For some individuals, there are situations that they might find particularly stressful or that create heightened feelings of anxiety. These are called “triggers” and understanding them can help your teen develop positive coping strategies to manage their anxiety. Here are some possible triggers to consider, along with ways that you can support your teen.
Social situations are a fairly common trigger for individuals living with anxiety. Parties, meals and other social occasions where there are lots of other people, including strangers, can cause stress or even panic. You can help your teen overcome feelings of anxiety in social situations by creating safe spaces for them to spend time with close friends, encouraging them to talk about their concerns and offering to practice conversations that they might be nervous to have with others.
Performances or Presentations
Teens living with anxiety may often be concerned about what other people think of them. As a result, situations where they have to perform or present in front of people can be extremely strenuous. While this can include a theatrical performance or big class presentation, anxiety can even manifest on a smaller scale, e.g. answering questions in class or speaking in groups. These moments can feel like a “performance” for some teens. When possible, try speaking with your teen and their teacher to see what accommodations can be made to support your teen’s difficulties.
Even healthy families can have their fair share of stress and discomfort. But if your family home is a place of constant stress, this might trigger your teen’s anxiety. Try to build healthy relationships with each other as a family by spending fun, quality time together. Support each other in your accomplishments and struggles. Whenever you have a conflict with a spouse, be sure to hold such conversations away from your teen so they aren’t burdened by something they can’t control.
While it’s not always easy to understand, negative rumination can be one of the worst sources of anxiety. Your teen might dwell on negative moments, assume the worst outcomes and be extremely self-critical. To support your teen, encourage open communication by taking time to ask how they’re feeling. Your teen might also find it helpful to speak to a therapist to understand where their thoughts come from and to help them develop healthy strategies for thinking positively.
If your teen struggles with anxiety, the help of a mental health professional might be one of the best supports they can receive.
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