Practical Ways to Decrease Anxiety

Photo courtesy of Jason Long /

Photo courtesy of Jason Long /

While we often get wrapped up in the outward behaviors that our kids demonstrate day-in and day-out, it’s important to remember that they are mostly driven by anxiety and insecurity. Rather than focusing on the behavior (lying, cheating, hitting, kicking, meanness), going the root is more effective in the long run.  Here are some practices that you can incorporate in your routine to decrease anxiety:

  1. Warm Water. Baths or showers can be very calming. For a while, we scheduled hour long “therapy baths” into our son’s schedule that served as respite for us (he was 6 so able to play without constant, direct supervision) and a calming tool for him–WIN! WIN! We use epsom salt and essential oils, but they’re not necessary. If you have access to a therapy pool, all the better. Sometimes swimming (even if the water isn’t warm) does the trick, too. 
  2. Extended Exhales. This is one of the easiest ways to regulate excitatory neurotransmitters…no equipment needed. Some kids need help learning how to make their body do this. If you’re using the bath as a tool, try blowing bubbles in the bathtub or with a straw into a cup of water. Challenge your child to see how long he can blow without taking a breath. If we’re out and about, I’ll often try to get our son to try to blow me as far away from him as possible with one breath.
  3. Essential Oils. I know this is the “fad” thing right now, but many families are finding relief by supporting their families with essential oils. The keys are to not give up too fast as finding the combo that helps each individual can take a little experimenting and using high-quality oils as they are not all made equal. You may need to experiment with brands as well as the actual oils.
  4. Nutrition. Another controversial subject, but what we use to fuel our bodies does affect everything, including mental health. Rather than jump on a bandwagon, start with a food journal. Document what goes in food-wise, and what comes out behaviorally. Try eliminating foods with artificial anything or try a week with just whole, unprocessed foods. Many individuals with trauma have compromised digestive systems which is why our kids may be more sensitive to foods and nutrition.
  5. Exercise. We could all probably benefit from the seratonin released during exercise. Whether your child shows signs of depression or hyperactivity, exercise is the universal “fix.” If your child suffers with sensory issues, exercise can have a double benefit. Keep track of which types of movement seem to excite versus calm your child and use them appropriately.

Rather than seeing these as quick-fixes, remember they are the most effective if you incorporate them frequently in your routine. If your child is really struggling, you may want to break for some of these as often as every 2 hours.

Do you have a simple way that you use to decrease anxiety in your family?

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