Anxiety Is a Roller Coaster in Your Mind

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Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist, author, and world-renowned parenting expert outlines the many ways anxiety manifests itself in our lives – from perfectionism to overeating and even watching too many shows on Netflix. With one in five children being diagnosed with anxiety even before the pandemic, Dr. Shefali says it’s about time we revolutionize the way anxiety is viewed: as a superpower rather than a setback. That’s why she wrote her new book Superpowered: Transform Anxiety Into Courage, Confidence, and Resilience. Plus, Dr. Shefali’s top tips for managing your children’s anxiety – and your own – during the pandemic: “Stop having high expectations of your kids. You’re not going to do it perfectly. You’re going to put on weight. You’re going to eat terribly. You’re going to forget to exercise. This is normal. And this is not the time to put extra pressure on yourself.”

You can follow Dr. Shefali on Instagram @doctorshefali, on Twitter @DrShefali, or on Facebook at @DrShefaliTsabary.

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Dr. Shefali Tsbary  00:05

Hi, I’m Dr. Shefali, and you’re listening to GOOD KIDS. I’m a clinical psychologist and an author and teacher of conscious parenting and mindful living. In this segment, you’re going to learn more about how you can help manage your anxiety and your kids and help empower yourself and them to create more resilience, more confidence and more courage.

I think anxiety is a pervasive sense of foreboding, a pervasive sense of constantly being on edge. A pervasive sense of having recurrent kind of obsessive ruminations about the future and about negative things that could happen to you catastrophizing over blowing up scenarios in your mind, and you can’t get off that roller coaster in your mind. So that’s what I would describe as anxiety. Now, different people feel it in many different ways. Some people have, you know, diarrhea, some people have over perfectionism, and they overdrive themselves over schedule, things overwhelm themselves with doing over organized, you know, that’s also a form of anxiety. Some people have apathy, listlessness, never wanting to get out of bed overeating, over drinking, over consuming over binging on Netflix, or marijuana, substance abuse, you know, so it has all sorts of phases over defines rebelliousness piercing your body with too many tattoos, and body piercings. You know, it can be all sorts of things, and you have to be careful not to over diagnose it, but you have to be careful to not also minimize it.

Sometimes it’s just anxiety. Anxiety and children has as much variety as the children themselves. And as we grow older, we become less versatile with anxiety, and we are more predictable. So we just, you know, show it in addictions or in sabotaging behavior. In children, it has more variety. So it could show up as banging the door a lot, you know, being frustrated over small things. And the parent is flummoxed. You know, why is my kid being so anxious over the spilled beans or just a button that broke and the kid is having a conniption? Well, they’ve been bottling up anxiety. So parents sometimes think it’s defiance, sometimes they think the kid is kind of crazy, or the kid has ADHD, when it could just be anxiety.


In many ways, they’re more literal about it, they’re more expressive about it. But we mislabel it and call it defiance or call it rudeness or opposition when it’s just unmanageable anxiety. The typical way that we kind of gauge when it’s gone too far, any sort of behavior is when it disrupts functionality. So if the kid is not able to put on their shoes and brush their teeth and get ready for school on time, over and over and over again over a period of say 14-15 days, then it becomes a red flag issue that the kid is not able to even function, the kid is not able to leave his room, the kid is not able to go and talk to her friends, you know, not able to focus for an exam, when it is recurrent, then you begin to have concern and you go visit a counselor or coach and an expert in the field and you get the advice. You know, don’t be with your head in the sand, and just keep fobbing it off as normal when your kid is screaming for help.


I think we can make two mistakes during a time of pandemic in our desire to share with our children. We could overshare or we could minimize. So we have to be careful. So what does that mean? We have to look at the developmental level of your kids. So I would say under high school, I would not inundate our children with the lunacy of what’s going on, because it may fuel a sensitive child’s sensitivities to the point where they feel like they can’t control anything. Now if you have a sturdy, hardy, thick skinned middle schooler, sure you can bring up some topics, but I would say rule of thumb is wait till then high school and till high school really distill out the information. However, if you kid comes to you and then second grade, don’t minimize the information, you know, really gauge what they’re trying to ask. And most kids still high school just want to know, am I okay? Will I be good? Is our family good? Is mommy good?

