One of the most common questions I see being asked within the food allergy community is:
"How do I help my son or daughter with their food allergy anxiety or worry?"
The answer to that question isn't simplistic, as there are likely many factors contributing to the anxiety or worry. But at the core of the answer is the advice to help their child better understand the worry in order to develop strategies to help effectively manage it.
What exactly is worry?
The terms "anxiety", "worry", and "fear" are often used interchangeably. So do they mean the same thing? No, but they are definitely related.
Whereas anxiety typically stems from the uncertainty, unpredictability and unknown about future situations, worry is the thinking part of anxiety. It's what often leads our minds to dwelling on worst case scenarios, the "what ifs", or leads us into a thinking trap known as "catastrophizing".
Whether our worry is triggered by anxiety about the future or fear due to a threat in the here-and-now, it can lead us down the rabbit hole of thoughts. This may then trigger uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations, which often convinces us even more that our worried thoughts must be valid!
What helps to manage worrY?
There are a variety of therapeutic approaches to help people learn to manage or navigate life with their anxiety or worry. Whether through basic psychoeducation, or strategies based on approaches stemming from evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, or exposure therapy, the goals are typically to help people change negative thought patterns, learn relaxation or grounding skills, and change behaviors that lead to the distressing impacts or outcomes.
The Managing Food Allergy Worries Worksheet
The following 3-page therapeutic worksheet was created to help older kids, teens, and even adults begin to address their food allergy-related worries. The goal of the worksheet is to help you identify practical strategies that effectively help you break free from those worry traps. It encourages getting to know more about the thoughts that fuel the worry. It also guides you to notice how the worry makes you feel physically since anxiety and worry often bring on physical sensations that may even trick you into thinking you're having an allergic reaction.
You can download this 3-page therapeutic worksheet below
via Scribd or through the file download option.
[Disclaimer: This therapeutic activity is meant to help understand and manage worries, but is not meant to take the place of counseling. Please reach out to a licensed clinical mental healthcare provider if you feel that your anxiety or worry is impacting your life in a way that feels unmanageable on your own. You can locate an allergy-informed therapist in your state via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory.]
RELATED Helpful Resources:
Thanks for reading,
Due to the positive feedback I've received for the Food Allergy Mindset worksheet I shared a few months ago, I've decided to publish additional worksheets that I've created. (I'll be publishing them over time rather than all at once.)
These worksheets are useful tools for adults, parents, older kids/teens, and even medical professionals and mental healthcare providers to share with their patients.
Food Allergy Thinking Traps
The next interactive worksheet I'm sharing is one that focuses on thinking traps.
What are thinking traps?
Thinking traps, or cognitive distortions, are thought patterns that often lead us to feel anxiety, worry or self-doubt. They can make us care too much what others think, doubt our own abilities, think outcomes will always be negative, and often derail us from using healthy skills/tools that actually help us navigate situations. (Check out some common thinking traps examples listed on Anxiety Canada Youth as a reference.)
For food allergy-specific examples, as well as an interactive worksheet you can use to examine and challenge your own thinking traps, check out the Food Allergy Thinking Traps activity worksheet below. (Offered in two downloadable formats)
You can find the other Food Allergy Mental Health worksheets here:
Stay tuned for additional worksheets and resources
that will be shared over time!
In addition to publishing them via this Food Allergy Counselor website (in the Resource Section), I will also share them via the Food Allergy Counselor Directory & Website Facebook page, as well as my Twitter and Instagram accounts.
As a licensed clinical professional counselor that works with those managing food allergies, I'm often asked for anxiety management tips. Before offering any guidance, I always explain that anxiety isn't always negative, and in fact, is a healthy and adaptive tool that helps us navigate life safely. Sometimes sharing this simple fact offers some reassurance.
However, when people feel that their anxiety or worry are reaching unhealthy levels - that it's impacting daily life or resulting in excessive restrictions of foods, social interactions, or achieving developmental milestones - it's useful to have resources to offer in addition to the work we do in our therapy sessions.
Below are a few newer food allergy anxiety-focused resources that may offer tangible tools to help understand and navigate allergy worries.
1. Allergic Living's "Food Allergy Anxiety Guide"
This special edition digital magazine covers a wide variety of food allergy anxiety topics. Leading food allergy clinical psychology and counseling professionals working within the food allergy community share tips via articles and even podcast conversations. Additionally, you'll read relatable stories from individuals and families managing food allergies.
2. "When Food Allergies Cause Anxiety" (Article)
Authored by Food Allergy Counselor website creator Tamara Hubbard, MA, LCPC, and published in the Fall/Winter edition of Coping with Allergies and Asthma magazine (online/print), this article offers five tips to help parents and caregivers approach food allergic kids exhibiting elevated levels of anxiety.
3. Siblings of Children with Chronic Conditions: 4 Potential Signs of Distress to Be Aware Of (Blog Post)
Written by one of the providers at Brave Minds Psychological Services, located on the Food Allergy Counselor Directory in NJ, this post explores how siblings of children with chronic conditions may be emotionally impacted.
4. Allergic Living Video Series: Managing Food Allergy Anxiety (video)
Editor Gwen Smith chats with Dr. Linda Herbert, Director of the psychosocial clinical and research program in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C about food allergy anxiety in children.
5. uh-PARENT-ly Podcast on WGN (Podcast)
Check out this interview with Gia Rosenblum, PhD, an allergy-informed psychologist in private practice in NJ (listed in the Food Allergy Counselor Directory).
6. Post-Anaphylaxis Anxiety Reminders & Tips (PDFs)
Below are two PDFs with tips to help those feeling overwhelmed after a food allergy reaction better understand how to create a plan to move forward. Both versions include the acronym T.R.A.C.E., created by Tamara Hubbard, MA, LCPC, but the second version also offers tips to further help manage stress and anxiety caused by a reaction (adapted from content put together by Jeanne Herzog, PhD)
Additionally, don't forget to check out the Food Allergy Counselor website's Resource Section, offering links to workbooks/books, articles/research and useful tools, as well as the Food Allergy Counselor blog, with posts authored by allergy-informed
clinical counseling providers.
If you're looking for an allergy-informed licensed clinical psychology/counseling provider, be sure to check out the
Food Allergy Counselor Directory to locate one near you.
*(Check back often, as these resources continue to expand!)*
Stay connected with food allergy counselor
Follow on Twitter or Instagram, or on Facebook at FABHA & the Food Allergy Counselor Directory to get updates on the FAC Directory, blog or resources.
Listen to & subscribe to the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast!
Connect with Tamara
on Facebook via
Tamara Hubbard, LCPC counseling page
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