"How Do I Get Rid Of My Child's Anxiety Naturally?"
Worried about your kid dealing with anxiety, and want to help without pharmaceuticals?
If your child is anxious, you may be wondering why they are feeling that way and most importantly, how you can help them alleviate the anxiety.
And if you’re like most of the parents who read this blog, you’d prefer the natural route as opposed to putting your child on anxiety medication.
The purpose of this blog is not to answer whether or not the medication is good or bad, rather provide some solutions for parents who choose not to go that route.
So if you are one of those parents who is noticing signs and symptoms of anxiety in your child and you want to help them naturally, this is for you.
First, let’s answer the big question.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as a state of persistent worry and fear about everyday situations and normal events.
Fear occurs when you are experiencing a specific and real danger in your present environment, anxiety occurs when you excessively focus on dangers that are not there, and this can be caused by a variety of external stimuli that trigger internal emotional reactions of fear.
To make it simple, anxiety is a prolonged emotional experience of fear.
It's very important that we understand this experience itself is merely a symptom of something deeper, a “root” cause we can say.
Anxiety itself is not a real thing you can “cure,” it’s merely feedback.
When anxiety is treated as the root cause, we find ourselves riddled by more and more of it, regardless of whatever therapy or medication we use.
Remember, anxiety is not a root cause.
Why Do Children Get Anxious?
According to the Natural Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 children will experience persistent levels of anxiety before they reach their early teens.
And with suicide being the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 18, it's very important that we address this very real problem of childhood anxiety as we can all agree that anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts and even actions.
So if we’re going to help our children not be riddled with anxiety, it is important to understand where the anxiety is coming from and why it is even there.
There are plenty of events that can trigger anxiety:
1. Fast and/or frequent changes in school or home environment
2. Getting bullied at school.
3. Being around someone who is anxious a lot, like a parent/guardian or sibling.
4. Going through traumatic events that lead to a feeling of danger.
5. Having responsibilities that may be too much for their age, like having to watch another family member.
Are there more reasons? Absolutely, however, I just wanted to list a few reasons that are the traditional reasons we think our children experience the anxiety that they do.
But the fact of the matter is, these are outside circumstances, and for me to leave it at that and say “Yes, this is why your child is anxious,” would be poor on my part because it doesn't end there.
These outside circumstances don’t inherently carry the anxiety with them, that is because anxiety is an inside thing.
It's not that children are getting anxious because of these things, rather they are getting anxious because of the way they think and feel about these things.
It's not to say it's their fault, they are just responding and processing information in the best way they know how to.
Sometimes this processing leads to a lot of anxiety.
Let me paint you a picture.
"What Is The Root Cause Of Anxiety?"
Ever felt like your abdomen was closing in, your heart was speeding up and your throat tightening?
To the point where you’d get jittery?
This was a constant experience of a client of mine, who was 53 years old.I asked her, “How long have you felt this level of anxiety?”
“Since I was in elementary,” she responded, “I just remember always being jittery and scared.”
It got to a point where it was normal to wake up with her stomach hurting and then experience migraines in middle school.
As we went into our session to find the root cause of the anxiety and work through it, she went back to a particular memory.
She was sitting on the living room floor at five years old in a bedroom.
It was late at night, she was alone and had no idea why.
She suddenly began feeling really anxious and wanted to cry.
I told her to finish the sentence, “I am anxious and want to cry because ______.”
And she said, “Because my family is gone and I don’t know where anyone is.”
Before I could say anything she said, “Actually I do. They went to go get food but they left me alone.”
I asked her, “What are you making this mean at that moment?”
To which she replied, “That I don’t matter.”
Suddenly her parents walk in, which is when she starts crying because that was her way of communicating, “I was scared when you left, please don’t do that again.”
She needed to feel significant and loved at that moment, but instead, she was punished and got a spanking for “Crying for such silly things.”
She felt abandoned.
So I then asked her, “What are you making this mean?”
A simple yet quiet reply,
“Feelings are a bad thing.”
Childhood Beliefs And Their Effect On Your Nervous System
I shared the above story with you because it's a powerful way to say that our thoughts or beliefs about what is true and not true can have a direct impact on the nervous system.
According to neuroscientists, every thought creates a chemical, and these chemicals create our feelings.
When you think a happy thought your brain produces serotonin, which regulates your mood and leads you to feel more focused, happier, calmer, and emotionally stable.
On the contrary, when you think an irritated thought your brain produces cortisol, which is the stress that regulates your body's stress response and leads you to feel stressed, on guard, and even fearful (or anxious.)
