If your teen is feeling stressed out, worried, and nervous about various aspects of life, they’re not alone. Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences.
Chronic anxiety, whether it be seasonal, general, social, or specific phobia-related, is something that should be addressed. When anxiety begins to take a toll on day-to-day life and starts affecting social interactions and relationships, your teen could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Sleep and anxiety are part of a pretty vicious cycle; anyone with anxiety knows this all too well. High levels of anxiety can disrupt sleeping patterns. In turn, poor sleep is a major cause of chronic anxiety.
Getting a good amount of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for coping with anxiety. Begin by setting regular bedtimes and wake-up times. Teens need to teach their bodies to “turn off and turn back on” at set times. A strict schedule is key.
Also, they must make changes to bedroom activity if they’re having trouble sleeping. The bedroom should be for sleeping and sleeping only. They shouldn’t watch TV, play video games, or do homework in bed. They shouldn’t check Facebook or Instagram when going to bed either. Their brain needs to know that when the head hits the pillow, it’s time for sleep time and nothing else.
Increasing levels of physical activity can help teens manage how they deal with anxiety. They will be more balanced and able to prevent anxiety from disrupting their decision-making.
Exercise has numerous positive benefits on the brain, sleep, and overall wellbeing. Ask your teen to attempt to increase physical activity if they’re dealing with a lot of anxiety. If some of this activity can be social in nature — like team sports, working out with a friend, or joining a yoga or running club — all the better.
Being dismissive or overly general about anxiety, and what causes it, prevents teens from beginning the process of overcoming it. Anxiety is real, and it won’t go away if they try to ignore it.
Ask them to write it all down, to grab a pen and paper (yes, old school) and make a list of specific things that are causing the anxiety. They can write down how these things make them feel both mentally and physically. Then they can rate their anxiety triggers in terms of how much they affect them. Then write down plans to begin to combat those specific sources of anxiety.
Try to be specific. Here’s an example: “Falling behind in math class is stressing me out. This makes me unable to focus on the work at hand, which only leads to more anxiety. I plan on staying after school to work on math as well as looking into getting a tutor to help.”
Anxiety is sometimes simply a reaction to life’s stressors. If your teen commonly experiences anxiety, and it often overwhelms their ability to think reasonably about issues, know that these tips can help manage their anxiety. Sometimes, however, the help of a licensed therapist is required to completely alleviate it. With some work, they can reduce anxiety levels to well within the norm for a teenager.
There can also be a great deal of stress for parents dealing with anxious teens. It’s important to remember to take care of your mental health as well!
Excerpted from WellnessVoyager.com by Noah Smith
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