Another school year underway promises the escalation of a growing mental health challenge: anxiety.
We all feel it. Kids juggling schoolwork, social pressures and expectations; parents trying to balance work, flawless parenting and home management; and those of us out of the child/parent daily dance who must manage the stressors of career, finances, friends, family, and what we crave for ourselves.
Mix it all together and you find a gooey mess of worries, irritability, isolation and depression. Anxiety is a monster that grows and thrives on creating uncertainty in its victims. It likes to foster a feeling of powerlessness, a sense of loss of control over one’s life. The more its victim is thrown off balance the more likely the anxiety monster is to return again and again, just to feed its own insatiable appetite.
While this sounds daunting – and it can be –, there are easy things we can do to fight the monster when it is small, before it becomes too big and threatening. Easy, simple adjustments in your daily living can provide relief too many anxiety symptoms. Let’s try on a few for size and see what fits.
First, recognize the early warning signs of anxiety. An increase in your heart rate or breathing, digestive disturbance, sweating, muscle tension and a sense of heightened emotions such as anger or fear can signal there is trouble ahead. When your body is telling you, it is anxious, attack with physiological self-soothing. Take a series of four deep breaths, always inhaling through your nose. Hold each breath about four seconds, and then exhale as slowly as possible. In this case, the slowest turtle wins the race. You cannot exhale too slowly, so try and see how slow you can go.
Next, relax your muscles. Starting in your face, then neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, feet and toes, try clenching that muscle group and then releasing. We all carry massive amounts of tension within our own muscles and usually do not realize it. Consciously releasing this tension is a powerful tool for maintaining calm.
Making daily time in nature, setting and honoring boundaries around technology use and managing sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake are also valuable soldiers in your battalion. Additionally, grownups and kids alike need to add play – carefree and fun time – into every single day.
A multi-pronged battle plan will enhance the ability of both children and adults to slay the anxiety monster.
Eileen Crawford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Celebration. Learn more at CounselingforFamilyHealth.com.
By Eileen Crawford, MS, LMHC
The above article appears in the September 2019 edition of the Celebration News