And when a child picks up a belief like a story I shared above, they tend to unknowingly focus on that belief and think about it a lot.
It becomes real for them and has a strong influence on the way they feel, acts and respond to things in their environment.
In my client's case, her belief that “Feelings are bad,” led her to fear her feelings as they arose, so she would think the best way out was to shut them out and hide them or at least try to.
It got to a point where she began experiencing panic attacks at a young age because she was holding on to so much that her body had no choice but to respond with releases of energy that felt uncontrollable to her.
She felt like she didn’t have a voice so she suppressed it.
So her body was being her voice for her.
Yes, she was 53 by the time she came to me and still struggling, but her anxiety started from childhood.
And 5.8 million children from 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
This is only diagnosed by the way so keep that in mind.
Diagnosed or not, many of our kids are experiencing more frequent and intense experiences of anxiety that are very damaging to their very quality of life.
So now that you have a thorough understanding of where anxiety comes from and why your child may be experiencing it, let’s dive into what you can do to help them process and feel it through so they can live happier lives.
How To Help Your Child With Stop Feeling So Anxious (Without Medication)
What can you do starting today to begin helping your child live a life free from the heavy weight of anxiety?
Below are the foundational ways to ensure your child’s mind and body feel happier, calmer, and freer.
1.) Communicate to them through words and actions that they are more than enough, loved and worthy just as they are.
As a child is being brought up in their environment, they are observing and interpret everything in their own way.
Many times, they come to conclusions that are not true.
Like a client of mine who was picked up late from baseball practice one day, as he sat there he concluded, “I must not be important if my mom forgot about me.”
Was it true that he wasn’t important?
No, but he didn’t communicate that he felt that way because he felt like it’d bother her if he shared it and because of that, she didn’t remind him that he was important and that she was just late for work.
These little moments can be so impactful for a young child who is still in the development phases and figuring out how to navigate through their own experience.
If a child does not feel accepted, loved, or worthy they will risk the possibility of holding those feelings in and carrying them in their minds and bodies for decades.
So be sure you communicate more often than not, that they are always worthy and valuable as they are. Especially in moments of irritation.
I’m not a parent, but I’ve been around enough children in my life to know that sometimes they may push the wrong buttons on the wrong days and it may make you snap and do or say something that you don’t really mean.
Maybe you had a bad day at work and your kid asks “Why?” just a little bit too much and you turn around and yell “Be quiet, mommy is driving!”
If you leave it at that, they can easily interpret that event as, “Being myself makes people angry.”
This could be resolved by simply communicating after the fact, “I’m sorry honey, I’m not mad at you and you’re not bothering me, I just had a bad day at work. I love you and your voice."
A simple statement like this or, a suggestion can be taken in and accepted by the child instead.
Those extra few sentences could change the trajectory of a kid's future.
Communicate love, worthiness, and acceptance often.
Not just through words, but through actions more importantly. A good book on this is The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
2.) Be The Safe Place For Them To Express Themselves
One of the main things I have been pointing at this entire article is the fact that holding emotions in will always result in some level of anxiety.
When children do not feel safe to express, or simply be themselves then they naturally suppress their thoughts and feelings.
Our bodies cannot “forget” about emotions we suppress.
Instead, they literally get absorbed into our tissues, and this is because all the tissue in our body has receptors that respond to the chemicals produced by our emotions.
If you hold in emotions, your organs begin to tense up, and any organ in a state of tension over periods of time will begin to deteriorate and weaken sooner.
Prevent your child from experiencing this future by teaching them all feelings are okay and that they are safe to be themselves.
Then actually create the environment, or as I like to say, be the environment for them to express their emotions.
It's also important that you do not minimize or deny any of your child’s feelings in such a way that can lead to them feeling shameful of who they are and begin suppressing those parts of themselves and continue doing so as they grow older.
Help them understand that the human experience contains the entire emotional experience that comes with it too. Normalize them feeling okay for feeling what they feel.
Let them speak up more. Let them use their voices. Let them play and be silly. Let them be themselves.
Allow them to follow their natural curiosities and discover their own unique talents and gifts.
When they discover them, encourage the use of them more often than not. Allowing curiosity is a critical piece to this as well.
3.) Model Healthy Ways of Processing Your Feelings
Due to mirror neurons in our brain, we model what other people do even if we don’t think we are.
Children learn their first set of beliefs and responses to the world and themselves through observing who is in their environment.
The greatest influence on these mirror neurons is the child’s parents or guardians.
We feel safe when we feel a sense of belonging, so we naturally do what others around us do, or model them.
