What Is Anxiety?

Now that school, preschool, or day care is underway, you may notice that some of your youngsters seems agitated, upset, angry, confused, or sad.  Basically, they seem anxious.  This is an ordinary response to new situations.  In this blog, we will look at “What Is Anxiety?”

So, what is anxiety?  Basically, it is a response in a part of our brain that says “help!  There is something wrong here!”  It is the fight, flight and freeze response being activated perhaps in situations that don’t warrant such a reaction.  This system in the brain is important.  Imagine if a bear was coming towards you, you want to be able to respond quickly with one of these responses.  It would not be so helpful to think through the situation before responding – you could end up being bear dinner that way!  This fight, flight, freeze response is automatic.  In some instances, it is an appropriate response to the situation at hand – but in other situations, well, not so much!  When this response is triggered, the body changes.  The person’s body temperature may change, their legs may be red or itchy as blood flows to them, their digestive system may stop working, their breathing may become shallow and fast, their heart may begin to pound and their thinking skills become decreased.  These are the body’s way of getting ready to respond to the situation with fight, flight or freeze.  The body is moving its functions to those areas to help the person get out of the situation.  Unnecessary functions stop working to give more power to the necessary functions.  It is not, at this point, deemed necessary to digest that dinner and it may be unwise to take time to think (or you might become bear soup).  It is all about immediate response and survival.

The child may have these physical symptoms.  They may complain of indigestion (tummy aches), feeling hot, etc.  These are all clues to the teacher or parent that this system has been activated. 

Now that you understand what anxiety is, what it physically looks like and why, you can learn some tools to teach your child, so their brain is not so activated.   That is, so the brain understands in this situation, it does not have to start this automatic process.

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