by I recently had a life-affirming conversation with my friend, Jed Baker, PhD., the Director of the Social Skills Training Project in Springfield, NJ, and a national lecturer, trainer, and award winning author of nine books. Dr. Baker’s latest book, “Overcoming Anxiety in Children and Teens”, is a practical guide, using both science and art, to gradually reduce anxiety related to fears. Jed has devoted his life and career to researching and developing proven methods for teaching social and emotional skills to children and teens. These learned and practiced tools to manage anxiety can be used for a lifetime. Wow, I cannot imagine a better day at the office!
Jed describes his program, detailed in the book, as one of encouragement and optimism. Therapy centers on recognizing the strengths of the individual and building on these strengths to gradually diminish the anxiety created by the challenge. Challenges can run the gamut from simple phobias, social phobias, separation anxiety, selective mutism, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and other fears. The goal is not to completely overcome the challenge but to manage it in a way that diminishes the anxiety associated with the challenge.
Jed teaches and supports a multi-step approach to overcoming anxiety. Briefly, these steps include:
- Exude boundless optimism. We are partners in therapy. Emphasis on individual strengths.
- Understanding the physical (flight or fight response) and emotional symptoms of anxiety. Introduce a new language to the brain that differentiates between true alarms and false alarms. Begin to shake the beliefs in these false alarms and face their fears.
- Create a fear ladder. Small steps that lead to gradual reduction in anxiety. Rewards may be extrinsic or intrinsic.
- Think like a scientist (cognitive behavior therapy or “CBT”). Ask two questions: 1: Am I overestimating something bad will happen and 2: If something bad happens, how bad will it be?
- Use of physical and mental activities and, in some cases, medicine, to lower anxiety. Examples include 30 minutes of aerobic exercise before a stressful event, use of relaxation techniques and guided meditation to increase mindfulness of the present moment, and, when indicated, neurofeedback or medication. Medication has side effects but it may be used to bridge the gap to learn to face the fear and, in the best scenario, the medication eventually reduced or eliminated.
When I consider the challenges that what we all face on a day to day basis, the approach above makes great sense for all of us, young and old alike. Some of us may have anxiety over flying in a plane, or a fear of driving over long bridges, or a fear of snakes. The list is endless. Even in the financial world, anxiety is a common emotion and we need to learn to recognize true alarms from false alarms. In 2002, Daniel Kahneman won the Noble Prize in Economic Sciences for challenging the assumption of human rationality in modern economic theory. Many of us recognize the anxiety when the market goes down, and the euphoria when the market goes up.
We can all benefit from learning and utilizing Dr. Baker’s steps to overcome anxiety and confront the challenges we encounter in our daily lives. Applying these valuable life skills for the long term will improve our physical, spiritual and financial health. Lesson learned.
Please note: Dr. Baker is not affiliated with BH Wealth Management nor endorsed by First Allied