How to Deal with Anxiety As an Adolescent

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19-11-2017, 18:00
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Having an anxiety problem can be hard, especially during adolescence. They are among the most common forms of mental illness, and about 20 percent teens have or will soon develop an anxiety problem of some kind. Sadly, many cases go undiagnosed. Left untreated, anxiety disorders can make one’s life very difficult. Luckily, there are many options available to people with anxiety. With the correct treatment, they can go on to lead very successful lives.

Diagnosing Anxiety

  1. Review your symptoms. If you think you might have an anxiety problem, this is the first step. Although every case is different, most people with severe anxiety have symptoms such as:
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Stomachs
    • Dizziness
    • Intense, persistent worries that don't improve with reassurance
    • Difficulty focusing
    • Worries about death, going insane, or losing control
  2. Do some research. There are several different types of anxiety disorders.  The most common ones include -
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (GAD) People with generalized anxiety disorder usually have persistent, unrealistic fears that don’t improve with reassurance. In fact, reassurance reinforces the idea that the worry is ‘important’, even though it’s usually not.
    • Social Anxiety Disorder. Someone with social anxiety disorder feels extremely anxious in social situations. They may worry about how others view them more than the average person does.
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) After a traumatic experience, some people develop a condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD often brings on flashbacks from the traumatic event. A person with PTSD may also get scared easily, have trouble sleeping, and have low self-esteem.
    • Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Two of the most common symptoms of OCD are frequent worrying and compulsive behaviors. A compulsion is when someone feels the urge to do something, often against their will. With OCD, a person may feel forced to give into their compulsions for fear that something bad will happen if they don’t. (ex: constant hand washing, avoiding certain numbers, etc.…)
    • Panic Disorders: People with panic disorders have frequent, often sudden panic attacks. During panic attacks, one may have difficulty breathing.  Panic attacks can also bring on chest pain, sweating, dizziness, and stomach aches.  Panic attacks are NOT dangerous but are very scary for the victim.
  3. Talk to your parents.  It can be very hard to talk to your parents about your anxiety, but it’s important. Set up a time with your parents where you can just talk. There should be no distractions. (all devices should be turned off) Tell your parents that you have something important that you want to discuss with them. Choose your words carefully. If it makes you feel more comfortable, write down a few prompts ahead of time that you can use if you get stuck.  Be as specific as you can. Let your parents know what makes your anxiety better and what makes it worse. Also, be sure you know what you want to get out of this conversation. Do you want to ask your parents about getting professional help? Then ask. Don’t rush it, though.  The more thorough you are, the more likely your parents will be to understand your anxiety.
  4. Consider going to a professional. If you’ve tried other methods and your anxiety is still severe, then you should consider getting help from a professional.  Therapy can really benefit people with anxiety. You can talk to your therapist about what things trigger your anxiety and how you can overcome your fears. If you think you might need medicine to help manage your feelings, ask your doctor or therapist to direct you to a psychiatrist.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. It shows that you’re taking good care of yourself.

