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    Anxiety And Depression In Children: Preventive And Remedial Strategies

    By Nilanjana Parijat
    12 Mar'22  8 min read
    Anxiety And Depression In Children: Preventive And Remedial Strategies
    Synopsis

    The article outlines the many causes, as well as preventive and remedial strategies to use against the rising cases of depression and anxiety in current times. It attempts to use an Integrative Therapy approach and categorise every possible factor that has a role to play in causing, aggravating or hindering progress. We shall discuss in detail the risk factors of anxiety and depression, and how to tackle them in order to lead fulfilling lives.

    Anxiety And Depression In Children: Preventive And Remedial Strategies
    Synopsis

    The article outlines the many causes, as well as preventive and remedial strategies to use against the rising cases of depression and anxiety in current times. It attempts to use an Integrative Therapy approach and categorise every possible factor that has a role to play in causing, aggravating or hindering progress. We shall discuss in detail the risk factors of anxiety and depression, and how to tackle them in order to lead fulfilling lives.

    When people began strongly advocating for mental health across the globe, psychologists figured that the rise in concerns and disorders was because they were finally being recognised and diagnosed, as opposed to being neglected, misdiagnosed, or misunderstood. However, many studies have shown that the rising cases of depression and anxiety are not primarily because of efficient diagnosing, but rather that the world is changing, and although we think for the better, that is not always the case.

    So, let us delve into what we can do to prevent and remedy these, and overturn the statistics.

    Preventive And Remedial Strategies

    We shall discuss the factors related to causing, preventing and remedying issues like depression and anxiety in terms of three concentric layers: primary, secondary, and tertiary, based on the strength of their contribution to these issues.

    Primary Factors

    Diet

    We’ve all heard of the saying, “You become what you eat”. This is true, but further, you also feel, think and behave as per what you eat. In a famous experiment done on rats, it was found that if the rats were fed food deficient in a certain nutrient that is needed to activate their fear of predators, they will not only become friendly with species like cats but also be romantic, which leads them to end up as the cat’s dinner themselves.

    We have a complex brain-like structure in our large intestines called the microbiome. This rich system is responsible for producing 90% of the neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is our natural antidepressant, along with dopamine, which is our mood regulator. In order to recover from, and prevent imbalance in the gut, here are a few guidelines:

    • Eat fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables (preferably covering the full range of colours and tastes).

    • Have 2-3 litres of water a day (preferably not cold/chilled).

    • Avoid highly refined food. The more refined the food is, the more energy it sucks from your brain and body to digest.

    • Avoid highly salty, sweet or spicy dishes.

    • Avoid red meat.

    • Get plenty of pre and probiotics.

    • Have lots of herbs and spices (not chillies!).

    • Add dry fruits, nuts and seeds to your diet.

    An improper diet could be one of the risk factors of depression because it causes an imbalance of hormones necessary to keep us working efficiently. If you know someone whose depression came about without a painful psychological experience, they need to start eating right. Our brain and bodies already know how to help us, as long as we provide a conducive environment, which primarily means eating the right diet.

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D deficiency is, in a way, an epidemic. And many studies are coming forward to suggest the lack of Vitamin D is a direct risk factor for depression and anxiety. So, get 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight towards the early hours of the day.

    Movement

    Our brain and body are interconnected. And, the wellbeing of either is dependent on the other. Much of our trauma, emotions and stress is stored in the body, and not released if we remain sedentary.

    • Engage in light stretching.

    • Elevate your heart rate at least once a day through an exercise routine.

    • Engage in free movement.

    Rest

    We require both mental and physical rest, and this means:-

    • Sleeping for 7 to 8 hours, between 9 pm to 7 am.

    • Finding an activity to help create stillness for your mind, for e.g. Meditation.

    • Do breath-work (Our brain and body feel the least amount of strain and stress when our breathing is deep and stretched, which activates our parasympathetic nervous system - responsible for holistic rest).

    Mind

    A negative mind, or a toxically positive mind, could be a risk factor of depression and anxiety. Engage in therapy that helps you recognize the power of your conscious mind, and how it is the greatest weapon in not just preventing depression or anxiety in your life, but also overturning it. The mind, as I see it, is the complex sum of the brain and the body, yet far more powerful than both. Being able to use this to your advantage is key to your well-being.

    • Focus on building emotional resilience.

    • Create spaces of release, not consumption (In times of stress, focus on how you can release this load or anxiety rather than consume something, like choosing to journal over watching a film etc).

