By Allison Miller
There are few words that can set every person on edge so much as stress and anxiety. Yet, despite the fact that these words affect people of all ages, we see some of the highest levels of anxiety in teens. Why would this be? (parents might ask). They don’t have to worry about supporting a family or getting taxes done on time or anything of the sort! Most parents come to the conclusion that “It’s the fault of those darn phones!” Many adults think that these extreme anxiety levels are coming from the need for validation on social media and the internet in general. The flipside of that, the kids usually argue, is that it is most definitely not the internet, as they are, in all honesty, able to express their opinions to more people and so, how could that be the source of their feeling inadequate? Many also argue that adults are overlooking the pressures of good grades and success that they place on their own children, not to mention the rocketing cost of college tuition. Some will even go so far as to say that the pressure of saving the planet is on them, due to the environmental mistakes of the generations before them. But for now, let’s put the reasons aside. We could argue the roots of anxiety back and forth for days and never reach a valid conclusion. So instead of trying to place the blame on one party or the other, let’s focus on the problem itself. It’s about time we learned how to deal with anxiety because it isn’t going to go away, and can actually be a good thing if dealt with properly.
One of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to make sure you acknowledge it in the first place. If you deny your own emotions, you will never even begin to take the path to making yourself feel better. The next thing to do after you’ve acknowledged the issue, make sure you never bottle it up. No one can hold in their emotions forever and expect nothing bad to come of it.
After you’ve come to terms with the idea of anxiety, you should look for whatever is causing it. Sometimes, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Sometimes you won’t even be able to find the source. And that is perfectly okay. People need to realize that emotions don’t always make sense, and thinking about that itself can cause some stresses to go away. It’s extremely important for you to know that you don’t need to understand absolutely everything about yourself. Sometimes anxiety is just anxiety and you can’t locate the underlying issue. No matter how many times a parent or therapist asks you what could have caused it, you don’t need to come up with an answer right away if you aren’t sure. Make sure you know that, and you might feel even the tiniest bit better.
If one of the biggest stresses on teens causing their anxiety is schoolwork, then everyone needs to work with them to change that. Whether something in the school’s curriculum changes to better help all of its students or not, there are things that teenagers can do at home to help lessen stresses. First things first: don’t put off huge projects until the day before they’re due. It’s fine to work on a project the night before so long as you’re making final edits and not a first draft. Keep organized in your head (or preferably in a physical pen-and-paper planner) which projects are due on which days and what homework you know you will have each night. It all comes down to one phrase: plan ahead.
Even if kids are able to manage their stress at home, much of the time panic attacks can randomly occur for a number of reasons when they aren’t at home. What do they do then? Well, as cliche as it is, one of the best things to do is breathe. Not just in and out, though, as you can easily get distracted and focus back on the anxiety since that kind of breathing is fairly natural. Rather, there are certain breathing exercises that make the brain focus away from the panic. One of the most useful ones is to breathe in first for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then finally breathe back out for eight seconds. However, you cannot just run through this exercise once and expect it to work. you must keep repeating the breathing set until you can breathe normally again with less of the crushing feeling around your lungs that many anxiety attacks bring with them.
In the end, it may matter where the roots of anxiety in this day and age are coming from. But until we can figure out the exact issue, we should just be focusing on making the problems that already exist more manageable. Having anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone gets it from time to time. It can be what pushes you to do your best on a project or to keep yourself from doing something that could get you hurt, but too much of it can cripple you and keep you from being able to even think about doing that project, or never take any risks that could have led to an amazing outcome. So no matter how high or low your anxiety levels are, make sure that you are able to deal with it accordingly, and make each day that much better.