I am going to ask you to think about it differently than how you may already be doing! It may not feel like the natural thing to do as I understand (I really, really do) that when our children (or we for that matter) feel anxious, we want IT to go away and we want them to feel better – its almost like we are focusing constantly on how do I get rid of this ANXIETY!?
So much so that it can make us anxious!
Sometimes we can see why our children are anxious and we can put it down to certain external factors and change them in the hope that it will go away – more often than not just changing external factors doesn’t make it go away – its a build up and will take some time and understanding – its not a situation, its a feeling! And the thing with feelings is that we cant just switch them off or remove them (although we would like to at times!) I am not talking about rational anxiety to a situation here, I am talking more about when it starts affecting our children on a regular basis and they want to stop doing things and so on…
I am not suggesting that you ignore any external factors and if you can make positive practical changes and remove stressors then thats great! However, I think its important that we understand a bit more about how anxiety works so that it doesn’t reoccur in the same way when another external stress hits us or our children (as life is full of them!)
Anxiety affects the way we feel, our behaviour, what happens in our body and the way we think. So this is why it’s not as simple as removing one external factor – we need to look after all these parts of ourselves!
When our children are feeling anxious, they will start producing more adrenaline (as they will be in fight or flight mode more often) and then start producing a stress hormone called cortisol – this can often feel almost like turning on a tap and although we want to just switch that tap off it can get stuck – and even when we manage to turn it down or off there will be a drip that we need to manage and soothe until it stops.
I am suggesting that first of all we dis-empower the anxiety, the IT as I hear it described so often! It’s a feeling and a part of what we are experiencing, it’s not a separate IT and so trying to cut it off may be difficult as it’s kind of attached!
Rather than focusing on all the external factors (again if you can make changes and help the situation then please do but we need to give as much attention to ourselves and our children, as we cant control others and what they do – we can try, but ultimately we will feel out of our depth at times as people will react in their own ways).
Here are a couple of things I would invite you to do for starters…
**It is physically impossible to be anxious when we are relaxed….so let’s focus on how we can become more relaxed and help our children feel more relaxed rather than how we stop anxiety! (Anxiety is very sneaky and the more you focus on it the more it breeds!) Ask your child what they think will help in this area….
**Think about anxiety as though it’s a sneaky trick feeling to cover up or avoid another feeling, as anxiety can be very bossy and when it competes with anger, fear, sadness and so on it will often win once it gets started – we need to help those other really important and valid feelings get a look in. Ask your child if they were not feeling anxious what would they be feeling instead? If you know there is a situation making them anxious – think about which of the main feelings like anger, fear or sadness that they may have bubbling underneath. Talk about those and encourage them – you will be surprised how lost the anxiety gets when we do this!