as soon as possible. Anxiety is the same way. No one enjoys feeling anxious. Many times without even knowing it we pass our anxiety to the nearest person to get rid of it. This often happens with a simple exchange of words. Say you come home from work feeling anxious. As soon as someone says something the least bit irritating you snap at them. Boom! The anxiety has been passed like a hot potato.
You may not intentionally do this, but without being mindful it happens. No one wants it so they pass it off as soon as possible. In families it gets passed down the line to the most vulnerable person. Many times this is a child in the family. Children typically take this personally and try to understand how they caused it, placing blame on themselves.
The cure is simple. Take time to check in. Ask yourself how you are feeling and why. Calm your anxiety with deep breathing, positive affirmations and by taking responsibility for your own feelings. Give yourself a little extra time to get home that day. Sit in your car a few more minutes before walking in and greeting your family. The buck (or the potato) stops with you.
Once you’ve tried this for yourself you can teach this to your children. So many arguments start because one person is anxious and the other jumps in, too. Then, there are two anxious people arguing over something trivial. Maybe you are unsure if you are experiencing anxiety or not. When in doubt — breathe. Taking three deep breaths periodically throughout the day can keep you calm and cool.
Bridgette DeBoer M.A., is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, marriage and family therapist intern. She can be reached at 450-6632.