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Understanding Anxiety

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is embodied, which means it is a physiological response that occurs in our bodies and brains. It helps us protect ourselves. Anxiety disorders occur when a person perceives danger, which can make many things appear as a threat to them and lead to avoidance behaviours, stress, emotional dysregulation and physical symptoms.

Our top priority is to make our children feel safe, which helps to dial down anxiety.

We can help them feel safe in their bodies through:

  • Power of relationship - safe and supportive relationships are the most powerful strategy to reduce stress. Feeling heard, understood, seen and soothed.

  • Bodily experiences - Anxiety is experienced in the body and mind, therefore we need to include activities which connect us to our body and senses to help reduce anxiety.

  • Developing self-compassion - Through showing our children understanding and empathy, we can help them to be less judgemental with themselves and reduce shame.

How can we help our kids manage anxiety?


o Exercise helps release happy hormones and helps shift stress and tension.

o Ball games, physical jobs, walks, bike rides and adventures.

o Don't let a rainy day stop you! Dance! Do 3-5 -minute exercises, or play hide and seek.

Grounding by Creating Contained Spaces

When children experience anxiety, they are often caught up in their heads, thinking, ruminating and worrying. They need help to understand and re-connect with their body, particularly when feeling anxious and dysregulated. Knowing the boundaries of our bodies can help us feel safe and in control. For example,

  • Sitting in a contained space such as a bean bag

  • Wrapping a blanket around the body

  • Cubby house play

  • Big cuddles or a massage

Practising Playful and Creative Mindfulness

o Mindfulness teaches awareness of thought and practice focussing on the “now.”

o Engage your children’s 5 senses. For example, spot 3 things that are yellow! Tell me 2 sounds you hear!

o Incorporate your child’s interests to make it more fun.

o Practice taking slow deep breaths by blowing bubbles, feathers or creating a cotton wool snow storm.


o Co-regulation is when we lend our children our calm to help them calm down. In other words, we need to keep calm and connect.

o Be mindful of our tone of voice, posture and facial expressions. Children have emotional wi-fi and pick up on our signs of stress.

o Sometimes, holding space without words can also make them feel safe.

o 1:1 special connection time provides a huge hit of oxytocin, the body / brain love chemical - which is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety

o Connection and empathy - without rushing to problem solving.

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