Current estimates say one in eight students has anxiety.
But what are they so stressed about? We can all understand that kids are stressed about having to take tests. Or they might be stressed about not fitting in with the other kids. Or that peer pressure is getting to them.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
When parents take their child to the doctor because of serious anxiety symptoms, or when they have to find a special school that can handle their child’s idiosyncrasies, or if they have to modify the family’s activities and lifestyle because one child can’t adapt—now we’re talking about anxiety.
But that’s not all for this story.
First, anxiety is more serious than you think. A twenty-year study done by the University of London concluded that unmanaged reactions to stress is a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than smoking cigarettes and eating high-cholesterol foods.
Let that sink in. Unmanaged stress is worse than smoking cigarettes and a bad diet
Left untreated, kids with anxiety disorders are more likely to have academic challenges and have an increased risk of substance abuse. These kids are likely to try self-medication in order to escape their constant anxiety.
So let’s agree—we need to address anxiety in children as early as possible.
Here’s the new information: Anxiety can be the result of faulty reflexes.
Before you’re born, your brain has an original operating system called primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes allow you to nurse, roll over in the crib, lift your head, crawl and walk. Those are all automatic behaviors caused by reflexes. They help develop your central nervous system and your balance and coordination.
Those primitive reflexes are supposed to turn “off” sometime before you turn three-years old, then your adult brain software starts running. But frequently, for a variety of reasons, both software can run at the same time and it can cause major learning and behavior challenges—like anxiety.
There are two reflexes that cause major anxiety in children—and adults. The first reflex is the Fear Paralysis Reflex, or FPR.
If your child has an active Fear Paralysis Reflex, they may have one or more of the following:
-Doesn’t adapt well to change
- Extreme shyness
- Panic attacks
-Doesn’t play well with others
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors
- Can’t make eye contact
The second reflex is the Moro reflex. If your child has an active Moro reflex, they may have one or more of the following:
-Can’t stand clothing tags
-Tantrums from combing hair
If your child has one or both of these reflexes and they are over six months old, they are hypersensitive to the environment at a level that causes extreme anxiety. Their bodies are constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode, whether they want to be or not. This is the cause of their chronic anxiety.
To visualize what life is like for them, imagine being at a really loud rock concert, with a bad sunburn all over, with poor footing causing you to bump into strangers, with lots of bright flashing lights that keep shining in your eyes. Now keep that picture, and imagine trying to learn in that setting! It’s nearly impossible! And that’s what it’s like to be a kid with constant anxiety caused by reflexes.
So here’s an activity parents can use with kids to help them relax. I have several different exercises to relax the central nervous system, but I chose this one because it’s fun for kids of all ages!
We’re going to activate the parasympathetic nervous system—that’s the opposite of Fight or Flight—by having them balance a peacock feather on their hand. The act of balancing the peacock feather while looking at the top is going to trigger your peripheral vision. That causes your central nervous system to relax. Using your peripheral vision causes your body and mind to relax and calm down. You can keep a success chart to record how long your child can balance the peacock feather in either hand.
You can pick up peacock feathers at Michaels in the floral department, or at another arts and crafts store.
If your child has an anxiety disorder and you would like to talk to a brain expert about it, Brain Fitness Strategies offers free consultations. Just call 512-815-6475 and ask for Susan. Or email Susan@BrainFitnessStrategies.com.