Some of us try falling asleep before falling apart while others can hear their heart racing next to their eardrums and face sleepless nights. Some take too much energy to survive a day normally while others can just stay in their shell for days. Some eat way too much to overcome it while others can have irritable bowel syndrome over thinking about some issue stuck in their head. Some may laugh hard but cry in the middle of nothing, while others may not be able to change a posture when it overcomes them. Some can go numb while others can shiver with cold in a hot weather.
Most of us go through it but hardly anyone talks about it. It’s nothing but Anxiety and Stress, which is a human mental condition that can happen to anyone and has no racial or religious boundaries. Different situations can trigger it and we all can fall into the pit of darkness. It’s important to know that 40% of the adults in US population are affected by Anxiety, however, 25% of the population of children 13-18 years old have the anxiety disorders.
I have had days when my mood would just tick off on anyone little thing and then I would just yell so much before leaving the home with negative energy. And that whole day I would feel remorseful and thought no one can be a monster mom but me. On another level, travel anxiety can make me go numb for days. Overthinking and analyzing one situation 10 times to realize what could have been done at that one moment. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate myself 5 or 6 at anxiety or stress but I have seen people who are closer to 10 and a little stress at work or life situation and make them go bonkers. It varies from person to person but that doesn’t mean it can’t be controlled.
Anxiety and stress related to timelines at work, home, parenting or any other issues can drive us all insane. Some people who are already having less threshold for stress are in real trouble if any other variable goes wrong. But remember that the problem here is not “you” but the anxiety that builds up and makes us behave in a particular way. And as your kids observe you, the message your body is sending to them can create stress and anxiety in them that they even don’t know how to express. The ripple effect continues in the environment and surrounding that the person lives in.
Lately, I attended a workshop on T.A.S.A.M (Tackling Anxiety and Stress through Arts and Mindfulness) which was specially designed for parents. So I thought I should share my learnings with the parents around who might be going through parenting stress, work anxiety or maybe raising anxious kids. Genetics and situations both play a role to trigger these symptoms however a little prevention can save from big trouble.
Strategies for combating stress and anxiety for adults:
Everyone looks at anxiety as a psychological problem, this is the first mistake that people make. Anxiety can be triggered by negative thoughts but our body is designed that way to be able to endure the negative thoughts. Naturally, there is a good balance between stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and feel-good neurotransmitters (which are chemical messengers in the brain), these complement each other and thus create serenity throughout the body.
To understand these uncontrollable symptoms of anxiety start when stress hormones are too high. And on the other hand, feel-good neurotransmitters are too low and not receipting properly. So for a layman, your symptoms are caused by an imbalanced hormone harmony within your body.
Now that you know what the problem is you just need to know how to reverse it with simple strategies.
- Be aware of the signals that your body is sending you. So that you know your signs of stress and can work on it before it’s too bad. (Ask your kids or your partner and they would explain you exactly how your tone and expression change so you know it too)
- Whenever you feel pushed by the pressure of something just slow down and breathe, your body needs oxygen. Just small breathing session can help you get back on track.
- Creative and hands-on hobbies like knitting, painting, and coloring help.
- Practice good self-care, make a list of feel-good things you can do when you feel overwhelmed. This must be a living document and should be present somewhere where it’s easily visible. (Whenever you feel stressed you need to go and see the document and pick a thing from the list which can make you feel better. My list stays at the back of my room door and it includes 10 things that make me happy which includes taking a long run to eating my Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream.)
- Talk to someone who is an engaged and supportive listener. Be it your family, friend or a colleague.
- Exercising for 20 mins on daily basis can help reduce the anxiety. It doesn’t have to be an insanity workout session. It can be a slow run, brisk walk, some squats, basketball with your kids or maybe just a few laps of swimming. Just make it part of your routine.
Tips for Parenting Anxious Children
Remember stress and anxiety are an unavoidable part of the human experience you can’t avoid it but you can teach your kids how to cope with it constructively. Provide a nurturing environment to overcome issues as a team.
- Acknowledge their legitimate fears and struggles, don’t downplay it. Talk to them if they are scared of anything petty even.
- Maintain a predictable safe environment at home where kids know what to expect.
- Respond to them don’t REACT.
- Protect family time, plan it as a unit. Try avoiding programming or gadgets at meal times.
- Label your feelings, if you are embarrassed or frustrated say it so that when your child feels something like this they know how to express.
- Reassure that no matter what happens you will protect them.
- Talk to professional if required, start from the school.
It’s very pertinent to know what services you have access to in order to survive these conditions and not let them haunt your personality and life.
For the families in Toronto following free services are available for mental health counseling for children, youth parents, and families.
- The George Hull Centre
- East Metro Youth Services
- Yorktown Family Services
- What’s up Walk-in Clinic
- Ontario Early Care Centers (0-6)
1-866-821-7770 to find a location for services in your area.
Books For Kids:
Here are some of the books that can help kids overcome such feelings right in the beginning:
- “What to do when you worry too Much” by Donna Huebner
- “When my worries get too big” By Kari Dunn Buron
- “What to do when mistakes make you quake” by Claire A.B Freeland
With the phones in our hands, half of our life has gone digital so its important to use the apps that can help us help ourselves and the kids we raise to overcome such situations of stress and anxiety. These are the one I use.
It is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.
Help your child learn skills such as problem solving, self-control, planning, and task persistence.It aims to provide tools to help children build skills for resilience, and overcome everyday challenges and more stressful situations and transitions.
Headspace is meditation made simple. It teaches you the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.
Common sense media designed this app to help parents make informed choices about the kinds of tv, movies and video games their kids are watching and playing.
I hope this helps. Let us all inhale courage and exhale the fear out and make this world a better place for all those who go through all the symptoms every day.