Coping with Anxiety

WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Experiencing anxiety is normal for every person from time to time, but when these feelings disrupt your child's school and home functioning, it is time to explore ways to treat and manage the symptoms.  Anxiety has been described in many w
ays—uneasiness, apprehension, stress, worry, fear, panic, edginess, jumpiness, nervousness, agitation, the jitters, the shakes, angst, etc.  

Many factors contribute to anxiety, including factors that we have little to no control over (ie. genetics, brain chemistry, and life events).  Another contributing factor is our personality, and by exploring this as well as our perceptions, we can better understand how our response to life circumstances can help us lower and manage anxious feelings.  

When faced with a threat or unfamiliar circumstance, our bodies release stress hormones which causes a somatic reaction.  For instance, we might feel our heart rate increase, our blood sugar and pulse might raise, our digestion might slow, and our breath might become shallow.  We become vulnerable to emotional problems when our anxiety builds to a point that we feel the physical symptoms.  

COPING STRATEGIES: 
  • Learn breathing techniques to deepen the breath
  • Practice visualizations or mental imagery techniques to refocus attention onto something positive/neutral 
  • Learn progressive muscle relaxation to use in tense situations
  • Become aware of negative thoughts and triggers and replace irrational thoughts with positive self-talk 
  • Relax using any method suited to your personality—go for a walk, take a nap, talk to a friend, play with a pet, write, read, listen to music, etc. 
HOW CAN PARENTS/GUARDIANS HELP? 
  • Actively listen to your child's worries and fears so they feel heard.  Remind them they are not alone, and that many people experience worries, too.  
  • Encourage your child to be independent and foster their strengths in extracurricular activities.
  • Support your child in new situations and praise their courage and willingness to make even small improvements. 
  • Help your children identify unrealistic worries and reframe the situation in a neutral way. 
  • Practice deep breathing, visualizations, and other calming exercises with your child.  

REFERENCES: 
Schab, Lisa M. (2008). The anxiety workbook for teens: activities to help you deal with anxiety and worry. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 

Stephan, S. H., & Marciante, W. (2007). Quick Guide to Clinical Techniques for Common Child and Adolescent Mental Health Problems. Baltimore: University of
Maryland Center for School Mental Health Analysis and Action.