Supporting Students' Mental Health: A 10-Step Approach with Gina Nelson

Supporting Students' Mental Health: A 10-Step Approach with Gina Nelson

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How can we effectively support students with anxiety? Join us as we dive into a thought-provoking conversation with Gina Nelson, a licensed clinical social worker specialising in teen anxiety.

In this episode of Behaviour Secrets, we delve into Gina's powerful 10-step process for reducing anxiety in young people and we uncover practical techniques that empower students with essential skills in managing their emotions and pave the way for a successful future.

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Click to view Gina's website 'Combating Teen Anxiety' here

Click to view Gina's facebook page 'Authentic Gains' here

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Show notes / transcription

Gina Nelson  0:00  

Let's say you've got a mom who's constantly dieting or constantly making comments like, Oh, I'm so fat or look at me in this outfit are constantly being critical, then it's very hard to lean into kind self talk and that compassion for self. And so as parents, we sometimes have to be very mindful that even though you know, we're like, do as I say, not as I do, the kids are watching, and whether we verbally say things to them or not, they're watching how we live our life and how kind we are to ourselves.

Simon Currigan  0:29  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to this week's episode of school behaviour secrets. And it's my personal mission to expose the lie of "ripen at home plums". You know you go to the supermarket to get some plums and they haven't got any normal plums left but they're on the shelf is a plastic box of ripen at home plums. It's a lie. They never ripen right? It's all a big con. So well played supermarkets. They've invested millions in scientists and supercomputers in gene editing, to produce plums that somehow incredibly, unbelievably go from bitter, hard, inedible bullets of hate on Wednesday morning to being suddenly mouldy and dead on Wednesday afternoon, somehow completely skipping the ripe phase out, you know, the very face you boast about on the packaging. And then despite myself when I'm in the shop, even though I know those containers are plums will never ripen and the supermarket has the audacity to charge slightly more for those plums than normal plums. I still hand over my hard earned cash week after week in the vain hope that all end dealt with, as advertised in the luxury of my own home some nice ripe plums, I need to have my dreams dashed and broken in an endless negative abusive cycle of hope and despair. And look, if you're a conspiracy theorist out there listening to this, you don't need to put together random theories from nebulous internet non evidence to find proof of the Deep State exploiting the masses. The trail to the biggest corporate conspiracy in history starts right here in plain sight with ripen at home plums. And once you know the truth about ripen at home plums, it's like stepping through the looking glass. Seeing the matrix for the first time seeing how the 1% really exploits the public for their own gain. And if I can be authentic and vulnerable for a moment, let me shine a light on the dark truth hiding inside me as a result of all of this. Ripen at home plums have completely undermined my faith in humanity, capitalism and the noble goal of science to create a better world. And that's what I want to say about ripen at home plums

Emma Shackleton  3:21  

Wow Simon, You feel quite strongly about this then only I had quite a nice Punnet of ripen at home peaches the other day. 

Simon Currigan  3:31  

Dont get me started. Thats the voice of my co host Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  3:37  

Hi, Simon. 

Simon Currigan  3:38  

Emma. Before we get any further into this week's episode, mind if I ask you a quick question? It's not about ripen at home plums.

Emma Shackleton  3:47  

Thank goodness for that. Well, I know better than to interrupt someone's rigid routine without pre warning. So go ahead. Let's do this.

Simon Currigan  3:55  

According to a 2023 poll of 2200 adults in the United States what was the main cause of stress for participants who reported feeling stressed or anxious

Emma Shackleton  4:07  

Oh, the main cause of stress for adults in the US? I would go with money worries, work troubles, like either bad bosses or bad conditions or lack of work covering all bases here. And relationship troubles, stuff like family arguments go on. How am I doing?

Simon Currigan  4:28  

Really gone with a shotgun approach there? Haven't you? 

Emma Shackleton  4:30  


Simon Currigan  4:31  

So the fact that came at the top of the poll was personal finances which I guess you know, makes sense given the state of the world right now. But interestingly, uncertainty took the number two spot followed by physical health and then mental health.

Emma Shackleton  4:45  

Oh, okay, that makes sense. ripen at home plums? Was that in there?.

Simon Currigan  4:49  

No, didn't make the top five Give it time.

Emma Shackleton  4:51  

Go on then. So why are you asking me this specific question about anxiety today?

