Anxiety can be a pain to deal with.
Anxiety and nerves get in the way of fully participating in things. As a parent, your child's anxiety keeps them from enjoying life to its fullest potential. Anxiety makes us afraid of new situations, or worried about something terrible happening when we make an effort. It makes us hesitant to do our best.
But, anxiety can also be a helpful tool.
Anxiety, with its physical components such as a racing heart, fast breathing, or sweaty palms, is our brain's way of keeping us on guard - and trying to keep us safe. A child with separation anxiety, who cries when being dropped off at the school's front door, has a brain that knows it feels safer to be with their parent than to be in a classroom. The adolescent who shuts down during class rather than raise their hand to offer an answer, knows that it feels safer to keep to themselves rather than potentially be wrong.
Anxiety is just an overreaction of an overprotective brain.
Our amygdala, or "lizard brain," controls our fight, flight, and freeze responses. It was designed to help us deal with dangerous situations. For those of us with anxiety, our brain, and our amygdala specifically, gets confused between dangerous situations and challenging situations. Anxiety is a safety precaution on overdrive. It's not there to hold us or our children back just for the sake of holding us back - it's trying to protect us.
Empathize, rationalize, relax.
So, how do we help anxiety take a back seat? We acknowledge that anxiety is there to serve a purpose. We appreciate that our brains are just trying to look out for us. And we practice identifying when situations are actually unsafe vs. when we just feel that they are unsafe.
So for your child or teen, empathize with their anxiety. Tell them its normal to feel nervous about x, y, or z (even if you feel like it isn't). And then, work with them to take a big, slow breath in through your nose... and out through your mouth. Notice how your heartbeat slows down. Notice if your stomach feels less like butterflies. Take a moment to feel still and calm.
That's my quick tip on anxiety... empathize, rationalize, and then relax! But if you would like to hear more, or are curious about other strategies to manage your child's anxious reactions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 314-339-7640 to set up a free, brief consultation and talk about next steps. I look forward to hearing from you!