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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Fighting Anxiety.

Karen Young, wrote the article, "Anxiety in Children and Teens: How to Find Calm and Courage During Anxiety - What all Parents Need to Know" for the blog Hey Sigmund to discuss the impact and effects of anxiety in children as they grow, develop, and age. It is important to understand that anxiety is a normal and necessary feeling for all of us, however, when it presents itself in children and teens, it can make everyone feel totally helpless. Young says, "...anxiety is a primitive, instinctive response, not a rational one. Anxiety is driven by a strong, beautiful, healthy brain that is doing exactly what brains are meant to do - protect us from threat." The amygdala, the part of the brain that keeps us safe from threat, is responsible for making quick decisions in response to a "threat." "An anxious brain is a mighty powerful brain, so its's important to work with it, rather than against it." The first thing to do when trying to calm down an anxious brain in your child, is to: "respond to the primitive brain, at the back." It is important in this moment to encourage steady and slow breathing, which will lower blood pressure and heart rate to bring the brain back to a more relaxed state. Try these practices: Hot Cocoa Breathing (pretend you have a mug of hot chocolate in your hands, smell the warm, chocolatey smell, hold the breath, blow, hold again, and repeat three to four times) and Figure 8 Breathing (Draw a figure 8 on your skin with the index finger, for the first half, breathe in for three, at the middle, hold for one, on the second half, breathe out for three, and repeat three to four times). Next, the parent should react to the emotional brain, in the middle, by using touch, validation, and warmth. "One of the things that influences the amygdala's decision about whether to avoid something or move bravely towards it is the release of oxytocin (the bonding hormone) into the medial region of the amygdala." The amygdala has special receptors designed to receive oxytocin and when they do, the amygdala feels safer and calmer. Another function of the amygdala is to recruit support. As the parent, you can be the support your anxious child needs by acknowledging and validating the feelings you see in them. The last step in calming the brain is to acknowledge the thinking brain and encourage the child to move toward brave behavior instead of anxious behavior. "Speak to the logical, calming, thinking brain by reminding them why they feel the way they do, asking them what they need, armoring them with brave thinking, and encouraging them towards brave behavior." It is important to know that when children are experiencing fear that can feel so monumental, your belief in their ability to be brave needs to be strong enough to build their courage instead of shrink it. Lastly, the process and task of raising a strong and brave human is not an easy one; go gently on this course. "Our children and teens need us to see them and to hold a strong, steady space for them, but they also need us to believe in them and to sometimes lead the way. Because we can see around the corners that they can't."

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