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Anxiety - when you are worrying about things

anxiety; worry; anxious; phobias; scared; fear; nervous; afraid ;


Feeling anxious sometimes is normal.

  • surfboardWhat if you have to do a talk in front of the class or be in a play or play a musical instrument in front of others - would you feel anxious?
  • What if you were learning to ride a bike or skateboard, or a surfboard - would you feel anxious?
  • Starting anything new, meeting new people or going to strange places - would you feel anxious?
  • What if something bad happened to you or to someone you love, and you didn't know how things would turn out - would you feel anxious?

If you said yes to all of those things, then that is absolutely normal. Everyone would feel anxious at those times!

Anxiety is when you feel scared about doing something or when something is happening which worries you. Sometimes you are not sure why you feel anxious.

What happens to your body when you feel anxious?

Ever since cave men days people have felt scared sometimes. Imagine trying to hunt a big mammoth [a kind of huge woolly elephant] for tea! Wouldn't you feel scared?

The human body developed a special way to deal with situations where it was in any danger. It is called the 'Fight or flight' response.

anxietyAll this means is that:

  • the body produces more adrenalin to make the heart beat faster and more strongly
  • the heart pumps more blood into the muscles so that they can work harder
  • more blood pumps into the brain so that it can think faster
  • breathing gets faster to get more oxygen into the body
  • the pupils in the eyes get bigger (dilate) to see better
  • at the same time the body slows down digestion of food
  • the body also slows down making urine (wee).

All of these things happen so that the body is ready to stay and fight or run away.

Well, we don't have to go hunting for our dinner any more, but as we discovered at the beginning of this topic, exercisingthere are still lots of times when we feel scared or anxious, so our bodies get all fired up the way that bodies always have done with the 'fight or flight' response.

If we don't need to fight or run away we are still left with these feelings in our bodies and we may need to find a way to deal with them, like go for a run, dance, shout or sing out loud to use up all that extra energy.

Why some people feel anxious

  • People who have had bad things happen to them or their families can often feel anxious for a lot of the time.
  • Sometimes people may have an illness, such as asthma, which makes them feel anxious.
  • Sometimes feelings of anxiety can be inherited, that means that mum or dad may feel anxious a lot of the time and their kids do too.
  • Sometimes people feel anxious because of the way that their brain acts (anxiety disorder).
  • Sometimes worried feelings can be caused by some of the chemicals in the brain not working properly - a bit like leaving a light switched on all the time, only the light being switched on is the 'fight or flight response'.
  • Sometimes too much caffeine (in cola drinks, energy drinks and coffee) can make a person feel very anxious.

What are phobias - very strong anxiety?

anxietyPhobias [say fo-be-uz] are a special type of fear, where the fear is much, much bigger than the danger, and other people do not get so worried about the 'danger'.

Kids may be really scared of something like spiders or ants  or high places and they will try to avoid the thing they fear. People can have a phobia about all kinds of things like germs, going places where there will be lots of other people, going to school camps, and many other things, even if most other people don't think there is anything to fear.

Sometimes phobias can be so strong that people will not want to leave their home or even their room in case they come across the thing they are afraid of.

If something is scaring you so badly ask mum or dad to take you for a talk with your doctor. Don't try to deal with it all by yourself. There are people who can help you with this sort of fear. Your doctor will understand and won't think you're being silly.

What you can do

If your friend is a very anxious person then you may help by:

  • being a good friendbeing a good friend.
  • being a good listener.
  • not telling everyone else about her fears.
  • helping your friend to feel good about herself.
  • helping your friend to be more confident eg. practising her speech with her.
  • giving positive comments.
  • encouraging her to 'have a go' at different things.
  • letting her know if you are feeling anxious about something, so that she knows she is not the only one.

If you are anxious yourself:

  • anxietyTalk with mum, dad or a trusted adult.
  • Don't tell other kids about your fears unless you can really trust them - some kids can be really cruel at times and they may tease you.
  • Get plenty of exercise. It can take your mind off things, makes you feel good, and afterwards your body will feel relaxed.
  • Look at our topic on Sleep - are you getting enough? if you are not sleeping well; there may be some ideas that you find helpful.
  • Ask mum or dad to take you to see the doctor if you are feeling worried all the time.
  • anxietyDon't watch scary movies and DVDs even if all your friends say that they have (they probably haven't been allowed to anyway!)
  • Practise skills like reading out loud, giving a report, ball and bat skills, so that you feel confident enough to try when you are doing something in your class. Ask a friend, or your parent or your brother or sister to listen or play with you.
  • Talk to your teacher about any fears you may have at school. She or he will help you work on some ways for dealing with your fears.
  • If you are anxious about a class outing or camp remember that there will be other kids in your class who also feel anxious. If you ask your teacher about what will happen other kids will be helped by your questions too.
  • Negotiate to do something else if you are feeling really anxious about something the class is doing, or perhaps your parent could be the person who helps your teacher when your class is going on an outing.

What some kids say

"I am afraid that I may wet my pants when I have to speak in front of my class. I never have since I was little, though."

"I was really scared about talking in front of the class but I enjoy it now." - Josh

"I am not good at sport but I have been practising throwing and catching a ball with my friend and I can do it now." - James

"I hate meeting new people. I feel sick with anxiety but I feel okay about meeting people if I am with a friend." - Amy

"I'm anxious that something will happen to mum while I am at school."

"I'm anxious that mum and dad will split up like my friend's parents have."

Dr Kate says

Dr KateSwitch on the TV, listen to the radio and we can hear so many scary things that are happening around the world and in our own country.

We can hear about them but we can't do anything about them most of the time. It is not good for anyone, even adults, to listen to these bad stories all the time. It is a good idea for kids not to watch news programs unless there is something special that they want to see.

If you have fears and anxieties you may need help to decide which anxieties you can do something about and which you can't. You do not have to feel afraid all the time. You can get help to sort out your worries and deal with them. Then you can get on to the most important things like having fun with friends and family, enjoying learning at school with your friends and keeping fit, strong and healthy.

Feeling anxious
We don't like the dark
Or small critters that bite.
Strange noises that make us
Wake up in the night.
But, I felt scared of everything
Until you were my friend
Now we have each other
My fears are at an end.


(Well, except for spiders, book reports, high jump, aliens etc. - but we're working on it!)
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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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