Is Your Child Feeling Stressed or Anxious?
By Barbara McRae, MCC
You may know this feeling very well yourself. You get yourself so worked up about getting it ALL done that you rarely sit down and relax. You find it difficult to sleep with your mind constantly churning and feel exhausted.
Teenagers, like adults, experience stress, too. Here are some of the reasons young people feel anxious:
• problems with teachers and/or classmates
• confusion about changes in their bodies
• worried about dating and relationships
• negative comparisons with their peers
• concerns about pressures from parents
Over time, anxiety that is not managed can result in stomachaches, headaches, or worse, panic attacks. Negative (fearful) thoughts trigger the “fight or flight” response. This releases adrenaline into your bloodstream, producing physical symptoms, including a faster heart rate within a few minutes.
The problem at this juncture for people of all ages is that the body’s automatic protocol feels strange and causes you to feel “out of control”. Feelings of helplessness cause the fear to escalate!
How Parents can Help:
Learn this easy technique and practice it yourself, then teach it to your kids.
The solution is to turn off the stress response by activating a relaxation response, thus stopping the flow of adrenaline. If you know what to do, it only takes three minutes!
A Simple Solution
Use these STEPS as soon as you feel your body going into an “emergency” response mode (pumping adrenaline):
1. Begin conscious breathing.
Increased oxygen through conscious breathing will interrupt your stressful thought pattern long enough for you to begin relaxing your body. For example, completely focus on inhaling and exhaling (slow and complete breaths) and feel your body relaxing.
2. Use soothing statements.
Now that you’ve been successful in interrupting your negative thought pattern, quickly insert positive thoughts by using soothing statements. Say: “It’s OK now. I’m feeling calmer. My body is fine. I’m fine.” If a pesky negative thought returns, interrupt this fearful message by repeating the word “Stop” as often as necessary. Then, return to your soothing statements to give your body time to catch up and regroup.
3. Be accepting of yourself.
Give yourself credit for having decreased your stress. Do not berate yourself, unless you’re prepared to again launch your body’s emergency response.
Keep in mind that everyone has some anxiety. That’s normal. However, if you are concerned about your child’s health, consult with your doctor or other qualified professional.
Here are some additional ways teens can decrease stress:
• Limit caffeine and sugar intake
• Exercise, including yoga or balancing techniques
• Learn to reframe self-defeating thoughts into empowering thoughts
• Make a list of activities that are soothing (art, listening to music, journaling, time with pets)
• Remind yourself of past experiences of where things turned out alright
By using the above strategies, your teens can learn to effectively manage their anxiety and feel good about themselves. They’ll be calmer and healthier due to your loving support.
Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm
© Barbara McRae