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This article is Part 2 of my series on the signs of PANDAS disease and how to help your child with them, including anxiety, OCD, and tic disorders.

Children and anxiety – two things that shouldn’t go together, but unfortunately often do. Childhood is not always the happy, idyllic experience we’d like it to be. In fact, anxiety in school-age children is rampant. Between 2016 and 2019, approximately 5.8 million children from 3-17 were diagnosed with anxiety. If your child falls into those statistics, there’s nothing you want more than to know how to help your child with anxiety.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about practical steps you can take to ease the symptoms of PANS/PANDAS and other conditions related to brain inflammation. This week we’re tackling anxiety. Anxiety certainly isn’t exclusive to PANS/PANDAS-affected children. It’s everywhere.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Children and Young People

While I obviously can’t diagnose your child with anything in an article, here are some signs of anxiety in children to look out for:

👉 Difficulty concentrating
👉 Sleep issues, or waking during the night with bad dreams
👉 Struggling to eat properly
👉 Shortness of breath
👉 Quickly getting angry or irritable, and being out of control during outbursts
👉 Consistently worrying or having negative thoughts

👉 Feeling tense and fidgety
👉 Using the restroom often
👉 Crying often
👉 Being clingy
👉 Avoiding eye contact
👉 Complaining of stomach discomfort and feeling unwell

If your child is young, they’re more likely to experience separation anxiety. Older children and teenagers will be more apt to experience social anxiety around school or other social situations.

If your child is struggling, I recommend you talk with an experienced practitioner to determine the underlying problem. If you’re looking for a practitioner, you can book a consultation call with me here

But whether you have a diagnosis or not, there are some effective natural strategies to help your child cope with anxiety. 

Natural Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety

Talk with your child about their feelings of anxiety

Maintain an open dialogue with your child — speaking about feeling sad or anxious is the first step to healing. When we keep these kinds of feelings to ourselves, they have a tendency to grow and become like a wild weed strangling out other thoughts. Secrecy and silence breed shame, which is fertile ground for growing feelings of helplessness and fear.

Always listen and be sure to be supportive and loving, even when the fear seems irrational to you — be careful not to belittle your child’s feelings.

Take your anxious child outside every day

I cannot stress this enough. Going outside can do wonders for your child’s mental health — and yours. Fresh air, sunshine, the chance to play and move all contribute to mood. There is evidence that sun exposure helps your body not only produce vitamin D, but serotonin (a feel-good brain chemical) as well.

Going outside also helps with grounding — connecting with the world around you to calm anxious feelings. Activities like sitting in the grass, playing with a pet, and splashing in water can help reduce anxiety. I recommend this article for more information on grounding and how to do it.

Provide opportunities for your anxious child to exercise

Research shows that for the average person, exercise can reduce poor mental health days more than 40%. Exercise can prevent anxiety as well. In one study, researchers found that people who exercise regularly were 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder over the next five years.

Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult or organized. Letting your child run and play is exercise. So is swimming, walking a dog, or playing with a ball. And if you take your child outside for exercise, you’re giving them a double-dose of help.

Find ways to help your anxious child gain control over their world 

Helping your child feel a sense of control over their daily life can help calm them and give them predictability. 

Here are some activities that can get you started:


Encourage your child to express their thoughts and emotions through writing, allowing them to gain clarity and release any pent-up feelings.


Engaging in artistic endeavors provides a creative outlet for self-expression, enabling your child to visually express their inner experiences and emotions.

Creating a story 

Have your child develop a narrative featuring a fictional character who shares similar fears. Together, you can craft a happy ending, instilling hope and resilience.

Daily schedules 

Establishing structured routines and schedules helps create a sense of predictability and stability, providing reassurance and reducing anxiety.

Storyboards for non-verbal children — Utilize visual aids such as storyboards to assist non-verbal children in expressing their thoughts, needs, and emotions effectively.

Visualization exercises

Have your child imagine themselves 6 months in the future without any fears or anxious moments. Have them describe what this looks like, feels like, sounds like, etc. — the more specific the better. Write this down and refer back to it at night before bed.

Move the body out of fight or flight

When your child is anxious, their heart rate increases, their breathing becomes shallow, and their body tenses. Sometimes the most effective way to quickly move a child out of a panic attack is to work directly on these physical manifestations of fight or flight:

✔ Physically remove the child from the situation

✔ Guide them through some deep breaths, belly breathing or box breathing exercises. Slow breaths will immediately take the body out of fight or flight, which is the first step toward helping your child calm down.

✔ Tapping (EFT) — a method of tapping acupoints on the hands, face, and body with your fingertips while focusing on an issue or feeling you’re hoping to resolve. 

✔ Give your child a bear hug, joint compressions, or a hand/foot massage — whatever the child needs to physically relax their body.

✔ Play soothing music or music the child loves. This is a great way to redirect the senses.

Epsom salt baths – especially good if bedtime elicits fear. The magnesium in the Epsom salts is very calming.

