Karen Young of Hey, Sigmund Talks About Anxiety in Kids

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In this week’s episode I’m talking with the founder of the popular psychology website Hey Sigmund, Karen Young about anxiety in kids. Karen created Hey Sigmund because she realized the power of solid information, and wanted to share brain science and the latest research and news about psychology with everyday people.

What attracted me to Karen’s website is that it frequently features fascinating, comprehensive, and easy-to-digest articles on issues surrounding kids’ emotional and mental well-being, with a special focus on anxiety in kids. And that’s what we’re talking about in-depth today—anxiety in children. Karen will tell us exactly what it looks like, how we can recognize it in our kids, what to do about it, and how to talk with our kids about it. Karen also tells us about her new book which she wrote specifically for children with anxiety, called Hey Warrior.

Click here to watch my After the Show video about this episode.


About Karen Young

Karen Young has worked as a psychologist in private practice, in organizational settings, lectured and has extensive experience in the facilitation of personal growth groups. Her honors degree in psychology and masters in Gestalt Therapy have come in handy at times. She founded Hey Sigmund after realizing the power of solid information. Her articles have been translated into a number of languages and her work has been published on various international sites including The Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Yahoo Health.

She is also a regular contributor to Parenting Magazine in New Zealand. She can often be heard on Australian radio, and is and a sought-after speaker. Recently, she published Hey Warrior, a book for kids to help them understand anxiety and find their ‘brave’.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • The impetus for Karen’s popular website Hey Sigmund
  • What Karen hopes Hey Sigmund does in the world
  • Why Karen says: “Because sometimes the only diagnosis is human”
  • What’s happening in our kids’ bodies and minds when they’re experiencing anxiety
  • Useful strategies kids can use to cope with their anxious feelings
  • What parents can look out for if they suspect their child might be struggling with anxiety
  • How parents can support their children with anxiety, as well as explain to their children what’s going on
  • The importance of mindfulness as a way to manage anxiety


Resources mentioned about anxiety in kids

  • Hey Warrior, a book for kids with anxiety to find their “brave” by Karen Young


Episode Transcript

Karen Young  00:00

Everybody gets anxiety some of the time we wouldn’t be alive if we didn’t. That’s what keeps us alive. So it’s just a part of being human. But it’s, you know, sometimes it happens too much. So basically, it’s about just trying to melt away the stigma and saying we all do some of this stuff some of the time. Let’s just deeply pathologize it so we can get on with supporting ourselves and each other and feeling okay about where we’re at without first of all having to get over the hump of feeling broken. And like there’s something wrong because it’s just a part of being human.

Debbie Reber  00:34

Welcome to the Tilt Parenting Podcast, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber and today I’m talking with the founder of the popular website Hey, Sigmund, Karen Young, founded Hey, Sigmund. After realizing the power of solid information, it quickly became hugely popular and on it she shares the latest research and news on psychology with everyday people. What attracted me to Karen’s website is that it frequently features fascinating, comprehensive and easy to digest articles on issues surrounding kids emotional and mental well being with a special focus on anxiety and kids. So that’s what we’re talking about in depth today. anxiety in children. Karen is also going to tell us about her new book, which she wrote specifically for children with anxiety called Hey, Warrior. By the way, if you’re new to the podcast, in my last episode, I interviewed a mom about her journey of raising two kids with anxiety disorder. So if you haven’t listened yet, and anxiety is something that’s touching your family, you can check that out too, is that tiltparenting.com/session83. And after you’ve listened to the episode, don’t forget to go over to tilt parenting comm slash after the show. Each week, I share a one to two minute video where I share my biggest takeaways from my podcast conversations or tips about taking what you’ve learned and making it work for your family. When you go to my after the show page, you can sign up to get new episodes of the podcast and after the show series delivered to your inbox each week. And now I’ll get on with my conversation with Karen. 

Debbie Reber  02:19

Hey, Karen, welcome to the podcast.

Karen Young  02:21

Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Debbie Reber  02:24

Well, I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. I discovered Hey, Sigmund when I was first researching Tilt Parenting, and I was instantly in love. I just thought the design was beautiful, the content was and continues to be just so thoughtful and powerful. And yeah, and I share your content a lot with the Tilt community. So it’s a real honor to be able to bring on the podcast and talk to you about what you’re up to.

