Do you feel anxious, stressed, or have relationship problems?
Is your child or teen struggling with anxiety? Do they have trouble going to school?
Are they fearful of age appropriate situations? Do they have "meltdowns" for no apparent reason in new situations?
Do you feel so anxious you avoid situations, people, or activities just so you won't have to feel anxious? Do you avoid going to the store, Doctor's appointments, or out to dinner because just the thought of it makes you feel sick? Do you avoid social engagements because you are too nervous to have a good time?
Are you or your child struggling with sports related anxiety? As a triathlete, I not only have the experience of and training as a psychologist but also the experience of an athlete using the techniques to overcome anxiety that can for some lead to the end of their competitive sports career. These are techniques proven to be effective, techniques I have used myself during and before competition.
Anxiety can often become a debilitating problem to deal with but there is hope. Anxiety is one of the most frequent reasons people seek treatment for themselves or their children. It is also one of the most treatable problems. There are very effective treatments for anxiety. Utilizing techniques proven to be effective in treating anxiety I can assist you or your loved one to learn ways to overcome the challenges of anxiety.
Group therapy can be an extremely powerful tool for learning how to deal with anxiety. My teen group members will learn many strategies for dealing with anxiety in the supported and nurturing group setting. They will feel better about themselves, feel more self-confident, and leave group with a sense of independence and strength they have been missing.
4 things to avoid saying to your child or teen when they are feeling anxious or panicking
Stop feeling anxious, don't panic, or calm down.
Why? Well, when your child is in a panic they are experiencing a full on fight or flight physical response. Their body has adrenaline flowing , their breathing may be out of control, their blood is rushing, and they are ready for a fight or flight. How difficult would it be for you to "calm down" in that situation? It would probably be pretty hard. And the message to your child is that they should be able to control their response and since they can't the panic gets even worse.
Stop thinking about it.
Why? Let's try this for the next two minutes I want you to try not thinking about a pink elephant. Assuming 2 minutes has just passed how successful were you at not envisioning a pink elephant? For most people the first thing that popped into their mind even before they could tell themselves not to think about it was a picture of a pink elephant. And the same is true for your child or teen with anxiety. If you tell them not to think about it their brain actually wants to focus on the anxiety even more.
There is nothing wrong, you are okay.
Why? Well, the why is because your child is not okay. Panic can strike without warning and they are not feeling okay at all. When we say there is nothing wrong your child already knows this. There is likely a voice inside your panicked child's head saying “there is nothing to be afraid of!” So when reminded they often feel more anxious, nervous and out of control. Part of panic involves a “depersonalization” or “derealization” – feeling like you’re losing touch with reality. Bringing to light that your panicking child isn’t seeing the world as it really is makes anxiety worse.
Why? Well, your child already knows that they are. Everything feels overwhelming, frightening, and larger than life. Making light of or minimizing the situation only works to make your child feel worse.
I teach parents what to say to help reduce panic and parents report feeling better equipped and less helpless in dealing with their child's anxiety. I help the child/teen learn coping skills, techniques, and strategies to deal with their anxiety. They leave treatment feeling more self confident, reassured, and much better equipped to deal with their anxiety. Group therapy adds the beneficial component of the peer dynamic. Learning that there are other teens dealing with the same experiences is very powerful add to that the positive peer pressure of the group keeps teens using and practicing the techniques between group sessions.
Here is a sample of what to say instead:
Instead of saying don't panic, calm down, or stop feeling anxious, reflective listening and empathy may be beneficial. Try saying: "I understand you are really scared right now. I can see how very challenging this is right now." Stay with your child, make eye contact and be a calming presence. You can be quiet and just breath slowly and calmly near them. You can ask them if there is anything you can do to help them.
Instead of telling them to stop thinking about their panic, try walking with the child to a new more peaceful location. Especially helpful if they are feeling embarrassed in public. A change of location can help break the thought cycle.
Instead of telling them there is nothing wrong, try asking "what do you need right now? You may want to ask them if they would like to go for a walk or pace with you. Try using empathy saying: I know this is really scary right now. It will be okay, this will not last, it will pass.
Instead of telling them they are overreacting try saying "You will get through this, right now, you are doing the best you can ."
Call today to schedule an appointment to move beyond the panic. Check out the benefits of group therapy here.