I will be writing a series about some simple techniques which could help children and adults with triggered anxiety to help manage their symptoms. (Please note that severe anxiety which is impacting significantly on a person’s life may need the intervention of medical professionals and trained therapists).
The 3-3-3 technique is a wonderful tool to use with children as it is easy for them to remember. The objective is for them to feel more mindful, focused and grounded when their anxiety is starting to feel overwhelming.
3-3-3 involves the person identifying 3 objects around them they can see, 3 things that they can hear and moving 3 body parts (ie their fingers, wrists and toes). It works to reconnect the person with their physical surroundings and become aware of their body movements instead of their symptoms of anxiety like intrusive thoughts. Some steps from Choosing Therapy:
Step 1: Focus on 3 Objects You Can See
Focusing on things that you can see helps you become visually aware of your surroundings. You can notice big objects such as a tree or a chair, or you can look for smaller, more discreet objects such as a pencil or a coin. The idea isn’t necessarily to have objects in mind that you want to see, but rather to focus on the world around you. This helps you deal with your anxiety by removing you from the mental chatter causing you stress.
Step 2: Focus on 3 Things You Can Hear
Pinpointing sounds is another great way to help you deal with anxiety. Diverting your attention to your environment can help you transition from a state of inward thinking to one in which you’re connected to your surroundings instead. However, depending on your location, you may have a hard time isolating sounds. Some things to listen for include a clock ticking, clacking of keys on a keyboard, or someone sniffling. If you are somewhere outdoors, you may notice leaves rustling in the wind, cars passing by, or dogs barking.
Step 3: Focus on 3 Things You Can Touch/Move
Lastly, find three things that you can touch or move. These can be within your reach or even parts of your body. Identifying tangible items is one of the fastest ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling anxious. Teaching yourself to focus on the physical environment helps you feel anchored and reminds you to be present.
My son’s neurologist suggested that Vitamin B6 could be tried to help lessen my son’s anxiety. He is having focal seizures, is autistic and non-verbal. While not a cure for anxiety, it was something that could be tried to help with symptoms.
It seems there are only small studies on its effectiveness for both anxiety and depression, but I did find a study showing that Vitamin B6, increases the body’s production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.
In the study, David Field, PhD, from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, said that Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants.”
The dose of Vitamin B6 was high in this study, 100mg. This would suggest that eating food rich in B6 may not be enough to make a substantial difference. However, it could be a worthwhile first step to increase foods with naturally occurring B6. Foods high in Vitamin B6 include fish, chicken, tofu, pork, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocados, and pistachios.
I did end up trying a supplement which had Vitamin B6 in it and other calming ingredients which was formulated for children 8+. While definitely not a cure, the anxiety symptoms he was displaying at the time have definitely lessened. I saw an improved mood after about 2-3 weeks. The neurologist suggested using the brand Blackmores, who have a supplement with high Vitamin B dosages. I was unable to try this because my son cannot swallow tablets. However this may be something others might like to try.
As the summer holidays approach, this time can be a cause of anxiety for children who are out of routine for 8 weeks as well as their parents and caregivers who may struggle to find things to do.
When you have the added stress of having a child with a disability, activities which other children and their families find fun could have the complete opposite affect due to extra crowd numbers and noise.
Every child is different, so finding the right activity is important. Here are some Adelaide (and surrounds) based activities to consider:
Arts and Craft – craft activities, painting, drawing, stickers, chalk
Water Play – buckets, cups, boats, balls, paintbrushes
Build a Castle – pillows, chairs, table, sheets
Create a Reading/Play Nook – move furniture, blankets, pillows, books
Sensory Play – shaving foam, play-doh, floof, slime, magnetic sand
Gross Motor Play – trampoline, fitball, musical instruments
Caring for a child with special needs is challenging. It can also be thankless, relentless and make parents feel invisible within their friendship groups and families.
The best way to support carers is by making them feel like they are not alone in their struggles. Joining groups that are designed with carers in mind is a good option. I am a big advocate of Carers SA, soon to become the Carer Gateway in April 2020. However, not everyone wants to be a part of a group situation, preferring 1-1 support and familiar people only.
It is important to provide carers with choices about the type of support they need. It might be a peer support group, 1-1 counselling, carer outings or simply family and friend gatherings in supportive environments.
Providing a safe environment for the carer and the person they are caring for will be greatly appreciated and may work to ease the social isolation that many carers feel in their role. Planning inclusive events may require a little extra effort but asking questions of the carer about what would make it a more successful event for them, will go a long way in helping them feel enjoyment and a sense of belonging.
Listening and playing music has many benefits for our wellbeing, physical health and emotional regulation. It can keep us feeling happy, motivated and ease symptoms of depression.
While the above graphic references classical music, there is power in all types of music if it is enjoyed. Teenagers and small children are often drawn to and enjoy listening to music through YouTube, television, movies and gaming. And while the mode of sharing music is mostly digital or online in the modern world, it is possible to access the classics from previous generations if this is what you enjoy.
It is important to find music that you enjoy and a good place to find new music is to look on the current charts, take note of music you hear in the shows you like and look up songs and albums written and performed by the same artists. You can do this for free on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. Add some headphones (noise cancelling if you want to remove environmental noise distractions), get listening and enjoy the benefits.
A short video powerfully depicting the importance of being grateful and mindful for what you have in life.
A little thing you can do to practice gratefulness is to keep a journal and write a point or two each day about the things you were grateful for. It could be as simple as a chat with a friend that made you feel special, a goodnight kiss from your child or a delicious cup of coffee that you didn’t have to make yourself. You will be surprised at how many beautiful moments we overlook each day. Take the time to remember and cherish them. If you wrote 2 each day, there would be 730 happy memories to be grateful for and mindful of each year.