Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Anxiety is something that is very topical at the moment and with new rules and routines in place because of the pandemic and children returning to school after 6 months at home it feels like a good time to talk about anxiety. Personally I am very familiar with the concept of anxiety, I have suffered with it and a lot of my friends and many of my clients have anxiety issues also I have managed it in my own children too! So it is very common.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life and it is more than likely you have experienced some form of it over the last few months with all the change and uncertainty in our lives. During times like these feeling anxious can be perfectly normal and it’s the body’s natural response to dealing with stress. But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly.
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
So what can we do to help ourselves?
Self help: Stop and focus on your breathing. Mindfulness and meditation is a really good way to do this. Share your worries with someone that you trust. Sharing and talking things through can help you make sense and gain perspective on your concerns.
Deep breathing is a simple technique that’s excellent for managing emotions. Not only is deep breathing effective, it’s also discreet and easy to use at any time or place.
Sit comfortably and place one hand on your abdomen. Breathe in through your nose, deeply enough that the hand on your abdomen rises. Hold the air in your lungs, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, with your lips puckered as if you are blowing through a straw. The secret is to go slow: Time the inhalation (4s), pause (4s), and exhalation (6s). Practice for 3 to 5 minutes.
Talking therapy: Counselling can help you get to the root of what is causing your anxiety. You work with a therapist who helps you understand your thoughts and feelings, and then helps you explore ways to change how they affect you. You can access counselling through your GP or see someone privately.
Medication: Medication might help you manage some of your symptoms and your doctor might suggest you try taking medication alongside talking therapy.
Anxiety and Young People
All children and young people get anxious at times, and this is a normal part of their development as they grow up and develop their ‘survival skills’, so they can face challenges in the wider world. We all have different levels of stress we can cope with – some people are just naturally more anxious than others, and are quicker to get stressed or worried. There are many ways you can help your child to manage their anxiety.
What can we do to help our children?
1. Talk to your child about anxiety, what is happening in their body and why it happens. Many children and young people don’t know what they are feeling when they are anxious, and it can be very frightening and overwhelming.
2. Help them to recognise anxious feelings so they can tell when they are becoming anxious and can ask for help.
3. Encourage your child to notice what makes them anxious. Talking it through can help but your child could also try keeping a diary or a ‘worry book’. It can help to talk to your child about finding a safe place in their mind –
4. If your child suffers with anxiety get your child to breathe deeply and slowly, in through their nose for three counts and out through their mouth for three counts. Distract them by focusing on something else. Give them a cuddle or hold their hand if they will let you – touch can be soothing.
5. Help them maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise to reduce the levels of stress hormones, good sleeping habits, calm bedtime routines, limited screen or computer time in the evening, and a healthy diet. (Adapted from YoungMinds)
If you feel that your own anxiety or your child’s anxiety is not getting any better or is getting worse, and your efforts have not worked, contact your GP to get professional support.
Click here for Anxiety Coping Skills