09 Nov Teen Anxiety and What You Can do to Help
Anxiety is normal, unless it has taken over your life
This article will focus on teenage anxiety and how to cope.
First, it’s important to understand that anxiety in itself is a normal human experience. A lack of anxiety would be a bad thing, in that it helps us adapt and react to sudden stressful situations in a self preserving way. It’s in our genes, and has been passed down through our ancestry for a reason.
Anxiety, Before and Now
A long time ago anxiety pushed us to make a split second decision to fight a wild boar with our bare hands, or flee for a safe place. In the modern age a more likely scenario is deciding to confront a combative undermining friend, or commit to remove them from your life. In both examples anxiety is normal and human. We have a fight or flight Instinct, driven by anxiety. It is designed to keep us safe and protected. It communicates important information to us, in a quick expedient way. That forces us to take immediate action to protect ourselves.
The Special Case of Teen Anxiety
Teenagers as a group have heightened emotions that typically rise in adolescence. Teen anxiety can be very overwhelming for all the family members involved. This is the time when the most physical and mental growth is happening, and it’s a lot to handle.
It makes sense for teens that feelings are more all over the place and intense. Remember anxiety in general is not the enemy. It’s when it becomes out of control and too intense that it can wreak some havoc. Most people would, understandably, rather avoid conflict. But, in this world it’s an unavoidable thing. Our job as adults navigating teenagers is to help them resolve conflict and handle stress.
What to Do When Your Teen Suffers from Stress or Anxiety
When your teenager is having stress and anxiety, here are several ways you can help:
- The first thing is to simply and compassionately acknowledge it
- Help your teenager to understand themselves in order to cope and adapt positively to stress.
- Explore with them gently what they think has caused the anxiety.
- Educate them about anxiety. Teach them that it’s normal to experience.
- Then to detach a bit from the feeling, and ask questions exploring what it might be all about? Have your teen ask themselves what just happened for me to feel this way?
- Help your teenager relax and calm down in order to bring back logical rational problem-solving oriented thinking.
When teenagers become highly stressed they feel it in their body and mind. You can help them manage stress by using calming and distracting techniques.
Helpful techniques you can try include:
- Teach them controlled breathing, which is clinically proven to calm people down.
- Have them take a break and do something else, and then come back with a clearer mind. This works wonders to break the spell of anxiety. It enables dealing with the stressor from a more rational perspective.
- Another great technique is to flex and relax all of your muscle groups. Start at your toes and end with your face, contracting for at least 10 seconds and then relaxing for another 10 seconds. This is another proven method to help your teenager calm down and then use reason to solve the problem.
Normalize the Anxiety with Your Child
Teenagers are anxious about many different things in this life. Approximately 10% of adolescent teenagers develop an anxiety disorder, and many of these young people do not get treatment. It’s understandable to chalk it up to typical teen angst. But, pay attention to evaluate if it’s pervasive. There are many different anxiety diagnoses which need to be understood by a trained clinician. As parents it is extremely difficult and painful to watch your teenager become highly anxious, and not swoop in and rescue them from their uncomfortable emotions. It is actually more beneficial to help normalize the experience, validate their feelings, and acknowledge their emotions. Empathize and be sensitive in order to provide reassurance that they can get through it. Help your teenager learn to handle distress, and that they can work things out themselves in order to achieve true empowerment.
Avoiding Stress and Anxiety Can Lead to Undesired Outcomes for Your Teen
If your teenager continues to avoid life, it may actually worsen and perpetuate their anxiety, because it puts off the inevitable.
“The future is only scary if we try to avoid it” – Author Simon Sinek
Any loving parent naturally wants to help their teenager avoid stress, but it is not advisable. Denial and avoidance only intensifies anxiety and panic, because deep down they know they haven’t resolved anything. It feeds the anxiety and then it becomes even harder to do what was scary in the first place. When teenagers become exceedingly stressed and anxious their cognition actually shuts off and they can no longer think through the problem. They need to calm down and be brought off the ledge in order to then help them understand that you are with them and giving them support.
When to Seek Professional Support for Your Teen’s Anxiety
If your teenager’s mood is primarily anxious most of the time, something could be indicating a problem. When there is no real threat, and your teenage son or daughter is demonstrating symptomatic behavior, you know it’s signaling a problem. Ask yourself does their anxiety interfere with their functioning? Severe anxiety can be crippling. But, remember anxiety as a whole is just an emotion. It has been given a very bad rap as a negative emotion and people want to get rid of it immediately. There is something tremendously good about getting through an anxious situation, as long as it is not severely out of control. It goes a long way to helping you feel successful.
I care deeply in my practice about teenagers and helping them through anxiety and mood problems. At Sirona Therapy, we use cognitive behavioral therapy to examine your teenager’s thoughts and feelings. This helps them to face their fears as we support and guide them.
Clinical support reduces anxiety because that person now feels that someone is on their team. Parents should seek professional services if their teenager demonstrates extreme anxiety in most areas of their life. We offer reliable and practical information on teenage anxiety to help our clients feel safe. To understand they have the resources to get through their anxiety. We teach them that it is okay to feel these stressful, awful feelings. That they’re okay, and there’s nothing wrong with them. At the same time, we develop treatment plans of ways to manage those emotions.
Click here to learn how we can help you and your child cope with your stress and anxiety, or call us at (914) 241-0727. We serve families in the counties of Westchester and Faifield.