The ‘relaxation Response’ Helps Children with Anxiety

Fear creates physical sensations. We all know them: tense muscles, fast shallow breathing and an elevated heartbeat.

Sometimes there might be feelings of being flushed, chilled or shaky.  When we feel those symptoms, it can make us even more tense and anxious, which of course, then makes the symptoms worse.  It can become a feedback loop: fear creates symptoms, and feeling the symptoms creates more fear. It can be very hard to tell ourselves there is nothing to worry about when our bodies are giving us feelings that scream “Danger! Danger!”  And we can spiral into anxiety that is out of proportion to any real threat.

Sometimes those initial sensations have some cause other than fear – caffeine, stress, some medications, or maybe they are symptoms of some physical health issue. Some people may be more inclined to have or notice these symptoms.  One of the most effective ways to help ourselves and our children get on top of anxiety is to consciously switch off some of those physical symptoms. Our body automatically knows the ‘anxiety response’; we may have to teach ourselves and our children the opposite ‘relaxation response’: instructing our body to switch off its alarms and relax. We consciously take control of things we usually leave on ‘autopilot’: taking control of our breathing and the amount of tension in our muscles.  You can download relaxation exercises from the internet which can be very helpful; Google around to find one that suits. Exercise, massage, rest and avoiding caffeine can all help relieve and prevent physical symptoms that trigger anxiety.

It is always wise to get professional advice, especially if our child’s anxiety is prolonged or really distressing. There are therapies, like CBT, that can be very effective, and counselling might help us process some underlying causes. For some children – and for many of us – anxiety is a recurring and persistent problem. Even so, getting insights, support and treatment can hugely help. Life can be enjoyed, and our fears need not hold us back!