Anxiety (Worry)

It is very normal for children and young people to have specific fears throughout their childhood and adolescence. Usually, these fears and worries go away on their own as you get older and expand your experience. Anxiety is the feeling we get as part of the normal human response to danger.

The danger does not have to be real or happening in the present moment, it can be worries or fear thoughts, images or memories; but our body reacts as if the danger is actually happening or is going to happen.

We say we are ‘anxious’ or have ‘anxiety’ when our body automatically goes into the threat/self-protection reaction, which can sometimes be very strong and overwhelming. The body’s threat/self-protection reaction is commonly called the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ reaction, which is driven by the need for survival and safety. This reaction helps us to survive in the face of a real and present danger. It is also activated by fears, images or memories, some of which we are aware of and others are not so clear, we just notice the anxiety in our body.  

It is very normal for children and young people to have specific fears throughout their childhood and adolescence. These fears are often related to becoming more aware of the environment and potential dangers, such as heights, the dark or 'monsters under the bed'. Usually, fears and worries go away on their own as children develop and expand their experience. Our body reacts as if the danger is actually happening or is going to happen. It works on a better safe than sorry principle - better to activate fight/flight and be wrong (survive), than to not activate it and be wrong (don't survive).

Fight Flight for Kids
Fight Flight for Teenagers
Why do we lost control of our emotions?
Make Mindfullness your superpower 

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Here are two videos on why mindfulness empowers us: 

How to manage anxiety and Top Tips

To manage anxiety, the first thing to do is to notice the change in the body and then focus on calming the body’s threat self-protection reaction using these simple strategies:

BREATHE: Breathe in for a slow count of 4 and breathe out for a slow count of 6.

COME to YOUR SENSES: find and focus on:

                      5 things you can see

                      4 things you can hear

                      3 things you can touch

                      2 things you can smell

                      1 slow, deep breath

When you feel calmer CHOOSE: whether the thought/s is helpful or unhelpful:

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Top Tips

  • Tip 1

    Worries and anxiety are normal; everyone worries so it’s important to remember you are not alone. Some worries may seem very real and very scary. Tell someone how you are feeling no matter what your worries are, even if you are worried about doing so. There will be someone who will listen and try to support you

  • Tip 2

    Although anxiety feels horrible, remember these feelings will pass and the physical sensations cannot harm you. Remind yourself that you have been anxious before, that those feelings passed, that you coped and were ok. If you need to, breathe in slowly for a count of 4, and out slowly for a count of 6. Use the ‘Come to your senses’ exercise above.

  • Tip 3

    Expand your comfort zone and by discovering what you can do (even when your anxious mind says you can’t)

     

    PAUSE: when you notice sensations of anxiety - PAUSE


    ANCHOR:  yourself to the present moment and BREATHE to help calm your body


    UNDERSTAND: anxiety is normal, and is an old system of helping you survive.      

       

    STEP BACK: take a different perspective and ask if your mind is being helpful? Is it taking you towards doing what matters to you, or away from that?


    ENGAGE: in taking action and doing what matters, carrying your anxiety with you if you need to.

The below Red, Amber, Green table highlights different levels (Red being the most serious) of anxiety and what should be done. 

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