Karen Young  02:53

Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, the respect is very mutual. And I’m really excited to chat with you today.

Debbie Reber  02:59

Well, let’s start by introducing you to our listeners. So we know that you are the creator of Hey, Sigmund, but could you tell us a little bit about your story and what you do and kind of your personal why for creating Hey, Sigmund.

Karen Young  03:12

So I started as a psychologist and I was in private practice. And then I did teaching and personal growth groups and one to one counseling. And then I stopped for a little while to stay at home with my kids. And then I wanted to come back in. Because I actually loved working as a psychologist, I loved it. And I missed it when I wasn’t doing it. So I wanted to come back in. But I just wanted to do something where I could have a broader reach. And when I was in practice, what I was really aware of was that when I was working with kids, that parents just needed the information. And they could do really great things with the information. So I didn’t, it wasn’t so much what I did. But when parents knew the information that we as psychologists knew, they could do really great stuff for them. And so basically, that’s how Hey Sigmund started. I just want people to have the information that we have, as psychologists and you know, parents are the ones who are most connected to their kids and have the most influence. And they have a lot of power. And so with solid information, they can do really great things. And so that’s when I started the website. And at first I thought, Oh, I don’t know about psychology on the internet. I’m not sure that that’ll fly. But you know, it has and so it’s worked out. I’m really grateful for that.

Debbie Reber  04:33

Oh, that’s fantastic. How long ago did you start it?

Karen Young  04:36

We are coming up to I think three years in November. So it kind of started slow. And then we were crawling and then it was actually the anxiety post that did it for me in March of the next year. And it’s sort of been going since then. So it was just I think I was really lucky and it was what the information That was needed the time I had it, I suppose. So it’s a lovely collision of things.

Debbie Reber  05:05

I think, you know, you’re an interpreter for so many of us. And what I was struck by when I discovered your site is just again, the richness of the content. And, and you really are talking about these fascinating issues, emotional intelligence, and a lot of brain science concepts, but you present it in a way that is really understandable and a way that we as parents can apply it. And and again, I’m such a visual person. And I think that so much of what exists for parents, especially parents, like me raising differently wired kids, aesthetically, it’s not so pleasing. And you know, the whole experience of your site, I just really vibed with it. And so I’m not surprised with the success that you’ve had. But I was, I was so curious, because you have readers all over the world, your site is quite popular. So I was wondering if you know how that happened. And if you were expecting that?

Karen Young  06:01

No, I really, to be honest, when I started this, I didn’t know where it was going to end up. I didn’t, I just started. And I think when you’re on the right track, the path widens up to take you. And honestly, that’s what happened. And so I started it, I didn’t know I started it from my kitchen bench, I didn’t know where it wanted to end up, I just knew that this was how it would start and where it would finish. I didn’t know. And I was just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other end, I had no idea it would be with kids, I had no idea it would be with anxiety. But I think it’s a really great time for psychology, because in the last 10 years or so we’re learning so much about the brain and the way we’re wired because of technology. And so being able to translate that into, you know, a way that we can understand, I think it’s a really great time in psychology. And for me, I really need to break something down to understand it. It’s not like I can just read a scientific paper and understand it straightaway. I have to sit with it and break it down and wrestle it. And then by the time I’ve done that, I can understand it in a way that is easy to explain. 

Debbie Reber  07:11

And then you share it with the rest of us, and that works for us. The name, I didn’t mention earlier that I wanted to ask you this, what I’m curious about the name, hey, segment, where’d that come from?

Karen Young  07:23

Oh, my goodness, this website was harder to name than my children. And I’m not kidding. And it was weeks of different ideas, and nothing felt right. And then honestly, I was getting into the car, one day outside of site, a hardware store. And I went, Hey, Sigmund, that’s where it came from. And it was more like, because people think of psychology sometimes. And it can feel a little bit vague and a little bit, you know, not scientific enough. And I think that comes from Freud, who did a lot of great things, but also did a lot of things that didn’t land so well and still don’t learn very well, but did a lot of great things. So this is kind of like, Hey, Sigmund, we’ve got some new stuff for you. Or Hey, Sigmund, this is what we know now. So it’s kind of blending the, you know, the historical elements of psychology and kind of where it started and its roots with the modern take.

