Anxiety, sadness and fear. Three words which unfortunately are too often near the top of our household vocabulary. Along with fart, burnt food, turn the music UP, where’s the remote, sorry I forgot and Dad you Muppet.So what have we found that actually works for both of us. Here are some of the winners.


We have found that this technique is really good at taking the edge off panic attacks. It doesn’t work on any underlying problems but buys some time. At the first sign of increased anxiety:

Think of 5 things you can currently see,

Think of 4 things you can currently hear,

Think of 3 things you can currently touch,

Think of 2 things you can currently smell,

Now do 1 large breath.

The Sweetie Jar Oracle

If our son is going through a period viewing the world through unhappy filters we start the Sweetie Jar Oracle. Find a large clear jar and a bag of brightly coloured sweets. Not sure about the rest of the world but in the U.K. smarties, fruit pastilles or Skittles work well. Sort out say the red and yellow sweets. Then identify one of the colours as good and the other as bad. Then over a period of a few days, maybe a week start to fill the jar with the appropriate coloured sweet every time a good or bad thing happens. After a few days hopefully you will see more good sweets than bad sweets. This usually convinces our son that although bad things do happen, good stuff happens more frequently. You can then eat the sweets….

Good Memories Store

We have an old small suitcase which we use to store good memories in. It’s full of old photos and handwritten notes. Every time we remember a good memory I write it down and put in in the suitcase. When times are bad we can then dig out the memory store and hopefully receive an instant boost to the soul. Has the added advantage of making sure you don’t forget those all important wonderful moments in time.


Just losing himself in a YouTube documentary works somedays. I remember one occasion when he had an awful day at school but after 45 minutes of YouTube watching he was a happy little bunny. Worryingly he had found solace in documentaries about Caligula. What happened to Peppa Pig…

Wheelbarrow Train of Pain

Talked about this in a previous post. It stops my sudden urge to punch the wall with frustration. Basically load up a wheelbarrow with heavy stuff then push it round the garden. The number of circuits depends on the severity of the frustration.


Found that building a Lego set really helps take our son’s mind off his anxieties. It’s also good for his fine motor skills. It’s often frustrating for me as it just reminds me that I never got round to buying the Star Wars Death Star Lego set. Now it would be cheaper to buy a real Ghostbusters Proton Pack and get Bill Murray to personally deliver it to us.


Almost everyday on his return from school our son heads for his trampoline. 20 minutes later many of the frustrations of the day are put to the back of his mind.

Late night dog walking

Walking the dog never really helped our son. He was often too concerned about bumping into others. We would be having a happy conversation but suddenly someone would appear on his radar and he would be lost to anxious social thoughts. Almost by chance we then found the delights of night time dog walking. At night no one is about in our village. We have the fields and lanes to ourselves. Now it has become an excellent stress reliever. We frequently use the walks to plan out in detail the next days schedule.

Bad things league table

Every so often we run the bad things league table. We both list all the things worrying us. We then work together to rank them in order of how much pain they are causing us. Points are awarded for the severity of the issue, it’s frequency and how difficult it is to solve. It quickly identifies the stuff we need to focus on or prepare for. Because it’s done as a league table our son finds it easy to talk about and work with. For the issue which is the league winner we then spend a few minutes working out a couple of actions which might help knock it off its top spot for the next league table.


One of the activists 100% guaranteed to raise our spirits will feature in the next post…

51 thoughts on “What works

  1. YouTube documentaries are something we have fallen back on in the past — and will undoubtedly do so in the future. In our case it’s nature documentaries — especially National Geographic. The nice thing about these is that we can continue to talk about it long after the film has ended.

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  2. Absolutely amazing. He’s got a great dad for a teacher. It’s hard to control our emotions when they hit, but you’ve got many great stress relievers.
    My son especially loves getting lost in his love for legos and drawing. He can do it for hours.
    Thanks for sharing, it was as informative as it was touching. 😊🙏🏽

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Very true, and when you find it 😊🙌🏽 and every year that my son starts a new grade which comes along with new teachers. I have to let them know, what not to do. I mostly sound like a broken record those beginning weeks of school. I dread it a bit.

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  3. I love youtube documentaries too. I really don’t know why they’re so perfect after a stressful day! I’ve also found the 20 minutes of intense exercise helps. I do that sometimes in the middle of the day when it’s one of those everything-going-drastically-downhill days (luckily I work at home so it’s not so weird.) Wish I had the trampoline though! Lots of great ideas here, cheered me up just reading them 🙂 Hope today was a good one for you guys.

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  4. These tools are amazing! I love the suitcase of memories and sweetie jar oracle (thank goodness you didn’t say jelly beans).
    Does your son like spiriograph? I used to love it as a kid, especially making the pictures. My Dad helped me do the owl but I can’t remember what happened to it.

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  5. Going down a YouTube rabbit hole is very easy.

    I wanna be a fly on the wall for the ‘fart’ conversations, if that word is at the top of the list in the household. Farts, alone, can cause anxiety, sadness and fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great list. My nephew’s dad died when he was 11. His mum bought him a trampoline and it was such a release for him. He spent hours on it, day and night. At one point I remember her saying that she wondered what the neighbours thought about her letting her son play on his trampoline late at night, and him laughing out loud when his dad had only recently died. She quickly got past that way of thinking, and they used to take every opportunity to find ridiculous things to laugh at. YouTube is great for that. There was still a lot of sadness, fear and anxiety but a lot of good things too. And my sister is a different person than she would probably have been. She’s had to be. And she takes every opportunity to enjoy herself. Her son is now nearly 20.
    For me, I love a good lego sort out. I think I enjoy sorting colours and sizes more than I enjoy making anything with them.
    My daughter is homeschooled and really struggles with studying. Anxiety, fear and panic attacks are well known in this household too. She thinks far too many things which are unhealthy and believes them to be true. I sit with her as she studies and I’ve started writing down all the things I notice about her learning, and behaviour, and melt downs, and then I share it with it. We’re beginning to see that even on her so called bad days there are a lot of positives.
    Keep on keeping on

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. 11 is so young to lose a parent. It shouldn’t happen. Our neighbours are very deaf so late noise isn’t a problem. Like you I love a Lego sort out. Our son often takes the world too literally. It’s such a difficult decision to potentially home school.


  7. These are are all just smashing ideas. Seriously! I think I’ve used my site to record things from the children more often than not, but I wish I had some handwritten notes about them, too. Your countdown sounds so smart I think I’ll try that with Biff to see if it can help him get “unstuck” when he’s super fixed on a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll find one!
        Oh, there’s a film–book series too, I think–called The Guardians? Something like that. the film’s called Rise of the Guardians. Santa Claus is a total badass in it, just like the Easter Bunny and other heroes of childhood 🙂

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