Anxiety is prevalent among this generation of teens, and as a parent, it’s understandable that you want to be there for your child if he or she experiences any form of anxiety. According to the Child Mind Institute, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorders that children and teens experience, and “Nearly one in three adolescents (31.9%) will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18.”
These numbers can seem daunting, but it’s important to note that mental health issues are becoming less taboo and more acceptable to talk about in today’s culture. The mental health stigma is being broken down and there are more resources than ever available for you to help your teen if they’re struggling. Here are five anxiety coping mechanisms to practice with your teen:
1. Breathing Exercises
Anxiety often causes a person to feel like they can’t breathe, or they can’t breathe deep enough. You can even catch yourself holding your breath when experiencing feelings of anxiety, which is why it’s so important to make a conscious effort to breathe.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique has proven helpful for individuals trying to cope with anxiety. It was created by Dr. Andrew Weil and is designed to help your body relax. First, find a spot where you can get comfortable, either sitting or lying down. Rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and keep it there the entire time. Healthline outlines how to practice this coping mechanism as follows:
- Exhale completely through your mouth
- Close your lips and inhale through your nose while counting to four
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale from your mouth for eight seconds
Repeat this pattern for four full breaths and practice often! The more you practice, the more effective the breathing exercise will become.
2. Practicing Healthy Social Media
Social media is likely an important part of your teen’s life. And while there are plenty of harmful effects of social media, it’s unrealistic to make your teen completely cut it from his or her life. But it is realistic to set appropriate boundaries around social media so your teen can use it to their advantage.
This will look different for everyone, but I would suggest sitting down with your teen and setting time limits for each social media app. Have them mute or unfollow accounts that don’t make them happy or inspire them every day. Take regular breaks when needed without feeling guilty for missing out on things. Stepping away from social media every once in a while is healthy and necessary in a world with so much commotion.
Meditation is an amazing way to cope with anxiety and calm the mind. The great thing about meditation and breathing exercises is that you can practice them almost anywhere, anytime.
As you’re starting to learn meditation, however, it’s always good to start out in a quiet, peaceful environment with minimal distractions.
When meditating, make sure to breathe deeply, pay attention to your mind and your body, and choose a positive word to repeat in your mind. It’s easy to start thinking about other things while meditating, but as you practice, it will become an extremely helpful coping mechanism for anxiety.
Writing is also a great way to cope with anxiety. If your teen is struggling, invite them to write everything they’re thinking about down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Writing down every worry and thought can be therapeutic and helpful when trying to clear your mind and reduce anxiety.
Making a routine of this is also a great way to cope with ongoing anxiety. When your teen wakes up in the morning, have them set aside 15 minutes to write about anything that comes to mind. Worries, stressors, dreams, goals, ideas – have them write down every thought. This is an amazing way to start the day with a fresh mind.
5. Challenge Your Thoughts
Thoughts are powerful. We all know that. And because they’re so powerful, they can be difficult to change, especially when you’re dealing with anxiety.
The last thing a person with anxiety wants to hear is, “just change your thoughts” or “think positive!” They’ve tried that already and it might work for a minute, but deep down, the anxiety has the power. Instead of trying to change the way your teen thinks, help them recognize an anxious thought when it comes. Then, help them realize the power they have to challenge that thought by recognizing it for what it is. When they understand where their anxious thoughts come from, they have the power to challenge those thoughts and turn them into something different.