Coping with anxiety is no easy feat, especially when you’re younger. You have everyone else making decisions for you, telling you what to do, where to go, often times, with no other option. While this is a part of growing up, it can be unbearable for someone suffering with anxiety. Not being able to control the when, where, what, how and who’s of your life can cause a spike in anxious feelings. After all, when you’re a child you aren’t in control and you don’t have a say. You don’t have the privilege of deciding whether today is a good day to combat your anxiety by doing something that makes you anxious. So, you have to find ways to deal with it.
For the parents helping an anxious child
If you are a parent looking for ways to help an anxious child, this is a good read for you as well. In no way am I saying to give your child full control of their life, I strongly believe forcing an anxious child into a situation to be detrimental to their recovering, as it was for me. It was only once I became an adult and was able to control my destiny and say no to going somewhere that my anxiety got better. However, anxious children do have to face their fears; avoiding them will also be detrimental to their mental illness. Instead, I highly recommend speaking with your child about their anxiety. Make the topic of anxiety an open book within your family so your anxious child will feel comfortable saying, ‘I’m having a really hard time today’. This gives you the opportunity to help them accept and face their fears. It’ll give your child the confidence needed to start coping with anxiety. When your child knows you are supporting, understanding, and willing to help them overcome this struggle, their anxiety will be decreased because of it.
7 messages for children and teenagers with anxiety
The first thing I want to say to any children or teenagers dealing with anxiety is, don’t worry. Things get better. Here are some things I wish I knew back then when I was younger that I strongly believe will help you overcome your anxiety disorder.
Don’t be ashamed of your anxiety
Fortunately, I was never a child that was completely secretive and ashamed of my anxiety. This mental illness has made it’s way through my family tree, so I was fortunate enough to have people close to me that understood, despite the stigma being so prominent. However, despite being open about my anxiety, there were several times when I was ashamed.
In fact, I was ashamed every time I couldn’t do something – every time I couldn’t go on a field trip, ride on the school bus like everyone else, sleep over at my friends, attend a party, go outside without a water bottle, etc. But I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with this. Having mental illness is similar to having the flu; there are times when you simply won’t be feeling well enough to do things. You wouldn’t be embarrassed about having the flu so don’t be embarrassed about having anxiety. Accept that you have anxiety but more importantly, don’t forget that….
Your anxiety doesn’t define you
When all the other kids are working away in a classroom, going away to summer camp and having slumber parties without a worry in their mind, you’re frozen in time in a pure state of fear. It sucks – does it ever – but anxiety doesn’t define you. Coping with anxiety has everything to do with accepting it. Accept that this is a part of you but that you have so much more to offer the world. Sure, you might not be able to do things without over thinking them first or doing them differently than the rest but that doesn’t make you any less of an awesome person. In the grand scheme of things, anxiety is a miniscule detail of your personality. It’s something you have; not something you are which leads me into the next thing I wish I knew then…
Your anxiety disorder doesn’t make you abnormal
Going on the previous message, anxiety doesn’t make you abnormal. It’s easy to feel like a mess; to feel weird and odd – to feel completely and totally %$#@ed up as a human being – but this is not true. You’d be surprised at how many people suffering from anxiety. A study conducted by Statistics Canada shows that 25% of Canadians have anxiety. So, out of your classroom of 30 students, approximately 6 other students (7 including you) know exactly what you’re going through.
Some people won’t understand but that doesn’t matter
Throughout your life, you’re going to come across several people who don’t understand. Fortunately, you have it a bit easier since the world is working towards breaking the stigma associated with mental illness but you will still have to deal with those people. You’ll meet people who think mental illness is a joke, you’ll have friends who get mad at you for not being able to hang out or for having to cancel plans, you’ll have employers not understand what it’s like, boyfriends, girlfriends, strangers, and even family members who simply don’t get it.
Let me tell you one thing – it doesn’t matter. Just because someone doesn’t understand doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong. Anyone who has dealt with mental illness knows how real it is. I used to get through life dealing with these people by thinking that their the ones who are worse off. When you have mental illness, you’re naturally more understanding, open-minded, accepting, and compassionate when it comes to other people. The ones who don’t get it, who are so incredibly ignorant to it, and who think it’s a total joke will get their karma. They always do.
More importantly, these people’s opinions of you shouldn’t matter. If someone is giving you a hard time about your anxiety, don’t include them in your life – or at the very least, limit the amount of time you spend with them. If this isn’t possible, take their opinions with a grain of salt. You don’t deserve to be around people who badger you for things beyond your control. People are going to say things; it’s up to you as to whether or not you want to listen to them.
You can live the life you dream of
The one thing I wish I knew then what I know now when it comes to coping with anxiety is that you can live the life you want. Since your anxiety doesn’t define you or make you abnormal, it has nothing to do with your future. You can still be whatever you want to be; have whatever career you dream of; have a loving marriage and tons of babies; travel the world – whatever it is, you can do it. How do I know, you ask? Because I’m living proof.
My anxiety started when I was 7 and trust me, no one talked about anxiety back then like they do now. As a result, I felt so different from everyone else. I felt bad for myself like, ‘WTF is this happening to me?!’ and I had roadblocks that other children didn’t have to overcome to have the future they have today. But I still did it; I just did it differently.
If you were to look back on my past and see a 7-year-old girl suffering with extreme anxiety, you’d never think that I would become an entrepreneur, an owner of three companies, a world-traveller, etc. That’s the stigma talking. But here I am, standing as living proof that you can do whatever you want to do. Your life will likely be better than those who don’t suffer from anxiety because you want it more; you strive for an amazing future and you appreciate even the slightest accomplishments. And that’s what makes a difference.
Throughout my life, I’ve met so many successful – and even famous people who have anxiety. You’d be shocked if you knew just how many successful people have gone through exactly what you’re going through today.
The future is the best part of coping with anxiety
If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to wait for the future. Anxiety was a huge part of my life up until I was old enough to move out, be on my own, and make my own decisions. I no longer had to go to places that made me anxious, nor did I have to surround myself with triggers. The older I got, the more in control I was of my life and the more my anxiety disorder decreased. The future is inarguably, the best part of coping with anxiety. If you can get through it now, you’ll be all the better for it in the future.
Coping with anxiety takes practise
Lastly, coping with anxiety takes practise. You aren’t going to wake up one day, anxiety gone. As the old saying goes, The things worth having in life don’t come easy. You are going to have to work for what you want, to be free of anxiety. So, don’t just read my Anxiety Gone articles, anxiety tips, and tools for coping with anxiety, implement them into your life. If you want to be ‘anxiety gone’, you have to be willing to truly go after it.