Simon Currigan  4:56  

It's because our guest today is Gina Nelson. And she's going To be explaining her 10 step process for helping kids cope with anxiety. It was a really interesting conversation with lots of practical takeaways. And I know that anxiety is still a big issue in terms of supporting pupils with their mental health in schools right now. So this is a really important topic.

Emma Shackleton  5:18  

Yeah, super relevant at the moment. But before we go any further, if you enjoy our podcasts, please can you do as a quick act of kindness, and share a link to the show with one or two people in your school or social circle, people that you think might benefit from hearing these messages too? Thank you for doing that for us. We really appreciate it. And without further ado, here's Simon's conversation with Gina Nelson.

Simon Currigan  5:45  

Today, I'm really excited to welcome Gina Nelson to the show Gina is a licenced clinical social worker whose expertise is in teaching teens and adults to catch their anxiety before it gets out of control, and to practice owning speaking and releasing their emotions in a more productive way. As a result, she is the creator of Combating Teen Anxiety, her proven 10 step method to reduce teen anxiety and give young people the skills they need to manage their emotions so that they can succeed in their future goals. She also has a private practice, online training programmes, virtual coaching nationwide, and in personalised psychotherapy in California and Idaho. And Gina also offers corporate workshops and is a keynote speaker Gina, welcome to the podcast.

Gina Nelson  6:31  

Thank you so much, Simon, I'm so excited to be here.

Simon Currigan  6:33  

I'm excited to have you too. Because I know that anxiety, especially since the pandemic is an issue that's being raised more and more by schools. And before we go any deeper, really I think we should start with the basics, which are from a clinical perspective, what actually is anxiety? 

Gina Nelson  6:50  

Yeah, that's that's such a great starting question. Because I think in today's world, that buzzword of anxiety is just everybody says they're anxious, I'm anxious, I'm anxious. And I think we need to clarify, there's a difference between kind of being stressed, and having kind of a productive level of anxiety that can propel us to be motivated versus a severe anxiety condition. And so with the teens that I'm seeing, certainly you're seeing a lot of social anxiety, where there's a lot of feelings that they're not fitting in and with that there may be avoiding social settings because they're afraid of being judged. And so that can certainly be a more significant situation that impacts the socialisation. And obviously, our pandemic certainly had a huge impact on social anxiety for teens and all kids because of how school was handled. But when we look at severe anxiety, you're looking at things like generalised anxiety, or panic attacks that the teens are having. And that's something a lot more significant than just kind of that buzzing of that anxiousness or high intensity. And so the severe anxiety is usually when you look at something like general anxiety, you're looking at somebody who's preseparating, who's not sleeping, who has this constant worry about something that hasn't happened yet. Fear of failure can really all be compounded with that, and they're irritable and sensitive. And so to actually even have a diagnosis of something like general anxiety, those symptoms really need to be going on for greater than six months. So a lot of our teens are maybe not going to get a complete diagnosis, they're going to be somewhere in the grey of anxiousness. But I think the biggest issue is, you know, when they're having panic attacks, we really need to address that because they don't just go away by themselves. And sometimes parents feel like, Oh, they're just going to go away, especially my parents never experienced something like that. And those are much more serious conditions that may need medication. But more often than not, I think it's about just teaching them how to catch that and manage it and identify what's really happening.

Simon Currigan  8:59  

You used an interesting term there that we've never really covered on the show before, which is preseparating, and for listeners that are unfamiliar with the term, because just unpack it a little bit. So they're able to recognise it when they see it.

Gina Nelson  9:09  

Yeah. So the Preseparation is just this idea of constant thinking of the same thing. It's this kind of negative feedback loop of, you know, I'm going to fail this test, I'm going to fail this test, I'm going to fail this test. And it doesn't matter what they do, they can't get out of that fear that something bad's going to happen. And so at night, their mind is just constantly in that feedback loop and they just can't settle themselves down. They can't get rid of those thoughts. And so that's really the pre separation. You can also certainly see that behaviour in even a more significant anxiety diagnosis like an OCD, the obsessive compulsive disorders, because it's all about obsessiveness, obsessive thoughts and then a compulsion to try to eliminate those behaviours are those thoughts?

Simon Currigan  9:53  

Is anxiety, something a child can completely overcome? Or are we focusing our support more on how they manage it when it happens?

