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Helping Children Overcome Anxiety and Stress

It is quite common for children and teens to experience anxiety and stress. Social stress, academic pressure, family difficulties, and traumatic events can all contribute to excessive, troublesome anxiety. Left untreated, chronic anxiety can negatively affect children’s wellbeing and development. The good news is many effective strategies and professional support systems exist to help children manage anxiety successfully.

How Anxiety Impacts Kids  

Intense, frequent anxiety triggers the brain’s threat response, releasing stress chemicals that prepare the body to escape danger. While temporary anxiety reactions are normal, chronic activation of the stress response can be physically and mentally taxing for children’s developing minds and bodies. Kids with uncontrolled anxiety often suffer somatic symptoms, like stomachaches or headaches. Anxiety can also cause emotional distress like irritability, anger, clinginess, and withdrawal from peers. At school, anxiety reduces concentration, impairs cognitive functioning, and triggers avoidance of activities a child perceives as stressful, like speaking up in class or taking tests. This frequently leads to lower academic achievement. Children’s anxiety should be addressed not only to ease their suffering in the moment but also to ensure normal development.

Professional Treatment Options

The people at Aspire Psychological say that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective first-line treatment for childhood anxiety. With a licensed mental health professional, kids learn to identify irrational fears and self-defeating thought patterns through CBT. They practice constructive ways to cope with anxiety triggers and develop a toolkit of go-to relaxation skills. Gradual exposure therapy also helps children face mildly feared situations repeatedly until their anxiety response habituates and they build self-confidence. Medication may also help children with severe anxiety. 

Everyday Ways for Caregivers to Help

As kids spend considerable time at home and school, parents and teachers can also use everyday strategies to ease anxiety and reinforce children’s coping skills development. Maintaining structure through predictable routines helps anxious children feel safe. Daily movement breaks release pent-up nervous energy and clear worried minds. Guided visualization, deep breathing, and mindfulness exercises practiced regularly build relaxation skills. Validating children’s emotions prevents their anxiety from escalating while offering reassurance. Eliminating excessive academic pressure and allowing children downtime prevents burnout. Ensuring kids get adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise provides biological anxiety relief too. 

Creating a Compassionate Support System

Surrounding anxious children with understanding and emotional support is incredibly impactful. Peers, family, school personnel and clinicians must validate children’s anxiety struggles to avoid aggravating shame, self-blame, and reluctance to seek help. It is crucial not to criticize anxious behaviors, which are involuntary reflexive responses to perceived threats, not intentional misbehavior. Thoughtfully praise children when they confront fears, ask for help, or apply their skills, which motivates progress through exposure milestones. 

Why Early Intervention Matters  

The sooner caregivers compassionately intervene to help children manage anxiety, the more effective skill-building will be, and the less likely long-term psychiatric risks become. Half of life-time mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, begin by age 14. As maladaptive neural connections and avoidance habits strengthen over time, they become more stubborn to reverse. Early intervention prevents children from missing key social or academic learning opportunities in the critical childhood window essential for development. Tackling struggles when kids’ brains exhibit peak neuroplasticity for mastering emotional regulation and self-soothing makes overcoming anxiety more achievable. Establishing healthy coping habits earlier leads to better functioning into mature adulthood.

Conclusion

Our evolving understanding of anxiety interventions from counseling to classroom accommodations continues rapidly. Through research commitments and destigmatization efforts, more families are pursuing evidence-based care. While anxiety cannot always be fully cured, today’s anxious youth have greater odds of receiving help to mitigate excessive anxiety’s threats to their wellbeing thanks to modern awareness, advocacy and accessibility of mental health supports.

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