HOUSTON – If you are feeling an increase in stress and anxiety during this time, you are not alone. How do you know if you are dealing with anxiety? What can you do?
“It’s absolutely common for people to feel anxiety over something like this,” said Christine Reed, a licensed clinical social worker. “This has been named a worldwide pandemic, and just those words can sound awfully scary.”
Anxiety is when you have excessive thoughts of fear and worry. The coronavirus pandemic is something we don’t have much control over. Reed explains when we are feeling powerless, we tend to think about the worst kinds of things that can happen. Since we are in unknown territory right now, you may be feeling stressed out.
“In order to respond to that, it’s helpful to practice mindfulness, and also to practice a balance in terms of your thinking,” Reed said.
Anxiety can also trigger a panic attack with rapid breathing, heart racing and sweating. Reed said the best way to stop a panic attack is to try and control your breathing and give yourself calm messages.
“A lot of times when we are scared we do shallow breathing and that increases our heart rate which then increases a sense of anxiety,” Reed explained.
Reed said you can combat anxiety by making a plan for things that feel out of control. This can be simple things like meal planning or making lists for what the kids will do while they are out of school.
Does my child have anxiety?
For kids, anxiety and fear may look different. While we may recognize the signs of stress, you may need to look extra careful at our kids. Reed said kids may not have the right words to tell you they are feeling anxious or worried. Anxiety may be demonstrated in behavior changes.
"For instance, not being able to eat, not being able to sleep or being irritable and angry, or sad," she explains. "And keep the lines of communication open so that you can help them deal with their struggles about their feelings."
It’s important to not avoid talking to your kids about the situation and let them know it’s normal to have extra feelings right now. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to speak to them calmly and be that sense of security they need.
“Convey a sense of empathy, understanding, calmness, and security. Sometimes that might mean holding them, touching them so you can help pass that sense of calmness on to your child,” Reed said.
Reed also tells parents to be aware of their language and how they are acting. Kids pick up on stress, so if you are stressed, they likely are too.
Helpful tips to help kids
- Maintain a routine, especially at bedtime
- Limit media coverage
- Ask them if they have questions, give honest (brief) answers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advice about how to talk to kids about coronavirus.