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How a Mom Helped Her Adult Daughter Break Free From Anxiety

An inspiring story of a mother's support to help her adult daughter find peace.

Key points

  • Parents can play a valuable supportive role in helping their children work through anxiety struggles.
  • Parents can play a crucial role in affirming the need for and benefits of professional help.
  • Coping with anxiety can become a connecting experience for parents and adult children.

The following is a true (names changed) account from my parent coaching practice. Liz's mindset and her supportive strategies to help her daughter, Briana, are nothing short of instructive and inspiring.

Briana Was Besieged by Anxiety

Briana was visiting Liz and doing her best to hide the true extent of her emotional pain. She sat on the edge of her bed, her fingers nervously tracing the embroidered pattern on the bedspread. The walls of her childhood bedroom, adorned with posters and photos from happier times, now felt like they were closing in on her.

At 27, she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders, every decision and expectation amplifying her anxiety. Briana was recently appointed as the lead for her department in a large engineering company where she was told by the CEO that she could end up one day in the C-suite.

Liz's Vigilant Observations Led the Way

Her mother, Liz, noticed the change in Briana over the past few months. This once vibrant and confident young woman had become withdrawn, her laughter replaced with forced smiles.

Feeling shaky about how to help Briana, Liz reached out to me for some coaching. At the beginning of our session, Liz said, "Dr. Jeff, I need to get Briana to quit that damn stressful job."

While I normalized that parents often feel this SWAT team leader response, I asked Liz to consider putting aside her need to "fix" Briana's problems. Instead, we focused on how Liz's optimal role would be as both a supportive facilitator of problem-solving and an emotion regulation coach.

A Nonverbal Gesture Followed by a Caring Question

Liz invited Briana to come home again a few days later for dinner (they lived about 30 minutes apart). Briana sat down in the kitchen, staring blankly at a cup of untouched tea. Gently, Liz placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Briana, I've noticed you've been struggling lately. Do you want to talk about what's been going on?"

Briana's eyes filled with tears. "Mom, I don't even know where to start. Everything feels so overwhelming. I can't focus, and the smallest things set me off. I'm just so scared all the time."

Liz pulled up a chair beside Briana, taking her hands in hers. "It's OK to feel scared, sweetheart. But you don't have to face this alone. Let's take this one step at a time."

Liz Guided Briana to Get Professional Help

Over the next few weeks, Liz and Briana began to tackle the anxiety together. Liz researched anxiety and mental health resources, arming herself with the knowledge to better support her daughter. She and I realized the importance of professional help, and Liz encouraged Briana to seek therapy. Liz was hesitant at first, but with her mother's gentle nudging and reassurance, she made an appointment with a therapist.

Therapy became a cornerstone of Briana's journey to managing her anxiety. Her therapist helped her identify triggers and develop coping strategies. Liz's unwavering support also played a huge role in helping Briana. Liz worked further with me to learn how to communicate effectively and provide optimal support.

Mindfulness, Deep Breathing, and Gratitude Journaling

I discovered mounting evidence for the significant impact of employing mindfulness, breath work, and gratitude to manage anxiety when researching my book, The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens. Liz encouraged Briana to explore and join her for some mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Liz and Briana began meeting at a park some mornings for "mindfulness walks" halfway between their residences. Liz also learned that Briana's therapist had introduced her to popular meditation apps, and they both found the guided sessions to be incredibly helpful. Briana's therapist also suggested she keep a gratitude journal, writing down three things she was grateful for each day, which helped shift her focus from anxiety to positivity.

Turning a Setback Into Another Step Forward

One particularly difficult evening, Briana Facetimed Liz sharing that she had a panic attack. Liz saw her daughter curled up on the bathroom floor, struggling to breathe. Remembering the techniques they had learned, Liz guided Briana through deep breathing exercises, her calm voice a lifeline in the storm.

She also used progressive muscle relaxation, instructing Briana to tense and then slowly release each muscle group, which helped her regain control. Slowly, Briana's breathing steadied, and she felt the suffocating grip of panic loosen.

Manageable Anxiety Versus No Anxiety

As the months passed, Briana's anxiety didn't vanish, but it became more manageable. She started to regain her confidence, taking small steps back into the activities she once enjoyed.

Liz's support was constant, her presence a steadying force. She celebrated Briana's victories, no matter how small, and provided a shoulder to cry on during setbacks.

Final Thoughts

Briana's battle with anxiety became a story of resilience and the power of unconditional love. With her mother's unwavering support and a toolkit of practical strategies, she learned that even in the darkest moments, there is always a way to break the chains of anxiety.

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