Anxiety is a brain bully. In its extreme form it lies, it deceives, and it doesn’t give you a moment of peace, even when sleeping. Indeed, it can wake you up to torment you.
That’s what was happening to 8-yr old Lily when she was referred to KidsXpress by her family GP.
Lily’s parents noticed her nightly battle when bedtime rolled around. They’d tried melatonin, warm milk and co-sleeping as part of a whole heap of strategies to help her fall asleep and stay asleep. But nothing worked, and, combined with increased restlessness and emotional outbursts they felt they needed to seek professional help.
Upon assessment, Lily displayed signs of generalised anxiety disorder, including excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. She also exhibited avoidance of school and social interactions, often preferring the comfort of her own space. Her anxiety seemed to stem from a fear of judgment and failure, causing her to retreat from various activities and opportunities for growth.
KidsXpress designed a tailored therapy plan for Lily, focusing on empowering her to manage her anxiety and develop coping strategies. The therapy sessions employed a range of creative and expressive techniques, including art, music, storytelling, and play, to engage Lily and foster a safe and nurturing therapeutic environment.
Throughout her therapy journey, Lily’s progress was remarkable. At the beginning of her sessions, she exhibited hesitance and a reluctance to engage fully. However, as trust and rapport were established, Lily began to open up about her fears and worries, allowing her therapist to guide her towards self-discovery and emotional regulation.
The art-based component of the program provided Lily with a means of externalising her anxieties. Through painting, drawing, and collage, she could visualise her worries and express her emotions in a non-threatening way. This creative outlet allowed Lily to gain a deeper understanding of her anxiety triggers and explore alternative perspectives.
Lily was also particularly drawn to music which was instrumental in soothing her anxious mind. Through rhythmic activities such as banging the djembe drum, Lily discovered the power of music to calm her racing thoughts and bring a sense of harmony to her internal world. In fact Lily enjoyed the djembe drum so much that her parents bought her one to use at home. The empowering act of beating the djembe drum helped create a cathartic release, enabling Lily to channel her anxiety into rhythmic beats, symbolically “beating the brain bully away” and reclaiming a sense of strength and control whenever negative thoughts and fears overpowered her.
As Lily progressed through therapy, her anxiety symptoms significantly reduced. She gained greater insight into her thought patterns, developed coping strategies, and became more resilient in facing her fears. Lily’s increased self-awareness allowed her to identify early signs of anxiety and implement grounding techniques to manage her emotions effectively. The once formidable bully lost its intimidating presence, and Lily gradually reclaimed power over the anxiety that once held her captive. Furthermore, Lily’s social skills and self-esteem improved as she gained confidence in engaging with peers and participating in group activities at school – as related to us by her parents.
Lily’s journey with KidsXpress showcases the transformative impact of expressive therapy in addressing childhood anxiety. And while the bully in her brain is likely to resurface during times of stress, through the creative interventions and the coping strategies she’s learned from our program, Lily will be able to maintain a positive mindset and embrace a future filled with confidence, resilience, and boundless possibilities.