Friday 20 January 2023

Ideas for helping our anxious son

Teenager in hoodie holding head

Stress and anxiety are a big part of our home at the moment.  Our eldest has recently identified anxiety as his greatest struggle when trying to get through the day.  As a teenager who was diagnosed with both autism and ADHD by the time he was seven he has often found it difficult to communicate how he is feeling or what's wrong.  It's great that he can do this but it's heart-breaking to hear your child say "I'm scared every moment of every day." 

It really put things into perspective for him... and me. 

We've always been aware of things to help our autistic son's and our young daughter calm down when they are upset, but trying to de-stress and cope with anxiety that's not one off it something I needed to think about more.  What things could potentially help him and what self-help methods could we look at?

Controlling our body 

Focusing on ourselves and using idea from mindfulness based therapy can help some people relax. 

Taking a deep breath in for the count of four, holding it for the count of seven, and then releasing it for the count of eight are all components of the deep breathing exercise known as the "4-7-8" technique. This may assist in lowering the heart rate and alleviating feelings of anxiousness.

Tensing and then relaxing distinct muscle groups throughout the body is what's involved in progressive muscle relaxation. This gradual muscular relaxation starts at the feet and works it way up to the head. This may assist to increase the quality of sleep as well as lessen tension and stress that is held in the body.

Visualising and positive mind set

Anthony would often talk about 'jinxing' himself into having a bad day.  To the point where if he said tomorrow might not be great... it wouldn't be.  We take things each day and he is the first to celebrate when it's been a 'good day' which is great.  He's learned to think positively about what's coming up and this seems to help him get off to a good start or come back from a stumble. 
Visualisation is a making a mental image of a location or circumstance that brings about emotions of peace and relaxation.  A person may, for instance, picture himself on a beach, where they can sense the warmth of the sun on their body and the grainy texture of the sand between their toes. This may assist to lessen the sensations of worry and panic that you are experiencing.  This can sometimes be difficult for Anthony, as like many people with autism, he can struggle to make mental images or use his imagination but it works well for many. 

Choosing what you want to do / don't want to do

Anthony is not historically great at making decisions but recently has been making a lot of 'no' decisions is an effort to avoid leaving the house or feeling anxious.   This is not ideal for him because he may miss out on things he actually wants to do.  

There is a thought behind exposure therapy, which is a method that involves progressively exposing a person to the thing or scenario that they dread within the context of a secure and managed setting.  Anthony is capable of sitting with thousands of other people in a grand stand watching a busy and loud Formula One race at Silverstone, but he's overwhelmed getting on a packed bus to go to school.  

The school bus causes his daily anxiety, there is no plus points and in fact he can walk to school, it just takes a lot longer.

So, he chooses to walk to school.  It means he copes better on a daily basis. Even thought he's able to cope with crowds when he needs to, when he doesn't need to he takes a break.  And giving him the power to choose is important, even if I think his decision to walk an hour to school is a bit daft. 

Outside Support

There are also a whole range of therapies that we can look into.  Anthony has had a one-off talking therapy session which he found very useful and we are hoping to start these on a more regular basis for him.
Hypnotherapy is yet another approach that can be beneficial in treating anxiety. Hypnosis is profound relaxation and an increased receptivity of the mind to suggestions made by the hypnotist. Hypnotherapy online works just the same way as in person and can be good if you don't want to leave your house or go somewhere unfamiliar. 

Some people feel that alternative and complementary treatments, such as acupuncture, herbal supplements, or yoga, are beneficial in addressing their anxiety too.  

I'm so glad Anthony was able to open up to us about his true feelings.  The word anxiety has never been used so much in our house as it has over the past few months.  Talking about it and being honest about what he and we think might help is key and what we're going to be focussing on I think. 

If you've any great ideas, please do add them. 

1 comment:

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