Anxiety is an unpleasant and a real emotion. Life has ups and downs and at some level, we all experience anxiety from time to time.
A tendency of people who feel anxious is to be attracted to behaviors that worsen the anxiety. Behaviors such as over-thinking, excessive media watching or withdrawal from others tend to make anxiety worse.
We’re all seeking comfort and security. Those times when anxiety increases, we need to be on ‘top of our game’ with self-care, boundaries, and tools to prevent anxiety from spiraling.
Periods of transition such as the start of the school year, a move or changes in home life can create feelings of uncertainty and increase anxiety. Our environment plays a big role as well. A high pressure, tense environment increases stress. And community tragedies- as we are experiencing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey- impacts even those who are not directly touched by it.
If your heart pours out (as does mine) toward our brothers and sisters impacted by the recent events in the news, please channel your energy into action while also being mindful of boundaries and your self-care.
10 Tips for Helping Kids
Children are impacted by changes, environment, and the turbulence in the world. Below are 10 tips for helping your anxious child and preventing anxiety from snowballing.
- Respect and validate your child’s feelings. Remind your child that all feelings will eventually pass and encourage him to use words to express his feelings and needs. Ex. “I feel___. I need ___.”
- Teach your child deep, slow, belly breathing. Don’t underestimate its effectiveness because it’s simple. This very portable skill can manually regulate and calm the body. Try “Box Breathing”- Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4 and hold for 4 (repeat). Try a whole song’s worth in the car.
- Filter and place limits on technology and news media. The messages that come through technology can cause disturbing mental images and confuse the brain, making symptoms of anxiety worse- and often causes additional issues.
- Soothe the senses. Engaging in the senses helps to ‘ground’ a person who feels ‘swept away’ by emotion. Try: calm music, diffuse lavender, fidgets (things to do with our hands), chamomile tea, lower lighting before bed and avoiding caffeine.
- Listen to your child and ask “Tell me what you are thinking?” This will help to reveal scary thoughts and scenes that build up in your child’s mind.
- Rather than swooping to reassure, ask your child “How likely is (that thing you’re afraid of) to happen?” You’ll be teaching him to challenge his anxious thinking.
- Prompt your child with “Tell me some things you can do to handle this situation” and help her to brainstorm, rather than just giving her solutions. She’ll feel empowered.
- Let go of “mental health days” “skip days” or other ways of avoiding feared situations. This tends to make the anxiety stick more firmly and leads to further avoidance and regression.
- Recognize when you are anxious and say aloud what you can do to calm down and solve the situation. Avoid over thinking, catastrophizing or perseverating on stressful topics. You’ll be modeling boundaries and coping for your child. Modeling is the most powerful way to teach.
- Celebrate every small step and have a playful, light heart! You got this!
The world is full of uncertainty, but I am certain about one thing- LOVE always wins. Make small steps toward healthy habits and stay grounded in LOVE. This is the path of healing.
I wish you a calm spirit, a peaceful home…
…and may God shine His Grace and Blessings upon Texas.
With great hope and love,
Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX. She offers counseling services, courses and classes to support families in getting on track and staying that way.