Coping With Your Anxiety

  1. Express your feelings in other ways. Do you like to sing, dance, write or draw? Use your sense of creativity to express your feelings. If you like singing, for example, download some tunes that make you feel strong. You can try your hand at writing your own song- and even singing it in front of family or friends. Some people prefer visual art- drawing, painting, etc. You can keep your art to yourself if you want, but you can also share and possibly even sell it.  Keeping a journal is also a good strategy. Try to write something down every day, even if it’s just a few sentences. Write about things that provoke anxiety, things that make you feel great, how school is going.  Almost anything. Journals are usually private, so whether you share or not is up to you.
  2. Do some deep breathing.  Taking deep, slow breaths can temporarily relieve stress.  Find a comfortable place, and sit or lie down.  Try to breath in threw your nose and out through your mouth.  Hold each breath for 2-5 seconds before releasing it. You can repeat this as many times as you’d like.
  3. Learn yoga or mediation.  Both are excellent stress relievers. Yoga is especially good because it’s a great opportunity to exercise.  Consider watching an instructional video or signing up for a class to learn how.
  4. Exercise several times a week. You may notice that you feel less stressed when you are playing soccer or riding a bike. Exercise will help distract you from your worries, but it will also make you feel better physically.  If you don’t like playing team sports, exercise by yourself or with one or two friends. Aim to make at least half of your weekly exercise take place outdoors.
  5. Eat well.  Sometimes stress makes you feel less hungry.  However, unless you are sick, you shouldn’t skip a meal.  Aim for 3-5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Lean meats and whole grains are also good choices. Desserts are fine on occasion.  If you find yourself getting hungry between meals, it’s okay to snack.  Fresh fruit, yogurt, and cheese with whole-grain crackers are examples of nutritious snacks.
  6. Be helpful. Be a good neighbor. Helping someone will almost always make you feel good.  Many animal shelters and soup kitchens need volunteers.  You can sell your old things at a yard sale and donate the profits to charity or collect canned food for your local food bank. Tutoring and babysitting are good ways to be helpful and possibly make some money in the process. 
  7. Meet others with anxiety. If you’d like to meet other people your age who have anxiety, consider going to a support group.  You and the other group members will share your problems with one another and give each other advice. Please keep in mind that support groups are NOT the same as group therapy. In group therapy, a trained professional provides guidance to a group of people with similar issues. A support group is less formal, and the leader is usually not a therapist or social worker. Both are great ways to make new friends and relieve stress. Many schools have groups led by the school social worker that meet to discuss academic-related problems. If you are interested, bring it up to your parents or talk to your school’s guidance consular.

Dealing With Academic-Related Anxiety

  1. Avoid letting your schedule get too hectic.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  An extremely busy schedule can lead to you worrying that you won’t get everything done, so plan accordingly. Clubs, teams, and other extra-curricular activities are great, but don’t sign up for too many. If you find out-of-school activities are taking up too much time, see if you can cut something out. If you are on a team, that may take up a good portion of your free time. You may have to cut out another activity to make room for homework. It’s going to be tough to alter your schedule-likely you don’t want to quit anything- but you’ll feel better when you have more free time.  Set aside an hour each day where you can work on homework without interruptions. Don’t forget to spend time with the people you care about, too. And finally, reserve eight to ten hours a night for actual sleeping.
  2. Put homework before devices. You should try to get all your schoolwork done before anything else. This means turning off the television while you’re working and using the computer for work only. Cell phones can go off during work periods, which may become distracting. If you are distracted easily, try placing your cell phone in another room while you do your homework. If you have tests to study for or an instrument to practice, set aside time for those things as well.
  3. Use an agenda pad or calendar. Write down activities, test dates, homework assignments, and important events on a calendar or in an agenda pad.  Create a routine of checking the pad or calendar each morning and evening so you can ensure that you accomplish everything that needs to be done.
  4. Create a study plan. When it comes to tests, it’s best to study a little bit each day so you’re not up till midnight studying the night before the exam.  Write down the dates of all major tests and quizzes in a spot where you can easily see them. If you are being tested on a lesson you know you are having trouble with, don’t wait and hope a friend will explain it to you the morning of the test. Instead, reach out to your teacher and ask for some help. Many teachers offer extra help sessions, especially right before an exam.  If you are having trouble with something, the responsible thing to do is to ask for assistance.
  5. Avoid peer pressure. Remember this: a real friend won’t pressure you to do something you don’t want to do. That’s not to say that friends shouldn’t encourage each other. However, a real friend should not try to force you to do something against your will, especially if it’s dangerous. Someone might tell you that smoking makes you look cool, or that alcohol makes them feel better. Keep in mind that these things won’t solve your problems. A responsible teen should not smoke, drink alcohol, bully, or do drugs. If you are concerned about your health and safety or the health and safety of others, tell an adult.

Tips

  • When talking with your parents, doctor, or therapist, speak honestly and openly. Hiding important details often makes things worse.
  • Do something you love to do every day. It will make you feel more confident.
  • Spend time around people that support you and make you feel good about yourself.

Warnings

  • During difficult times, don't pull away from family and friends.
  • If you or someone you know is considering suicide, it's a very serious matter. Talk to your parents or another adult you can trust about this. If someone, including yourself, is in immediate danger of committing suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255
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