Anxiety Toolbox for Teens

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. 

The basics

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.

Staying positive 

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. 

Written by:
Dr Kanan Pandya-Smith
Clinical Psychologist
DClinPsych, BSc(Hons)

“Loving Yourself” What Essentially It Means

How many times have you heard the lines “love yourself first” and have end up wondering, what does it actually means?  We know it’s important to love ourselves, right? But how do we do it? We convene that it does not mean being arrogant or thinking that you are better than anyone else. It means having a healthy regard for ourselves, knowing that we are worthy human beings. It means to have self-respect, a positive self-image, and unconditional self-acceptance. Being non judgmentally kind, present, and mindful toward whatever we happen to be experiencing and to  remind  ourselves  that  no  one  is  perfect.  We  all  have  strengths and weaknesses and we certainly possess the resources to work on improving ourselves. Each of us is unique and has specific  talents  and  abilities  to  offer.  We  are  all  here,  in  the  words  of  Walt  Whitman,  “to contribute a verse”.

It’s often easier to be kind and gentle toward others than toward ourselves. Judgmental voices from the past may have left a hidden residue of toxic shame, which blocks us from honouring, or even  noticing,  what  we’re  really  feeling.  Being  gentle  with  ourselves  means  being  kind  and friendly toward the feelings that arise within us. It is very human to feel sad, hurt, and afraid sometimes. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to become mindful of these feelings and allow a  friendly  space for them.   An attitude of gentleness toward our feelings is one way to have more spaciousness around them. We can “be with” our emotions rather than be overwhelmed by them. This gentle way of being with ourselves is an antidote to shame. Rather than battling ourselves or trying to fix or change ourselves, we find more inner peace by simply being with our experiences as they unfold. A subtle sense of fear and shame may prevent us from allowing our  experience to have its life inside us. For example, if we feel or display sadness, hurt, or anxiety we might think we’re weak. Or perhaps we were given messages that it’s not ok to feel; we’re  afraid  that  others  might  judge  us.  Feelings,  in  many  instances,  contain  enlightening messages and if we can cultivate a warm and friendly attitude toward our feelings, they’re more likely to become friendly allies on our life journey. New meanings, insights, and openings arise and our lives move forward in a more fulfilling way. Despite the fact that we are imperfect, we can  appreciate  ourselves  in  discovering what makes us unique and to further develop those talents.  We  have  a  responsibility  to  invest  in  our  personal  growth  and  development.    We endeavour to be the best that we can be, and we strive to achieve our potential to do so.

The greatest thing loving yourself means is that once you do, you’re better equipped to let the world love you as well.

https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/loveyourself.html https://thoughtcatalog.com/briannaewiest/2013/04/5-things-loving-yourself-actually-means/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intimacy-path-toward-spirituality/201510/what-it-really -means-love-yourself

Written by:
Laura Spalvieri
Master of Social Science (Professional Counselling) with specialization in Family Therapy, Grad. Diploma in Professional Counselling, Grad. Diploma in Applied Positive Psychology, Professional Diploma in Psychotherapy with specialization in CBT, SFBT and Hypnotherapy, Graduate Certificate in Professional Counselling, Diploma in Learning Disorders Management & Child Psychology 
Transactional Analysis Analyst (USA & Singapore) 
Member of the Transactional Analysis Association-USA & Singapore 
Member of International Council of Psychotherapists-UK

Childbirth & Mental Health

Childbirth is a mélange of emotions, hormones, anticipation, as well as a monumental shift in one’s physical and mental state. As per data published by the Royal College of Midwives, up to 20 percent of women experience some form of mental illness during pregnancy and the first year of their child’s life. This mental illness can be exhibited in the form of postnatal depression, postpartum anxiety or a combination of both.

Postnatal depression is characterized by having a sense of hopelessness about the future, feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness, worrying excessively about the baby, amongst other potential signs. Those suffering from Postpartum anxiety may exhibit symptoms of panic disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and have intense feelings of fear, worry and restlessness. While both postnatal depression and anxiety exhibit overlapping signs and symptoms, they are different constructs, and need to be diagnosed separately for effective treatment.

Thanks to ongoing public awareness campaigns, postnatal depression has started receiving greater attention and hence making it a little bit easier for women as well as their families to be supportive and get help in need. Although postnatal depression has started to get greater attention, further awareness and recognition of postnatal anxiety is imperative. Studies on the occurrence of postnatal depression and anxiety have reported postnatal anxiety to be three times more prevalent than postnatal depression. Hence it is critical to be screening and looking out for symptoms of both postnatal depression as well as anxiety, especially since in many cases the postnatal anxiety could be one of the pre-cursors for the development of postnatal depression itself. Seeking help and support for any form of depressive or anxiety inducing symptoms that you may be feeling during or after your pregnancy is of utmost importance for the health and wellbeing of the mother as well as the baby.

While having a child is a life-changing and wonderful event in one’s life, mental illness triggered by childbirth is not an uncommon phenomenon. Hence if you are experiencing symptoms that may seem like postnatal depression or anxiety, it is important to remember that firstly, you are not alone, and secondly, seek help early.

Written by:
Sukriti Drabu
Psychologist & Counsellor
M.L.A. (concentration Clinical Psychology), B.A. (Biology, Psychology)
Certificate in ACT, CBT (Beck Institute, USA)