Tips For Calming Teen Anxiety
The hugely successful Disney Pixar film, Inside Out, does a remarkable job demonstrating the emotional turmoil that teens (and everyone else) can experience under stress.
Riley, the protagonist, must endure the stressors of moving to a new city – the process of leaving behind some childhood memories, saying goodbye to lifelong friends, and losing favorite hobbies was made even more difficult when she had to face the challenges of reestablishing herself in a new social setting.
As Pixar so beautifully depicted with Riley’s inner emotional states, Fear tends to take the reins when the pressure is on. And, as we know, teens are under a lot of pressure these days. Between getting good grades, building a social life, navigating technology and social media, and coping with the rapid changes that come with puberty, teens have a lot to deal with!
Sometimes, the pressure becomes too much – and that’s when the anxiety takes over.
Here at the OC Psychology Center for Assessment and Psychotherapy, we know that when teens get overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, the entire family can be affected. This is why we offer therapy for anxiety specifically tailored for teenagers. If your teen is struggling with controlling anxious feelings, let us help. Psychotherapy is the first line of treatment for adolescent anxiety because it actually works. Although we always recommend getting professional help when needed, there are things you can do at home to calm your anxious teen:
Use the CALM method to help your teen beat anxiety
Connection: Time with friends can help teens cope with anxiety
Anxiety can make teens feel distant, disconnected, and misunderstood by others. Provide opportunities for empathy and connection with your teen by setting aside intentional one-to-one time with them. Avoid setting an agenda to talk about anxiety per se. Rather, you are creating a space for your teenager to speak up about their difficulties and know that you are there for them, and that they are your priority. Similarly, make sure your teen has ample opportunity to connect with friends and other family members so that they can be supportive. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Send them regular text messages to let them know you care
Take a trip to the store together
Go out to eat – just the two of you
Send them with cash to take a friend to the movies
Work on a project together, one that they care about
Activity: Anxious teens feel better when they exercise regularly
Not only is physical activity important for your teen’s overall health and wellbeing, but research shows that one of the best ways to reduce general worry and anxious symptoms is to be physically active on a daily basis (see Biddle & Asare, 2011). Find ways to carve out 15 minutes per day in your teen’s schedule for a quick trip to the pool, the park, or the gym. Adding even one activity per week can make a difference, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
Take morning walks together before or after school
Get your teen a pass to the local YMCA or recreation center
Assign household chores that get them outside in the sunlight
Take a hiking trip as a family
Encourage biking over short car trips
Ask your teen what ways they would like to be active
Leisure: Relaxation can help teenagers cope with anxiety
Parents want their children to succeed, of course, but this sometimes means that we push them harder than is necessary. Make sure your teen has time to enjoy themselves, have fun, and spend time doing non-work-or-school related activities. If your teen is slammed with homework, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities, they may not have enough time to recharge their batteries. Every teen has her or his own interests, and so our suggestion is to schedule intentional free time, where your teen has no obligations or responsibilities, to do things like:
Paint, draw, and be creative
Listen to music
Play video games or watch television
Spend time with friends or go on dates
Rest and recover for the next day
Motivation: Boost recovery from anxiety with hard work and praise
As you read on our teen anxiety page, anxious feelings tend to make people avoid certain things. If your teen’s anxiety keeps them from doing the things they need to, it’s important to find healthy ways to motivate them in confronting those fears. The team at OC Psychology calls this “avoiding the avoidance,” which means learning how to fight against the tendency to keep away from the things we worry about. The best way to build that motivation is to have your teen meet with a professional, but here are some things you can try in the meantime:
Set a daily or weekly goal for confronting specific worries or stressors
Recognize and applaud moments when your teen “pushes through” their anxiety
Reward your teens efforts as they find ways to deal with anxiety on their own
What else can I do to help my teen overcome anxiety?
We are here for you! If you believe your teen might be struggling with anxiety, we offer treatment and assessment options specifically designed to help you and your family.
Therapy can help your teen learn how to:
Understand their use of avoidance
Gain insight and perspective
Change unhelpful ways of thinking
Feel at ease in social situations
Enhance their social skills
Discover new aspects of their identity and personality
Regain a sense of control and confidence
Use personally-tailored coping strategies you
Learn about our team of adolescent specialists
Want to learn more about our team of mental health specialists at the OC Psychology Center for Assessment and Psychotherapy? Click on our Providers tab to read about our credentials and areas of specialty!