Anxiety: There is no age limit

What is Anxiety?
The online dictionary says it’s “feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome/strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.”

I am writing about this subject, not because I suffer from anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has some form of anxiety, including me. However, anxiety can be a good thing. The optimal form of anxiety keeps us on our toes, making sure that we perform at our best.

A BIT OF BACKSTORY

My daughter will be turning 4 years old this November and I experienced her anxiety for the first time when we celebrated her third birthday last year. She contracted a very serious virus, which was one of the Coronavirus strands. A very short version of a long story; it landed her on the operating table, draining 700ml of puss from her lung. Yes you guessed it, she had pneumonia. After two procedures, almost losing her, one month in Pediatric ICU, and losing the ability to move on her own for a while, she was finally home and recovering.

During all of this time in the hospital, as well as her recovery at home, she was isolated for obvious reasons. When her birthday came round and we got a double thumbs up from her specialist Doctor, we decided to celebrate her life. All of her friends, cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were invited. Even a special appearance with Elza from Frozen. We all gathered in the function room, music was booming and we started to sing happy birthday. Happy and proud moment for me. Not so much for my daughter.

The sensory overload and being center of attention sent my daughter running and screaming out the room. It took me over a half hour to calm her down, explaining that it is all just for her. With much love and one on one attention, she finally returned to the party room. However, she would only remain in the room if she could stay glued to my side.

THE WORLD IN LOCKDOWN 2020

Things finally returned to normal for us as a family and I never really considered my daughters reaction to be linked to anxiety. Months later, she joined a school, started making friends, and settled into her confident self again. As soon as we got comfortable, COVID-19 hit the planet and sent our family spinning with fear. We were just so petrified for ourselves and our relatives who live in other countries. More so, because we have been through it all before.

Practically the entire world went into lockdown and rightfully we took it very seriously. We stayed home for what felt like months on end, did homeschooling for my daughter, and stayed away from anything that remotely resembled a group of people.

Today, life is not back to normal yet, but in the UAE the government is certainly trying to make our world go round again. Although my daughter is older now and bounced back from her previous challenge, she still showed signs of anxiety. She was out of her skin excited to go back to school. Overly eager to meet her new teacher, make new friends and see how her uniform will fit her.

OUR SECOND WAVE

The first couple of days of school were short, and when we picked her up, she was crying with pain. By the time we reached home, she couldn’t walk. She had the worst stomach ache and actually vomited at some point. This continued for a few days. At first, I thought it was the food she ate. Then I realized that after her nap, she was fine and eating like a grizzly bear. After eliminating that, I started guessing it might be constipation. I was wrong again.

IS IT ANXIETY

My daughters school hosted a webinar with The Lighthouse Arabia. Once the webinar concluded, I realized that my daughter has anxiety. Not only was her stomach ache a clear indicator, but there are other symptoms or signs that suggested the same. I have listed a few of them below. Please note that the list is not limited to these and would recommend you think outside the normal “acting out behaviour” of your children.

  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Inattention, poor focus
  • Somatic symptoms like headaches or stomachaches
  • Avoidance
  • Tantrums
  • Crying
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Meltdowns before school about clothing, hair, shoes, socks
  • Meltdowns after school about homework
  • Difficulties with transitions within a school, and between school and an activity/sport
  • Difficulty settling down for bed
  • Having high expectations for schoolwork, homework, and sports performance

HOW DO WE OVERCOME ANXIETY?

Well, you don’t really overcome it. However, you can MANAGE it. We live in very uncertain times and do not know if or when there will be another lockdown. That said, as a parent you need to be on top of your own emotions. Believe it or not, anxiety is contagious.

Have your own adult support group or persons. Talking about things makes you feel better and most of the time solutions present themselves in this manner. Those solutions will help you set up a backup plan or two, should there be another scenario where you or your child needs to stay home. Then what would be recommended is to not make your schedule too busy for at least 4 weeks.

When focussing on supporting your child through this difficult time, there are a few things that will assist the process. Set aside quality one on one time for your child. All new mothers would agree with me here, establish a routine as soon as possible. Routine is key to stability, not just for you as a parent, but for your child as well. Once they get to know what the routine is, it makes it easier for the child to anticipate what’s to come. No surprises, no anxiety. Have a moment where your child can ask questions and truly listen to them. What once was considered “nagging” could be a sign that they just need someone to talk to without any judgment.

Along with routine, as mentioned earlier, you should focus on a healthy lifestyle. That would suggest you keep their food simple and clean. Make sure they go outside to see open space, breath in the fresh air, run and play in the sun. Once they have had a good exercise and healthy food, sleeping should fall in to place very soon after.

Now all of this is fine and dandy, but do not forget about you, the parent. Mothers, in particular, are considered as the tireless caregivers and often we leave our own needs to the end. Besides the normal day to day things, we do get tired, stressed, and anxious. However, I realized that I am useless to my children if I don’t make self-care my priority. Adequate sleep, exercise, and healthy foods and supplements are essential to a healthy body and mind.

IN CONCLUSION

I identified a problem and will do my best to assist my daughter through this difficult time. It is tough as a mother to see her go through this, but I will keep my head straight for the sake of her. Stay strong and positive, as things will get better. After all, all I want are smiling happy faces.

GET HELP

If you or your children are finding it hard to settle into the new normal, please contact your doctor about getting the support you and or your child needs.

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