Gina Nelson  10:01  

That's a complex question. I think some people can certainly overcome anxiety and manage it. I think anxious people are anxious people most of their life. And anxious teens come from anxious parents usually. And so that kind of buzzing and what they're seeing in their parents behaviour can have a huge impact on how they behave. And so for some people, they might need to be on medication the rest of their life. Most people, it's a matter of teaching them how to cope and manage it and recognise the difference of what they need to do or not doing to help take care of themselves can manage that anxiety.

Simon Currigan  10:38  

That makes total sense. You've put together a 10 step programme for helping teens understand and manage their anxiety. And we're not unfortunately going to have time to go through all 10 steps in detail today. But could you give me sort of a 30,000 foot bird's eye view of what that process looks like a sort of a brief overview of those 10 steps?

Gina Nelson  10:59  

Yeah, absolutely. So kind of just a high level, we start by identifying values. And the way we do that in our programme is we look at eight spheres of wellness. So we're really capturing everything from academic to emotional wellness in these areas, and really looking at what parts aren't being attended to. So often, we're really out of balance there, when we look at the second module is really about mindset. And for so many teens, they don't know how to be quiet, people with anxiety don't sit in the quiet, they are very productive and busy. And so they don't know how to quiet their mind. And so we teach them not only meditation type skills and things there, but just the idea of being able to kind of be present with the mindset. The third really goes into what I'm going to call achievement or expectation setting, because some of it for the teen is an innate belief of what they believe their parents expect of them. And sometimes it's actually coming from the parents based off of what the parents are modelling and what those expectations are. And being able to recognise that in the fourth. And then we're going to talk more about that this is more about learning to regulate our nervous system. And I think it's the most profound module in this anxiety course, when we get to Module Five, we're looking at how to get vulnerable and learning the skills to walk into difficult conversations. And whether that's about substances or things that are actually happening with feelings, it's really a lot about vulnerability and how to walk into those discussions. module six, we're going to talk about sex, and help parents understand some tools of how they might initiate some conversations about that. You know, as a therapist, certainly, I see adults who are afraid to even say that word, let alone be familiar with their own bodies. So I think that kids need to have a much better set of language and a safety of being able to discuss that. And then module seven is about shame and negative beliefs. And it's going to be a real profound module, we're gonna talk more about that, specifically, eight is about replacing unhealthy habits. And sometimes that's also parents replacing some of their unhealthy habits and with their modelling for their kids. When we get to Module nine, we really start looking at the Art of Letting Go. And sometimes that is letting go of expectations that a team feels like they'll never meet, and learning how to figure that out how they're going to live happily with their parents if they can't meet those expectations. And sometimes it's about a parent learning to let go of their expectations of what they expect their kid to do. I know, my son was supposed to go off to college. And when he came to me a senior year and said, I'm joining the army, I said, Whoa, I had to really let go of my expectations of what I thought. And you know, that all turned out well, and he's finishing college now. But that's part of that grief process. And then module 10 is about owning our authenticity. And with that we have to teach gratitude, and teach teens to stop blaming situations of what happened and families of origin or situations at school to really own their own accountability and learn how to create happiness, regardless of the situation.

Simon Currigan  14:13  

Okay, so I can see this is a really comprehensive approach to supporting teens that doesn't just look at the teen's behaviour and beliefs, but also sort of encompasses what we as parents are contributing either consciously or unconsciously to what's going on. And as I said, we're not gonna have time to look at everything. But I'd like to start by looking at the first two steps which you said focus on helping children develop empathy and self compassion through introducing meditation and relaxation strategies. But why did these come first in the process, and why are they important?

