- Talya Ressel
I'm worried about anxiety....
Anxiety does not make sense. If you want to solve why, how and when I suggest you do a Maths equation. But we are dealing with an emotion and therefore it defies logic. Believe it or not, I do not have a magic wand in my therapy tool box and can not magically make anxiety disappear (although there are many times in my personal life I wish i could!)
As a therapist, my role is to help people get a better understanding of anxiety, what it looks like and means for them, and then most importantly, to help develop tools and skills to manage those experiences.
A good starting point is to consider and discuss the points below with the person experiencing anxiety:
Anxiety is normal: it is a natural part of our 'fight or flight' response. We all experience anxiety at some stage and there is nothing weird, different or broken with the person experiencing this emotion. Anxiety comes and goes depending on what we are dealing with. There are times when anxiety has its benefits - it can provide necessary caution when we're not thinking clearly or even provide the kick-in-the-pants we need sometimes. However we need to take action when the level of anxiety increases so high that it negatively affects our daily functioning. That is when some form of intervention is needed.
Anxiety has friends: There are stereotypical ideas of what anxiety should look like, such as crying, being fearful and nervous of most things. However, different emotions are often associated with anxiety, which include irritability, frustration, anger outburst, indecisiveness, fatigue and/or restless energy, like fidgeting. Especially with children, anxiety does not always present itself the way we'd expect - it can be the child who is disruptive or the child who is a high achieving people-pleaser! (See this video on the Talya Ressel-Therapy Practice Facebook page about high functioning anxiety) And as confusing as it is to adults, it is even more so to children. They usually do not have the tools to know what it is they are feeling, let alone to express it to others. A very common 'friend' of anxiety that makes itself known, are physical symptoms: stomach aches; muscle spasms, headaches and back pain.
Anxiety is 'treatable': Acknowledging the pun of the blog's title, people often get so worried when they hear a diagnosis of anxiety, especially when it comes to children. But with anxiety becoming the most common mental health issue facing young people at the moment, there have been huge developments in many different effective coping tools and strategies for people living with anxiety. The earlier we address the anxiety and build resilience, the more manageable anxiety becomes. It is about finding what works for each person, understanding what can trigger their anxiety, considering what they need in that moment, and how best to practice self-care to reduce the impact of anxiety.
By opening up conversations about anxiety, we start to move away from the shame and confusion that anxiety likes to use in order to thrive. We don't get to make perfect sense of whats going on, but we start to feel more in tuned with what anxiety might mean for that person, and often just that, can make a world of difference.