Among teens and their parents, anxiety can be a misunderstood condition. While some feel that kids will “just grow out of it,” the research shows that this simply is not the case. Anxiety is a normal reaction to life’s many stresses, but those suffering from anxiety disorders are affected way more by everyday life stress than the average person. In order to deal with this, teens dealing with chronic anxiety must face it head-on. Changes in diet, sleep, and exercise can help teens overcome anxiety, as can finding ways to face their fearful situations. But there are also a handful of things that you should absolutely NOT do when attempting to overcome excessive anxiety. Below are just a few:
Don’t attempt to ignore the anxiety
It may seem logical that the less you think about being anxious, the less anxious you will feel. But as a teen facing chronic anxiety or a parent looking to help their child, it’s important that you face the anxiety head-on and never attempt to ignore it in the hopes that it will just go away.
Don’t try to manage stress with drugs and alcohol
While it’s true that drinking alcohol can temporarily reduce the effects of anxiety (it is a depressant after all), the long-term effects of using alcohol to cope can actually worsen your anxiety. When the effects of alcohol wear off, you can be left in a state of increased anxiety – much more problematic than the one you were in pre-drinking.
“Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off,” notes Healthline.com. “Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking.”
If you try to use alcohol to manage social anxiety, it may work at the beginning. Having a few drinks does make social situations more tolerable for some – there’s no point in denying that. But after a while you will come to depend on alcohol to be social, and that’s a bad place to be in if you have social anxiety disorders.
Don’t practice avoidance
For some, the easiest way to control anxiety is to avoid any and all situations that may trigger it. Like alcohol, this works in the short term. If you are anxious about taking a test, just ditching school will help – for a minute. But avoidance is a poor short-term solution to a long-term problem. One of the key strategies for overcoming anxiety is to face your anxiety head-on.
This doesn’t mean you have to jump directly into a stressful situation all at once. You can level up to it.
As a parent of a teen with anxiety issues, it’s vital to legitimize their fears and empathize, but you must not enable avoidance. You’re not doing your child any good by attempting to protect them from every little thing that causes them stress. Encourage your teen to identify their fears and face them in a safe, controlled manner.
Don’t accept generalities
Saying you’re simply scared to go to school will do nothing to help you identify and battle your anxiety. You must be specific. Why are you anxious? Only when you get specific can you begin to come up with logical solutions to your anxiety. Nervous about falling behind in your areas of study? Now that you’ve identified the specific problem, you can offer up a specific solution like employing a tutor to help (prices are typically negotiable if that’s an issue). It’s also worth pointing out that anxiety can also be used as a tool for growth, as this anxiousness can actually push up toward growth by forcing us to come face-to-face with uncomfortable situations and feelings, which can often lead to a new, positive experience.
Anxiety is manageable if you take the steps to confront it head-on and don’t rely on quick fixes like alcohol and avoidance. Get specific about what is causing you anxiety and come up with a game plan to overcome it.
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