What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that is experienced in a combination of both physical sensations, thoughts and feelings. It is perfectly normal for children and young adults to feel worried at times, particularly with numerous changes that naturally occur in their everyday lives, from moving schools, changing friends, taking an exam or entering the world of work.
Anxiety in children and young adults may become an issue when it becomes overwhelming or distressing. For those who feel agitated or anxious over longer periods of time, anxiety can leave an individual feeling exhausted and isolated and can often limit the tasks they feel able to do.
If your child is struggling with their emotions or experiencing anxiety, there are numerous tactics as parents, or guardians, you can take to help ease their emotions and create a happier, healthier environment. Providing emotional support, actively working on practical strategies and in more severe circumstances, seeking the correct professional advice are all ways to relieve some of the feelings of anxiety in children and young adults.
What makes young people anxious?
Anxiety in children can occur at any stage in their life, and for a number of different reasons.
Symptoms of anxiety can occur when a child is struggling to process worry or fear in numerous situations including:
- Experiencing lots of change in a short space of time, such as moving house or school
- Having responsibilities higher than their current capabilities
- Being around someone who is anxious, such as a parent or guardian or school friend
- Struggling at school or at work and feeling out of their depth in exams or studying
- Experiencing family stress, e.g. money worries, debt or family bereavement
- Experiencing traumatic experiences, e.g. being bullied, witnessing or experiencing emotional or physical abuse in the family
What do I do to help my child’s anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and is often used as a coping mechanism for children at times. For children whose anxiety becomes excessive and impedes their daily life and routine, anxiety can make it difficult for them to function, establish relationships and learn at school.
All children are different therefore, as parents or guardians, one of the ways we can support our children is to help them find ways of coping if a stressful or anxious situation arises. Consider helping children build a toolbox of coping mechanisms that they can use in different situations.
Coping skills may require some patience, as this can often be can be trial and error when finding the right solution. While one calming technique proves effective for one child may not work well for another. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child feel relaxed and content and relieve some of their feelings of anxiousness:
- Ask your child to close their eyes and ask them what place or a memory makes them feel calm and relaxed - This could be their bedroom, a favourite place in nature or somewhere they have been on holiday. Ask them to imagine themselves there
- Encourage deep breathing and mindfulness - Learning to use breathing technique may take some practice but once a child learns to control their breathing on their own this can be a great way for them to slow down their heart rate and regulate their physical responses to the feeling of anxiousness
- Keep active - Daily exercise can reduce the body’s physical response to anxiety and can help a child experience uplifting effects. Encourage children to partake in group activities, sports clubs or take a walk in the park. Walking helps children reconnect with their surroundings and calm anxious thoughts
- Journal - Give your child space to vent their feelings and release them by writing down their feelings on a piece of paper. This is a coping mechanism that can be used at school, at a sleepover, or at home. The process of writing helps children process their worries. Ask them to then tear up their notes as a physical symbol of throwing away their worries. This gives a child control over their emotions
- Support and empathise - Let them know you're there for support and don’t underestimate the power of the human touch. Physical touch releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone, creating a moment of calm and reassurance for your child
Finding professional help and support
Seeking professional support is important if self-help strategies fail to alleviate your child’s feelings of anxiousness. If your child is persistently anxious or having distressing thoughts, there are different facilities, treatments and advice available to offer support.
Speak to your GP about your children’s mental health
Consider speaking to your GP to provide an initial assessment of your child’s overall physical and mental health. Discussing your concerns with a GP unlocks a number of different support and treatment types available and makes you aware of the support available locally, from counselling and therapy to medication.
Access support through CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services)
CAMHS is a free service run by the NHS and comprises of medical and mental health professionals. Its main aim is to help children and young people with their emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties, offering support and advice to help you or your loved ones.
Contact Optimise Healthcare Group
At Optimise Healthcare Group we can treat and support a wide range of emotional, behavioural, neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, obsessions and compulsions, schizophrenia, PTSD and bipolar disorder across any of our three UK clinics.
If you are looking for a diagnosis for yourself, or your child, speak to a member of our expert team today. Call us today on 0800 844 5257 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.