Gina Nelson  14:43  

Yeah, they're very important. For starters, empathy is something that is unique to different people. And so for instance, if I asked you what you needed for support, you might say maybe you want someone to look you in the eyes and actually look and feel like they're present, and somebody else might say, I don't want you to have any eye contact with me, I'd rather you sit next to me. And when we look at teens and parents, parents want to fix things, we all want the best for our kids. And so when our kid comes to us with some kind of, you know, problem or difficulty, we go into fix it mode. And that's not empathy, that's sometimes more anxiety producing. So we need to just first of all, know what the teen wants, and what how they receive support, so that we can actually provide that. So that's an important part of the empathy, self compassion, my goodness, that for anxious people, self compassion is probably one of the hardest things for them to really lean into anxious people are really good at helping others, they're really good at even having support supportive language, and being able to see somebody else's perspective and offering that level of support. But they really are bad often at affording themselves that same level of kind of acceptance. And so they talk nasty to themselves, or they have this bad language self talk of, you know, you're so stupid that you did that, why'd you do that? But I wouldn't say that to a friend, I would have support and say, gosh, you know, it's okay, that that happened, you know, you're doing the best you can. And so learning self compassion is really important. With regards to the mindfulness piece, we have to learn how to relax our bodies, we have to recognise that our body actually does have times when it is relaxed, and it isn't anxious. Because more often than not, I'll have a teen come in for a session after a week. And I'll say, How was your week? And they said, I was anxious the entire time, it was horrible every single day. And I said, Okay, let's unpack that a little bit. And then we can really dissect that, gosh, your nervous system can't stay that way. 24/7. So we have to teach them what does it looked like in quiet? What does it look like to kind of set some expectations of how to balance not only those values that we talked about in that first level, but but also to really say, this is how much time we're going to spend on academics. And this is how much time I need you to work on some self care. This is maybe if you're struggling with social anxiety, and maybe this is what we're going to focus on and give them kind of a roadmap of how to focus their attention on more than just the academics, which is where they get stuck. 

Simon Currigan  17:17  

How to kids react to that sometimes, because sometimes being compassionate towards yourself, when you're not used to doing it, when you don't feel that you necessarily have earned or deserved that self compassion that can be quite scary. What kind of reactions do you get? And what kind of challenges do you see with that?

Gina Nelson  17:33  

I get a lot of pushback from teens and adults, I don't need to have self compassion. And it's this idea of, yeah, you do, we all need it. And once they start to learn it, and they kind of understand some of those other steps that we're going to talk about more in depth, when we get into good regulation, they're going to understand the importance of it. And so we start with the foundation of it so that when we get to say step four, and we really talk about mood regulation, they start to understand how self compassion becomes an anchor, and can change the story that they're telling themselves about what's going on around them. 

Simon Currigan  18:07  

I think its so important. And when you think that we appear to be when you look on social media, or kind of selfie obsessed world where everything is airbrushed and everything appears to be perfect. When you speak to people are actually there is a genuine lack of self compassion, whatever social media says people do not feel good about themselves. 

Gina Nelson  18:25  

Let's admit that's also coming from parents, right? Let's say you've got a mom who's constantly dieting, or constantly making comments like Oh, I'm so fat, or look at me in this outfit are constantly being critical, then it's very hard to lean into kind self talk and that compassion for self. And so as parents, we sometimes have to be very mindful that even though you know we're like, do as I say, not as I do, the kids are watching, and whether we verbally say things to them or not. They're watching how we live our life and how kind we are to ourselves.

Simon Currigan  18:57  

The fourth step that we're going to look at is the one about helping teens regulate their nervous system and becoming more aware of how their body reacts to perceived threats. I know this is really important part of the process for you. So can you talk us through how you approach this? And how does this step in the process work in terms of combating anxiety?

