In young people, if worries or fears interfere with their functioning, we call this an anxiety disorder. These uncontrollable worries are persistent and occur every day. This type of worry goes beyond studying for a big test or meeting new friends, this type of worry and fear can and will exist in what may seem as the most rudimentary of tasks/actions; even every day tasks such as getting dressed and ready in the morning or getting on the bus can spur anxiety. A certain amount of anxiety is normal during stressful times but anxiety that causes impairment in school, home, or friendships is not normal.
The only evidence-based effective treatments include certain medications combined with cognitive based therapy where a trained professional counselor helps the patient practice coping skills. Dr. Sheila Woods has provided the following suggestions which can help you learn to lessen the impact of an anxiety disorder.
- Understand Anxiety and how it impacts your young person and family. Learn more at the Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- Listen to His/Her feelings. The simple yet powerful experience of being listened to with empathy, without receiving advice, may be very helpful. Maintain eye contact, push down your feelings to respond/react or problem solve. Be active without over taking the conversation: Murmur (“uh-huh” and “um-hmm”) and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Say words such as “Really,” “Interesting,” as well as more direct prompts: “What did you do then?” and “What did she say?”
- Keep calm when anxiety increases. A parent keeping calm in a stressful situation will be a role model for an anxious young person. Engaging
- Reassure and gently note that he or she survived prior situations that caused anxiety.
- Encourage your young person to help develop his/her own coping skills. For some this means listening to music, reading an engaging book, exercising, placing an ice pack or cold compress on his/her neck or head, and/or talking to a trusted friend.
These truly have to be practiced in order to be successful. For instance if you are typically the person who is thinking about what you will say next rather than truly listening to what a person has to say, you will need to truly focus on listening. Have a list of examples of your child’s successes at the top of your mind so that you don’t have to struggle or hesitate in an anxious moment when you are looking to reassure them.
Look for more tips to help with anxiety in the coming weeks
Please contact us at Focus MD if help is needed