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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal response to a difficult situation – it is an early warning signal that we need to take care.
Anxiety is our body’s way of flagging up challenging and risky situations. There are times when we all feel worried, anxious and uptight or stressed.
Often there is a reason for feeling anxious such as:

• An exam
• Meeting new people
• Doing something new

Once the event is over our bodies return to normal and we feel better.
Anxiety only becomes a problem when it starts to get in the way of a person enjoying normal life. It might begin to affect school, work, family relationships, friendships or social life.
When this happens anxiety has the upper hand. The person will need help to learn the coping strategies that help them take back control.

When we become anxious our body prepares itself for some form of physical action, often called the ‘FLIGHT or FIGHT’ reaction. This describes the physiological response to acute stress – where the body prepares to fight or flee from perceived danger.
The person will probably notice a number of physical changes including the ones below

(Fight, flight or Freeze image here)

  • For many children & young people basic ‘emotional first aid’ to understand and normalise the difficult feelings anxiety can bring will be very effective.

    This can help children and young people understand why their heart might race before an exam or they feel sick when they go somewhere new.

    This might be something you offer to a group of children or to individuals.

    Help them identify an anxiety trigger (?worksheet ?thought bubbles here?)

    • What is making me feel anxious and what am I worried will happen?
    • What’s the evidence for this thought and what’s the evidence against it?
    • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
    • What would a friend say about my worry?
    • Have I confused this worry with a fact?
    • Is worrying helping me? How?
    • If my worry did happen, what could I do to cope with it or handle it?
    • Is there a more rational/realistic way of thinking about this situation?

    It can help to write it down/draw it out. Teenagers might write down their worries in a journal. Children could post their worries into a worry box so that it can be looked at with someone they trust.

    Children can be black and white in their thinking. This can mean they only see success or catastrophe in a situation; help them to think about other possible outcomes

    Avoiding the thing or situation that provokes the anxiety is an understandable instinct. However this gives the anxiety ‘control’ rather than working through feelings it brings and ‘proving’ that the anxiety was wrong. The person might have to build up to this in small steps with your support.
    Reminding the person the feelings will pass. Maybe they faced this problem before and need reminding they can do it.

    Relaxation Techniques

    Practising relaxation techniques so that they can use them in moments when the anxiety level is high will help.
    Taking some deep breaths will help to calm down the physical symptoms of anxiety.

    Encourage them to find activities that distract them from worries. Spending time with friends, playing sports, relaxation exercises are useful to many.

    Worrying usually focuses on the past or future - mindfulness can help children and young people focus attention on the here and now.

    Younger Children may find The Turtle Technique a helpful way of taking a moment to calm down when they feel anxious –find out more *here*


    If the child or young person continues to struggle, and it is impacting on their ability to enjoy and thrive - they may need additional support and onward referral into specialist services should be considered.

  • Primary age:

    Worry Monster toy 
    Hello Happy
    Stay Strong
    No worries
    Starving the anxiety gremlin
    Be Brave
    My huge bag of worries
    Volcano in my tummy


    Blame my brain book Nicola Mason
    Teenage guide to stress Nicola Mason

    Click *here* to access the Young Minds website 

    Worrinots is an app designed to help children cope with worries and anxieties; click *here* to find out more

    A helpful self help guide can be found *here* 

Who can help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact :

Your Local Pharmacist. Find a local one here

Call 111 – they can reassure you and advise if you need more medical help

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents

CLICK HERE to find out more


Find out about the enhanced School Nurse offer ...(content required?)

And the emotional health pathway *here*

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