Teenagers in America face a variety of unique stressors daily. From test-related anxiety during school to the stress of trying to fit in, teens deal with anxiety and stress frequently. Additionally, with the current pandemic continuing to affect American citizens, learning how to deal with anxiety is extremely important.
If your teenager is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may have noticed a worsening in their symptoms lately. Helping teenagers cope with anxiety healthily is always important, but especially in 2020. With the uncertainty of the school year and less ability to hang out with friends, feelings of despair and loneliness may begin to appear. If your teenage son or daughter has been struggling with anxiety, continue reading to learn 7 tips for coping with teen anxiety.
How to Help Your Teen Cope With Anxiety
To begin, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition that causes teens to feel anxious and worry excessively, even when it seems as if there’s no reason to be worried. Add that onto the increasingly stressful environment of 2020, your teen may be suffering a great deal. If anxiety is left untreated, it can cause academic problems, lead to substance abuse, interfere with relationships, and hinder your teen’s ability to set and reach goals.
If you are concerned about your teen’s generalized anxiety disorder, consider the following 7 tips.
#1: Validate their Emotions
When a teenager is struggling with anxiety, it’s counterproductive to make them feel as if their feelings aren’t valid. For example, never say things such as, “You’re so young, you have nothing to worry about,” or “This too, shall pass”. By saying these things, your child will feel as if their feelings do not matter. Instead, try saying things like, “I can see that you are stressed out. What is bothering you the most?” Statements such as these open up a line of communication and support for your teen when they need it the most.
#2: Maintain a Schedule
During stressful times, routines offer a sense of structure and normalcy. Some teens may be struggling with a very different school timeline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By creating a consistent schedule, you will provide your teen with a sense of security and purpose that they may be lacking in current times.
#3: Limit Social Media Usage Among the Household
If you and your teen spend a lot of time checking news headlines and broadcasting stations, their anxiety could be stemming from a streamline of constant bad news. This often exacerbates symptoms of anxiety. According to mental health professionals, individuals should scroll on social media for less than 30 minutes a day to avoid increased levels of stress.
While monitoring device usage is unrealistic, you could set a positive example by cutting down on your own internet time. Additionally, making suggestions to watch something other than the news, such as a light-hearted comedy movie, could help keep your teen from suffering from social media and news-related anxiety.
#4: Encourage Healthy Distractions from Stress
While video games take a lot of criticism, they often offer a necessary distraction for teens with anxiety issues. If your teenager needs a distraction, it’s okay to indulge them as long as the distractions are healthy. Encourage other hobbies and activities in addition to digital escapes, such as reading, journaling, art projects, cooking, or exercise. It’s also important to help your teen find additional support and maintain their social lives by attending virtual or socially distanced hangouts with their friends and family.
#5: Keep an Eye on their Physical Health
Oftentimes, tending to one’s physical needs provides relief for anxiety and stress-related issues. For example, eating healthy snacks, rather than junk food, can naturally relieve an individual’s anxiety. Additionally, it is important to take notice of whether your teen is skipping meals due to high levels of anxiety. You should encourage your child to exercise regularly, enforce regular bedtimes, and attempt to have meals together frequently.
#6: Maintain Your Own Self-Care
If you are struggling with your own mental health, it can be very difficult to help your child deal with their anxiety. With that being said, it’s important to continue to take care of yourself while helping your teen cope with stress. Even if you only take 30 minutes per day to practice self-care exercises, you will feel much better and become more able to help your teen.
Additionally, if your teenager notices that you are taking care of yourself, they may begin to pick up on your healthy coping mechanisms. You should always speak honestly and openly with your teen about your own struggles with mental health and anxiety. This shows them that they are not alone and other people struggle with the same issues that they do.
#7: Consider Therapy
If you are concerned about your teen’s anxiety, you may want to consider connecting them with a professional therapist. Therapy allows teens to discuss their concerns with a licensed professional who can remain unbiased and impartial. The patient-to-therapist relationship often allows teens to feel more comfortable opening up. If you cannot afford therapy, contact your child’s school or pediatrician for free or low-cost youth counseling services.
There is no arguing that the current climate of the country is causing rising levels of anxiety and stress nation-wide. However, by utilizing resources, supporting your teen, and making better choices as a family regarding physical and mental health, your teen will begin to experience a lessening in anxiety symptoms.