What is anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s reaction to a perceived threat, either mental or physical. This maybe something concrete, an actual thing such as a spider, for example, or, a thought or an idea of something such as “I can’t get out!” or “something terrible is going to happen”.
Anxiety develops for all sorts of reasons and can be minor and manageable but it can also be something that has increased or developed over time. Some of the more common reasons for anxiety are learnt behaviour – perhaps from someone else in the family that is a sufferer, trauma – a traumatic event can trigger an anxiety reaction that is the body’s effort to never experience the trauma again. Stress is another common cause for anxiety – feeling overwhelmed with too much on your plate and eventually something has to give – your body is clearly telling you to stop!
Symptoms of anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety are varied from person to person. Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Unwanted and unhelpful thoughts “I’m too fat”, “I will fail if I try”
- Physically shaking or trembling
- Avoidance behaviours – to avoid the thing that is causing the anxiety
- Poor sleep pattern – bad dreams
- Poor appetite – under eating or over eating
- Low mood – depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety
- Deteriating relationships with partner and or friends – “no one understands”
- Low self esteem – “Why can’t I cope? Everyone else does.”
- Self isolation – “I don’t want anyone to see my like this”
What is happening to your body when you are having a panic attack?
How long can a panic attack last?
Panic attacks are an extreme response to a perceived threat. Your body is in a heightened state of high alert with adrenaline surging through it. Your body cannot sustain this level of high alert for long, it is meant only as a means of survival – to escape the threat by running away or by fighting it. The good news is that it will pass, and quicker than you think.
What can you do to help your child when they are having a panic attack?
Panic attacks are distressing to watch, especially if it is someone you love such as your child. If you have armed yourself with all the knowledge, you will know what you are witnessing, know that it isn’t life threatening and that it will pass. Knowing the facts can go a long way to keeping you calm while it is happening and you being calm is going to be really helpful in reducing the anxiety levels fast. It might be useful to imagine how you might feel if you were feeling super anxious and what would help you in that situation.
There are definitely things that can make a panic attack worse or prolonged, so by taking note of the points in the video below will go a long way to bring that panic attack to an end quicker.
There are other things that you can do to help your child too.
- Routine. It is important to try and get a daily routine going. It is particularly helpful for people that are suffering with anxiety to have a regular, daily structure. Long periods to dwell or worry are not helpful and are likely to worsen the problem, so breaking the day up into chunks of activities can really be beneficial in distracting and building self-esteem.
- Sleep pattern. It is very easy to get into a bad pattern of sleeping in in the morning and going to bed later and later. Bad sleep patterns definitely increase anxiety, so try again to establish a healthy routine around this. Going to bed at a regular time each night and getting up at a regular time is a really proactive way of helping your child reduce the likelihood of anxiety.
- Diet – Plan regular, healthy meals for your child. Anxiety can play havoc with your digestive system so it’s important to keep that diet healthy. Low blood sugar caused by missed meals can also increase anxiety levels.
- Exercise. Anxiety causes your body to produce adrenaline, which can contribute to that “buzzing” feeling in your head and restlessness. By doing regular daily exercise you are physically helping to release that adrenaline from your body by burning it up. Exercise will also significantly help promote a healthy nights sleep.
- Hobbies. Encourage your child to pursue a hobby. Having something positive that you are good at not only improves self-esteem but it gives focus for one’s thoughts in a healthy way. Reading is a fantastic way to really focus on other characters, stories and escape for a while from tough times.
- Drink. Make sure your child drinks plenty throughout the day. Avoid caffeine drinks. Caffeine is a known stimulant and can increase levels of anxiety.
- Relaxation. Learning some relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or yoga for example can really help your child to be able to have more self control on their anxiety levels. Enabling your child to manage their anxieties better by having some coping mechanisms in place will increase their confidence and reduce the anxiety.