Anxious Strategies for Coping in Crisis


In our last post, we identified Secure Coping Characteristics. While some may fall under that category, chances are yourself or someone else in your family naturally utilizes anxious coping strategies during stressful and scary situations.

Those who use anxious strategies to cope in crisis are likely to feel extreme amounts of pain and fear, and are likely to demonstrate this visibly through feeling anxious, getting loud and possibly angry, gesticulating.

Basically, they wear their heart on their sleeve. And yes, they experience feelings more intensely than others do. They are easily overwhelmed with their emotions and need help soothing themselves. They look to others to help them to do so.

Anxious children may get overstimulated, overexcited, be more boisterous or active than usual. I think about a family member who could easily give me a long list of grievances if I asked her how she was doing right now. If you are parenting a child with an anxious strategy, you probably feel like they need a great deal from you, and you might be exhausted in your attempts to comfort them. If there is something to be fearful of, this person will be the one to pick it up. Often times, we associate terms like “Worry Magnet”, even possibly “Drama Queen” with this anxious coping strategy.

So how do you support someone who has Anxious Coping Skills?

  1. Physical Contact –  Give hugs, massages, or encouragements to run off the energy.  A couple good exercises for this are: “I’m so upset with you, let’s stomp the ground as hard as we can”, “Give me all your worry and pain right now by hugging me as hard as you can”.
  2. Opportunities to vent – Give them a grumble session. Some good exercises for this may be: “If you could grumble for a minute as much as you could, what would you say?” “If you could change 1 thing right now, what would it be?” journaling is helpful (how I feel; 0 – 10 how intense is the feeling; what am I thinking; what am I doing; something I would change; who am I telling about it).

After you’ve had a good talk, it may be helpful to refocus them onto something else, using phrases like “Wash your face with cold water and then let’s find something else to do”. Encourage them to focus on something that they can control: “You have control over your mind, your thoughts, your behaviors, your immune system, and certain parts of your environment.”

Sometimes it just takes someone to come alongside them in their struggles of anxiety, to show them some ways to deal with it in a healthy way, and give them tools to move forward. This can be incredibly helpful training for identifying emotions and redirecting to healthy secure strategies later on in life!

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels