Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy
– Leo F. Buscagli
Every person feels anxiety sometimes. It is a natural reaction to what is perceived as danger – an evolution of the “fight or flight” response. While for most people, experiencing anxiety in small doses is normal and healthy, for others, feeling anxious about the future or about situations over which they have no control may cause real interference with daily living. It is the frequency of the fear and the perception of danger, when in fact there may be no real danger, which causes anxious people to avoid participating in “normal” activities.
When people experience mild anxiety, we call it “worrying”. When the fear takes over and blocks the person from living a normal life, we call it “Anxiety Disorder”.
Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow
– Swedish Proverb
The Anxiety Disorder Association of America has listed some Statistics and Facts about Anxiety Disorders:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18.1% of U.S. population).
- Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill
- More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services. People with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders
It is estimated that versions of anxiety are very common among children and teenagers. My belief is that they all suffer from irrational rule of living #7, which states:
I must worry about things that could be dangerous, unpleasant or frightening. Otherwise, they might happen
Here is a list of fears children experience from very early stages of life:
- Fear of the dark
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of parents separation
- Fear of failure
- Fear of public speaking
- Fear of sleep
- Fear of exposure
- Fear of punishment
Worry is the interest paid on a problem before it occurs
– Anne Hemphill
For children to be afraid of something, they have to experience a situation in a painful way. The event from the past contributes to their false perception of the pain associated with experiencing it again.
For example, if failing a test at school is associated with pain (emotional or physical), kids will adopt the belief that “failing a test hurts”.
If kids tell someone a secret and then the secret is exposed and the kids are embarrassed, they will adopt the belief that “Telling someone else how you feel or think brings unbearable embarrassment”
Kids (and many adults) find it hard to treat these as singular events and tend to think, “If it’s happened once, it will happen again”.
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one
– Elbert Hubbard
Serious worry or anxiety is easy to diagnose because there are physical and behavioral signs attached to them:
- Faster breathing
- Quicker heartbeat
- Stomach pains
- Sleeping problems
- Shaking and trembling.
- Unstable voice
- Difficulties concentrating
- Complaining often
- Blaming others for own problems
- Getting angry quickly
- Expressing frustration and feeling of disempowerment
- Constant concern about an unknown future
- Asking many questions repeatedly even if answered
- Crying and screaming or having tantrums
- Avoiding situations and detaching from company of others.
- Checking things again and again
- Insisting on keeping to a particular routine, like washing hands too often, cleaning after anyone who touches the keyboard or calling home every 5 minutes
As parents, it is hard for us not to worry about our children. The love for them and the big responsibility we have when we bring them to the world comes hand in hand with worries for their health and wellbeing. Yet, when these worries get out of control and we do not take them to the playground for fear they might fall, this is when our worries have turned into an Anxiety.
When my daughter Eden started driving by herself, she had an accident200 meters away from our house, from which she luckily got out safely and without harm, although our car’s rear was smashed. I remember the weeks following the accident. I had real anxiety attacks – my heart would pump at full speed and I could not sleep or think properly. Every time she wanted to go out, I wanted to tell her that maybe she should stay at home, but I knew the difference between worry and anxiety. I wanted her to stop driving to ease my own anxiety, but I knew that I could not keep that worry forever. For a while, I thought that if I worried, if I sat in bed awake, waiting for her to come back safely, that would prevent her from getting hurt, but when I thought about, I saw that worrying is not some magical protection spell (though I wish it were).
Anxiety always starts with small worries that get out of control. It is important to teach kids that worrying is a waste of time.
Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere
– Glenn Turner
Here is an idea to teach kids about living a worry-free life.
I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love, and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety, or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number
– Edith Armstrong
Just do not worry too much about your kid’s anxiety, because
Worry bankrupts the spirit
– Berri Clove
Join me tomorrow for another rule of living that is impossible to live with – Avoidance.
This post is part of the series Irrational Rules of Living:
- Irrational Rules of Living – External Approval
- Irrational Rules of Living – Self Worth
- Irrational Rules of Living – Problem Solving
- Irrational Rules of Living – Right and Wrong
- Irrational Rules of Living – My Way or the Highway
- Irrational Rules of Living – Disempowerment
- Irrational Rules of Living – Anxiety
- Irrational Rules of Living – Avoidance
- Irrational Rules of Living – Dependency
- Irrational Rules of Living – The Power of the Past
- Irrational Rules of Living – Sympathy
- Irrational Rules of Living – Discomfort and pain