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When your child is aware of how anxiety affects them, there are things that they can do to manage with the symptoms and cope better with their anxiety.

Breathing

Sometimes described as a ‘panic attack’, anxiety can cause quick and shallow breathing, coupled with rapid heartbeat. Some people feel as if they are having a heart attack. Controlled breathing can give immediate relief to these symptoms. Support your child to learn the following technique:

  • To get a full breath of air into the lungs, breathe out as far as you can, keep going until there is no breath left in your lungs.
  • What will happen is that the breathing reflex will cause the lungs to take in air. Try it yourself.
  • Do this only once or twice.
  • Now calm down and take in a long slow breath to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of four and slowly breath out to the count of four.
  • Focus on something by staring at it while you do this and continue with the breathing until you feel calm.

ReachOut Breathe is an app that uses this breathing technique and is designed to help young people control their breathing and manage the symptoms of anxiety.

Other coping strategies for anxiety

With breathing under control, there are other things that your child can do to manage their anxiety symptoms. Some people have found the following techniques useful:

  • Going for a walk or doing light exercise – this can help to distract the mind and to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and stress
  • Writing down worries and setting aside a designated time to come back to them – this technique is used in cognitive behavioural therapy and can help ensure that excessive worrying – which can lead to anxiety - don’t take over someone’s life. ReachOut has developed an App called Worry Time to guide a young person through the process.
  • Meditation and mindfulness – these tools teach someone to focus on the present, taking your mind away from worrying about things in the past or the future. Smiling Mind is an app designed to teach young people mindfulness meditation, a technique which has been shown to help with anxiety.

Depending upon the type and severity of your child’s anxiety and its underlying cause, it may be best to seek professional support. There are many effective treatments available for anxiety, and it’s important to remember treatment may take time and concerted effort. Don’t lose hope that your child can learn to live with anxiety and be prepared to support them to find the help that works best for them.

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Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on