What's the Best Game Plan For My Teen With Anxiety?
I want to see my teenagers free from anxiety!
Teenager has anxiety! How Do I Help?
Phew! This is a big one. Anxiety is tough. Let’s break it down.
Check on their physical health
Are they ill?
Are they drinking too much coffee?
The building blocks of mental health are sleep, exercise and diet. This is where you start. Is your child eating nutritious food at regular intervals? Are they eating enough calories? Are they bringing their heart rate up for 15 minutes each day? Are they getting 8-10 hours of sleep every single night? I have yet to meet a teenager whose rhythm meets all these criteria. So work on those things. Change the things that you can to make sleep, exercise and diet a priority.
Medication is an option, but has side effects that can be difficult. If life prevents physical health from getting priority seating or if the anxiety is there inspite health and self care, which sometimes it does and sometimes it is, there is medication. Life is too short to feel so miserable. This is a last resort, but definitely not off the table (in my opinion).
Counseling for Anxiety
Get your teenager in counseling to
1. begin to open up with a trustworthy adult and
2. learn coping skills.
Incorporating an objective adult into you and your teens life feels scary. Part of why it can be so helpful is because they do not know you. They do not have all of the details. They aren't distracted by any relationship history or "skin in the game". A good counselor will call out your blind spots. They will bring to light things that would otherside gone unspoken (because they want you to get better)! Find a therapist that your teenager clicks with. It is important for them to feel comfortable-enough with the adult. It can help to find someone who specializes in working with teenagers, but it is not necessary. The goal is for them to learn how to manage anxiety.
Game plan for managing anxiety
Part of the process is identifying triggers for their anxiety. A trigger is what causes the anxiety to start. What is happening right before the body goes into freak out or shut down mode? Is it stress about dealing with unknowns? Fear of failure? Insecurity? Spiritual angst? Are they participating in something that makes them feel guilty? Are they taking drugs that you don’t know about?
2.Do they know themselves?
Teenagers have big feelings. Their hormones are changing. Their brains are developing. Your teen is both who you have always known and someone whom you know nothing about. They are getting to know themselves as a separate entity, too. Teens need to be moving their body. Knowing their physical limits is a good step to knowing their emotional limits. They can be journaling, going to therapy, attending a group with peers and a facilitator or some other type of genuine community with mentors.
3.Managing the anxiety feelings
Help them understand what anxiety is. Anxiety is misplaced survival mode. If your life is not in immediate danger, but you are experiencing fight or flight mode, you are experiencing anxiety. Part of managing this is practicing being very present and evaluating present dangers in the “now”. What do you see, hear, feel, taste, smell? Establish where they feel anxiety in their body. Introduce them to muscle relaxation meditations and mindfulness. Teach them to breath and stretch. Encourage exercise, healthy eating (low sugar, low caffeine) and regular pooping! Manage their calendar. Create an ideal week. Create a rhythm. Educate them on their thinking patterns and create mantras that address their thinking errors. These are all helpful in managing anxiety so that you can enjoy each moment as much as possible. Don't allow your survival mode part of your brain to take up more space than it needs to.
4.Is it anxiety or addiction issues?
Anxiety is often “self medicated” with
- smoking marijuana,
- shopping or
- many other addicting behaviors.
They provide an outlet for the nervous energy and a way to escape the discomforts of reality. The remedy is increasing your distress tolerance muscles.
There is hope.
You can do hard things. You can be in this life, in the present, for the good, bad and the ugly. When it gets ugly- that is when your brain kicks into fight or flight (or freeze) and you handle that, too!
Brains are amazing. Counseling is amazing. You are amazing!
Connect with me!!
Join the conversation on Facebook, through text 1-904-357-0536 or send me a message to start your teenager on the healing path.
I would love to see them free from anxiety.