Reducing Anxiety: Strategies to Interrupt the Worry Cycle

Lynn Lyons spoke to us in April 2019 on “Reducing Anxiety: Strategies to Interrupt the Worry Cycle.” Lynn’s visit was the highlight of the SCC’s yearlong focus on anxiety in families.

Five key takeaways from the evening are summarized below–

  1. Anxiety feeds off two things: certainty and comfort. The type of anxiety or root cause doesn’t matter. When you learn how anxiety works in the brain and body and take a few steps back, you can see that worry follows a fairly consistent pattern — you can see the traps and the exits.
  2. Despite our best intentions, parents often unwittingly plant the seeds of worry.  We want our child’s worry to go away, so we reassure and make arrangements for things to run smoothly. Yet the more we try to accommodate and provide certainty, the more we inadvertently reinforce the fear and avoidance. Reassurance is a bottomless pit. By embracing new strategies you can alter the pattern.
  3. Anxiety has a genetic component, with anxious parents up to seven times more likely to have an anxious child. There’s no anxiety gene, so how parents model behaviors around anxiety– taking the time to notice our own tendencies to worry and how we manage stress — sets the tone.
  4. The goal is not to prevent worries; it is to keep anxious fears from dominating families. To do that, change your reaction to it —
    • Expect it.  Use “of course” a lot. “Of course you are going to be nervous about…How are you going to respond when worry shows up?”
    • Externalize it. For younger children, name the anxiety. If “Fred” or “Stella” shows up, talk to it. “Look, Stella. I can’t deal with you today. I want to go to my friend’s party and I don’t want you around making me worry.”
    • Experiment. Choose action over avoidance. By seeking out discomfort and uncertainty you can lessen the effects of the body’s fight-or-flight alarms and lay down new track in the brain.
  5. Action, not avoidance, is the key to success in helping children and teens push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy.

Details can be found in Lynn’s slides as well as on her website. The discussion on April 1st was based on her groundbreaking book, “Anxious Kids Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children.” And scroll through pics from the event below!