When you’re anxious, you need to release it. Though many turn to unhealthy releases—substance abuse, overindulging, irrational behavior—liberation and long-lasting results can only be found in healthier forms of release. It’s innate. When anxious, the need to restore our bodies to a calm state of homeostasis takes precedence, and the search for release can be overwhelming, so much so that it distracts and deters from normal functioning.
But where does anxiety come from and why does it affect some more than others?
According to Dr. Madeleine Vieira, a Clinical Child Psychologist, author, and podcaster with a special interest in Childhood Anxiety Disorders and Infant Mental Health, anxiety has a genetic component. “There isn’t a single anxiety gene, rather, there is a wide range of genes that lead some people to be more emotional and sensitive than others and therefore more prone to anxiety or depression.” She goes on to share that environmental influence is also a factor. “Anxiety sufferers have somehow learnt by observing subtle cues in others about the way they react to situations. Anxiety can also be caused by traumatic experiences such as getting bitten by a dog or being in a car accident, events that are beyond our control.”
Just like adults, children experience stress when triggered.
“These ‘triggers’ may provoke an anxiety reaction, affect the child’s confidence, teach them that ‘the world is dangerous,’ thus compounding their anxiety,” explains Vieira. “Understandably people want to often help anxious children. You want to relieve their distress by avoiding situations or taking over doing the things that the anxious child worries about. But what appears a ‘good deed’ may turn into the anxiety sufferer (in this case a child) learning that they need protection from something that must be bad or scary and that they are not capable of handling things on their own. This only reinforces the anxiety in the child.”
As an adult, you’re no doubt aware of the innumerable experts in the field eager to help you understand and thoughtfully manage anxiety. Children are also less likely to understand how to manage anxiety on their own and often model what they see. That’s why it’s paramount that you, as the adult, develop healthy habits for managing your own anxiety and teach your children to do the same.
Children, and young adults, require guidance toward healthy management strategies.
Therefore, it’s important as a caregiver or parent to provide children with appropriate tools and readily accessible resources for coping with anxiety when it strikes. Books are one of these ideal resources that help children (and young adults) ease anxiety. Whether it’s a book that teaches a young person what anxiety is and how to work through it, or a story in which they, as the reader, relate to the main character, or even a tale that helps them escape, books offer guidance, opportunity, and hope.
Many experts, like Dr. Vieira recognize the importance of books in helping individuals of all ages cope with anxiety. Inspired by client interactions, Dr. Vieira has written a series of delightful books designed to help children and their caregivers understand how therapy works and how it can aid in managing a child’s anxiety. Her “I’m Afraid” series is beautifully illustrated and is a great addition to all home libraries.
Several organizations are also seeing the impact that stressful situations have on children and how books can be used as tools to ease anxiety. Since 2007, the non-profit organization Reach A Child has been providing new children’s books to first responders in Wisconsin as a tool for comforting children in crises. Police, Fire, EMS, Sheriff, and State Patrol Officers serve as the primary vehicle ensuring a child facing trauma has an uplifting read to call their own.
While books are a critical tool in helping ease child anxiety, one must keep in mind that not all anxiety is bad.
“Anxiety is a healthy emotion,” reminds Dr. Vieira. “It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new city or country or when taking an exam. The anxiety might feel unpleasant but is often manageable. It also protects us as we look before crossing the road.”
She goes on to explain that it “becomes a disorder when it starts affecting and interfering with your day-to-day life and becomes unmanageable. It’s a feeling of worry, fear, or uneasiness…The feeling of fear may be with you permanently which can become debilitating and cause you to stop doing the things you once enjoyed. If left untreated anxiety symptoms can exacerbate and affect the quality of the sufferer’s life.”
With a daily goal of helping children with their mental health, Dr. Vieira believes passionately in the power and inspiration of books. They’re universal and thanks to libraries and organizations like Reach A Child, books are readily accessible tools to ease anxiety. It’s one of the reasons Dr. Vieira chose to become an author.
“The most exciting part is to be able to reach children worldwide suffering from anxiety and to relieve their suffering.”
Interview and Images Courtesy of Smith Publicity, Inc. and Dr. Madeleine Vieira
***Before experimenting with any mental health or fitness tips posted on Books Uplift, always consult with your physician, wellness or health practitioner.