Calming Kids Anxiety By Teaching The Physical Experience Of Emotion

I work all day treating and teaching teachers, parents, and healthcare professionals how to be more comfortable in their own bodies. For years I have been hearing my clients say “why don’t they teach us this in school?

Brent Stevenson

I am a physiotherapist and a dad with a twelve-year-old daughter, a thirteen-year-old son, and a fifteen-year-old son.  I work all day treating and teaching teachers, parents, and healthcare professionals how to be more comfortable in their own bodies.  For years I have been hearing my clients say “why don’t they teach us this in school?”  So here I am trying to help make that happen.

The content of my two books lays the groundwork to help you understand how your body actually works, but this article will hopefully help kids, parents, and teachers learn how to better understand themselves and each other.  

Lesson 1:

We ALL have thoughts and feelings.  Thoughts happen in your head.  Feelings happen in your body.  Your parents have feelings.  Your teachers have feelings.  Your friends have feelings.  Some feelings feel good.  Some feelings feel bad.  Some feelings are hard to understand.

When you are angry your body tenses up; your muscles get tight, your stomach churns in knots, and you might clench your jaw.  It gets uncomfortable to be you.  When you are uncomfortable it is harder to think, harder to listen, and harder to be nice to the people around you.  You may say things you don’t mean and pass on some of your discomfort to those around you without realizing it.

Different emotions have different feelings in your body.  You may not be able to put them into words to share with people, but you probably can sense the difference between what it feels like to be proud and happy compared to the feelings of being sad or nervous.  

I know surprise is spelled wrong :)

What part of your body do you feel the most when you are:








My answers:

-Excited: I feel like I have to pee a little bit

-Scared: a lump in my throat

-Worried: tightness in my lower stomach

-Proud: my chest lifting up

-Sad: my chest sinking down and in

-bored: my whole torso feels really heavy

-happy: my whole face lifting up with a smile

Lesson 2:

Everybody holds tension in different parts of their bodies for different reasons.  There is no right or wrong place.  It is normal for your body to react to your experiences, both good and bad.  Past experiences will affect how you feel during and after future experiences.  Your body remembers your feelings more than your brain does.  Sometimes your body will react to something, or someone and you may not always understand why.  Over time you can learn what might be causing the different sensations you feel by paying attention to how tense you are, how you are breathing, and how you are moving.  

Tuning in to what you are feeling physically is a form of mindfulness.  You don’t have to explain it to anyone else, but you should try to connect it to what is happening in your life, that day, that week, and that month.  You may have got in an argument with a family member, did poorly on a test, or be stressed about an upcoming event.  Your body will express your emotions more than your brain will think about them.  It is normal to feel tense if you are stressed, and unsettled when you are anxious.  Being you is going to be a rollercoaster.

What are three things that you find stressful?

What are three things that you find relaxing?

My answers:


-how expensive it is to do anything in Vancouver

-trying to help three teenagers with their lives

-looking after my aging parents


-sleeping in

-walking my dog and listening to music

-playing hockey with my friends

Lesson 3:      

There are also mechanical factors involved in how comfortable you feel in your body.  We live on a planet with gravity, a force that is constantly trying to pull you towards the Earth.  It is your job to hold yourself up vertically to allow you to sit, stand, walk, and run; how well you do these things is referred to as your posture.  Just because you can do them, does not mean that you do any of them very well.  They are things that you do all day, so if you don’t do them very well, it will most likely result in you not feeling great.  Your body is the car, and you are the driver.  The better driver you become the less aches, pains, and injuries you are likely to experience.  

Your body is a series of integrated systems that you can have some control over if you pay attention and practice moving around in different ways.  It is your job to stack up your skeleton, hold it all together and move it around in a coordinated manner.  The best place to start is to learn where your hips are and how to move them.


Watch these two videos then try to do them yourselves, then ask some friends to try:

-4-point neutral spine

-4-point rock backs


The deep muscles in your butt are a place that most people hold onto a lot of tension related to both their posture and their stress.  We tend to clench these muscles without realizing it, and they effect how we sit, bend, and move.  Too much tension in these muscles can give you a sore back, hip, knee, or foot, so it is best to learn how to move them and let go of some of your tension.

 Lesson 4:

 Shake it off.  Watch this video of a dog shaking off its tension after a stressful encounter.  

Animals are better at shaking things off and moving on than we are.  As humans we are thinkers, and as thinkers, we can think too much and generate tension in our muscles and around our organs that make us uncomfortable.  Your tension may make you feel like stretching, but it is usually better just to move, breathe, and dance to help your body shake it off.  Let Taylor Swift help you out.

I am currently working on a full lesson plan for teenagers, parents, teachers, and humans in general.  The course should be available in late 2024, but I will continue to post free resources here on Why Things Hurt along the way.  If you have any questions or requests on topics, please let me know in the comments below.

The last section of my new book is also centred around helping develop empathy and physical awareness in our children, families, and communities.


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