Gina Nelson  19:19  

Again, this is my favourite part. And once people get this, they understand why. So Steven Porges is a psychologist he created this concept called polyvagal theory and along with him an LCSW like myself that Dana created what she calls this poly vagal ladder. And so essentially in our nervous system, we've got the central nervous system, which is our spine and our brain and then we have the autonomic nervous system. So in my work with the polyvagal ladder, the autonomic nervous system is the part that on the vagus nerve, it starts in the back of our brain and it's like little spindles that come into all of our internal organs and go all the way to our gut. So it controls our heart rate, it controls the respiration and it controls all of the adrenaline and all of the things that make us anxious. When we think about fight and flight, most people have heard that term fight and flight fight and flight is a safety mechanism that our bodies have that you and I are both standing here today, because our fight and flight has probably kicked in gear at some point. But what happens is, if you're you, if somebody's coming at you with a knife, that adrenaline is going to kick in all of that hormones and the acetylcholine all those things are going to kick in, and your body is ready to either fight if you have to, if you can, or your legs have now the energy to run. But what happens in our nervous system is that the amygdala that makes that decision, the danger centre doesn't know the difference between real danger or perceived danger. And so what often happens is that say I'm a teen and I go to school, and I show up in a group and all of my friends get quiet, when I walk into that group, my nervous system, all of a sudden has to make up a story about Oh, they've got to be talking about me. And so my body goes into fight and flight in that anxious and all of the, you know, the hormones and everything start flying, and I'm in the state because now I've made up a story that goes with that nervous system state. So in polyvagal ladder, the top of the ladder is about physical safety and emotional safety, and feeling connected to people. So when we have that, we are usually in a pretty calm state, our nervous system is in this parasympathetic state, and it feels pretty good. Something happens like walking into that group and thinking my friends don't like me, and my nervous system pulls me into the middle of this ladder, where I go into fight and flight when we're in that fight and flight, we have two choices, we have to one first recognise where we are, we have to know what we're feeling in our body. What are the thoughts that are coming from that middle state? And how can I maybe slow that process down. So the best option will be to do what we call anchoring and get ourselves back to the top of the ladder where we feel safe and emotionally connected. But if we can't do that, we're going to either go into a full panic attack or get to this state of complete overwhelm. And when we're overwhelmed, there's no input, no output possible, were really kind of at the middle of that, and the end of that, and now we've dropped to the bottom of the ladder, which we call dorsal and in the dorsal, so when we shut down for those of you who know what possums are, you know, you've probably heard that term possums play dead. That's what they're doing the curling into a little ball, they're shutting down, they feel depressed, the most primitive, most protective place that we can go. And so as humans, we're also mammals. But while we might not curl into a ball, when we get to the bottom of this ladder, our brain starts to also have really negative beliefs about ourselves. And probably the most profound part is not just knowing where you are in this ladder, but recognising that the story that we tell ourselves, has three different stories based on whether I'm at the bottom of the ladder, where I might be saying, My friends don't like me at all, I don't belong, I don't fit in, you know, I'm a bad friend, all of those negative things. Or in the middle, it's I gotta get out of here, I gotta get out of here. They're making fun of me, they're talking about me, everybody's against me attacking me, versus I'm safe. And I'm at the top, and I'm a good friend, my friends like me, they engage with me, I feel safe and comfortable. And so if you can just see how that those three places, all of us are hopping in and out of those three parts. Some people get stuck in the middle, and are just running this anxious loop. Some people get really depressed and stay at the bottom, but very few teens, and even adults know how to get to the top. And so that's why this part is so important on you know, I've given you kind of the highest end view of what I can describe. But that is really so important for teens to understand that so they can learn to anchor and find their way to safety. 

Simon Currigan  23:45  

Okay, what does anchoring look like? 

Gina Nelson  23:47  

Yeah, so anchoring is going to piggyback on some of those relaxation techniques. We do things like bilateral tapping to try to calm our nervous system down, we look at co regulation, which is the concept of maybe a parent can just sit next to their teen and breathe with them. I tell people if you have an animal, like a dog or a cat, their nervous system is great to co regulate us because just the purring of a cat or you know, feeling the heartbeat of an animal can really calm us down. And then we might be doing some other visualisations or other things that anchor them into safety or activities that really feel that emotional wellness. So we have to kind of build the toolbox, if you will. So they have lots of different things to pull from

Simon Currigan  24:29  

Just having that self knowledge. And then knowing strategies that work for you. 

Gina Nelson  24:34  

Well, we want to know how to get ourselves to the top even when we're at the very bottom, and so they're not so scared of it, because it can be very scary to be at the bottom of that ladder.

Simon Currigan  24:42  

Your seventh step focuses on the consequences for the teen of holding negative beliefs and the shame that can follow as a result of those negative beliefs. What is the impact of shame on anxiety? And what can we do as adults to support kids who are affected by those negative beliefs.

Gina Nelson  25:00  

Yeah, I think shame has a huge impact on anxiety. Because when we think of shame, shame is the thing we don't want people to know about us. It's the kind of secret that we want to hide. And so when we talk about putting on different masks in different groups of friends, let's just say give me an example we look at, in this section, also looking at wanted identities and unwanted or how you want to be perceived and how you don't want to be perceived. So let's just say, as a teen, I want to be perceived as intelligent and competent, and somebody who's popular with friends and you know, likeable all of those things. But somebody gives me a look, or somebody doesn't invite me to some event or somebody says something that triggers that shame for me. Now, I'm completely in this state of anxiousness. And then the story that goes with it is this negative belief that I'm not good enough? You know, I'm not competent. I'm not, you know, all these things. And so they're completely related, that when we can identify, like, at the bottom of that ladder, that dorsal space is where those negative beliefs get really, really loud. And so when we can acknowledge that those beliefs are really loud here, we can also say, oh, gosh, where are you in this ladder? Oh, I'm down here. Okay, what do we need to do to get a little more energy? What do we need to do to get to the top of the ladder, and then if you could zoom out your perspective, if you were to maybe anchor to a friend and say, hey, you know, talk me off the ledge, I'm having this thought that so and so doesn't like me, and this all happen, and that friend kind of zooms out and gives you more perspective and says, That's not true. Let me tell you why that's not true. And then they can start rattling off these reasons why they know they're a good friend, or they know some of those shame triggers aren't true, we have to get curious about the shame, we have to call it out. And then we have to anchor and talk about it. And that's how we navigate through it, rather than just stuffing it and avoiding it.