Debbie Reber  08:21

That’s awesome. Love that story. One of the things that you say on your website in your about page is that because sometimes the only diagnosis is human. Can you say more about that phrase? I mean, that really connected with me.

Karen Young  08:36

Yeah, so Well, anything to do with mental health can bring so much stigma. But the thing is, so many things that come with a diagnosis happen on a spectrum. So we’ve all got a little bit of everything, some of the time. And sometimes it’s just part of our human way, we’re not broken, there’s nothing wrong with us, we don’t even need fixing. We just need either the right information to move out of it, or support or permission to even stay in the space for a little while. And that’s one of the things with anxiety. It’s not a broken brain. It’s a brain that’s doing what it’s meant to do. But a little bit more often. And everybody gets anxiety, some of the time we wouldn’t be alive if we didn’t. It’s what keeps us alive. So it’s just a part of being human. But it’s you know, sometimes it happens too much. So basically, it’s about just trying to melt away the stigma and saying we’ll do some of this stuff some of the time. Let’s just deep pathologize it so we can get on with supporting ourselves and each other and feeling okay about where we’re at without first of all having to get over the hump of feeling broken. And like there’s something wrong because it’s just a part of being human.

Debbie Reber  09:48

Now I know more of why I resonate so much with your site because you just use some of the language we have on our homepage that differently wired kids. These aren’t deficits. They’re not broken. They’re not kids and need fixing. So I love that language. And that idea that yeah, we’re all, we all have stuff going on some of the time. And yeah, that human experience, it’s very awesome.

Karen Young  10:11

And it’s the richness of being human, you know. And the richness of being with other humans is that it doesn’t always feel perfect or happy or the way it’s meant to feel. But that’s part of it. It’s, you know, our vulnerabilities, sometimes our greatest strengths, but it’s being able to understand them enough and understand them and move forward with strength, and not feeling broken.

Debbie Reber  10:36

Well, let’s talk about anxiety a little more. And that is kind of a big focus of the content. So I’d love to know more about how that happened and why anxiety is one of those issues that you’re so passionate about.

Karen Young  10:50

So when this started, my daughter, it got personal. I think that’s the easy answer. I am passionate about it now, but I started the website in November and the following year, so in Australia, our school years are January to December, and the following year, my daughter was moving from junior school to middle school, and it was just across the road. It was a small school. She’d been there since grade two. So she was moving into grade seven, saying friends, and she was really happy at the school just across the road. But I think, you know, the format’s a bit different. The teachers are different. And she had been saying for a while, she’d been getting headaches, and she’d been having trouble sleeping and feeling sick in the tummy, and all of the things that I should have picked up on sooner than I did. But I just thought I’ll you know, she’s just tired. It’s the start of the school year, it’ll go away. And then one day, I just clicked after a couple of weeks, and I went, I know what she’s got. She’s got anxiety, and I should have picked up on it. But I didn’t. That’s okay. And so we were on our way to soccer, which she’d been doing for a long, long time. And she said, Ma’am, I’ve got that feeling again. And I said, Okay, does it feel like this? And I went through the symptoms that I talked about in Hey Warrior. So does your heart feel racy? Does your tummy feel this? Do you feel a bit sweaty? Is it that feeling you get when you miss a stare, and she said that’s exactly what it is? It feels like that feeling of falling when you’re almost asleep. So that was her line. And I said, Okay, you’ve got this thing called anxiety. And here’s why you feel like you do. And then I explained all of the physical symptoms, again, everything that’s in a warrior and on the website. And I said that this is what you need to do when you feel like this. And this is why it’s happening. It’s happening because your brain is trying to protect you because it thinks there’s something it needs to protect you from, but brains don’t always, you know, do what we want them to do, they, it’s instinct. So what you need to do when you feel like that is breathe really slow, deep breaths, because that reverses the surge of neurochemicals which we spoke about. That’s what happens with anxiety, it’s the brain surgery with neuro chemicals to get you ready for fight or flight. And every physical symptom is to do with those neuro chemicals and to get you ready to be stronger, faster, more alert, more powerful. The problem with anxiety is if there’s nothing to fight or flee the neuro chemicals build out, and that’s why anxiety feels awful. And, and it can feel like there’s something awful about to happen. So that feeds into anxious thoughts, then that feeds back into anxious feelings. And it’s a bit of a loop. So to break the loop, and I said to her, you need to breathe. And what that does is that reverses everything it’s touching and starts to neutralize everything. And it brings your brain back to feeling calm, and it pulls in the thinking part of your brain. And, you know, we went through basically the book Hey Warrior before the book was written. And then I started her on mindfulness, and she was already exercising, so that was okay. And a couple of weeks later, she came to me and she said, Mum, that stuff you said, it really helped. Now, when I think she was 12, at the time, a 12 year old comes and says, Mum, what you did really worked, I kind of, you know, I went, Okay, that probably didn’t work. Because, you know, they don’t often tell you when you strike gold, and so and so it went, she really was able to manage it. So she’d still get anxious sometimes. But she was able to manage it. She was able to make it work for her. And then you know, mindfulness and all the rest of it. So she understood what she had to do to manage it, which was breathing and why exercise worked and why mindfulness worked. So we explained everything. And then I said to her one night, are you okay? If I write about what I told you on my website, and I said, not many people read my website, you’ll be okay. And she said, and she said, okay, as long as not many people read it, and I did have a sentence about her, which I think I might have taken out since but that was the post that went. It just went off. And that kind of started the whole website. And so that’s I thought, well, this is information that people clearly want to hear about and want to know about. So I’m going to give it and that’s when it started. And you know, the more you do something, and the more it works, where you want to do it, and Hey Warrior came from that post, and that conversation with my daughter. So it’s basically that conversation in a book for kids. And I suppose passion is easy when it’s a little bit personal.

