How To Help An Anxious Teen

Discover ways to help teenagers cope with their anxiety…

Why Is A Teen Anxious?

There are lots of different reasons why teens may be feeling anxious. Every individual is unique, and situations affect everyone differently. Things that may not once have bothered them might now send them into a spin of anxiety and stress. Here are some of the reasons why teenagers often feel anxious:

  • Feeling pressure at school.
  • A big change in their life, such as moving school or a family break-up.
  • Stress in the home.
  • Experiencing a traumatic event, such as losing a loved one or being the victim of bullying or abuse.
  • Dealing with overwhelming responsibilities beyond their age.

How To Spot If A Teen Is Anxious

Look out for these signs as indicators that a teen may be feeling particularly anxious:

  • Feeling upset or tense.
  • Panic attacks or rapid breathing.
  • Sweating or shaking.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Avoiding friends /activities

They may also appear very edgy or preoccupied with worrying thoughts. You may also notice a reluctance to go out and do the things they once enjoyed, like meeting friends or taking part in a club.

Helping Teens To Manage Their Anxiety

Try to work out together what could be making them feel anxious. Between the two of you, you may be able to make some practical changes to their day-to-day life to reduce anxieties. For example, if feeling overwhelmed by homework is a source of anxiety, you can create a simple timetable.

There may be some issues that you have no control over, but you can still help. Many teens worry about situations beyond their control, such as family money issues or the safety of a parents job. It can help to give teens some perspective on this by explaining that these responsibilities are for others to worry about, not them.

Encourage teens to stick to a daily routine and to get plenty of sleep. Being healthy and rested can help to reduce anxieties in day-to-day life. Stimulants like coffee or energy drinks should be avoided as caffeine can mimic feelings of anxiety. It can also help to have them write down their worries in a diary or record voice notes when they feel particularly anxious. It rarely helps to bottle up negative thoughts.

Exercise can help dissipate any feelings of anxiety and allow them to focus outwards away from worrying thoughts. Some also find meditation or yoga helpful. There are also lots of apps available to help them cope when they’re in the thick of an anxiety attack.

Dealing With Panic Attacks & Intense Anxiety

When someone is caught in the midst of feeling extremely anxious or is having an anxiety attack, the main priority is to help them to calm down. This can be difficult when they are feeling overwhelming waves of panic so keep your voice calm and strong. Try these six top tips:

  1. Offer comfort

Hold their hand or give them a hug if it helps to give them comfort and make them feel safe. Every individual is different so find what works for the teen. Or you can…

  1. Create space

Give them physical space if they need it. Many teens who are experiencing strong feelings of panic don’t want to be touched or can feel more threatened or frightened if someone steps into their personal space. Stand away but keep talking to reassure them that you are right by their side. Ask them what do you need from me right now?

  1. Calming breaths

Encourage the teen to take slow, calming breaths along with you. Shallow short breaths can keep anxiety going.  it’s important to slow down and focus on breathing into the tummy. This can help reverse the physical feelings of anxiety which are so uncomfortable. Go slow. Be steady.

  1. Visualise

It can help to ask your teen to visualise a safe space – somewhere they feel completely comfortable and relaxed. This could be a favourite spot in the garden or a much-loved grandparent’s house. Ask your teen to picture it exactly and to describe everything they can see around them. This helps to ground them and distract from the racing anxious thoughts.

  1. The colour game

Ask your them to look around the room and name five things they can see of the same colour. Again, this helps to distract from the anxious thoughts and gives your teen something else to concentrate on.

  1. Reassurance

Reassure them throughout. Remind them that this moment will pass soon. A simple squeeze of the hand lets them know they are not alone in this, you are there to support them.


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