Anxiousness? Anxiety? Many articles you read may use the word anxiety and anxiousness interchangeably, so what are the differences?
Feeling anxious is a natural, emotional response to stress. Children will experience anxious situations at some point in their lives. It may be brief or temporary and could be related to a particular event or trigger (1). Anxious feelings can be helpful around motivating or preparing children in new situations (moving to a new school), problem solving (when we may have gotten something wrong) and feelings around worry or anticipation what could happen or happen in the future (receiving treatment following a childhood cancer diagnosis). Anxious feelings could look like sweaty palms, shallow breathing, or racing heart. With anxiousness, these feelings and physical symptoms will pass and generally do not get in the way of your everyday activities and ends when this stressor is gone.
Feelings of anxiety also involve anxiousness, but it can often feel more intense. “The defining thing about anxiety is that the anxious feelings become disproportionate to the stressor” (1). Anxiety can feel like it is hard to handle things and can stop you from doing what you want or need to do. Sometimes, it might be difficult to manage your normal activities of daily living. Anxiety might be challenging to identify in children. It can present in different ways (shy, nervous, avoidant, OR irritable, reactive, controlling of their environment, argumentative, sensitive or withdrawn).
Identifying early signs of anxiousness in children
Common behaviours and cues
Are they experiencing:
How to support a child when they are feeling anxious
Anxiety can be like a storm of worries and fears and it can be very unsettling for children, especially if they have had prior mental health struggles. When your family experiences a childhood cancer diagnosis, you may have already been facing other life stressors that were pre-existing before receiving a cancer diagnosis. It is important to remind yourself that the cancer experience does not exist in isolation; but can be that final stone that adds weight to an already fragile family structure.
But there is also HOPE…Creating a safe and trusted space to talk about these worries or fears is the first step in laying the groundwork to navigate some of these challenges. Below are some steps you can take to guide your child or a child you care for, through their anxious feelings as well as finding ways to cope.