Avril McDonald - Best-selling award-winning author and founder of Feel Brave
Warren King Photography
I had my first panic attack at eight years old when nothing was spoken about anxiety disorders (or mental health for that matter!). It was only years later when my sister (who was training to be a nurse), came home with some photocopied material that explained all that I suffered from, that I felt such relief that I wasn't abnormal or crazy.
This gave me an insatiable curiosity about the mind/body connection and I discovered great techniques that helped me like Neuro-lingustic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I also discovered the world famous coach 'Tony Robbins' who uses similar techniques and I was astounded by the impact his books had on me not just in helping me manage my anxiety, but in reaching my creative potential. I wondered why we weren't teaching these types of strategies to children.
When my daughter had her first nightmare, managing it came very easily to me by using some of the techniques I had learnt in managing my own anxiety. I realised that I might be able to help other children by creating characters, stories and poems that opened up conversations and delivered simple powerful strategies to cope (think 'Peppa Pig meets Tony Robbins). Feel Brave was born!
After 8 years of really hard work (these things don't happen overnight!), the Feel Brave books are well loved all over the world and are being translated into many different languages (including Finnish where they made the 2018 best-sellers list and most recently, Chinese)
Most importantly to me, Feel Brave is fulfilling its mission 'to give all children access to tools to help them manage tough emotions and reach their potential'. It's doing this through the Feel Brave '1 Dose/Day' free wellbeing programme that I created for schools.
We now have more than 350 schools across 10 countries (circa 100k children) involved in the programme and that's growing everyday. Results so far show an overall increase of 15% in self-confidence, resilience and response-ability which even surprises me! I dreamt of a positive shift but never thought it would shift so greatly as an average over all schools. We are so happy to say that 'it really truly WORKS!'
I'm so excited to be creatively working now with some of the worlds biggest players to bring the Feel Brave characters and strategies to children everywhere through the adaption of the books into an animated series along with the Feel Brave music destination!