We all feel anxiety, it’s part of human nature. However, helping adolescents manage their anxiety if it starts impacting on their functioning is key. It also sets good habits for their journey into adulthood.
Adopting healthy sleeping patterns, eating well and exercising are the foundations of a healthy lifestyle, physically as well as emotionally. Starting these helpful patterns and integrating them into daily life is one of the most valuable tools for controlling anxiety. Sadly, the rise in screen time is a big threat to maintaining these basics, and teens need parents to set consistent limits around this. A healthy body can also improve self confidence and self image which can be a fragile thing during the teenage years.
Don’t forget to breathe!
Breathing techniques are highly effective in managing anxiety. Slow, controlled breathing (in through your nose and out through your mouth) will help to slow down the physical symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, quick breaths), which in turn can slow down those racing thoughts. There are some good apps for this, which many teenagers like.
Mindful breathing is a great tool that can be used at any time, to help stay grounded and focussed on the here and now. Helping teenagers stay in the present, can help prevent worries about the future or rumination about the past.
Being in tune with your inner dialogue, and ensuring it’s staying positive is also a helpful way for teenagers to manage anxiety. Being able to say to yourself “I know this won’t last forever, and I can get through this by…” will help to stay confident that the anxiety is manageable.
Hobbies and support networks
Ensuring your teen is still doing the things they enjoy, and preferably maintaining friendships at the same time will certainly help. Teen anxiety can often be social-based, so make sure that it’s the right kind of environment for them.
As a parent, it can be very difficult seeing your adolescent struggle with anxiety. Pay attention to their feelings, validate them and don’t be dismissive. Build their sense of worth, by recognising their achievements (even small ones) and stay calm when your child becomes anxious. Encourage them to practice these skills in their toolbox and when stressful situations occur, they should feel more prepared.
Dr Kanan Pandya-Smith