I love writing these articles — but sometimes knowing that my words will be read by many people makes me a little nervous.
Because of that nervousness, I spend time thoughtfully crafting my words. I may also give my article to another person for proofreading. This extra attention reflects a healthy level of concern and a healthy response to that nagging, anxious, nervous feeling so many of us feel in similar situations.
However, if instead of reacting in this way, I became so worried about this blog post that I lost sleep, or if I was so fixated on making each sentence perfect that I never finished writing it, then my concerns would be disproportionate to the situation.
That is the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy response to anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural phenomenon that typically relates to worry about what might happen — worrying about things going wrong, or feeling like you’re in danger. It’s a kind of alarm system for our minds and bodies.
The right level of anxiety at the right time actually pushes children — and all of us, for that matter! — to succeed. The wrong level of anxiety, however, can be paralyzing.
I have heard anxiety explained in evolutionary terms: we were built to be aware of our surroundings for survival. When foraging in the forest hundreds and thousands of years ago, humans needed to be extremely alert to the fact that there might be bears and wolves hunting us.
And that makes sense: terror is an entirely appropriate response to stumbling upon a hungry tiger when you were expecting to find a mushroom.
Terror is not, however, an appropriate response to discovering that there is a substitute teacher in your classroom today.
Despite its perniciousness, childhood anxiety is frequently overlooked by parents, teachers or coaches, allowing children to experience significant and unnecessary suffering. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders in children can lead to school failure, social avoidance, sleeplessness, attention difficulties, decreased quality of life, and even depression.
Do you suspect your child may be too anxious? Try asking yourself these questions:
#1: Does your child worry every day, and do they have multiple worries?
Everyone experiences worry, fear and stress. But children who struggle with anxiety tend to worry excessively, about anything from school to personal safety to upcoming events to health of family members, and everything in between.
#2: Does your child avoid age-appropriate activities or social engagements?
Anxiety can quickly become a burden, causing children so much stress that they refuse to participate in typical activities. Life can feel overwhelming or out of control, making them withdraw or resist trying new things.
#3: Does your child have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping without a parent?
A child who is plagued by worries might not be able to express those concerns verbally, only through his or her behavior — like avoiding activities or having difficulty sleeping. If your child is too distraught about what negative events could happen, his body and mind may be too activated by anxiety to fall or stay asleep.
#4: Does your child regularly complain of stomachaches or headaches?
Sometimes anxiety is so consuming, it can cause physical symptoms in a child. Along with stomachaches and headaches, children might feel more tired than usual or have other muscle pains.
Some anxiety is healthy and can motivate us to stay focused, like preparing more adequately for a test or job. But if your child struggles consistently with too much anxiety, it can become debilitating. If this is the case, I encourage you to seek help from medical professionals who are trained and experienced with anxiety disorders in children.