How to manage your own anxiety and ways to avoid causing anxiety in your children

We live in a fast-paced, ‘instant’ culture, where we are pretty much always connected to a vast amount of information. This, alongside the current challenges society presents, like COVID-19, and the economic squeeze affects many of us in one way or another.

It’s no surprise there has been an impact on the mental health of adults and children, with stress and anxiety on the rise.

A recent article from the Office for National Statistics, which monitored and reported upon the effects of recent global events on people’s personal health and wellbeing, reported:

  • One in five adults experienced some form of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic- the rate doubled from pre-pandemic rates

  • Young women experienced particularly high rates, with 43% experiencing mental health issues in the first part of 2021

  • There was a reduction in adults seeking help for anxiety and depression – with a decrease in April 2020 of 57% compared to April 2019

So, it’s clear that we are finding times challenging and not always finding ways to help ourselves.

What we often don’t consider is how our mental health issues impact our children. While there can be a wide range of contributing factors to anxiety in our children, such as friendship group dynamics, moving house, starting a new school, tests, and exams, or even a traumatic life incident such as family illness or a car accident, if we can limit the impact our own stress and anxiety levels have on our children, this will be a positive step towards reducing theirs.

Signs of anxiety in children
Tell-tale signs include:

Younger children

  • Tearfulness, irritability, and clinginess

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Bedwetting

Older children

  • Lack of confidence in everyday challenges
  • Reluctance to try new things

  • Lack of concentration

  • Outbursts of anger

  • Trouble eating and sleeping

  • Negative thoughts and anticipating bad things will happen

  • Avoidance of everyday activities, including seeing friends, going out, or going to school

How to reduce your own anxiety

  • Track your stress and anxiety triggers – Sometimes when we are getting on with life, it’s hard to know what’s making us feel stressed and anxious. Jotting these triggers down in a journal is a good first step in recognising what’s making us feel this way, which will help us avoid or deal with triggers better.

  • Break things down into bite-size chunks – Take a problem-focused, rather than emotional approach to tasks or problems. Approaching things one step at a time, rather than grouping everything into one big, over-facing issue. It’s also good to bear in mind the bigger picture. Will this really matter in five years’ time?

  • It’s good to talk – A problem shared, is a problem halved after all. We all need to get things off our chest and into perspective by opening up to someone else from time to time.

  • Get physical – Exercise, eating well and drinking less alcohol – the ‘my body is a temple’ approach really does have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

  • Love yourself! – Take time to relax and recharge. This is sometimes hard to do when leading a busy life and looking after a family, but even taking fifteen minutes a day to yourself can make a world of difference. Reading a book, listening to a podcast, or practicing mindfulness can be a great way to do this. The Calm app is great for meditation and sleep, Audible is a brilliant way to relax and enjoy meditations, stories, and soundscapes – with a free 30-day trial available.

  • Say thanks – Think of a couple of things a day you’re thankful for. This can even be as small as a nice delivery person, or a cup of coffee you’ve enjoyed. This will help you re-focus and reframe emotions when things seem tough.

How to reduce anxiety in our children

Once we’ve learned the techniques of reducing our own anxiety, here are ways in which we can work to help reduce our children’s anxiety:

Help and assurance – Help your children identify feelings of anxiety themselves by having a conversation with them, signposting the points reflected above, and encouraging them to discuss their feelings. Assuring them they can ask for help from you when they need it.

  • Routine – Children of all ages enjoy routine as it provides safety and reassurance, so enforce daily routines as much as possible – waking up and getting ready for the day, leaving for school, mealtimes, and bedtimes are a good place to start.

  • Don’t project your feelings- Try not to respond to incidents in an overly protective or anxious way yourself.

  • Relax – Practise easy relaxation techniques together – taking 3 slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3, and out for 3.

  • Express emotions positively – It’s important children have a voice. You can make a worry box from anything you have lying around – an empty tissue box will work well. Encourage your child to write or draw their worries and post them into the box for you to read together each week.

  • Set aside time to recall the positives together – A great way to do this is to have a journal to write in or a jar that your child can collect positive thoughts and feelings in. We suggest getting into a routine of thinking of at least 3 things each week. Reading and reflecting upon these often will help maintain a healthy balanced perspective of life.

If you require advice and support for your child, or would like to find out more about our 1:1s or workshops call 0333 358 0390 or say