If you are demonstrating emotional suppression, outburst, and other unhealthy ways of dealing with your feelings then your child will learn to do the same thing.
It's important that you begin processing not just your anxiety, but all of your emotions.
Below are some ways you and your child can accomplish this.
Techniques And Practices To Process Anxiety
1.) Heart Breathing Heart breathing is a process of conscious breathing designed to reduce the intensity of a stress reaction and establish a calm, but alert state. It was developed and brought to awareness by Heartmath. As they write in this article, “Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal. As you breathe in, imagine you are doing so through your heart, and, as you breathe out, imagine it is through your heart.” It has many benefits and is a great practice anybody can do whenever you feel your stress buttons being pushed, but regularly even when you are feeling great. It's super simple and your child will be able to pick right up on it. Here’s a short two-minute video breaking down how to do it. 2.) Mind-Shift Technique Ever taken a nice long breath and felt relaxed after? Specifically after a nice long exhale? We all know how great this feels. And it's actually an ancient Vedanta breath-work exercise. Here is a simple breath-work technique as explained by Rajshree Patel in her amazing book, The Power of Vital Force. “As you take a deep breath in through your nose, pause briefly when you reach the full capacity of your inhale. After reaching the full capacity of your inhale, take a few more little sips of extra air in. Pause and hold it all in for a moment before releasing fully through the nose. Even two or three repetitions can instantly clear the mind and re-energize the system.” 3.) Using Skin To Come Back To The Body One of the most common experiences someone has with anxiety is “feeling out of the body.” Therefore coming “back” to the body, into the sensations of it, can have a positive impact on the calmness you feel. Teach your children to touch the exposed parts of their body when they are feeling anxious (or not) to normalize coming back into their body when they are feeling too “In their head.” Have them touch their hands, wrists, arms, ankles, legs, face, neck, and whatever else they can.
Then they can pay attention to the sensations of the close on their skin, hair on their body, and temperature or wind on their skin This will help them feel their way back to a coherent state. 4.) Creative Visualization Have you ever seen a photo or picture that stirred up a strong emotional response?
That’s because we are symbolic human beings by nature and our minds respond to images.
Images create emotional experiences, and you can teach your child how to deliberately create images in their minds that cause pleasant emotional experiences. For example, creating a “mental safe place.” Have your child visualize themselves walking into an environment that makes them feel safe and let them create it. They may visualize themselves walking in a nice green field with pillow-like grass and butterflies, flowers, and rainbows with a nice stream of water nearby. Or maybe they visualize themselves sitting in a nice “Meditation room” with a calming environment and artwork. Another good visual exercise is having them imagine steam leaving the top of their head releasing pressure. One more that is worth sharing is having them visualize their feelings as little babies or pets that they have to take care of, so when the feelings come they approach them with grace and acceptance. Merely thinking of the people that make them feel safe is more than sufficient. 5.) Body Scans Like number three on this list, coming back to your body is a great way to ground yourself. Have your child sit down in a relaxed position on a chair with their eyes closed and then direct them to focus on their feet asking them to notice the sensations of their feet on the floor. Then they move their awareness up their ankles, legs, thighs, hips, and all the way up to the top of their head. When they feel tension, have them take a deep breath imagining that the tension itself is releasing with each exhale. Here is a three-minute body scan meditation for kids. 6.) Self-Regulating Physical Touch Again, using the body to our benefit, a good way to process the feelings of anxiety and feel them is to ground yourself physically. According to Healthline, hugging yourself has been proven to lower cortisol levels in the body. Humans thrive when they feel connected and safe, so teaching your kids to hug themselves more often, will create that feeling of connection and safety that can calm the nervous system down. You can also grab or squeeze different parts of your body slightly, helping you ground yourself. 7.) Releasing Emotions Through Physical Exercises As we know by now, stored emotions can build up over time and cause a lot of anxiety. Therefore releasing them from your tissues is essential, and thankfully there are a few exercises that can help you do this. David Bercelli, Ph. D. created the Trauma Release Process®, which is a set of physical exercises that when done naturally release accumulated trauma through the body. A great daily exercise that almost all children can do. Click here to watch a video on how to do it. In Conclusion Although anxiety is a normal experience of being a human, it is not natural to live in constant states of anxiety. Fortunately, there are many things you can do as a parent to make sure your child doesn’t have to live a life feeling like they are under the weight of anxiety all of the time. They themselves are the best medicine and the best kind they need. There are other ways than using pharmaceuticals to address this issue, and most of them cost you nothing. If you would like help guiding your child through these practices click here to learn about how Zamio is built exactly for that and how we help children naturally overcome anxiety.