Childhood Anxiety

Childhood Anxiety

Did you know childhood anxiety is not uncommon and it’s actually a normal part of growing up?   I don’t know about you but it’s been a minute or two since I was a kid. I remember getting stressed but compared to adult-level stress and anxiety that we adults experience, I have a hard time keeping my children’s anxiety levels in perspective at times.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension with no discernible cause.   Anxiety is normal and is experienced by almost all children at times.   It becomes a concern only when it interferes with a child’s typical daily routine.   Anxiety is usually related to a perceived threat.   Whereas, fear is almost always associated with an external threat.   Anxiety disorders can have crippling effects on a child in school, at home and in social settings.   The causes of anxiety are many and research shows that a tendency toward suffering anxiety is at least partially inherited.   If you are a parent, you can help decrease your child’s anxiety simply by listening to your child.   Often a child will feel anxious about a specific situation and all he needs to do is talk to someone about it.   Of course the first step is that you as the parent realizes that your child is having anxiety, acknowledging that anxiety to the child (although you don’t have to use the word “anxiety”) and letting your child know what they are experiencing is normal. If possible attempt to change any unusual circumstances that may be contributing to the anxiety.  Give your child some ways to cope with it, like talking about it or drawing about it etc.   Perhaps talk with your child about what he or she thinks may help them cope with the anxiety.   Practice consistent discipline measures even you’re your child is anxious. Consistency helps children decrease their overall level of anxiety because sameness breeds a feeling of safety.   Stay away from excessive or unusual discipline practices.   Set realistic, attainable goals for your child.   Teachers should be aware of school phobia. Although school phobia is not an anxiety order per se, it is present when anxiety accompanies a consistent reluctance or complete refusal to go to school.   It may be accompanied by selective mutism, characterized by a child’s refusal to speak at school or in places where he fears the scrutiny of others.  Advocate for your children with the school when they are having phobias associated with school.   Talk to the teach and school counselor about ways to help your child with their school phobia.

In this age of school testing, test anxiety can cause school phobia in children. Recently my child was having test anxiety over timed multiplication tests. My child knew the math but knowing that she was being timed caused her to have test anxiety and her brain would lock up and she just couldn’t get through the test. This resulted in her having several crying spells. I communicated with the teacher about her test anxiety.   I worked with my child not so much on the math but on helping her learn to cope with the anxiety.  I gave her positive coping statements to repeat to herself.  I told her if she did not pass the test I would still loved her and be proud of her; and I only wanted to know that she was trying her best.  I had her do some deep breathing exercising before our practice tests at home.  I asked her to visualize something calming to her.  I had her say a short prayer for peace and mental focus.   The next time she took the test she got very close to a passing score.   The teacher allowed her to pass the test because she knew I was working with her and that she was working hard.  I assured my child that the next time she would probably not get a break on her test score.  But my child learned the most important lesson: that allowing anxiety to take over will cause decreased performance and that she can control her feelings of anxiety.

So if your child is having anxiety problems trying to incorporate the above suggestions. If those suggestions don’t help your child it may be time to seek the help of a professional counselor.

To learn more about childhood anxiety here’s a link to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Here’s another good resource, The Child Anxiety Network.

Self-Care Wheel


A colleague shared this self-care wheel tool with me, and I couldn’t pass up sharing with you all. Be sure to click on it to get a larger version!

The tool was made specifically for trauma professionals but I think it can be useful for all of us working in the helping profession (nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers, social workers, pastors, etc). The tool was designed to help with secondary trauma prevention and living your fullest life.

This self-care wheel not only covers your whole health but it even gives a new way at looking at these ares of your life. I love it – it is so comprehensive and amazing! If you feel stuck figuring out where to start, you can go to  and sign up for the FREE starter kit. It will guide you through sixteen questions to help you design and map out a more fulfilling life.

Self-care is an intentional act of loving, healing, and breathing life into your soul. With the year winding down, you can use this tool to evaluate how well  you really took care of yourself in 2015. Looking at this self-care wheel, I realized I have a lot of work to do! Figure out the areas you need to improve to prioritize self-care in 2016.

Remember, “the world will not end if you take ten minutes for yourself.” Cheers to self-care in the new year!!

Six Natural Ways to Combat Depression and Anxiety

five ways

Depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental discomfort can be alleviated by every-day self care. Many clinical studies show that the following activities are good for the brain. Use these by themselves or in conjunction with counseling.

If you have severe depression or anxiety, the suggestions below may seem impossible. You may rely on junk food to feel good or dread socializing. If this is the case, you should consider counseling and/or see a doctor about an anti-depressant. Don’t beat yourself up for not exercising or not being able to control your eating. See a counselor and take baby steps. When you get to the point that you are feeling a bit better, add in one good habit at a time, at a pace that you are comfortable with. Focus on what you are doing well, not on what you aren’t doing perfectly.

1. Exercise: Regular exercise has been proven at least as effective as medication.

2. Good sleep: Going to bed and waking at regular times can stave off anxiety and depression.

3. Eating healthy: You are what you eat. Getting enough vitamins and minerals and limiting junk is good for your brain. Also, some people find that sugar, white flour, artificial sweeteners or other foods cause them to feel bad. Experiment with your diet to see what works best for you.

4. Limiting caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. They are literally as strong as some prescription medications. Taking these can exacerbate or create symptoms of anxiety or depression.

5. Socializing with people you care about: Spending time with loved ones gives your brain a healthy boost.

6. Religious practice: Studies show that prayer, meditation, scripture reading and other spiritual practice can help foster healthy brain function.

7. Positive physical touch: Cuddling with a loved one or even a pet will boost oxytocin and other brain chemicals. Sex is also good for your mood–of course as long as its in a responsible, healthy relationship!

Taking Control of Anxiety Before It Takes Control of You

taking control of your anxiety before it takes control of you

Everyone experiences anxiety. It happens before job interviews, meeting the parents, public speaking, deadlines, all the time. Sometimes those anxieties can get out of hand; they prevent us from taking care of the things we need to get done. They overpower our thoughts by building on top of one another, weighing down on our subconscious. Despite our best efforts to organize our lives or to make time for everything, anxieties can take all control away from us in a matter of moments.

Here are a few ways to take control of your anxiety:

Breathe, it’s the most natural thing that we know how to do. Take a minute, count to four while you breath in, than count to four while you breath out. Keep counting and breathing. Your heart rate will slow and your body will biologically calm itself.

Write it out. Sit down for 15 minutes with a piece of paper and a pen. Write out every thought that comes to your mind during that time; don’t put the pen down. Seeing your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper in front of you acts as an anchor. Once you read through what you’ve written, your anxieties become more tangible and easier to work with.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. The hormones released during exercise, such as serotonin and endorphins, act as antidepressants. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, just as long as your body is moving. Endorphins are “happy hormones” and will elevate your mood instantly.

Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. Watch a funny movie, read some really bad jokes, or think of a funny memory. Laughing can relieve psychological pain almost instantly.

Eat some good mood food. Who doesn’t enjoy comfort food when they’re upset? While it may be tempting to reach for the cookies or the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream during a freak out session, it’s actually more beneficial to eat healthy food. Studies suggest that you try a few of these super foods: nuts, soy, milk and yogurt, dark green leafies, dark orange vegetables, broth soups, legumes, citrus, wheat germ, tart cherries, and berries.

Now you don’t have to try all of these things, but they’re all helpful tricks and all of them have one thing in common: It’s all good and it’s all ok, all you have to do is take your moment.

Melissa Butler