Anxiety is a normal response to something dangerous or stressful. It becomes a problem when it shows up unexpectedly and takes a particularly firm hold. When anxiety is in full swing, it feels awful and prevents us from achieving our goals. We already know that anxiety has nothing to do with strength, courage or character. It picks a target and it switches on. When that target is a child or teen, it can be particularly distressing, causing problems with sleeping, eating and missed school from unexplained illnesses such as sick tummies or headaches.
One of the worst things about anxiety is the way it can happen without any identifiable cause. The physical feeling is familiar – that panicked feeling that comes when you miss a stair or that feeling you get when you wish you could fall asleep at night but instead you keep replaying a particular uncomfortable scene in your mind.
Anxiety in children can make it more difficult to stay on task or become proficient at any subject, such as reading out loud. They are capable of reading, but distracted by thoughts of self-doubt, self-consciousness or comparing themselves to their fellow classmates. This can lead to their falling behind in class or prevent them from reaching their goal.
The good news is that anxiety in kids is very treatable and they are particularly responsive. I often think we don’t give them enough credit. They’re so open to possibility, and very quick to make the right connections when given guidance and support.
As a parent, the temptation is to reassure your child with gentle comments in the way of, “There’s nothing to worry about” or “You’ll be fine.” This comes from the purest of intentions but it runs the risk of them feeling as though there’s something wrong with them. The truth is, when anxiety has a hold of them, they can no sooner stop worrying than fly to the moon. As much as they want to believe you, their brains just won’t let them.
What they need to hear is that you get it. Ask them what it feels like for them. They may or may not be able to articulate – and that’s okay. Then, ask if it’s like that feeling you get when you miss a stair, or when you feel like you’re falling in your sleep. Often, this is such a relief because someone gets it. Anxiety is normal and everyone experiences it at some time in their life – before an exam, when meeting new people, going for an interview, or starting a new school. Sometimes it happens for seemingly no reason at all. In truth, it occurs because there’s a part of your brain that thinks there’s something it needs to protect you from. That part of the brain is called the amygdala; an almond-shaped mass of gray matter whose primary role is to process memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. So when the amygdala senses a threat, it floods your body with oxygen, adrenaline and hormones your body can use to fuel its fight or flight response. When this happens, your breathing quickens, your heart starts racing and you might feel sick.
It happens to many adults and kids, but there are strategies you can employ in order to kick anxiety to the curb.
About 1 in 8 kids have struggled with anxiety – so let them know that in their class, there’s a good chance 3 or 4 other kids would know exactly what they’re going through because they’ve been through it before. Maybe they’re going through it right now.
As a stay-at-home mom for many years, I have helped my own children and friends restore peace from anxiety and have recently opened RENU Holistic Health in Newcastle, California, to share what I’ve learned with others; how to reprogram your stress pattern by holding pressure points. You can even use this technique to defuse a traumatic memory. Using pressure points, sound therapy, and exercises naturally helps your mind and body heal. It reboots your system, recharges your energy, helps you stay focused and sleep better at night. RENU can help you on your journey to release negative emotion, feel more relieved and relaxed, and restore your body to optimal health.
It’s that time of year, so make sure your kids have plenty of rest, eat a healthy balanced diet, use good hygiene and reduce their stress so their energy is used to fight viruses instead of anxiety.
For more information about RENU please go to RenuHolisticHealth.com
By Heidi Newman, Director of RENU Holistic Health