We live in a world that never seems to slow down. For that reason, anxiety has become a companion to many, young and old alike. It's a relentless beast that can grip your mind and body, leaving you feeling tired and overwhelmed.
For our kids, anxiety is more than just feeling nervous before speaking in front of the class. It is sensations, thoughts and feelings that feel out of control. Anxiety disorders are persistent and excessive worries about everyday situations. These disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting millions of people of all ages (Wang et al., 2000).
If you have a son or daughter navigating childhood and adolescence with anxiety, the you know how hard it can be to manage. It can wreak havoc on their emotional well-being, making everyday life seem like a battlefield with fear and worry always trying to take control. Understanding the enemy is the first step to winning the battle against persistent worry.
That’s what happened to Nathan, a bright and imaginative 10-year-old boy diagnosed with anxiety. He would often avoid social gatherings and felt overwhelmed by the demands of school, among many things. Thankfully, his parents noticed his struggles early on and chose to calm his brain with natural solutions.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes. It's not always the stereotypical image of nail-biting and pacing. In fact, it often wears a disguise and lurks beneath the surface. Anxiety disorders can manifest in various ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person.
Here is a comprehensive list of common symptoms associated with anxiety disorders:
Excessive worry or fear about various aspects of life, including the future
Restlessness and an inability to relax
Muscle tension causing body aches and pains
Feeling on edge or constantly alert
Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Trembling or shaking
Nausea or stomach discomfort
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Feeling lightheaded or faint
Fatigue or feeling easily fatigued
Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
Irritability or being easily agitated
Sleep disturbances, including trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Experiencing a sense of impending doom or danger
Avoidance of situations or places that trigger anxiety
Muscle tension headaches
Excessive sweating or blushing, particularly in social situations
Panic attacks, which may include symptoms like a racing heart, chest pain, sweating, trembling, and a sense of impending doom
These physical symptoms are your body's way of responding to a perceived threat, engaging the infamous “fight or flight” response. When the body is in a sympathetic dominant state, one feels uncomfortable and sometimes out of control.
Recognizing these symptoms in your child or teen is crucial. Sometimes, they might not even realize that what they're experiencing is anxiety. The goal here is to identify these telltale signs and move toward managing them effectively.
Calming Anxiety in Your Daily Life
Now that we've identified the enemy, it's time to plan our strategy. Anxiety doesn't have to dictate your child's or teen's life as there are various ways to manage anxiety without resorting to medications.
Nathan’s parents tried many treatments to cast away the heavy burden of anxiety creeping into their boy’s small shoulders. After consulting with several health professionals that failed to provide desired results, they finally went the holistic route. Let's explore some of the fastest yet simple techniques you can also use on your child for immediate anxiety relief.
1. Do Daily Deep Breathing
Let's be real for a moment: deep breaths can sound like a cliché solution. It's the advice you hear in every self-help book, and your well-meaning friends probably tell you to “just breathe” when you're stressed. But here's the kicker: breathing deeply works!
Deep breathing triggers your body's relaxation response, lowering blood pressure, reducing muscle tension, and slowing down your heart rate (Jerath et al., 2015). It's like hitting the reset button for your anxious mind. It simply is the quickest way to calm the body and reduce stress activation.
Teach your child or teen to take slow, deep breaths in moments of distress. It's a helpful way to bring them back to the present moment and regain control.
Incorporate deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation into their daily routines. It's a good idea to practice these techniques even when they're not feeling anxious to keep the body in a parasympathetic state. This proactive approach can help stop anxiety from taking hold in the first place.
2. Recognize and Reframe Negative Thoughts
Anxious thoughts invade your mind, convincing you of impending doom and despair. That worry may or may not make sense and they can feel like they are in control. But you have the power to reframe those negative thoughts. So, encourage your child or teen to challenge their anxious thoughts.
Ask them to consider evidence to the contrary and find a more balanced perspective. This simple yet effective cognitive-behavioral therapy technique can help them break free from the chains of anxiety.
3. Use Behavioral Therapy Techniques
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a powerhouse when it comes to managing anxiety. It equips your child or teen with the tools to identify and change thought patterns that contribute to anxiety (Kendall & Peterman, 2015). CBT can be a game-changer that provides lasting relief from anxiety symptoms.
Seeking professional help from a therapist trained in CBT can make a world of difference in your child's or teen's life. It's one of the best things you can do to help them gain control over their anxious feelings.