They just want to make sure we are good. And yeah, that is egocentric, but they don’t need to care about the whole problems of the whole world. Let them just focus on their well-being and let them know that they are okay. And for that to happen, the parents need to be very careful about their own emotionality and their own out of control ness, and really keep it together. Because our kids are looking to us to know that we’re going to survive this right mom, we’re going to be okay. So it’s hard for parents, you know, to navigate this because maybe they’ve lost their job, maybe they’ve lost a loved one. Well, it’s a balancing act between being authentic and sharing, but not oversharing. And also not minimizing and getting help, you know, parents need to get help if they feel like their behaviors are out of control.


This is a time of connection, the pandemic has shown us that we are not connected to our well-being to our inner stillness, as we now are being forced to. And this connection, this forced mandatory lockdown is a lockdown into oneself. And this is bringing up huge anxiety in people. So I would suggest that this can be used as a portal to connect with one self, like this is a great invitation for us to look within. But it’s scary because we’ve never looked within. However, if we take it as a portal, I would suggest to parents, you know, learn meditation, take a self-help course, this is that window that you’ve always longed for, in a world that you said doesn’t stop, well the world has stopped now.


So, take advantage of taking those self-help courses that you never had time for taking that meditation and mindfulness course that you always thought you would do when you retired. This is the time we’re having a kind of mini retirement right now. So take advantage now having said that, this is a time to connect with your children connect with yourself, read books together, take a walk, go skateboarding, you know, get off social media, get off the bandwagon of endless schedules, and kind of spend time in the park with your neighbors. This is a return to that last error that all of us parents were bemoaning. But now it’s right here in our lap, especially for young kids, kids long for simplicity and playfulness and this is the time to give it to them.

But again, parents are overstressed in a different way now because now we’re having to be our kids playdate the kids teacher, the kids coach, and the kids parent. So it’s really hard for parents at this time. So taking it slow, easing off the expectations, you know, stop having high expectations of your kids, you’re not going to do it perfectly, you’re going to put on weight, you’re going to eat terribly, you’re going to forget to exercise, this is normal. And this is not the time to put extra pressure on yourself.


Anxiety is typically looked at as a bad guy, something you need to treat, eradicate, suppress, distract, get rid of. And this is the problem. As long as we look at anxiety as the problem, we’re going to continue having anxiety, because the problem is not anxiety. Anxiety is a messenger that something deeper is gone awry, and what is that? That is the false messaging that we have inherited from our parents and from culture. Because we have false messaging from culture and our parents, we have anxiety, anxiety doesn’t have a choice.

If we live in this crazy wall, there is no choice but to be anxious. In fact, anxiety is the right thing to feel. So we are turning the whole messaging around anxiety on its head in this book. It’s called: SUPERPOWERED: TRANSFORMING ANXIETY TO COURAGE, CONFIDENCE AND RESILIENCE. The reason I wrote this book with my co-author Renee Jain is because publishers approached us pre pandemic, because the rates of anxiety was so high. One out of every five kids was being diagnosed with anxiety before the pandemic. So we wrote this book because we wanted to revolutionize the way anxiety was being viewed.

The reason we’re turning it on its head is because unless we go to the cause of anxiety, we cannot eradicate anxiety. So we’re teaching children that they have these inherent powers within them. So power stands for an acronym. P stands for Presence. Every kid comes with presence. O stands for Originality, W stands for Wholeness. E stands for Energy and R stands for Resilience so in this book, we teach children, you have these inherent superpowers, but they have been robbed from you by this culture by this insane lunacy of our culture to overachieve, to over compare to over compete. And because of this, you have been robbed of your powers. And we’re teaching kids how to uncover these powers again, by releasing the false messaging that culture has given us.


So if you’re a parent, and you want to know how to better cope with your own and your kids anxieties, go grab my new book. It’s called SUPERPOWERED: HOW TO TRANSFORM ANXIETY TO COURAGE, CONFIDENCE and RESILIENCE. You can come to my website at, or find me on Facebook, or Instagram under @DrShefali Thank you again for being here and for listening to GOOD KIDS.



GOOD KIDS is a Lemonada Media original, supervising producer is Chrissy Pease, associate producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Molad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @lemonadamedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at Until next week, stay good

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