4 Things That Make Anxiety Worse
Sometimes the things we do to try to help, end up being the things that make anxiety worse!
Four Things That Make Anxiety Worse
Ironically, the things we do to try and make the anxiety go away can make it stronger or rear its head in other ways.
We don’t like to see our children in distress and we do see the immediate relief for them when we allow avoidance. However, this is one of the biggest things that makes anxiety worse.
As soon as we allow our child to get into a pattern of avoidance, you might notice he/she wants to avoid other things too.
You’ve probably heard of “Bubble-Wrapping” kids…
This is an expression for protecting our children too much. If we’re always protecting them and allowing them to avoid things that make them nervous, then when will they learn to handle these uncomfortable situations?
When will they learn to develop resilience and bounce back from adversity?
When will they learn that those big emotions they feel inside will rise, peak and fall away like a big wave?
However, when kids are digging their heels in (and have you noticed that the most sensitive kids are also the most strong-willed?!), it can be very difficult to actually get them onboard to face whatever is causing them distress.
Therefore, it’s important to take baby steps and keep the goal in mind of always moving in the right direction. Create a plan that goes step-by-step as to how you’re going to reach that final goal.
How do we validate?
If your child is scared of thunder storms and therefore always checks the weather reports, this is his/her way of engaging in validation and actually feeding the “Worry Imp”.
It may seem as though it’s causing some relief, because on the days when the weather report says there’s no sign of a storm, your child can relax.
However, it just perpetuates the cycle because your child will continue to keep checking the weather reports on at least a daily basis, and when there’s any indication of even a slight storm it will create huge angst, even though a thunderstorm may never come.
Dr. Google is another form of validation that falls under things that make anxiety worse.
If you research every pain or symptom that you get, you’re bound to come across some worst case scenarios and start believing that they’re actually happening to you.
When I meet with new families who are seeing me for anxiety, I’ll often ask what kinds of accommodations they’re currently providing to ease their child’s anxiety.
Sometimes they are fully aware of the accommodation pattern that they are in and other times they have a sudden “aha” moment and realize that by providing accommodations, this is actually not a good thing, even though it eases the anxiety in the short term.
Accommodations could be:
- Sitting outside the bathroom door while your child is using the bathroom because he/she has asked you to
- Never going out for date-night with your partner because your child is too worried to stay with another family member or babysitter
- Going upstairs with your child while he/she gets something because he/she is too scared to be on a separate floor of the house without you
- Allowing your child to sleep with you every night, even though he/she is getting older and older
- Any thing else you can think of
It can be difficult to wean your child off the accommodations “cold turkey” which is why it’s important to have your child realize the importance of us having power over anxiety.
For many children, they don’t want to let go of their anxiety because they have a false belief that it’s keeping them safe.
We need to help them understand how insecure anxiety makes us feel and how much it can restrict us and take over. It’s really important for children to truly understand anxiety and have the strategies to overpower it.
When children are anxious, they tend to ask for reassurance over and over again. However, the more you answer them, the more they keep on asking the same question or the same question in a different way again and again.
It makes logical sense that if someone has a question and you answer, that he/she would feel less anxious but we have to remember that anxiety is not logical! Anxiety can get very irrational! When your child sounds irrational, remember that this is anxiety in disguise.
If possible, it’s best to answer your child once. Give them the facts and then if he/she continues to ask similar questions, explain that because you love him/her, you’re not going to answer the same question over and over again because this just feeds the “Worry Imp”. Your job is to help your child shrink the “Worry Imp”, not make it get stronger and more powerful.
If you, as a parent, gets caught in these things that make anxiety worse, write yourself a plan as to how you will handle a similar situation next time, and in a calm moment, explain to your child how you will be responding differently so as not to take part in things that make anxiety worse.
To help your child truly understand anxiety and how to overpower it, you may wish to preorder my new children’s book: Surfing the Worry Imp’s Wave ~ Empowering Children to Understand and Overpower Anxiety by clicking here. (For the month of January 2018, you can receive $15 off plus exclusive free anxiety related bonuses.)
I wish you less stress and anxiety in your family for 2018, and all the best for a wonderful year,
PS. On Thursday, Jan. 11th, 2018, my next round of “Brain Science” groups will start to teach children about anxiety and how to manage it. The 7-9 yrs. group is sold out and there are currently two spaces left in the 10-12 yrs. group which runs for 7 sessions – Thursdays 4:45pm-5:45pm and includes a parent component for the last 15 minutes. To learn more and register, please click here.
PPS. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported my Kickstarter campaign so far, to print 1000 hardcover copies of my new book: Surfing the Worry Imp’s Wave ~ Empowering Children to Understand Anxiety and How to Overpower It. (I’m currently 30% of the way there with my funding goal.)
You can donate as little or as much as you wish, and if you’d like to preorder a copy of the book or a few copies within your donation, you can do that too. There’s also some great free bonuses to thank you for your support that are exclusive to this campaign. This Kickstarter campaign runs until Jan. 31st, 2018. Click here to view.
Want to Connect?
Subscribe now to receive free weekly parenting tips and inspiration.