Teens and Anxiety: Coping Skills
Ivana Pejakovic B.Sc., MA
Anxiety is on the rise, including in the teen population. While a very small number of people need to manage anxiety with medication, adjustments in a teen’s lifestyle and extra support at home can lead to great changes.
If your teen is currently using anxiety medication, it is important s/he also learns coping techniques that can minimize or eliminate the need for or dependence on prescription drugs. A healthier lifestyle will improve the overall quality of your teen’s life. Encourage your teen to make necessary adjustments.
Here are 9 tips to help your teen cope with or eliminate anxiety.
1. Relaxation methods: Yoga, nature walks (e.g. hiking), quiet time (without music, TV, or other electronic devices), and laughter are all example of methods that produce feelings of relaxation and reduce anxious feelings in the body. With a hectic life and access to many electronic gadgets, most kids have little quiet time and have minds that are constantly running. Try to schedule quiet time in the house for everyone. It can be at different times or at the same time for everyone.
2. The present moment: If you find your teen is constantly talking about the past or about the future, guide him/her to the present moment. The past cannot be changed and the future holds endless positive opportunities. Ask your teen about what is happening in life now and what can be done now to shape the future s/he wants. Teach your teen to let go of past events and to be an optimist regarding the future. Set a good example.
3. Find root cause of your child’s thoughts: If your child is expressing nervousness and fear, don’t sugar coat the feelings by saying everything will be fine. The feelings are based on thoughts and past experiences. Ask questions that will lead you to the root cause of his/ her fear. When you find it, eliminate it through logic, past examples, and optimism.
4. Practice positivity: Encourage your child to think positively. At the beginning of each week ask your teen to write one positive story. The story should include details of how things will turn out positively. When the story is completed, ask him/her to re-read it daily.
5. Journaling: Ask your teen to write down what makes him/her feel anxious and what makes him/her feel good (what thoughts associate with each situation). This will allow the two of you to pick up on patterns and get an idea of what the trigger points are. This can be done daily or 2-3 times per week.
6. Healthy lifestyle: Living a healthy lifestyle has the power to influence thoughts in a positive direction. Taking positive actions also provides evidence that life is changing for the better. Incorporate the following into daily life: regular exercise, nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, enough sleep. Also, see if your teen can avoid the following items: caffeinated beverages, alcohol, cigarettes, & drugs. These items are stimulants and can enhance anxiety.
7. Social group: Who is your teen hanging out with? How is this group contributing to his/her anxiety? If you think changes are necessary, approach your teen from a neutral perspective and point out any issues. The key is to avoid lecturing but allowing your teen to feel s/he has some choice in the matter. S/he may not see your point immediately but you will be planting positive seeds in his/her mind.
8. Life purpose: Having a purpose in life often gives feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, and takes away feelings of stress and worry. Inspire your teen and teach him/her to set goals. When teen is focused on goals s/he is less likely to be bothered by inconsequential matters that can lead to anxiety.
9. Support network: Who can your teen speak to when stressed and anxious? Sometimes teens prefer parents and other times they prefer a neutral person. Don’t let it hurt you if they choose someone else. Sometimes it can be difficult to speak about embarrassing things to parents. The important thing to keep in mind is that s/he has the support necessary to deal with anxiety.
Best Wishes to Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach Toronto