According to the CDC, a child may exhibit symptoms of anxiety by expressing fear, worry, irritability, and/or anger; having trouble sleeping; and experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue. A child with anxiety may let their fears get in the way of school and play. Here are six treatment options for children struggling with anxiety.
#1: Talk to a Healthcare Provider
The first step for any parent of a child who may be suffering from anxiety is to seek the evaluation of a healthcare provider. You can start by talking to your child’s primary care provider, but you can also go directly to a mental health specialist. A concern many parents have is the question: How much does therapy cost? However, the more important point to focus on is how much it costs both you and your child in the long run if you ignore anxiety issues. The CDC seems to think that seeking an evaluation from a licensed health provider is pretty important; it is the first item on their to-do list for parents of children with anxiety.
#2: Look at Your Child’s Nutrition
Studies have shown that there may be a link between diet and anxiety. A healthy diet may help decrease anxiety, while a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and caffeine may worsen underlying anxiety. Here is a quote from an article on the Harvard Health Blog: “The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut.”
Diffusing essential oils into the air may help calm a child’s anxiety. Popular essential oils for relaxation include lavender, valerian, jasmine, holy basil, sweet basil, bergamot, chamomile, rose, clary sage, patchouli, and lemon balm. As with any course of therapy, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before trying out aromatherapy.
During the pandemic, many children are not getting enough exercise–on top of everything else. According to an article by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” Learn how green exercise can help your kids better manage anxiety.
#5: Mindfulness for Kids
There are many ways to teach children how to practice mindfulness, including counting breaths, taking a blindfolded taste test, drawing, journaling, smelling roses, and pretending to walk on thin ice. Headspace, a popular mindfulness app for adults, offers Headspace for Kids, an app with breathing exercises, visualizations, and meditations specifically designed for children. These meditations help children stay calm, focus, fall asleep, and practice kindness. The exercises are designed for toddlers, pre-teens, and every age in between. Headspace has also partnered with Barbie to help explain mindfulness practice to the little ones. Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace, says this: “It’s almost as though meditation was designed for kids. They just ‘get it.’ […] By introducing meditation and mindfulness at an early age, not only can we build on this and help nurture their mind development, but we are also making meditation simple and accessible.”
#6: Spending Time in Nature
Studies show that spending time in nature (a.k.a. “playing outside“) can help improve our mood, reduce feelings of stress and anger, make us feel more relaxed, boost self-esteem and confidence, and ease anxiety symptoms. The Japanese call it “forest bathing,” although you don’t have to live near the woods to benefit from spending time in nature. A green space, even in the city, can help. Find a local park, a beach, a lake, or any other natural setting to enjoy. Kaiser Permanente’s “Thrive” blog says this: “Aside from city parks, the more in-depth practice of forest bathing has been found to lower blood pressure, heart rates, and levels of harmful hormones–like cortisol, which your body produces when stressed. This can help put you in a more calm and relaxed state.”
How do you help your kids cope with anxiety?