Debbie Reber  15:24

I think so many of us create what we need, right? It doesn’t exist either for ourselves the tools that we as parents need, or for our kids. And absolutely, that’s how the great things come. So well. You’ve talked about the book a little bit. Let’s go there a little more. So this is a new book you’ve written, it’s a children’s book, can you give us some more details about it?

Karen Young  15:48

Yeah. So basically, it talks about anxiety because anxiety comes from a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is a really primitive, really instinctive part. So it’s been doing what it does for as long as people have been people. So it’s really good at what it does. And its whole job, really, is to get us ready to fight or flee to keep us safe when there’s danger. Now, the thing about it is, it doesn’t mean there’s danger there. So sometimes, the brain can be a bit over reactive, or a bit over protective. So the way to think of anxiety is not as something broken and not as something that’s there to hurt you or, or something mean in your brain. But it’s something that’s like a fierce warrior there to protect you. So that’s how I describe it in the book. And that’s how I described it to my daughter. So it’s like a fierce warrior there to protect you. So when it thinks you might be in trouble, it will surge your body with a special body fuel to make you stronger, faster, more powerful. Now, the first thing that happens is your breathing changes from slow deep breathing like you’d normally breathe to short, shallow breathing, and that’s to conserve oxygen. So because your body will need it to fight or flee, then your heart starts beating really quickly. And that can be really scary, because it can feel like you’re going to die, it can make it really scary, but hearts know what they’re doing. And your heart is just doing that to pump the fuel around your body to get it to the muscles so that they can do what they need to do to keep you safe, then your arms and legs might get tight. That’s why sometimes you get shaky and wobbly. That’s the neuro chemicals going to your muscles in your arms and legs. So they can use your legs so they can play your arms so they can fight, your body starts to sweat to cool itself down in case it has to fight or flee. So that’s why you can sweat even on a really cold day. And one of the other things that happens is any process in your body that isn’t absolutely necessary for your survival in that moment, will shut down, it’ll just take a little break, it’ll come back on as soon as everything’s safe and everything’s fine again. So it’s no big deal, but it feels like a big deal. So when your digestion shuts down, that’s how you can get butterflies, it can feel like you’re going to vomit. And that can feel really awful too so there are all of these physical symptoms that happen with anxiety that can feed into those, I feel awful, and it feels scary. And I feel panicked. So there must be something bad that’s going to happen. They’re all there for a really good reason. And it’s to protect you, it’s to look after you. So that’s why when there’s a ball of basketball coming at your head, you can act super quickly before you even notice that basketball your brain has registered and it’s getting you ready and you can move really quickly. It’s why, you know, you hear stories about mothers lifting branches off cars to save their babies and firemen running people out of buildings, that’s when it works. Well, that surge of neuro chemicals. So it’s all there to keep us safe. But sometimes it can be over protective and work too hard. And it can sense the amygdala can sense threat or danger when there’s no threat or danger there. And that’s okay. But what happens is it surges you with these neuro chemicals, but if there’s nothing to burn them off, which is what happens if there’s nothing to fight or flee. There’s no danger, the neuro chemicals build up. And that’s when anxiety feels really awful and frightening. And that can also feed into anxiety about the anxiety. So if there’s something that happens at school drop off that an anxiety is triggered, and it can only happen, you know, it only has to happen once, then that memory of that anxiety can be I remember how I feel when I’m about to be dropped off, it feels scary. And I feel like I’m going to Vonage or my head feels tight, you know. So it’s anxiety about the anxiety. So by explaining where anxiety comes from, and explaining it as it’s like this little warrior in your brain that’s trying to protect you. But what you need to do is be the boss of your brain because at the moment your brain is kind of calling all the shots but it’ll work better when you’re in charge. Can you kind of like a team? And so that’s what breathing does mindfulness and also the understanding of what’s happening and that takes the fear away and it empowers kids with a better response than kind of feeding into the anxiety, because anxiety is so convincing and so persuasive. So basically, that’s what the book’s about. And you know, it goes through the symptoms. And because kids want to understand what’s happening in their bodies, they’re really and they’re really good at understanding the science of it when it’s explained, and they’re really good at doing good stuff with it. So that’s what the book does is give them that information that they need.