Simon Currigan  26:49  

That's absolutely fascinating. I can see how all these different levels of the process sort of work together and reinforce each other. Can you tell me about a success story you've had taking a team through all of these 10 steps and what the impact was for them having been through the process?

Gina Nelson  27:05  

Yeah, I'm gonna, you know, for confidentiality, I'm just going to call this teen Ellie and Ellie came to me with some OCD type behaviours. Again, that's obsessive compulsive type behaviours, and having panic attacks and severe social anxiety. She's also a team that, you know, had come through this pandemic, where socialisation got really bad and awkward during those times. And so again, we started with teaching values and recognising what worked and what didn't work. And she wasn't doing a lot of the things that she loved, like music or singing or going for a run or going for a walk, because academics were the only thing on her mind and trying to live up to parents expectations, was it so we have to first start with the values and recognise what are we out of balance, and which of those values might actually be an anchor for her? Learning empathy, and self compassion is a huge thing. And I think for some people, it's almost lifelong. I don't know that we just learned it, and you just get it right. I think it's something you have to practice on a regular basis. But she was really good at being kind to her friends. And I would say, what would you tell a friend, if the same thing was happening to them? And she'd say, Well, I tell them, they're doing the best they could. So why can't you tell yourself that, so we had to really help her recognise that and, you know, walk through these levels, the achievement and expectation well, with her parents, I know that there was an innate belief. Now, I'm sure it was partly verbally expressed as well. But there was this kind of expectation, everybody was going to go to a university, and it couldn't just be any university, it had to be, you know, this university, and therefore, we needed all these extra curricular activities, and all the volunteering and all these things. And she was just so overwhelmed. And so you know, part of it was getting the parents together with her and saying, Okay, this is what's happening. What are your real expectations, and then the parents might even say, in her case, we're saying, we're not even, we're not forcing her that's coming from her. And so I had to really help her kind of recognise what mom and dad really had as an expectation. And what was part of her story, their polyvagal ladder is something that was really profound for her and learning how to catch that and recognise the story, because it not only helped her, for instance, if she was so afraid of failing a test and got in that anxious space. And then she, I mean, for her do about an a test might be a 95, instead of 100%. Right? She was really high achievement, but that sense of when she didn't get 100, she'd say, I'm a failure. And if I'm a failure, I'm never gonna go to college. And I'm never going to do this. And it just became this huge spiral of what we call that obsession or that poor separation. And so being able to go wait a minute, where are you call it out? And so then she could say, oh, I'm down here or no, I'm here. And I said, Okay, what do you tell yourself when you're up here, and so she learned to walk through all those steps. She also learned that some of what she was carrying was coming from her parents. She learned that some of their coping mechanisms, some of mom's inability to get vulnerable mom's discomfort with emotion, put mom in a fix it mode all the time, which actually cause more anxiety for my team. And so part of this is, as she, you know, became ready to go off to college, it was okay, now you get to be an adult, you start to kind of figure out who are you, outside of your parents? How can you love them and be in relationship with them, and also recognise what's their stone? And what's your stone, and they may or may not deal with their stuff, but you can learn to let go of some of those expectations. And then finally, certainly in that, that last stage, it's learning that situations don't cause your happiness. We can't live in blame and, you know, put the responsibility on other people, we own our own happiness and our own authenticity, and how do we move forward there? And so I think she did a great job with all of those, but it was some work, because each of those steps is very hard.

And what was the outcome for what was the change in the end? 

