Anxiety is the intense, excessive, persistent worry, and fear about everyday situations.
In a world where, what we consider normal is no longer the case, those anxieties can grow.
"One thing that we thought one day has changed the next day," Dr. Lauren Bailey, a pediatrician with Lourdes Physician Group, said. "I think a lot of that has triggered some anxiety in kids that didn't have those types of symptoms prior to COVID-19."
Michelle Mayer said that her son, Matthew, has never had an easy time navigating life changes.
"He's very motivated by schedules and things like that," Mayer said. "If something unexpected happens he gets very upset and worried."
Something unexpected, like a pandemic, heightened those anxieties.
"Since COVID, I have to sit down with him and watch the news because he wants to see the COVID numbers," Mayer said. "It worries him; he wants to see if the numbers are trending up or down. Now that it's trending down it's much better. But when the cases and deaths were skyrocketing it was really worrisome for him."
Today, a year after the pandemic started, Mayer finds herself still navigating those waters.
"We're in territory that none of us have ever been before," Mayer said. "You need to be patient with your child and reassure them that you're a constant and you're always there, even if things have changed so much."
Dr. Lauren Bailey, a pediatrician with Lourdes Physician Group, said Mayer's story is not uncommon. It is one that she has heard more and more as people try and return "normalcy."
"Asking them how was your day? How was school? That can open the pathway to have conversations with them," Bailey suggested. "You can also use other methods like painting and drawing because some kids are better at that than talking about their feelings."
Those open-ended questions could lead to the root of the problem.
If that is not enough, your pediatrician is there to lend a helping hand.
"That is one of the things that we're doing, we screen teenagers, but we're also screening younger kids for anxiety and depression symptoms," Bailey said. "We can help guide you along as to whether we can do things at home, or that we need more professional help to help a child cope."
Bailey said something else to consider is routine.
Once that is in place, she said, the rest will follow.
"Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and nighttime routine," Bailey started. "All of those things that help us with overall wellness will help us with mental health. It'll help their focus away from the things happening in the world and focus on a sense of normalcy. Focus on being a kid."
Mental illness can impact anyone and does not care about your age, race, socioeconomic status, or other differences that we see on the surface.
It is a brain disorder that we should not fear.
Karen Dubois, program and education director for NAMI Acadiana, said when people start to open up then change can start.
"That's making a lot of progress in helping people understand that these are physical illnesses that need to be dealt with in a physical way," Dubois said. "Like when you'd go in for heart disease and diabetes, no one is ostracized for those things. The thing that is the hardest for us to deal with is when people don't understand mental illness and are afraid to talk about it. "
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