Healthy Youth Development

Taming the Beast Within: Managing Teenage Anxiety

If it has ever been easy being a teenager, few adults can remember when. In this era of “life by device” and constant social connections, layered on top of ever-present pressures for success, the skills necessary for managing anxiety are more important than ever.

Anxiety can be…

  • A normal experience in life that, when managed effectively enhances motivation and vigilance
  • Common in many life experiences, especially those that involved significant change and conflict
  • Intense, physical energy wrapped in obsessive worry, racing thoughts, impulsivity and indecision
  • Misunderstood as anger, agitation, irritability and impatience
  • Characterized by increased sweating, heart rate, blood pressure, fast shallow breathing, rapid speech, sleep disturbance and appetite fluctuation
  • Preparing for the flight, the fight and sometimes the freeze
  • Disorienting and disruptive-a block to learning and healthy decision making
  • A significant risk factor in depression, substance abuse (self-medication), eating disorders and other health challenges

Managing Anxiety: Essential skills for Building Resilience

    • Is body focused first, then mentally focused- calm first, the talk
    • Uses the body’s built-in tools, e.g. intentional breathing, to “tell” the brain to calm and discus on body sensation (mindfulness)
    • Happens best in a loving relationship with others, e.g. opening up and being heard or being of service to others
    • Is enhanced by safely held, touched or rocked
    • Can include physical activity, e.g. dance, yoga, exercise to counter stress hormones and better regulate bodily responses
    • Can mix intentional breathing with guided-imagery-memories from a fun trip or serene place (real or imagined)
    • Respond vs. React to setbacks- collaborative problem solving in a calm state of mind resolves issues today and builds skills and confidence