Anxiety

What is it?

Anxiety word cloud on a white background.

Anxiety is an umbrella term for intense, troubling feelings that can overwhelm someone at any time.  These feelings can be based in worry of what might happen in the future or fear in reaction to current events.  When these feelings become persistent or chronic, anxiety moves into the realm of a disorder that may require treatment.

How is anxiety experienced?

Among the most researched forms of anxiety is the presence of phobias – which are defined as a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.  We’ve seen phobias depicted in movies and television shows.  This has helped to normalise the extreme reactions some people have to spiders, clowns, heights, enclosed spaces, germs and more.  Whether as part of a drama or a comedy, we have become familiar with the emotional and physical reactions including extreme fear, racing heartbeats, shortness of breath, nausea and numbing that we now accept are characteristic of a panic attack.  For who have anxiety disorders these reactions can be debilitating, affecting the ways in which they engage with the world.

For children and youth, Kid’s Help Phone’s provides a simple breakdown of signs and symptoms of anxiety along with ways to cope with panic and anxiety here .

What can be done?

Research into anxiety disorders is growing as we gain more and more understanding of the importance of mental wellbeing.  As a result, through counselling, techniques can be learned to develop an awareness of anxiety and panic and thus take steps to minimise their impact on life.

Mindfulness

When someone begins to feel their body tighten, breath quicken and heart start to race, they are challenged to stop and look around.  Name 5 things they can see; five things they can smell; five things they can touch; five things they can hear and five things they can taste.  By focusing on their senses it becomes possible to reorient their awareness to practical things around them rather than the source of their anxiety.  This article highlights other mindfulness activities that can help reduce anxiety.

Distraction

If possible, when anxiety is felt, removing oneself from the situation – going for a walk, calling someone on the phone, going to a safe space can all be helpful ways of settling down and refocusing.

Breathing

Sometimes it simply helps to stop, sit quietly and breathe.  Counting as you breathe in and out, helps to relax the body before it completely tenses up into a full blown panic attack.

What can families do?

Anxiety happens in people of all ages.  As with everything else, it is important for us to know our loved ones and be open to recognising when symptoms become persistent and chronic.  It is vital to accept that it is not only OK but healthy to ask for help.  Indeed, accessing the right help can make a big difference in the extent to which anxiety becomes something manageable.

Local resources to assist children and teen struggling with anxiety disorders are available through the Regional Children’s Centre, Teen Health and Maryvale.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/