The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as ‘an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.’
The Mayo clinic which was voted the #1 hospital in the United States, describes the following symptoms of anxiety (see more here for types of anxiety disorders) –
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of panic or impending doom
High heart rates
Hyperventilation (e.g. rapid breathing)
Sweating (e.g. cold sweats)
Feeling weak/tired or both
Trouble thinking beyond the emotion of being “worried”
Difficulty sleeping (e.g. waking up repetitively or your sleep quality being impacted)
Digestive issues (e.g. acid reflux reactions)
Avoiding things which trigger this anxiety (e.g. procrastinating excessively)
It is normal for parents to worry. Especially when parents are genuinely invested in their child’s well-being and worry out of concern for their child’s holistic development.
However, for overly anxious parents (according to a study and article by the NHS – National Health Services in the UK), anxiety is transferable.
Anxious parenting affects a child’s thought patterns and can even lead to negative thought patterns (neuroticism). Anxiety, although not-genetic, can be passed on through learned or mimicked behaviours. Thus, it is vital for anxious parents to minimise the impact of their own anxiety therefore reducing these patterns which their own children are susceptible to.
Fortunately, organisations such as the Child Mind Institute (CMI) have brilliant tips on how to minimise stress and keep parent-child interactions stress-free:
During the early stages, your child learns through mimicry – Managing your own stress first (e.g. deep-breathing techniques, yoga, talking it out or journalling) will help them mimic good habits that you demonstrate.
Be their role model – Now that you know how to manage your own stress, talk it out with your child and teach them a few of your stress-management techniques.
Explain your anxiety at times – It is perfectly normal for patterns to be concerned, worried or anxious (as long as it’s not all the time) and when you explain the reasoning behind it, it helps your loved ones (and children) empathise with you more.
Don’t leap, break it down into steps – Planning transitions out and breaking tasks down into simpler steps will have a positive impact on your anxiety: by reducing it.
Confront the signs head on and then lean on your support system – If you fall into the overly anxious parent category, accept it. You can always learn from your actions and work towards changing them. When you’re ready to confront this reality – lean on your support system. That could mean therapy (e.g. going to a marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or just talking it through with your friends and family.
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