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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 2 - March/April 2012

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Physical Activity for Kids Who Suffer from Anxiety

By Michelle Worthington

Physical exercise is important for all kids, but for kids prone to anxiety attacks it can be a means of emotional release. Establishing a routine is extremely important for these kids. Being practical and relaxed during an anxiety attack and giving them physical exercises can improve their state of mind and quality of life.

All children have fears as they grow, some worse than others! Fear is a natural response to different and dangerous situations. For kids, responses to some fears can be overwhelming and debilitating.

If this is the case for your kids who beforehand appeared to be happy and well adjusted, they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder brought on by separation, divorce or other trauma.

The brain is wired to respond to patterns of behaviour. Kids respond to their environment by mentally, emotionally and physically processing external information via a set of instructions that are programmed into their brain.

But the brain's programming is adaptable and by changing the brain's set of instructions, the response will also change.

Physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety in kids include:

  • Stomach pains
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination & bed wetting
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression & anger
  • Distraction
  • Depression

My eldest son suffers from anxiety. It builds up in him and then all his common sense and reason falls away. He doesn't like to make a fuss about it, but he also feels like there is nobody who can relate to his anxiety.

He works himself up and hyperventilates. He doesn't want to give in to the feelings of anxiety because he feels like he is letting me down.

This serves to increase his anxiety in a vicious circle.

Telling kids to stop having an anxiety attack will only make it worse because in most cases they cannot control it.

Encourage them to take deep breaths and let it run its course. It can take up to one hour for a child to recover from the physical and mental effects of an anxiety attack.

Give them time in a quiet place with light reading or television to recover.
Offer them a big glass of water and encourage them to avoid foods with sugar and caffeine.

In order to manage kids with anxiety, it is important to focus on the anxiety triggers. For example being away on holidays can be an anxiety trigger; they are out of their normal routine and environment.

Checklist for Controlling Sports Activity Anxiety

  • Involve kids in their choice of sports
  • Maintain consistency in sports activities
  • Keep children informed about changes to the planned sports activities
  • Encourage kids to deep breath before & after sport
  • Avoid sports drinks
  • Make sure they get sufficient sleep
  • Talk to teachers about their anxiety attacks
  • Teach kids to recognise & take active steps for averting an anxiety attack

Let your kids know that playing sport is a safe and pleasant experience. When they know exactly where they stand, they create solid foundations for allowing themselves to relax and unwind. Exposing them to new and different experiences teaches them how to be confident and practical in making decisions.

About Michelle Worthington

Michelle released her first picture book, "The Bedtime Band", with Wombat Books in November 2011. Her first adult nonfiction book "Practically Single; Managing your Money, your Family and your Life During Divorce" will be released by Mostly for Mothers Publishers in May 2012. Two new children's picture books are contracted for release later this year by Little Steps Publishing.

Michelle is a single mother with two boys; they are her inspiration and motivation to be a successful author.

More Information

Michelle Worthington


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