Anxiety: what is it, what does it look like and how can we help.
In this blog, I would like to talk about anxiety: what it is, what it looks like and most importantly ways we can help our children to deal with it in a positive way.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is defined by mind.org as ‘what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.’ It is important to note that it is a very normal feeling to feel anxious and it occurs in times of stress or challenge. It causes increased adrenaline and creates a fight, flight or freeze reaction. All children experience anxiety and it is part of their natural development. Whilst it can be useful in preparing for new or challenging situation, it can also cause some very irrational fears. Some children are more anxious than others and it can affect their education, friendships, social development and every day functioning.
We have spoken to some mental health organisations and some parents who have already used some of our mental health boxes, and they say that anxiety feels like:
- Increased heart rate, feeling sweaty and tense
- Shortness of breath
- Blood pumping through to your limbs
- Feeling shaky, sick, dizzy or faint
Often anxiety can come and go, but it can have some real impacts on your life including:
- Difficulties sleeping
- Feeling withdrawn
- A drop in mood
- Drop in appetite
- Social isolation
- Not wanting to go to school
- Outbursts in anger
- Over emotional and overreacting
What can cause anxiety?
- School work
- Expectations and believing you can’t meet them
- Bullying or friendship difficulties
- Family issues such as parental separation or conflict at home
- Big life changes or traumatic events
- Physical illness
- Diagnosed or undiagnosed conditions such as Autism, ADHS or Asperger’s
How can we help our child?
What coping strategies and approaches are there out there to help treat and manage anxiety?
- It is key that as parents we are real about our own emotions, and act as role models. We can’t assume that young people know about coping strategies and we must offer them reassurance. We should be normalising the feelings and making sure they know they are part of their natural development but that when the feelings become intense or affect their functioning, they need to ask for help.
- Tell them to acknowledge these thoughts they are having, but not let them be the boss of them. In order to reduce the fight, flight or freeze mode, they need to have good self care and take time to themselves to recharge their batteries and stop those thoughts they are having from preventing them from living life.
- Listen to your child and offer them some help with their self esteem and confidence. They need to know that it can be a scary place when they feel out of control and they need somebody there with them. So as a parents you can help to manage these scary moments for them and be there with them on the journey to readdress the balance. Celebrate the small wins with them and encourage them to find the gold and smell the roses!
- Exposure therapy can be a good tool to help them take small steps into not avoiding situations. Often young people will have set routines and safety behaviours which may turn into OCD and create a bigger problem. So some relaxation and distraction could help them to not talk them out of social situations when they are experiencing anticipatory anxiety.
- Avoid over scheduling, they need down time too! But equally, make time for the things that they enjoy doing. It isn’t all about education and after school activities that put pressure on them. Ask them what they truly enjoy and try and fit some of this in at least once a week.
- Learn some breathing techniques that they can use in times of need and stressful situations. There are plenty of these on YouTube and a really good one is the ‘relax like a cat’ video.
- Finally, teach them to learn the warning signs that they are not coping. Once they have been through this a few times, they will start to be aware of the changes that happen and the symptoms. They won’t want to go down that road again and will hopefully have a better coping strategy in place. One great way to recognise the signs is by keeping a mood diary!
We are VERY excited to announce we are widening our range of Mental Health boxes and bringing out a range for adults. Our cards will help you in so many ways!