Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. In and of itself this is not a problem. We all get worried about something almost every day. Situations such as getting through traffic, making it to the meeting, fitting exercise in, family’s health or watching your child climb higher than you would, can all make the heart rate increase and your survival mode kick in. And in short doses, with calm and happy periods in between, anxiety, worry and stress can benefit us. But without the proper managing systems in place, children and adults can live most of their days in a high stress situation causing a large number of problems.
When you are experiencing long term stress, worry, anxiety and fear your body is operating within the Survival system. With this program running, your heart rate increases, digestion slows, immunity slows, higher thinking slows, sleep is disturbed and emotions are less regulated. Because after all, this system is in place for your survival. Not for rest and recovery. It is nearly impossible to learn anything while your body is running this system or for your body to recover from a cold or an injury. Imagine trying to learn your 12 times table while running away from an angry dog. That is what trying to learn with underlying anxiety is like for so many children and adults. And the more that person struggles, the more anxious and frustrated they can become thus getting them stuck in a vicious cycle.
So what can you do for your child who is anxious or often worried?
- Have a predictable routine. It is helpful to create a day where the “unknowns” are limited. It can be as easy as having the week routine printed and hanging on the wall near their school things or on their bedroom wall. This should include during school and after school activities.
- Allow extra time to get places. This allows a settling in period to give kids the chance to observe their environment and decide what they want to do first.
- Limit screen time. There is plenty of research available that shows screen time affects the chemistry of the brain and can increase a feeling of isolation, create emotional outbursts and interrupt sleep patterns. The time spent playing games reduces the amount of time kids spend playing, learning and engaging in social activities.
- Implement regular mindfulness practices. This can be as simple as deep breaths when feelings of worry, fear, anger or anxiety start, making it a technique children can use anytime of day. As part of the bedtime routine, using a mindfulness app such as Smiling Mind, can help create a deep and restful sleep.
- Prioritize brain foods. Fresh, organic produce and meat is the best for our bodies and brains. Essential fatty acids are called essential because the body can’t make it. Fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are high in this oil. Fish alternatives include walnuts, macademia oil, flaxseed oil and kidney beans.
- Do activities that increase the feel- good hormone, Serotonin. Exercise laughing, telling jokes, holidays, listening to music, dancing, affection like cuddles and kisses, doing puzzles or board games with family and friends and removing nerve stress with chiropractic adjustments.
- Ensure you and your child get adequate sleep. Plenty of rest helps the immune system, hormones and digestive system work their wonders.
If you or your child have anxiety and you are finding it hard to manage with the recommendations or feel lost for answers, I can recommend the group called Resilience Kit. I had the pleasure of enjoying a cuppa with Gemma, the groups coordinator. They have created an amazing space for families to build resilience together. The program is set up as parallel sessions with parents on one side of the room and children on the other. While parents are learning tools to build their own resilience and the right vocabulary to help their child manage their feelings, the kids are in their group learning through play. Give them a call if you have any concerns for yourself or your child and they will provide support and information.
The take home message I got from Gemma was this; “Be in the moment. Celebrate the little wins and successes along the way. Focus on enjoying the process and the journey, not just the final outcome.”
Thank you, Gemma for your work in WA. Your team is an asset to any family trying to manage anxiety.
As always it has been a pleasure being able to share this information with you. If you, or your group, would like more information about chiropractic, child development or healthy lifestyle choices, just let me know. My contact details are on my website, www.GiuntiniChiropractic.com.au
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