    Secondary factors

    Social Media

    As far back as 20 years, this was not a mega phenomenon as it is today. The evolution of the Internet has been, so to say, turbulent and unexpected. From simple things like email, we have now reached virtual reality, and that is quite a drastic change in a span of, say, 15 years. The generations that have grown up, and are growing with social media, face the constant gaze of the ‘American Dream’. Social media is infamous for individuals one-upping each other, often by curating fiction. This creates a standard for what our lives ‘should’ look like. And for young individuals who are still navigating their identity, the chasm of comparison can be a dangerous, downward spiral, thereby becoming a risk factor of depression and anxiety.

    So,

    • Limit your social media usage to an hour or two maximum.

    • Use your account creatively, and not to relate your personal life to someone else’s.

    • Take detox breaks from social media every few weeks.

    • Follow pages that inspire and educate you.

    The 24-hr Access

    Over the last, say 50 years, the market has changed rapidly. And, despite what people may say, the market does decide what our lives look like. In the famous book written by Noam Chomsky, named ‘Manufacturing Consent’, he talks of how since the 1950s the market has sold what it wishes for people to believe in and live as. The 24-hour access we have to information, food, people and so on, is pushing us into a space of both sensory, and psychological overload. This overload, if left unregulated, might serve as a risk factor of anxiety and depression.

    • Take breaks from reading, learning to enjoy doing nothing.

    • Cut down on time spent on random apps.

    • Eat meals between sunrise and sunset, and reduce binge eating (As well as reducing binge ordering from delivery apps).

    Sense Of Self, Values And Boundaries

    Anxiety And Depression In Children, Risk factors of anxiety, Risk factors of depressionDealing With Depression In Children

    In crises, we need more than anything, the conscious aspect of our mind that displays its resilience and self-preservation by creating a strong sense of anchorage within oneself.

    • Reflect upon what your self is (Therapy helps!).

    • Reflect and note down the values that lead your life.

    • Try to recognize your active and passive self-sabotage.

    • Draw personal boundaries in the form of self-discipline.

    • Draw outer boundaries to set a standard of how you must be treated, spoken to, etc.

    • Understand your non-negotiable terms in any relation.

    • Learn the art of removing people from your life, who are not good for you.

    • Learn to have your own voice, and critique.

    Careful Consumption Of Everything

    It is not just what you eat that affects you, but rather everything you choose to consume, in the form of entertainment, music, jokes, conversations, movies, information etc. So, reflect upon your choices, and always make space to critique what your preferences may be and to make changes if need be.

    A major aspect of this is the company you keep, in the form of the social groups you are a part of. A wise person once said “your network defines your net worth” but that is not all. The kind of people who have access to you will determine how you cope with stress, heal and grow. If your circles are not spaces to discuss experiences, emotions, ideas and goals, it will inevitably teach you coping styles and habits that will play a role in deterring your mental health, thereby becoming a possible risk factor of depression and anxiety.

    Not Taking Things Personally

    Learning to not take everything around us personally reduces the emotional load we carry, as well as the anxiety we produce for ourselves. Many individuals are anxious about what people may say or feel, but we must understand that each person is in a world of their own, and no one in a true sense engages with the other. It is therefore good to remind ourselves every now and then that the things people say are often only a reflection of their inner world, and may not be directly linked to you. Dodging people’s anger, criticism, etc. can be tiring, but reminding ourselves that it is simply a projection can make life easier.

    Tertiary factors

    The Escape Artist

    We unconsciously learn to escape our reality through various activities that we think we are doing out of habit or pleasure, but are actually means of escapism. And the more we run from something, the more our mind learns to fear and numb our senses. So, keep a check on:

    • Binge eating or emotional eating.

    • Endlessly scrolling on social media.

    • Endlessly binge-watching series.

    • Consumption of substances.

    • Urges to sleep constantly.

    • Wanting to hang out with people all the time.

    • Being compulsively busy.

    • Shopping sprees.

    Facing real circumstances and coping with them healthily would be the right way to deal with mental health problems, rather than escaping reality, which is more of a risk factor of anxiety and depression.

    Go Beyond The Material

    Find ways to go beyond the material world. We find ourselves gripped by existential dread and anxiety when all we see is the tangible aspects of life and not the glimpses of the immaterial. Whether spirituality or religious worship works for you, find a medium of faith and connection to something more than yourself and the people you see around you.

    By following some, if not all the ways mentioned above, we shall surely be able to keep our vulnerability to anxiety and depression in check, while also ensuring that we remain in a healthy state of physical and mental self.

    Nilanjana Parijat is a depth-oriented, and holistic wellness psychologist, with extensive hands on experience in working with children, adolescents and familes. She currently works with Reboot Wellness, Gurugram.

    • Health
    • Cognition
    • Cognitive science
    • Psychological concepts
    • Psychology
    • Behavioural sciences
    • Social media
    • Mind
    • Stress (biology)

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