As a child moves into adolescence, there are numerous stresses added to their daily life. Whether it’s increased responsibility, pressures from friends, academics or discovering their self-image, it’s not uncommon for teens to feel anxious. Anxiety should never be the norm, however, and there are ways you can help and support teens to develop positive strategies to treat it.
Reduce Stress and Increase Support
We are often affected by our surroundings, more than we realize. As a result, fostering a safe and healthy home environment is an extremely effective treatment for teens living with anxiety.
While some degree of conflict is normal in household atmospheres, choose to reduce stress by addressing issues when they arise in a calm matter. Give your teen an opportunity to express their side of the story and, when possible, collaborate on a solution. The earlier conflicts are resolved the less stress is left to build.
Having support and understanding within a home environment is also important because teens living with anxiety need to feel heard, not alienated. Take the time to listen to their concerns and remember that you have an opportunity to act as a positive role model when responding to your own worries.
Encourage Positive Relationships and Connections
We all crave healthy relationships. But for teens struggling with anxiety, having close personal connections can be an important way feel supported instead of isolated. Encourage positive relationships, whether it’s with a close friend, sibling, parent, teacher or mentor who has the capacity to lend a listening ear and offer understanding. Teens need someone they can trust and communicate within a safe environment, without judgment of their feelings.
Maintain Physical Well-Being
Sleep, exercise and healthy foods are all excellent treatments for anxiety. Ensure that teens are getting appropriate amounts of sleep—not too much or too little—and that they have opportunities to rest throughout the day if needed.
Exercise is also helpful for easing the mind, as it improves moods by releasing endorphins and boosting energy levels. Spending time with family and friends doing a fun activity that they are interested in can help the teen to relieve stress.
Eating well also helps to create balance for an anxious teen. Some may indulge in unhealthy foods while others may feel unable to eat at all. Try to encourage them to choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat proteins, which will serve to lift a teen’s energy and mood.
Create a Routine
At times, constant disruptions and uncertainty in daily schedules can amplify anxiety. To avoid this, try creating a routine with teens. Include times for balanced meals, homework, chores, relaxation, and, of course, fun! Remember to work collaboratively with the teen on this project as this will help to provide a sense of autonomy over their day-to-day structure.
Replace Negative Thinking With Positive Thinking
Building affirmative habits in thinking patterns is an important method of reducing anxiety within a teen’s life. While negative thinking might be a default, practicing positive thinking can lead to a change in behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one approach that identifies problematic thought patterns and helps teens set goals towards adjusting these, causing a shift in how they feel and in turn how they behave.
Image Sherry Wesilds
Oftentimes, when a teen is anxious, it’s tempting to step in and take over all of their responsibilities. Instead, it’s important to assist the teen in building their own strategies for taking risks and being independent. This might look like giving them responsibilities within a safe environment (ie: the home), by involving them in activities they are proud of, or by brainstorming tactics together to overcome challenges. It’s also helpful to set small, manageable goals with them to accomplish tasks that may otherwise seem overwhelming. Don’t forget to encourage teens as they face fears, and remain supportive through difficult situations.
Above all else, remind teens that it’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s from a caregiver, friend, teacher or family member, they are not alone.
Feature image Ditty_about_summer / Shutterstock