Anxiety is something that comes up often in my counselling sessions with students, and conversations with adults. Even though we speak about anxiety more regularly, it is a difficult term to define. Think to yourself, how would you define anxiety? Would you call it stress? Would you call it a fear? How do you know when you are anxious? All of these questions come into play when one tries to define this comprehensive term.
A textbook may define anxiety as the following: anxiety is both a mental and physical reaction to something perceived as a threat. The treat can range from actual physical events, or ideas created in the mind. In small amounts, anxiety can serve as something helpful. It has the ability to protect us from danger, and can help to focus our attention onto immediate problems. However, when anxiety is too severe, or is impeding in our everyday lives, it is debilitating and may require treatment.
Anxiety can manifest in different ways, depending on the person and situation. Some come symptoms of anxiety are: uncontrollable worry, poor concentration, excessive nervousness, increased heart rate, sleep problems, upset stomach, muscle tension, and avoidance. Adults and children sometimes exhibit different symptoms, and often times, an individual may find it hard to explain what in fact they are feeling when they are anxious.
A strategy to target a person who has difficulty verbalizing their feelings is to do a form of art therapy. Art therapy is a technique used in therapy to help individuals express what is going on in their heart and body by externalizing it. An example of an art therapy technique to help with anxiety is to make a collage of places that are safe and calm for the person experiencing this feeling. A collage can be as simple as getting old magazines and tearing out pages that represent calmness. Not only does the collage contain pictures, it can also have words and reminders. Once the collage is finished, it can be displayed in one’s private space, such as a bedroom, or folded up into a wallet, and to be referred to when anxiety creeps in.
A second strategy to help with anxiety is breathing. Deep breathing can help individuals in many situations but it can be especially helpful when someone feels anxious because it brings down the heart-level, allows a person to calm down, and then begin to think more clearly. When someone is using deep breathing, it is important that they find a comfortable position. Next, the eyes are to closed, but if it more comfortable to keep them open, than that is an option too. It is also encouraged to place a hand on the stomach to feel the belly rising and falling. The idea is to inhale for 4 seconds, pause and hold for 4 seconds, that exhale for 6 seconds. This can be repeated as many times as needed in a 5-10 minute time slot, or until the person feels less anxious.
The above strategies are just ideas to help with anxiety. Sometimes people find great success in them, other times, they are not helpful, and that is ok. The important thing to remember is that anxiety is a real thing, and effects everybody in different ways.
If you are dealing with anxiety, or have an anxious child, please feel free to send me an email at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at the school at 403-500-2030