Managing Stress and Anxiety in Children By Veena Verma-Dzik, ND, FIAMA

children. Learning how to manage stress is a key life skill. For many children, it can be challenging coping with stressful situations and can lead to anxiety. Anxi- ety is one of the most common mental health disorders in children. Stress and anxiety can have many effects on overall health, and they can lead to a disruption in sleep, immunity, gastrointestinal health and more. With all this in mind, there are many ways in which we can help children learn how to handle stressful situations and provide them the support they need to avoid further problems.


Decrease Screen Time One of the most prevalent issues

in today’s youth is screen time. We all have heard that it is wise to decrease the amount of time our children spend with screens, but why? According to one study, when children and adolescents were exposed to more than one hour per day of screen time, including cell phones, computers and television, it impacted their psychological well-being where they developed lower self-control, more distractibility, became less emotionally stable and diffi cult to care for, and had a diffi cult time making friends. Over time, adolescents are more likely to develop depression or anxiety and the need to seek psychological help.

ife is full of many experiences, both happy and stressful. They are a part of everyday life for both adults and

The chemistry within the brain becomes altered where the number of do- pamine receptors within the brain decrease over time, leading to addiction. Findings in brain scans have shown atrophy in the gray matter, particularly within the frontal lobe where executive functioning, impulse control, organization and planning are gov- erned. Furthermore, damage occurred in the portion of the brain which is involved in developing empathy and compassion towards others. White matter also becomes compromised affecting connections and communications within the brain. In chil- dren whose neurological health is already compromised, such as in ADHD, autism and genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression, screen time must be taken into great consideration when it comes to the health of our children. So, get your children outside spending more time with friends and family. This is far more valuable to their growth and development.

Sleep and Exercise Sleep is vital to our mental and physi-

cal health. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children ages 6-12 should sleep 9-12 hours per night and teenagers should sleep 8-10 hours per night. Inadequate sleep disrupts the entire hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary axis causing shifts in the production of serotonin, melatonin, cortisol, GABA and other hormones and neurotransmitters. When excitatory neurotransmitters are on

overdrive they can compromise perfor- mance and cognitive function, and the ability to handle stressful situations in a healthy, rational manner.

Exercise is a great way to alleviate stress. It is truly the natural way of getting our bodies natural, feel good endorphins re- leased, alleviating those negative emotions associated with stress and anxiety. It has the added benefi t of helping us cope with stress- ful situations with more patience.

Adequate Nutrition As Hippocrates said, 'Let thy food be

thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ I am not a big pill pusher, in my opinion it is much better to receive your nutrients through whole, nutrient- rich foods. There are many nutrient defi ciencies associated with anxiety.

Magnesium, a mineral found in foods,

such as spinach, sunfl ower seeds, avoca- dos and almonds, plays a role in multiple biochemical pathways within the body. It has a calming effect on the brain by activating GABA receptors. It has been shown to improve sleep, melatonin and cortisol, and decreases hyper-excitability of the central nervous system. Magnesium defi ciency can also affect the balance of the gut microbiome, further causing issues with mood; especially since 90% of the body’s serotonin, one of the key neu- rotransmitters in mental health, is created in the gut. 31

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