Anxiety shows up in many ways. It doesn't only look like panic.
Anxiety can show up as anger, apathy, tearfulness, calm to manic in seconds, insomnia, over planning, irritability, defiance, avoidance, paranoia, lack of focus, repeating questions, rigidity, intolerant of change, overindulgence, lack of self-care, excessive self-care, sensitivity, and controlling or obsessive behavior.
Physical symptoms like an elevated heart rate, sweating, extra hot or cold body temperature, chest or stomach pains, headaches and dizziness may show up before the behavior.
Under all of these behaviors and sensations are vulnerable emotions and unprocessed feelings and thoughts such as fear, shame, powerlessness, inadequacy, sadness, regret, insecurity, overwhelm, jealousy, disappointment, hurt, and more.
One of the ways we may try to override the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety, powerlessness and uncertainty is by distracting or fixating on feelings, sensations or thoughts. This instinctive coping mechanism deceives us into thinking we’ve taken back our power.
When we as parents feel powerless witnessing our children struggle with anxiety we may feel fear and need to feel safer which is why we often resort to more familiar power-under or power-over parenting patterns.
We may try to shame or convince our kids out if their anxiety or we may try to avoid situations where they won’t have to feel discomfort or worry.
A more effective way to approach anxiety is to let our child and self-know that even through there is uncertainty and worry, we will be okay.
“Not worrying” isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is.
What we really need is to remember our safety and sovereignty within.
Anxiety manifests in overestimating the situation and underestimating ourselves.
We need to make sense of anxiety because it does make sense.
Anxiety can happen to the strongest, bravest, most capable people.
Anxiety has a job to do. The feeling activates physical survival strategies in an attempt to stay safe from real or perceived threat. Humiliation, failure, separation from important people, exclusion, judgement, missing out or messing up something important all count as ‘threat’.
The feeling of anxiety makes sense, but the responses (fight/flight/freeze/fawn) aren’t always needed.
We don’t need to get rid of anxiety. What we need to do is notice the sensations in the body, name the feelings under the anxiety and nurture our capacity to stil
l do brave, hard things even when we feel anxious.
The more we can talk about our experience of anxiety without shame or fear of judgement the smaller it feels and the bigger we are in the presence of anxiety.
This is what it’s all about. Creating less and less fear and powerless as we prove to our body that it is safe enough to move out of a survival response.
We may still feel anxious AND support ourselves to take tiny, brave steps, one foot in front of the other.
How to Help in the Moment when our Kids Experience Anxiety
Our capacity to connect to our inner-trust and self-regulate is key. If we can breathe and lower our own anxiety, they will pick this up.
Our nervous systems are talking to each other every minute of every day. So often, the move towards brave doesn’t start with them. It starts with us.
Breathe, validate, and invite them into brave with messages like:
“You are worried. I believe you. I also believe in YOU.”
“How does the anxiety inside you feel?” (Listen)
“I’m listening and I imagine how that feels. That’s big and I am here to help you through.”
“I believe you that the anxiety feels big. I also believe in you and know that you are bigger and braver.”
‘You don’t need to wait for your anxiety to go away before you do the things you want to do but worry that you can’t.”
“Even when you feel so anxious, and so small, there will be more brave inside you than you will ever need. “
“You get to choose how to respond to anxiety in this moment.”
As you nurture your heart, educate your mind and attune to your body you will be better equipped to move from anxious to anchored and feel safer letting go of control or anxiety to hold on to compassion and a set of new anchoring practices.
NeuroEmotional Coaching and Empowered Parenting practices help.