Debbie Reber  20:25

It’s fantastic. Well, congratulations on the book. And thanks for explaining it to us. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a big fan of bringing kids into the process. And, I do also believe that they want to know what’s going on. And they’re really, you know, because they’re curious. And kids are kind of natural learners. So it’s easy to engage them on that level. But when you can understand what’s happening, it does take away some of the fear. And it’s also respectful to explain these concepts to kids, and know that they can understand it, you know, it can help them make sense of the world.

Karen Young  21:01

One of the ways I describe it is as if we were driving down the freeway, and it feels like the brakes are going to fail. So we pull over and call a mechanic and we say, Something doesn’t feel right, I feel like my brakes are going to fail. And the mechanic takes a look and says, No, there’s nothing wrong, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry, just keep going. There’s nothing wrong with your car. So we keep going. And then it happens again. And the brakes feel like they’re going to fail and you’re doing 100 down the freeway. And so we pull over again, and the mechanic comes and says no, nothing wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing to worry about. Don’t worry about keeping going. But then we go again. And it’s that horrible feeling of the brakes going or going to find out like we’re spinning out of control, or going to spin out of control, then we pull over and then someone stops and says, Oh, I see what’s going on here. This is why it feels like your brakes are going to fail. Because your car’s doing this, this, this, this this, it’s okay, it’s not going to the reason it’s happening because of all of these reasons, not because your brakes are going to fail. But I understand it feels like your brakes are going to fail. But that’s just how it feels. It’s not going to happen, because it’s actually happening because of this reason. And so understanding where it comes from, can be really healing and really soothing and comforting. And once that happens, then they can feel strong enough and powerful enough to put in place the strategies they need to put in place in that moment.

Debbie Reber  22:18

I love that analogy of driving down the street with being worried that brakes are going to fail. I think that also brings up what I wanted to ask you about the idea of just a lot of misunderstanding about anxiety. People don’t think it exists or especially in kids. You know, I’ve talked to some parents for the show whose kids struggle with anxiety. And they’ve talked about just the misunderstanding from educators from other parents who think that they might be being over protective of their kids. And I’m wondering, what’s your experience? Been with that? And what is it like in Australia, you know, we’re talking to you and you’re in Australia. I’m curious what the culture is around anxiety there.

