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What Is Anxiety? 5 Ways To Deal With Anxiety In Children

How To Deal With Anxiety


Am I really anxious, how do I deal with it?

“It’s important to understand that mental health issues like anxiety are common and manageable. You are not alone in this”
Feeling anxious has been reported as a very common experience by most of the teenagers with a variety of behavioural symptoms being exhibited. It is possible, however, for worry to become more confronting emotionally, than these every day apprehensions. While it is a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety due to varied factors, one must be able to identify its triggers and be able to cope with it. While describing anxiety in children today, Allison Baker, a child, and adolescent psychiatrist and director of the adolescent program for Columbia University Medical Centre, shares that, “Anxious kids, at the end of the day, they’re not the squeaky wheels. They most often just internalize an anxious experience. They don’t raise flags or cause anyone grief, so they kind of get neglected in the process.”

Anxiety has been reported as one of the most common psychological disorders in school-aged children and adolescents worldwide. It often arises when there is disproportionate worry to a perceived challenge resulting in significant distress. Common anxiety provoking factors in a student’s life would include difficulty in coping with studies, having fewer friends, peer pressure, lack of intimacy with parents, concerns with weight and other associated factors. Effects of these, often, reflect on children’s social, emotional and academic success which may include poor social skills, avoidance of social interactions, absenteeism, and low self-esteem, amongst others.

While anxiety is experienced universally, its context and manifestations are frequently influenced by cultural beliefs and practices. For example in India, the leading cause of anxiety in a student’s life is the parental expectation of their academic accomplishment, which urges students to perform well and creates unwarranted pressure on them. As cited in an article on a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Bengaluru), almost one out of five adolescents in India suffers from some level of mental morbidity. Male teenagers from urban, nuclear family backgrounds constituted the majority of its sample survey. Another major cause of anxiety in adolescents these days is the use of social media. A study conducted on more than 400 pre-teens and teenagers in the age range of 11- 17, found that high emotional investment in social media was positively correlated with high levels of anxiety.

How To Deal With Anxiety in kids
As every child is unique and different from the other, they may exhibit different signs of anxiety that may be overlooked by those around. Some may demonstrate difficulty in responding to instructions in class, often misinterpreted as lack of comprehension, while others may become more aggressive as they feel threatened and may be unaware of ways to deal with their feelings of anxiety, while some others may report more physical complaints like headaches, nausea and visit the school nurse very often. Hence, it is very important to identify the early signs of anxiety and be mindful of the approach used to deal with it.

A few of the early signs of anxiety that can be observed in teenagers would be irritability, unexplained emotional outbursts, difficulty in concentrating, isolating from peer group, excessive fatigue, change in eating habits, sleep disturbances, procrastination in completing tasks assigned. It is imperative that early signs of anxiety are observed in potentially vulnerable children to allow early intervention.

Coping with stress and anxiety encompasses a range of emotional, cognitive and behavioural strategies adopted by the individual along with due consideration of the social context and interpersonal relationships. A recent review by Skinner found that adolescents most often cope by seeking support, problem solving and distraction.

Seeking support in adolescence is primarily the emotional support sought from peers unless the situation is perceived to be uncontrollable where they may seek support from adults. Problem-solving is often reflected through self reliance in decision making using a variety of cognitive strategies, however, due to the sensitive and transitional period often decisions that are made may not be completely informed and practical. This may also result in rumination, aggression and engaging more in distractive activities. Distraction may be behavioural or cognitive reflected in a number of behaviours like playing a sport or engaging in positive thinking respectively.

Managing anxiety is an important life skill and parents play a very important role in helping their child cope and deal with anxiety. It is very important that adolescents feel safe, secure and assured by their parents and teachers that it is normal to feel anxious. Their worries and fears should not be dismissed as unworthy and most importantly they must be encouraged to talk with no fear of being judged. It is also imperative that parents model the appropriate behaviour as a great deal of learning takes place through indirect observation. The quality of time spent and being sensitive to the experiences and perceived fears of adolescents also makes a difference as it defines and facilitates healthy communication. Parents can help by being more accepting of their child without burdening with expectations set without consulting them.

Some effective ways to deal with anxiety in children would include:
effective ways to deal with anxiety
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation are known to be effective to calm one’s mind and racing thoughts.
  • Planning short term activities and developing hobbies that are distracting and enjoyable.
  • Counselling from an expert to help detangle and de clutter the mind.
  • Time management by making a checklist of things to be done and ticking things off the checklist as one progresses towards the bottom of the list.
  • Exercising as it helps to channelize the physical energy and releases happy hormones that results in mood modification.

While these above listed ways may be effective, one of the most important aspects of healing is the belief that change is possible. This belief must be instilled in adolescents to promote “positive expectancy”. Developing a positive attitude goes a long way towards being able to deal with all the challenges that life throws at us. According to Jeff Keller (Author: Attitude is Everything.), a positive attitude is never automatic, it requires a concentrated effort to input positive thoughts in our mind. It does not emerge from what happens to us, but how we choose to interpret. In his book he cites several ways that a positive mind-frame can be developed and with the right guidance from parents and educators these can go a long way in shaping the journey our youngsters embark on. With the appropriate preventive measures taken and support provided at the right time, managing anxiety may not be challenging any longer by today’s youth.

– Bhavna Chopra (DP Examiner & Psychology Faculty)
JBCN International School, Oshiwara

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Posted on: Tuesday,2019,Dec,Tue