Anxiety is not something to cure but rather a response to understand and manage. When people don’t understand how anxiety manifests, they may inadvertently prolong or even increase their anxiety.
Are you engaging in any of these behaviors?
- Completely avoiding situations that are uncomfortable or difficult.
- Leaving a situation at the height of your anxiety.
- Engaging in compulsions related to your anxiety (excessive problem solving, trying to gain certainty about a situation, doing a behavior until it feels just right).
- Seeking repeated reassurance about a worry.
If you answered yes, you are increasing not decreasing your anxiety.
It is important to learn strategies to manage the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. Often, people feel like the distressing symptoms of anxiety will last forever. The feelings will pass. Symptoms of high anxiety or panic usually subside in about 30 minutes, given that you are not engaging in a behavior that is reinforcing the anxiety. Label the feelings as a discomfort, not a danger. Redirect your attention to something else. If possible, try to engage in a competing behavior such as laughing or smiling. Stay in the situation until the anxiety diminishes. Teach your brain and body that the situation is safe and tolerable.
You should not engage in situations that are overwhelming or panic inducing. It is important to break challenges down into manageable chunks so that you feel successful. If a goal is too challenging or uncomfortable, you are less likely to want to try it again. Set a goal that you are likely to achieve.
With exposure work, frequent practice is critical. Your body is unlikely to desensitize to stressful situations with occasional practice. Set a time to practice small exposures at least twice a week.
Contact a qualified anxiety specialist today to learn more tools for helping your child gain mastery of his or her anxiety.