Karen Young  23:03

It’s interesting, we are starting to open up to it and starting to realize that it’s just another part of it’s something that can happen to kids. And it doesn’t mean they’re broken. But it’s interesting, I was speaking to a mom the other day, and her daughter goes to one of the really good schools here in Brisbane. And her daughter had anxiety, a really bright, really bright, really strong, gorgeous girl, really well liked. But she has anxiety and the school were, they really didn’t speak about it in a way that we can turn. And you know, I said to her mum don’t it’s not a pathology, it’s not a breakage, it’s something that happens. And this is why it happens. It’s because her brain is over protective, it’s not broken. So there is still some misunderstanding, I suppose. And I suppose one of the things I want to push against is this idea that anxious people that they’re not brave enough or not strong enough, because anxious people will be some of the bravest people you’ll meet and some of the strongest people you’ll meet because they push through this stuff all the time. But it is a real thing. And it is that the wiring in their brain triggers anxiety more often than other people. It’s not a bad thing, because it can also mean it feels bad. But it can also mean that they’re really great planners, they can think of things that no one else has thought of. They are really great at predicting trouble. And if you want to understand what’s happening in a classroom, or in a social group, ask the one who feels anxious sometimes because they know what’s going on because they’re thinkers and they you know, they can put the pieces together so well and emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent are really amazing. It’s not a breakage and it is a physiological thing that’s got nothing to do with character and it’s got nothing to do with personality. So I think we’re slowly opening up to this and saying, Well, that’s okay. You know It’s just a different way of being human. It’s not breakage, but there’s still a way to go. And it’s very common. It’s so common. And I think that’s one of the things we’re starting to realize is how common it is now, which has surprised me. And I think it surprises a lot of people.

Debbie Reber  25:17

When Asher was in school, and he must have been first or second grade, one of the therapists he was seeing pulled me aside after they had met and made a comment about a change we were going to make. And he said he, I think that’s really going to help with his anxiety. And I said, he has anxiety, I had no idea. He’s differently wired in other ways. And I, I didn’t connect that a lot of what was causing his dysregulation at school was an anxious response to what was happening. And it was kind of like a lightbulb moment for me at the time. I’m wondering if you have some thoughts about what parents can be looking out for in their kids, if they’re thinking, maybe they’re listening to this, and it’s never occurred to them before? What would be some signs that they might want to be aware of?

Karen Young  26:09

Yeah, so look at things, a lot of avoidance behavior, and that might be connected to a particular thing. So I don’t feel like going to school today. And it might be I’ve got a tummy ache or I’ve got a headache or something like that. And it’s not that I’m not doing it to be naughty, not at all. It’s because their brains tell them they can’t go look at things like tummy aches that don’t have another physical basis, headaches that don’t have another physical basis, nausea, I feel sick in the tummy. Because they’re all the physical symptoms that come with that surging of neurochemicals, often kids with anxiety will be, there’ll be a lot of what ifs. So, Mom, what if you’re late to pick me up? What if I go to the party, and no one wants to talk to me? What if something happens to you on the way home so there’s a lot of what ifs and there’s a lot of you know, they’ll want to talk about this sometimes. And that’s their brain. Thinking ahead. Anxiety happens. Anxiety is a brain that lives a little bit too much in the future or a lot in the future thinking about the what ifs. So look for the physical symptoms, look for the kids who will ask about the what ifs. Now, sometimes they can be the light of the party, they might be the class clown. And that’s another way to can mask anxiety. Another thing is to watch for really aggressive outbursts or meltdowns or tantrums. Now, the amygdala, which is the one that kickstarts the anxious response also is in charge of emotion. So when it’s at high volume, when it’s anxious, other emotions will be at high volume, too. So these might be the kids who just get really aggressive. And it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a trigger, or the kids who just want to burst into tears. What that is, that’s the amygdala driving that. And that’s happening with anxiety. So if you control the anxiety, you’ll control that response to these kids who are not being aggressive because their social skills are poor, or because they’re being the bad kids. It’s absolutely not that at all. They’re anxious kids, but it doesn’t look like it. Aggression can mask that. So that’s some of the things to worry about kids who, you know, they might be worried about going to sleep at night, or they might wake up a lot during the night thinking about stuff, that sort of thing. So it’s different to stress. Stress is when there is a real thing. So kids who get stressed at exam time because they do really have a heavy workload, that’s stress that’s different to anxiety, which is what if I fail? What if I do really poorly? And I’m not able to do anything when I leave school? Because I’m no good at anything? What if I make a mistake? And people ask me for that? That’s the difference between stress and anxiety.

