Don’t Sweat It: Anxiety in Teens

Are worried thoughts stopping you from having fun? An article for teens.

WHAT DOES ANXIETY FEEL LIKE?

Anxiety can change the way your body feels, your thoughts, and your behaviour.

The feeling of anxiety generally involves breathing quicker, your heart rate going fast, a dry mouth, sweaty palms/sweaty underarms, a hot flush, your face going red, or dizziness.

Anxious thoughts generally involve worrying about bad things happening, worrying about what people think of you and assuming that the worst outcome will be true.

Anxious behaviour generally involves avoiding something. You may avoid asking a question in class, avoid sleeping in your own room, avoid asking a friend to play with you, avoid going to school, or avoid talking to new people.

5 WAYS TO TACKLE ANXIETY

There are plenty of things you can do to help with anxiety. Here are some strategies:

  1. Talk to your parent or carer about the troubling thoughts you are having. Choose a parent or carer that listens and will help you. Sometimes when you talk about your feelings with someone, you do your own therapy and solve the problem!
  2. If the anxiety is causing a big disruption in your life and making you feel sad, lonely or angry as well, get your parent to take you to a doctor. They might then give you a referral to see a psychologist.
  3. Check the evidence of your thoughts. For example, if you worry about robbers, figure out how many nights you and your family have slept and then count how many times you have been robbed. You will quickly learn that you may be jumping to conclusions.
  4. Learn how to calm your body down. The best way to do this is to practice slow breathing. Focus on breathing in through your stomach slowly and then breathing out slowly. You should aim to breathe in for 3 seconds and then out for 3 seconds. Do this for a few minutes at a time, or during times when you start feel anxious.
  5. Most importantly, the best way to conquer your anxiety is to face your fears. That’s it, there is no better way to get rid of those worries than by facing them. If you are scared of doing a school speech, go and do it. If you are scared to sleep in your room, go and do it. If you are scared to buy something over the counter, go and do it. If you are scared of making a mistake in front of your friends, go and do it. Almost everyone that deals with their fears quickly learns that ‘it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be’. I work as a child psychologist, and I hear kids every day say these exact words.

If the fear is too big to face in one go, break it down into smaller steps and build up to facing the fear eventually. For example, practice your speech in front of your parents, then your siblings, then your friends, and then do it at school.

Most importantly, it is important to remember that there is help available and no one should be feeling anxious all of the time. Life is too short to miss out on fun things!

Article originally appeared in KIT Magazine.

Nathan Beehag is a senior clinical psychologist and director at The READ Clinic.

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