Can Outdoor Activities Help a Child With Anxiety?
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’re firm believers in the restorative powers of the natural world for those both young and old!
There are numerous benefits of spending time in nature, which we’re keen to embrace when offering our activity holidays for disabled people and their families.
Just being outdoors and enjoying activities in nature can improve general health and wellbeing, helping to ease feelings of anxiety. Find out just how beneficial outdoor activities can be below.
The Mental Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
The positive effects of spending time in nature have now been well documented. Being in green spaces can help boost your mood, reduce feelings of stress, make you feel more relaxed and even improve confidence.
Bringing nature into child’s life as well as your own can be greatly beneficial, whether they experience anxiety or not – doing things like gardening, going for walks or taking part in outdoor adventure activities can improve general wellbeing and open the door to new experiences!
10 Ways Outdoor Activities Help a Child with Anxiety
So how do these benefits of spending time outdoors take shape for children with anxiety?
1. Improved Sense of Wellbeing
Accessible outdoor adventure activities usually take place in quiet places, surrounded by the natural world and away from the hustle of everyday life. Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’re located in the countryside next to a national park and love the tranquillity that it can bring!
Just being in an environment surrounded by nature like this can improve wellbeing and make children more relaxed, reducing anxiety in general. Fresh air, trees and serene views can put the mind at ease, even at a young age.
2. Encouraging Acceptance of New Experiences
Structured outdoor activities can encourage an openness to new experiences. Doing new activities helps children learn that they can do things they didn’t think possible, which reduces fears, worries and anxieties.
Having support and encouragement from those around them can also improve their experience, help them overcome phobias, boost social confidence and build positive memories.
3. A New Way of Thinking
By participating in new experiences, children can develop a new way of thinking.
For example, a child abseiling for the first time has probably never thought about how to abseil before. In the build-up, they may be nervous and worried about falling. Yet, with the help of activity instructors and those around them, the child will learn about the equipment, how the ropes work, and will take on important information.
This makes them focus on how to abseil rather than worrying about whether they can or not, reducing anxiety.
4. Increased Confidence & Independence
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement during outdoor activities, which improves confidence and self-belief.
Completing an activity teaches a child that they are good enough to do it, which can inspire them to tackle other challenges with new enthusiasm. Feelings of self-doubt are overcome and replaced with perseverance – improving confidence and reducing anxiety levels.
5. Different Stimulation
Doing outdoor activities provides different and new stimuli. By embracing these differences, children learn to confront unfamiliar places more confidently. Seeing, smelling, hearing and doing new things becomes less overwhelming, and the idea of somewhere ‘new’ becomes less daunting.
6. Connecting with Others
A sense of belonging and community can form between children when in an unfamiliar environment. The process of doing new activities together connects children, especially when several of the group are anxious.
The shared feelings of uncertainty are often what bonds children who have just met, and they can quickly form a team or friendship.
7. Acquiring New Skills
By doing inclusive outdoor activities, children can learn skills while improving general coordination and motor skills. In the long run, this improves self-confidence and allows them to see themselves in a positive light.
Feelings of anxiety can be reduced as they build confidence and experience different ways to learn and succeed.
8. Reduced Stress
It is well documented that stress and fatigue, caused by any number of things, can contribute to anxiety. A stressed child could struggle to deal with their feelings, increasing anxiety.
Outdoor activities help overcome phobias such as heights, encourage socialising and offer positive life experiences, reducing stress and lowering anxiety levels.
9. Feelings of Responsibility & Control
Children can have anxiety because of what they are going through at a particular moment in time. Giving them the responsibility and control over the situation helps reduce fears.
During outdoor activity sessions, the children always feel in control of their own actions. A child may be encouraged to take part, but it is ultimately their decision if they do or not. Subconsciously this can reduce anxiety as they always feel in control and are able to make their own decisions.
10. Improved General Mental Health
Feelings of anxiety impact a child’s general mental health, and prolonged anxiety can greatly affect them. All of the above benefits combine to help encourage positive feelings and healthier habits.
Read more about how an adventure break can improve mental health for people of all ages and abilities.
What is Anxiety?
Everyone may feel anxious at some point, with feelings of worry, stress and uncertainty being common manifestations of the emotion. It’s perfectly normal to feel these things at various points in your life but can be cause for concern when these feelings are more severe.
Anxiety starts to become more serious when negative feelings last for longer periods of time, and they begin having a detrimental effect on your everyday life. For example, people with anxiety may avoid situations they worry about. This is when normal feelings of anxiety turn into varying degrees of anxiety-based disorders.
How you deal with anxiety largely influences your mental health and general wellbeing. While facing anxiety can be challenging, there are numerous ways to help reduce negative feelings and give you the necessary tools you need to cope, as shown with the benefits of outdoor activities above.
Why Would a Child Have Anxiety?
Anyone of any age can experience anxiety, whether to a healthy degree or to the point of developing an anxiety disorder.
There are various reasons your child might start feeling anxious. Some common causes of anxiety in children include:
- Separation – younger children often experience separation anxiety from parents or other loved ones and feel panicked or scared when away from them.
- Phobias – irrational fears of things like bugs or the dark.
- Social settings – feeling nervous, embarrassed or shy around others, especially new people.
- Life experiences – reflecting on negative feelings or bad experiences.
- Life changes – changes to the everyday routine, new settings, unfamiliar situations, moving to a new house or school or the loss of a close relative or friends can all cause anxiety.
What are the Signs of Anxiety in Children?
Every child will display anxiety differently, but some common signs might include:
- Becoming irritable
- Having difficulty sleeping or having bad dreams
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Losing appetite or not eating properly
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- Asking lots of questions or needing reassurance
- Feeling tense and fidgety
- Complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
- Lack of confidence to do everyday things
- Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, such as seeing friends, going out or going to school
If you think your child might be dealing with a more severe anxiety disorder, consult a healthcare professional.
How Can Disability Contribute to Anxiety?
Depending on the disability or condition, a child might have additional difficulties in social settings and may face further struggles with change.
It’s also likely that their life experiences are unique to them and different to those without disabilities; they may feel that no one else understands what they have gone through and that they can’t do what others can.
At Calvert Exmoor, we believe it’s what you can do that counts and ensures that everyone can enjoy the many benefits of participating in accessible adventure activities.
At Calvert Exmoor, we often meet anxious children who do not think they will enjoy their stay or are worried about doing certain outdoor activities. Once they begin their adventure, they have a wonderful time and love every activity, conquering their fears and leaving with a positive mindset.
If nothing else, children spending time with family or friends in a safe environment helps them relax and enjoy the experience, meaning they can start to understand anxiety and develop skills to get past their worries in other settings.
If you think your child would enjoy the wide range of outdoor activities we have to offer, please do get in touch to learn more or book an accessible adventure break today!