Ivy and Noah


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Tools to help with anxiety.

This is not a sponsored post.

I’ve been asked a lot recently about the tools we use to help with Ivy’s anxiety and fears,

so I thought I would list a few of the resources we have used/ are using that seem to have made a difference.



We have used lots of books to open up ways of communication about Ivy’s feelings – there are many on the market but here are some that have helped us.


When I’m Feeling Scared by Trace Moroney was the very first book that we discovered.

It is good for children who have strong emotions but haven’t got the words to express them.

Beautifully written and illustrated,

it’s geared towards younger children, it helped Ivy to understand that her feelings and worries were relevant and that they were important to be acknowledged.

It has, in fact, been a favourite for all of my kids over the years.


The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite and Max Stasuyk is a book that helps little bodies to cope with strong emotions through meditation and ‘progressive muscular  relaxation’.

We first discovered it through the play therapists in the hospital who were using it to help Ivy work through trauma and pain during procedures.

It lists some immediate and long term benefits for children practicing progressive muscle relaxation as:

  • Ability to control anger
  • Lower heart rate and breathing rate
  • Increased blood flow throughout the body
  • Reduced anger or general frustrations
  • Increased sense of control over emotions and moods
  • Decrease in generalized anxiety and anxiety produced phobias
  • Decrease in panic attacks
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved concentration

It was one of the first books we used to teach Ivy about slowing her breathing to allow endorphins into her system.

You can download an e-book version if you want (we love the e-book with audio as it is easy to focus on when Ivy is extremely stressed or on Midazolam)

and it’s also available as an app on iTunes.

My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss is a book that Ivy’s awesome play therapist is using at the moment.

It associates colours with feelings and each week they choose a colour and a feeling that go hand in hand and complete an art work.

During that time they talk about the types of things that make Ivy feel whichever emotion they have chosen for the session.

It also creates colour  imagery for the girl to concentrate on in times of stress.

Ivy likes it a lot and looks forward to creating something that coincides with her feelings.

Lessons of a LAC by Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan is Ivy’s new favourite book to take to hospital.

Even though it is geared towards the younger child, it has been very helpful for her during peak stress periods.

It is a story about Loppy the LAC who is quite negative in his thoughts until he meets a Calmster, who teaches him that it’s okay to find the positives in life as well.

Ivy says she likes it because, “Loppy and Calmy remind [her] of adrenaline and endorphins and how adrenaline (the negative thoughts) can block the ‘good guys’ (endorphins) so she can’t feel relaxed”.

She also thought she was more like Loppy when she was in the hospital and that the nurses and the play therapist were the Calmsters.

The book is written in easy to understand language that describes complex feelings and the characters created by the illustrator are easy to identify with and loveable.


Audio & Apps

There are some great audio books out there to choose from but our favourites come from  Sparkle Stories.

We are currently using Stories for Helping and Healing which help Ivy to relate to her challenges and work through her fears.

Story telling is a great way for her to be able to concentrate on something else, to lose herself in her imagination.

We often listen to audio books in the car on the way to the hospital and sometimes we will plug  some ear phones into the iPod so that the story takes away the sounds of the treatment room.

They do cost $6 each but are well worth it and you can download free podcasts from iTunes as well.


Relax Melodies is a sound App that allows Ivy (or me – often me) to choose relaxing sounds to listen to. There is a free app which is fantastic but we have just bought the upgrade for $3.79

It’s great for relaxing after a procedure  and I often use it for Ivy and Noah when they are sad, upset, uptight or sick and it just seems to comfort them.

It’s also great for listening to to go to sleep.



iTunes apps are an essential part of Ivy’s stress relief.

They offer her the ability to take herself away from the trauma of what is going on.

Some  that we use include:

Sleep meditations for children (self explanatory)

Gloop –  is like a lava lamp on your phone. Very relaxing and quite psychedelic (especially on Midaz).

Fireflies – basically you have to catch the glowing fireflies.

Toca Hair Salon – cutting and styling hair is the perfect escape from hospital procedures, according to the small girl.

There are many many out there, you just need to find some that appeal to your child.

Other things we do:

Squeezing play dough: like a squishy stress ball.

Blowing bubbles – encourages Ivy to breathe in and out deeply. Also, how can you be sad when there are bubbles?

Silly dancing - self explanatory, really but the sillier the better.

‘Horse breathing’ - this is one that I taught Ivy (and she named). By pushing air through your lips so they make a sound ‘ppppppppppp’ makes it very hard for anyone to tense their jaw. Try it. Just don’t laugh because it’s virtually impossible then.

Pet therapy - the more animals the better. Our hospital have Delta Dogs visit regularly.

Stomping and growling. It might seem strange but stomping before a stressful procedure works – it’s a trick I learnt during my midwife days. Ladies would stomp their way through a contraction.

We only use if before though because generally sticking needles into a body when you are moving is not recommended.

Growling (or making any animal noise) helps divert the adrenaline rush. By making a noise foreign to the feeling.  For example – instead of saying “Ow” when it hurts, say “bow wow wow”.

It sounds weird but it works.


So, there you go.

I hope that these can help somebody out there, like they have helped Ivy.

If you have any good resources or suggestions, I’d love to hear about them too.


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18 Responses to “Tools to help with anxiety.”

