Tag Archives: anxiety

Helping Your Kids Deal with COVID-19 Anxiety

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus, and you can be sure that little ears are listening.  This can be a scary time for children. They may hear about COVID-19 deaths and worry what will happen if they or you get the disease.

Children and teens are influenced by what they see in their parents. If they see you dealing with the coronavirus calmly and confidently, they will feel more secure. Here’s how to help your children deal with COVID-19 anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is often expressed in your child’s behavior. Watch for these common symptoms of anxiety and stress:

  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown, such as thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums, engaging in baby-talk, or bedwetting
  • New or recurring fears
  • Inability to relax or calm down
  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Stomachaches, upset stomachs, or a loss of appetite
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having frequent nightmares
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs in teens

Ways to support your child

  • Talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer their questions in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Tell them not everyone gets COVID-19 and discuss things your family is doing to stay safe, such as handwashing, cleaning and social distancing. See tips for fighting COVID-19 below.
  • Let them know it’s ok if they feel upset. Tell them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. A steady stream of COVID-19 news can raise your child’s anxiety level. Also, some information on social media is sensational or outright false and may frighten children.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines to help your kids feel more “normal.” With schools closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

Show them how to fight COVID-19

Children will feel better if they know there are things they can do to stay well and help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Help them practice these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. See this CDC video.
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Keep their hands out of their mouth, nose and eyes. This will help keep germs out of their body.
  • Practice social distancing: When in public, keep at least six feet away from other people.
  • Stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.

 Feeling stressed yourself?

 With all disruptions coming from the outbreak, it’s no wonder if you’re feeling more anxious. You can help your children by trying to be calmer. Listen to these simple mindfulness/relaxation exercises to relax and destress.

 To learn more, see this CDC information on COVID-19, or contact your MPCP physician.

Teen Stress: Tips for Parents

By: Lisa Meade, PA-C

A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA) confirms what I see weekly in my practice: Teens feel a great deal of stress and anxiety, but often don’t have the proper coping strategies to deal with these feelings.

The APA report “Stress in America” included data on American youth (teens ages 13-17) for the first time this year. The report found that teens feel higher levels of stress than they think is healthy, but don’t necessarily try to adopt healthy coping strategies, or don’t know what those strategies are.
When I talk to my teen patients, they say trying to juggle school, their social life, and home life can be overwhelming. Expectations and pressure about college are particularly tough for older teens. Plus, we can all remember how important friends and “fitting-in” are at this age– which makes all of the social media and online chatter an extra stressor.

Parents can be a huge help in teaching teens healthy coping strategies and how to keep things in perspective. Here are some suggestions:

1. Know the signs of stress overload in your child. Common results of teen stress can be: Increased physical illness (headaches, stomachaches, chronic fatigue, muscle pain); “shutting down” or withdraw from people and activities; increased anger or irritability; difficulty sleeping or eating; increased tearfulness or feelings of worry; difficulty concentrating.

2. Be willing to listen and model stress coping skills. It’s important for teens to know that stress is part of life and sometimes admitting you are “stressed out” helps. Try to help your child identify what’s really giving them anxiety and then come up with some coping strategies together.

3. Encourage healthy lifestyle habits and reinforce those at home. Here are the things I tell my teen patients to try:

– Get enough sleep! Teens still need 8-10 hours of sleep a night, especially during the school week. Prioritize homework, social or sports activities, phone/TV time. You may not be able to do it all.

– Focus on your strengths. Think about the things you are really good at- or that make you happy- and find ways to spend time doing those things. It will build your confidence and you will find people with like interests.

– Get some exercise. Physical activity is a proven stress reducer. If you’re not on a sports team, find any activity that you enjoy and try to do it at least 30 minutes a day.

– Eat right! Skipping meals or drinking energy drinks will make you feel more stressed in the long run. Try to eat three healthy meals a day and don’t rely on caffeine to keep you going.

– Don’t try to be perfect! Remember that we all make mistakes and a bad choice now and then. Try to keep things in perspective and not focus on the negative. The ability to learn from mistakes and move on is a sign of maturity.

– Talk to someone. It’s much easier to manage stress with a helping hand. Talk to a parent, teacher, doctor, or other trusted adult. They may be able to help you find a way to manage a problem, such as practicing a response to a social situation, getting a tutor in a class, or dealing with a difficult transition such as moving or divorce.

If you feel that your stress is making you depressed, or you find yourself using drugs or alcohol to cope, please tell someone. It might be time to talk to a psychologist or trained professional.

Helping your teen learn healthy ways to cope with stress now will prepare them for a healthier adulthood. Part of the great challenge- and reward- of parenting!

Lisa Meade, PAC
Lisa Meade, PA-C joined Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Education from Towson University. She received her Physician Assistant certification from Essex Community College in 1987. Ms. Meade has over 25 years of experience as a certified Physician Assistant in primary care medicine.

Holidays Got You Anxious?

by Janice Rutkowski, M.D.

During the holidays, many people look forward to spending time with friends and family, but there is also a great deal of anxiety associated with various preparations, travel and time commitments. There may be an inability to sleep properly, exercise wanes and diets can be abandoned. How do we decide if this is “normal” stress from the holidays or is there more involved?

There are many kinds of anxiety disorders and these may have to be treated differently depending on the cause and symptoms. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social phobia. Modalities of treatment may include medication and/or counseling. Your physician should be able to diagnose the condition and determine appropriate treatment.

When should you seek medical help? If the level of anxiety is interfering with your day-to-day activities, the symptoms have been present for over 2 weeks, symptoms are worsening over time or interpersonal relationships are suffering as a result, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss therapeutic options.

Janice Rutkowski, M.D.Dr. Rutkowski is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She received her medical degree from the University of Limoges in 1981 and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at Maryland General Hospital in 1984.