People with anxiety have something in common – their brains have a unique wiring that is different to people who don’t have anxiety. This causes them to interpret things as harmful, even if they aren’t.
We are all wired to notice and respond to threats in the environment. This is something that happens in all of us, and it is a healthy normal thing to do. It is something that has kept us humans alive, so when it’s happening in the right doses, its a great thing.
For people with anxiety, this happens a little too much. An anxious brain is an overprotective brain. It does exactly what healthy, normal brains are meant to do, but more often. What this means is that people with anxiety tend to overgeneralise – their brains and their bodies respond to things as though they are dangerous or threatening, even when they aren’t. Explaining this difference to an anxious child/teen can help them to understand why they can feel like they do and more importantly that they can train their brain to feel less anxious with practice.
For anyone with anxiety, or for anyone who loves someone with anxiety, it is important to remember that brains can change. Anxious brains are strong brains – wilful, determined, cautious – and as much as brains can change in ways that aren’t helpful, they are also open to changing in ways that are. Mindfulness and exercise are two things that have consistently been shown to strengthen the brain against anxiety. This doesn’t mean that anxiety will completely go away. We all need a little bit of anxiety to predict danger and to keep us safe.
The more we can understand about the workings of the brain, the closer we get to understanding how to influence it in ways that will lead to a healthier, more enriched way of living.
Take the time to show your child/teen a clear picture of the brain and how it works, pointing out the amygdala (controls strong emotion, fear and panic) and explain how they can help themselves to be less fearful about situations. The brain is a muscle and can be trained to work in the way we want it to work by practice. Mindfulness and exercise are great ways of helping the brain work in a healthier way. Helping your child to reach outside his or her comfort zone is also a great way to help with anxiety as it builds her confidence in trying new things. Start very small and build up when you feel he/she is ready.
There is a lot of help out there to help those suffering with anxiety. Get the support you need to help alleviate this issue.
If you have any questions regarding this post, please give me a call or email me and I will get back to you.