Society is suffering from anxiety at an alarming and apparent rate. Teens frequently experience anxiety from the daily stressors they encounter, while navigating the grown-up world. Even children in elementary school are being diagnosed with anxiety.

How can we help improve this?

First, let’s consider:

Stress confronts our children in many forms: noise, electromagnetic radiation, poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, conflict, fear, insecurity, grief, loneliness, pressure, screen overuse, addiction, and currently the pandemic we are all living through.

As adults when we experience stressful situations, we sometimes feel anxious. With anxiety our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) becomes activated and we are in survival mode. In ‘fight or flight’ mode, digestive processes are halted, the heart rate is accelerated, blood is shunted from vital organs to the legs and arms in preparation to deal with the imminent threat, and finally the nervous system provides a burst of energy and strength to mobilize us.

When children experience anxiety, the same physiological process is happening, but their ability to understand and deal with it, often falls short due to the innocence of youth. ‘Fight or flight’ is a wonderful adaptation of the human body if one is confronted by an angry bear, but not very healthy or helpful for children who are just trying to navigate their way through this big complicated world. Children with anxiety are struggling to manage the uncertainty of their current situation or the future.

As parents we strive to educate ourselves and reach out for help when in need.

Something simple and effective we can do as parents to help our kids, is to listen to them. Children and youth also need tools to help regulate their neurological responses to stressful situations. Lifestyle and coping strategies help children learn to manage stress and decrease its impact on their mental health. For healthy brain development, it is integral to address physiological and emotional stressors and give kids the tools required to effectively regulate their neurological response. The skills that they develop now, will determine how they navigate stressful and anxiety provoking situations in the future.

Identify the causative factors and help children cope with stress is the goal of treatment.

Kids have their own unique DNA and life experiences; therefore, stress affects all children differently. The team of naturopathic practitioners at Boucher focuses on listening to your child and determining the root causes of their stress and anxiety and how these affect their emotions and behaviours. Familial and environmental factors have been shown to play a significant role in the development of anxiety. Bullying and cyberbullying have also become a major source of anxiety in our children. In addition; nutritional status, food sensitivities and sleep are some other factors that can contribute to anxiety.

Naturopathic physicians may use many techniques to support a child with stress and anxiety such as: guided meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise, yoga, journaling, nutritional supplements, food sensitivity testing, elimination diets, herbal formulas, Bach Flower remedies, Traditional Asian Medicine (acupressure or acupuncture), and homeopathy.

The goal of Naturopathic medicine is to provide the parents and child with the tools to effectively manage daily stressors and reduce the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system that triggers anxiety. Each treatment plan is specifically tailored to the individual child and their very special circumstances.

Article by: Dr. Lori Ferguson, BSc., ND

Dr. Ferguson is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in Vancouver, BC where she specializes in telemedicine. In addition to private practice, she works as a clinical supervisor at the Boucher Clinic in New Westminster, which is a teaching clinic connected to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine – Boucher campus. Dr. Ferguson enjoys getting out into the community and doing speaking engagements on women’s health, pediatrics, stress, environmental medicine, and disease prevention.

Are you interested in naturopathic medical care for your whole family? Our diverse and skilled primary care physicians bring more than 250 years of combined clinical experience to your family. Call 604-540-2873 to book an appointment today!