Debbie Reber  28:46

That’s a really helpful distinction. Thank you. So before we go, I know your host site provides lots of insight. And of course, your book, if parents are listening to this, and they’re recognizing, well, I think this is what’s going on, what would you suggest the first thing they do is to support their child.

Karen Young  29:06

So there’s a couple of things the first thing is explained to them. Kids have to understand what anxiety is. And they don’t parents don’t need to buy the book, there’s an article on my site called anxiety, kids how to turn it around, that was the original article. So that will give you the words to give them about where anxiety comes from, what the physical symptoms mean, so they can understand why they feel the way they do. That’s the most important thing. And that’s where I see the change happening. Then the next thing I would do is start with a regular practice of mindfulness because what we know from tons and tons of research is that mindfulness changes the structure and function of the brain. So it actually decreases activity in the amygdala. It increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that can actually calm the amygdala and calm big emotions and think logically. It also strengthens the connections between the two. So the brain needs to work well separately, but it also needs to work well together. So when the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are connected, that’s when it’s going to be easier to take charge of that anxious response before it becomes something that feels really awful. Mindfulness is amazing. There are apps that can help kids with mindfulness. I’ve got articles on the site about how to do mindfulness with kids, it’s really just a form of meditation. But brains need to be still, bodies need to move. So exercise is the other one. We know exercise increases the neuro chemicals that help to calm the neurons in the brain that can feed into anxiety. So exercise is so important for mental health. So that’s another one. And so explaining what it is, mindfulness and exercise would be the big three.

Debbie Reber  30:49

Awesome, thank you for sharing that. And I have to ask, are you familiar with the app Headspace?

Karen Young 30:56

Yes, I am. Yep, that is a really great one. There’s another one that I talk about a lot, which is Smiling Mind. That’s another one. There’s actually a lot of really great apps out there. It’s really a matter of which one the kids feel works for them. But I like the idea of the app, because it’s a guided meditation. So I think mindfulness can be really hard, especially if you’ve got a racy mind can be really hard to still that mind. 

Debbie Reber  31:22

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, just go be quiet for 10 minutes. Yeah. I mentioned Headspace because I just read that they’ve come out with a kid’s version of it. So I’m anxious to try that out as well. But, listeners, I’ll include links to these in the show notes page, if you want to check them out. And also include links to the article that Karen mentioned too, Karen’s book. And of course, Hey, Sigmund. But are there any other places on social media that people can connect with you?

Karen Young  31:50

On Facebook, and Facebook is where I share all my posts. So Facebook, if you just look up a segment in Facebook, that’ll pop me up. And I’m also on Instagram and Twitter, but mostly Facebook is for the articles, I feed through the articles. And I feed through other things as well.

Debbie Reber  32:09

Great. Okay, so I will share all those links, lots of ways to connect and follow the work that Karen is doing. And Karen, I just want to thank you. This has been such an insightful conversation for me and I, this is a topic I’ve been really wanting to bring more to the podcast, so I appreciate you sharing your insight on anxiety and your wisdom and the great work that you’re doing. So thank you so much.

Karen Young  32:32

Thank you for having me. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to talk about it and get this conversation moving. And you know, it’s when we talk about it that the stigma and the pathology or the tendency to pathologize starts to fade away. So I’m really grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to do that. So thank you.

Debbie Reber  32:54

You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode, including links to Karen’s website Hey, Sigmund, her new books for children with anxiety Hey, Warrior and the other things we discussed, visit tiltparenting.com/session84. And don’t forget to check out my After the Show short video where I share my top takeaways from my conversation with Karen. You’ll find a link on the show notes page or you can go straight to tiltparenting.com/aftertheshow. And a quick invitation to try our free differently wired seven day challenge if you haven’t gone through it yet, when you sign up, I’ll email you a short inspirational video each day for a week with a tip you can incorporate into your life right away. You also be invited to join a private Facebook group for people who have gone through or are doing the challenge. More than 800 people have gone through it so far. It’s free. It’s ongoing and it’s designed to help you find more peace and confidence in your parenting journey today. To join visit tiltparenting.com/7day. If you liked what you heard on today’s episode, consider subscribing or leaving a review in iTunes. Both those things help our podcast get noticed in the crowded podcast space. Thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting visit www.tiltparenting.com


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