Simon Currigan  30:15  

Yeah, we really learned how to catch that anxiety and to be able to manage when her thoughts were were wrong, and the story that she was telling herself was wrong. And so she ended up being able to socialise much more and not be afraid to go out with friends and the panic attack, she caught them before they actually came to full blown panic attacks, which was was a huge, you know, key for her for her functioning. And so being able to recognise that made a profound difference for her.

That's massive, that's massive. If you're a teacher or a parent listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take today to start helping a team manage their anxiety? 

Gina Nelson  31:25  

Yeah, I think being able to normalise that vulnerability is important, and that we don't have the answers for where our teen is. So maybe just sitting with them, asking a lot of questions. And that fire hosing of what about this? Did you try this? That's not helpful. So even just saying, How can I help you? What do you need from me? Now the teen in an anxious state might not be able to tell you that. So if they say, I don't know, I don't know. I'm just going to sit here with you. Let's just breathe together. Let a parent or teachers nervous system helped to co regulate that, you know, teen until they get to be a little more safe. Because once they're safe, curiosity shows back up. And maybe then they could say, you know, this is really what I need from you. But when they're in that sympathetic anxiety, they might not know because they're so riled up. So we might just need to co regulate them, calm them down, or just sit with them.

Simon Currigan  32:20  

Do you know, I feel like we're just getting started with the conversation, but we're approaching the end of the interview, how can our listeners find out more about your 10 step process and your resources?

Gina Nelson  32:29  

Yeah, so I have a free mini course at Again, that's combating teen And they can access a three part mini series that will also give them some good resources and tools from that course. I'm on Facebook at authentic gains, which is my private practice name, and Instagram is authentic underscore gains.

Simon Currigan  32:53  

Perfect. Finally, we asked this of all our guests who is the key figure this influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read? That's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?

Gina Nelson  33:04  

Yeah, there wasn't no me. No, I'm a huge Brene Brown fan. I'm actually certified in her daring way curriculum and so Brene Brown all the way Daring Greatly and Rising Strong are two of the most profound books I've ever read. And those techniques I use them with, you're gonna see some of that in this programme. I use it even in my corporate executive coaching as well. It's fantastic and her work on vulnerability and shame and shame resilience is probably the biggest influence in my world.

Simon Currigan  33:32  

Gina, you've shared so much practical information and knowledge and strategies that we can all start using straightaway. I just want to say thank you for being on the podcast. It's been a fascinating conversation.

Gina Nelson  33:41  

Thank you so much for having me, Simon, it's been a lot of fun.

Emma Shackleton  33:44  

Oh, wow. I think there were lots of practical strategies and ideas there stuff that we can really think about and use with our children in schools.

Simon Currigan  33:53  

I know. And if you want to learn more about her approach, I'll put direct links to Gina's resources in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  33:59  

And of course, if you're working with children who are struggling managing strong emotions, such as anxiety, we've got a free download that can help. It's called How to help children manage anger and other strong emotions. If you haven't downloaded it yet, where have you been? It's free, go and get yours now. And by the way, if you're a teacher or you work in school, I've shared this resource with parents as well who are seeking support for their child's behaviour at home too. So feel free to pass on the link so that parents that you're working with can download the guide to. Getting everyone on the same page at home and at school, you know, is a fantastic way to move forward with supporting our children. 

Simon Currigan  34:45  

The guide explains in really simple terms, how to use something called Emotional scaling, which is a research backed approach to helping children regulate big emotions like anger or anxiety or frustration. It's called How to help children manage anger and other strong emotions. Because we don't invest a lot of time thinking up clever names for our downloads

Emma Shackleton  35:05  

This download will guide you through lots of practical techniques that you can start using straightaway with your students. To get your copy, visit  click on the free resources section near the top, and you'll see it near the top of the page. And we've also put a direct link to this resource in the episode description to make things easy for you.

Simon Currigan  35:28  

And if you found today's show interesting, useful or valuable. Please remember to open up your podcast app now and subscribe to make sure you never miss another episode. Plus the sensation of subscribing really put some pep in your step like a vegan who's just opened up their birthday card and discovered they've been gifted a lifetime cabbages subscription I might regret that because there's a lot of vegans out there that I might have just angered.

Emma Shackleton  35:52  

I just want to say thank you everybody for continuing to listen to the podcast. Have a great week and we can't wait to see you all next week on school behaviour secrets bye for now.

Simon Currigan  36:03  

I love you all vegan and non vegan bye

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)