The modern age has given birth to a new phenomena, the anxious child. More and more we are seeing worried kids. Mental health professionals have cited many reasons: a decrease in play and physical exercise, hovering, anxious parents, the breakdown of the traditional family, nuclear families moving far away from each other, thereby diminishing our sense of community, technology replacing “real” communication, an overload of information- usually bad news, an overabundance of choices and the fast pace of our modern world.
But not only are we seeing anxious kids but we are seeing anxious adults as well.
Although there are differences in the way Anxiety presents in adults and children the symptoms are often the same. The body responds in similar ways.
Both adults and children are interested to hear the rationale behind their physiological symptoms of anxiety, the racing heart, perspiration, sweaty palms tingling in hands and feet, butterflies in their stomach, pale or red face, breathlessness, dizziness, a feeling of heat all over or disorientation. There is some sort of comfort, knowing that there are real reasons that they feel the way they do. It can actually lessen the feelings of anxiety.
When we are anxious or worried, the part of the brain called the amygdala triggers the flight or fight response. This is a primitive response left over from days when we needed to be constantly on the lookout for predators, strangers and other dangers in our environment. The body’s physiological reactions to the flight or fight response can feel pretty awful.
A racing heart helps speed up the blood flow to the legs and arms so you could outrun your predator, which can also cause tingling in the hands, paleness and dizziness because of the excess blood flow away from your head. You become sweaty to help your body cool down so you won’t overheat. This also makes your skin slippery, making it harder for your enemy to grab you. Sometimes your body will feel hot though, because your body is heating up, making the energy you need to fight your enemy.
The butterflies you feel in your stomach are caused by your digestive system shutting down. When you are in danger, there is no time to eat. Breathlessness is caused by taking fast, shallow breaths because your lungs are working extra hard to help you run fast. The feeling of disorientation occurs because you need to focus on one point (perhaps the predator), intently. It can also make the situation feel surreal.
Finally, we feel anxious and jumpy because the adrenaline that is fueling all of these reactions, is pumping through our body.
An exercise to explain this phenomenon experientially to children and even to adults is to have them run fast in place for 30-60 seconds and think about how their body feels. You can then explain how the body feels similarly when anxious.
So the next time you are anxious, you can now rest easy that your body is just trying to take care of you the best way that is knows how. You might still be nervous about that upcoming test or interview but at least you know why you are feeling the way you do.
Want to learn more?
Contact A+ Solutions @ 216-896-0111
Bloomquist, M. (2013) Skills Training for Struggling Kids. Guilford Press. NY
Chansky, T. (2014) Freeing Your Child From Anxiety. Harmony Books. NY