  • Christy:

    With our little princess with anxiety we’ve done heaps of similar stuff…. reading… letting them know they aren’t alone and helping explain those complicated emotions. We did social stories together, we would identify one nasty (stress or anxiety trigger) and in the book we would beat the nasty with alternatives, and ways around it…. so for Matilda, one thing she did was develop OCD hand washing… she got fearful of germs. So we had germs as the nasty and we had a 10 page story book we wrote and illustrated together about how to combat the germ nasty.

    Like you, deep breathing and relaxation music. Lots of practice. We would take a golf ball or ping pong ball and get on hands and knees and blow the ball from one end of the house to the other to promote diaphram breathing and teach her body how to do deep breaths. Monster bubbles, bubble mix in a bucket with a thick straw to blow bubbles out of the bucket. We also had those party blowers, the ones that unroll? We would see who could hold their one out the longest. We would use them to push balls on the ground while on all fours as well. At night we would talk about releasing our nasties to the universe, asking God for help to release them. We would have relaxation music at night and I would give her a deep pressure massage.

    With Autism and Anxiety they often respond heaps with deep pressure. We would roll her up in a blanket and have a squashy cuddle. I still will do that, or use a weighted ball (2kg) and roll it down her back and legs to help her feel more grounded.

    I’ve got heaps more that we’ve been working on for the past few years. We still fight the anxiety battle, but I’m happy to say sometimes we stay on top of those nasties.

  • Karan:

    I’m going to look up some apps. Thanks x

  • Denyse:

    What a great post & chock full of great ideas and real plans to help kids (and adults!) through life’s days & nights of all kinds of emotions. Will def look some of these up for me& as a recommendation. Bubble blowing! Who’d a thought it would be such an awesome tool. Thanks Tiff and Ivy xx

  • Mum:

    Lots of sensible, common sense methods here and by the sound of it very worthwhile tools to ally Ivy’s fears and anxieties. Amazing what a difference good well written books on an appropriate subject can make. It won’t be long, I’m sure until Ivy will be able to self manage all her issues. Perseverance definitely seems to be the answer. <3. xoxo

  • kathryn:

    Thank you so much for this post Tiff, it’s wonderful and so helpful x

  • Jackie:

    Thank you so much for sharing Tiff, we are exploring this through play therapy with Jacob at the moment, things that previously helped are no longer working. Music us a big thing for Jacob but at the moment his anxiety is so high with his procedures and his level of understanding makes it difficult. I will definitely download those apps and give them a try

  • Jennette:

    thanks for sharing that with us Tiff. I am going to use a bunch of those ideas with Mason.

  • Danielle L:

    What a beautiful little girl is Ivy and what a very lucky girl she is to have a mum like you working so hard for her! Great advice.

  • Rebecca:

    Tiff, I work at Starlight and have images of the lovely Ivy around my desk everywhere. I feel like I know you. Today when I was giving blood – which I hate doing and stupidly I feel really scared of doing it – there’s the poster of a smiling Ivy in the van telling me thanks for my donation. I know my anxiety doesn’t even come close to relating to what you two go through but knowing how much Ivy hates needles and also needs the results of my little donation helps me get through it. So I wanted to say as much as the way you lend your support to people like the Red Cross Blood Bank really does make a tangible difference, so thank you, although, I’m really aware of how pathetic my fear of that one needle must sound :) xxx love and hugs to your whole family

  • Michelle:

    Tiffany, thank you for writing this post. It is sooo relevant and helpful and we will definitely be trying out your ideas with Charlotte.

    Just one question … one of Charlie’s doctors has suggested we try hypnotherapy.
    Have you and Ivy been down this path, and if so, would you recommend it?

  • Tiff (118 comments.):

    We’ve never officially tried it, Michelle. Although, we’ve done guided meditation before. I would be very interested in hearing about it, if you decide to try it.

  • Jacki:

    Thank you for the recommendations – adding some others that have helped with my anxious son in case it helps anyone else. “The invisible string” book helped with separation anxiety (and also grief). ‘Silly Billy’ book was recommended – while i don’t like the silly in the title the concept of Worry Dolls (bought from Oxfam) was helpful. We also have been doing “The Turn Around Program” which is on CDs and he really enjoyed: http://www.turnaroundanxiety.com/

    Relax Kids – Quiet Places is probably his favourite guided relaxation CD – but they do have lots of themed ones too http://www.relaxkids.com/UK/Audio_CDs

    We have also tried Buzzy to help with needles/splinters etc with mixed success http://buzzy4shots.com/

  • Fee:

    Hey guys! I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now but haven’t posted. I’m wondering if Ivy has a central line? You mention her having a ton of needles and pokes done, for a child undergoing so much treatment I’m curious if she has ever had a permanent (well longer then a PICC) line placed like a Hickman or port? I just got a port back in April and it’s changed my life for my treatments, bloodwork, hospital stays, and anything else in between. It doesn’t have to stay accessed and the infection risk is low when not in use. I know tons of kids with ports who do well and it takes away a lot of anxiety and pain!

  • Tiff (118 comments.):

    Hi Fee,
    She has had three ports and we are in the throws of trying to convince her team that the benefits of another outweigh the risks and is more sustainable than what we are doing now.

  • Fee:

    What does she currently have?

  • Tiff (118 comments.):

    She has cannulation and a temporary subclavian line as options.

  • Felicia Reinhard (2 comments.):

    Yikes. I hope they consider a port or something similar for her. It might help a lot. Good luck!

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