March 2017 - Dealing with Anxiety
Emergency Phone Numbers:
Children Youth and Families Addiction and Mental Health Intake: 780 342-2701
Mobile Response Team: 780 427-4491
The Support Network, Edmonton Distress Line: 780 482-HELP (4357)
Kids Help Phone: 1 800-668-6868
Dealing with Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety can have a significant impact on how a person behaves and goes about their daily life.
What is it?
Physical, emotional and behavioral responses to perceived danger, new situations or life challenges are normal reactions that people experience every day. These are anxiety responses and they protect us from danger. In healthy amounts anxiety can be a motivational tool that helps people do their best and learn new skills.
If anxiety lasts too long however, or is too intense it may begin to interfere with a person's life. Constantly worrying about things that are unlikely to happen, which then get in the way of friends, school and life is when anxiety becomes a problem for a child/youth.
Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety can impact a child/youth in the following 4 ways:
- Physical (emotions felt in the body):
- Chest pain, stomachache, nausea, dizzy, lightheaded, lump in the throat, headache, numbness or tingling, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling or shaking.
- Avoidance (not doing things or going places), difficulty raising hand, not getting routine shots or dental work, lack of social networks, trouble sleeping alone, school refusal, refusal to participate in activities
- Dependence and reassurance seeking (asking the same questions over and over again, and seeking comfort in non-threatening situations)
- Examples include: "I'll fail my exam, my teacher will yell and everyone will laugh at me, that dog might bite me, what if I throw up at school?"
- Extreme and excessive (worry about things in more extreme ways than their peers)
- Having trouble falling asleep because of thoughts
- Expecting the worst to happen, all the time.
- Functioning (daily life is severely impacted by anxiety):
- Not sleeping
- Trouble at school
- Social withdrawal
- Engaging in high risk behaviors
- Substance use/abuse
What to do about it?
How Parents can Help
As a parent, remember that you are the most important person in your child's life. Although it can be frustrating for the entire family to deal with an anxious child, your child/youth needs a loving but encouraging parent to help support her through the process of learning to cope and conquer their anxiety.
- Educate yourself and your child about anxiety
- Encourage your child to open about worry and fears
- Teach your child/youth about anxiety
- Help your child recognize anxiety
- Understand that some anxiety is expected and developmentally appropriate
- Do not discount a child's feelings. Learn to recognize anxiety signs and try to identify possible stressors.
- Important to identify and get help for anxiety symptoms as early as possible.
- Encourage independence. Parents of anxious children can be overprotective. It is important for your child to learn skills to cope with the world. Encourage your child to try new things, take risks, and to do things on their own. Children/teens that are given the opportunity to take charge of their environments see themselves as capable. Give your child/teen responsibilities (appropriate for their age) around the house and encourage your child/teen to pursue activities they are good at.
Coping Skills: Breathing & Thinking Better
When you are gradually confronting feared situations, there will be a short term increase in anxiety. This is normal everyone feels anxious about doing things they fear. The important thing to remember is that you can learn other skills as alternatives to avoidance and safety behaviours. There are other information sheets available which explain these coping skills in more detail, but here they are briefly:
Breathing: Anxiety is often associated with fast, shallow breathing, which contributes to the physical sensation of anxiety. By slowing down your breathing and using calming and relaxation techniques, you can reduce your anxiety.
Thinking: There are many types of negative thoughts which are associated with anxiety, such as "I will not be able to cope" or "I must avoid this situation." Learning to challenge these thoughts with more balanced ones can help to reduce the experience of anxiety.
Resources/References for Anxiety
- Anxiety BC www.anxietybc.com
- Teen Mental Health www.teenmentalhealth.org
- MindShift: Created by AnxietyBC, Mindshift is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety.
- Mood GYM https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome - Mood GYM is an interactive web program that consists of five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio, a workbook and feedback assessment.
- Playing with Anxiety: Casey's Guide for Teens and Kids www.playingwithanxiety.com – is a guide to teach kids and teens the strategies to handle the normal worries of growing as well as the more powerful tricks of anxiety.