4. Explore the Power of Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is a technique that involves using your imagination to create calming and peaceful mental images. To use this, encourage your child or teen to close their eyes and picture their “happy place” when anxiety rises.
This sensory experience can help reduce stress and bring a sense of calm. Guided imagery is an incredibly powerful tool that can help your child or teen find a sense of peace and tranquility in moments of high distress. It's a great way to help them take control of their emotions and feel more in control of their environment.
5. Exercise for Healthy Heart Rate and Muscle Relaxation
Remember how anxiety can send your heart racing and muscles tensing up? Well, there are physical techniques that can counteract these effects. Teach your child or teen specific forms of exercise, such as progressive muscle relaxation (Liu et al., 2020).
This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups, promoting physical relaxation. This physical exercise releases endorphin, the body's feel-good chemicals that fights off stress hormones. A short burst of exercise can work wonders in reducing anxiety levels.
How to Cope with Panic Attacks and Symptoms of Anxiety
Panic attacks can be terrifying for anyone, let alone a child or teen. But remember, panic attacks, while distressing, are not life-threatening. It's essential to educate your child or teen about what to do when it strikes.
In moments of intense anxiety or panic, the best thing they can do is find a quiet place, focus on their deep breathing, and use the techniques we've discussed. Having a weighted blanket or their favorite songs on hand can be incredibly comforting.
Here's the punchline: while anxiety can be a formidable foe, it is not invincible. With the right tools and a lot of support, you and your child or teen can conquer anxiety together. The BrainBehaviorResetTM Program offers a holistic and natural way to alleviate anxiety and promote overall well-being.
Nathan went through a series of neurofeedback, PEMF, and behavioral therapy sessions to calm his brain and body. He also had magnesium and other supplements. But the first step of his journey began with something as simple as a deep breath, which he practiced before school, at bedtime, and during moments of too much tension.
With cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, his tangled web of anxious thoughts begins to clear up. Nathan began to recognize when negative thoughts took over and learned to challenge them. Soon, he was able to replace those thoughts with more positive and realistic ones.
Nathan’s family made some dietary adjustments too. To initiate a healthy diet, they reduced his caffeine intake and incorporated foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These changes helped stabilize his mood and energy levels, making it easier for him to manage anxiety.
Months passed, and with unwavering support from his family and therapist, Nathan’s transformation was remarkable. His anxiety no longer held him hostage. He faced his fears with newfound courage and resilience. Social gatherings, once dreaded, became opportunities for connection and joy.
Generalized anxiety disorders are a formidable challenge for children and teens as it affects their mental health and behavior. But with understanding, empathy, and hope, you can help your child unlock their inner peace. Taking action is the next step to slaying anxious worries.
Parent Action Steps
☐ Take the time to understand anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and treatments.
☐ Consult with a mental health professional who specializes in pediatric anxiety disorders.
☐ Foster open communication with your child or teen.
☐ Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routines.
☐ Enroll your child in CBT sessions with a trained therapist if needed
☐ Encourage your child or teen to practice guided imagery exercises regularly.
☐ Encourage physical activity, such as progressive muscle relaxation and regular exercise
☐ Regularly assess your child's progress in using these techniques.
☐ Emphasize the importance of a balanced diet and sufficient sleep.
☐ Watch the 3 Natural Solutions for ADHD, Anxiety, and Mood webinar
☐ Take the Solutions Matcher as a first step to working one-on-one with Dr. Roseann.
Jerath, R., Crawford, M. W., Barnes, V. A., & Harden, K. (2015). Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 40(2), 107–115. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-015-9279-8
Kendall, P. C., & Peterman, J. S. (2015). CBT for Adolescents With Anxiety: Mature Yet Still Developing. American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(6), 519–530. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14081061
Liu, K., Chen, Y., Wu, D., Lin, R., Wang, Z., & Pan, L. (2020). Effects of progressive muscle relaxation on anxiety and sleep quality in patients with COVID-19. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 39, 101132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101132
Wang, P. S., Berglund, P., & Kessler, R. C. (2000). Recent care of common mental disorders in the united states. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 15(5), 284–292. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.9908044.x
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.
Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen?
Dr. Roseann and her team are all about science-backed solutions, so you are in the right place!
Find out more about Dr. Roseann’s first-of-its-kind supplement line, Neurotastic™ Multi-Mag Brain™ Formula to address anxiety symptoms
Empower yourself with natural solutions for your child's mental health and behavior. Download our FREE quick start guide and start supporting your child today.
You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.
If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s professional speaking page to see how we can work together.
Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023