Use essential oils. You can put them in a diffuser, or remove the lid from the bottle and let your child smell them. Be careful about applying them to the skin as some can be irritating. My favorite calming oils include:

😌 Lavender
😌 Rosemary
😌 Sweet orange
😌 Bergamot
😌 Lemon
😌 Clary sage

😌 Frankincense
😌 Rose
😌 Cinnamon
😌 Peppermint
😌 Ylang-ylang

When your child struggles with anxiety, it’s easy to feel helpless. But you have more power than you may think. My hope is that these tips can help your child cope with their anxiety. Stay tuned to the next few blog posts where we’ll dive deeper into creating calm in the brain with the support of our feel-good neurotransmitters — GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.

How GABA Affects Anxiety in Children 

If your child is dealing with PANS/PANDAS or brain inflammation, anxiety is almost a given.

While it’s important to address the root cause of your child’s anxiety with a qualified practitioner, there are steps you can take on your own that can help.

Anxiety is influenced by neurotransmitters – brain chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells. And you can help relieve your child’s anxiety by making sure these neurotransmitters are supported. There are a few neurotransmitters that make a big impact on anxiety including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. In this article, I want to dig into GABA – gamma-aminobutyric acid.

What is GABA?

GABA works as a neurotransmitter, but it’s actually an amino acid. GABA blocks (inhibits) certain brain signals and decreases nervous system activity, producing a calming effect. It counterbalances the action of the neurotransmitter glutamate — an excitatory brain chemical.

Low GABA activity can cause severe anxiety symptoms. Healthy GABA levels can help calm symptoms and make your child’s intense feelings more manageable. Unfortunately, there is no way to directly measure GABA. But if anxiety is an issue, supporting GABA can make a big difference.

How does GABA affect anxiety?

GABA calms the brain and slows down the central nervous system. This reduces the signals that trigger feelings of anxiousness. GABA attaches to a protein in your brain called a GABA receptor. And there it helps produce a calming effect that can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.

How can I support GABA to help my child’s anxiety?

I recommend starting with a natural approach to help your child’s body increase GABA production. There are a variety of ways to do this:


Getting your child to meditate may sound complicated and intimidating. If you’re imagining a guru sitting in the lotus position for hours with a perfectly clear mind, you may want to expand your idea of meditation.

Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breath for a few minutes, or noticing the world around you. For kids, I recommend mindful walking meditation. This way, they can keep their body busy while they work on focusing their mind on the present moment. You can watch this video with your child and then give mindful walking a try!


Belly breathing is another great way to reduce anxiety and support GABA levels. Breathwork can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be. For a child-friendly belly breathing practice, lay down on the floor with your child, facing the ceiling. Have your child put a hand on their belly and pretend they’re filling up a balloon with each breath.

Once they get the hang of taking good belly breaths (instead of shallow, shoulder breaths), you can start counting while you breathe. Try inhaling for four, pausing at the top, then exhaling for 6. Taking longer to exhale than inhale tells the brain it’s time to calm down.


The gentle movements of yoga are associated with increased brain GABA levels. And just like meditation, there are kid-friendly versions. Check with your local yoga studio, or search out some videos on Youtube.

GABA Foods

You can also support GABA by giving your child GABA-rich foods like bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, mushrooms, potatoes, rice, and tomatoes.

Green tea, saffron, and the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha (often found in herbal teas) are also great sources of GABA. Probiotics — specifically lactobacillus — can help too. 

Foods to avoid

Copper is associated with anxiety. So if you’re working to balance GABA, you may want to avoid high copper foods like organ meats, shellfish, fish, nuts, and seeds, as well as whole grains and chocolate. You also may want to stay away from foods that are high in glutamate, or foods with glutamate as an additive. Watch out for monosodium glutamate (MSG), as well as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate.

Best GABA Supplements + supplements that support GABA

There are a number of supplements that can support GABA. But as always, make sure to check with your child’s practitioner before starting a supplement regimen. If you need help deciding which supplements are right for your child, I’m happy to help. You can book a free discovery call here.

While I can’t make specific recommendations without working directly with your child, there are some supplements I generally recommend for GABA:

✔ Zen — GABA plus L-Theanine
✔ Zen Adapt with Sensoril — Ashwagandha
✔ Liposomal GABA — a liposomal formulation of GABA and L-theanine
✔ GABA 420mg — stand-alone GABA product
✔ GABA Calm Lozenge — GABA, Glycine, Tyrosine and Taurine
✔ Magnesium

✔ B6
✔ Zinc
✔ Taurine
✔ L-theanine
✔ Kava

Supporting your child’s GABA has the potential to make a significant difference in their anxiety. There are pharmaceutical medications that many practitioners will recommend. And while prescription medications have their place, I always start by supporting the body’s natural ability to heal and get back into balance. 

Watch for part 3 of this series where I will cover how serotonin and dopamine can help with PANDAS symptoms.

If you’re wondering if your child’s symptoms might add up to more than just a behavioral issue or developmental phase consider taking my free PANS/PANDAS quiz.

Additional Resources: