By Rachel Eddins – Eddins Counseling Group
By Rachel Eddins – Eddins Counseling Group
Today’s youth face some common challenges as they become teenagers. This transition usually involves some rebellion, some experimentation, and a good dose of peer pressure. There’s another universal thread too — something underlying nearly every aspect of teen life now. Add in the newly ubiquitous factors of smartphones and social media and we have an anxiety epidemic affecting young people everywhere.
In 2011, 50 percent of teens reported feeling “overwhelming” anxiety. That number rose to 62 percent by 2016 — with no decrease in sight. This makes it pretty obvious how important anxiety management for teens can be.
Why is Teen Anxiety at Epidemic Levels?
Until recently, teens lived more provincial lives. Today, they are bombarded with news (real or fake) from all corners of the globe, and beyond. At the very least, this is a major distraction.
The Rise of Social Media
Who could’ve ever imagined how intensely today’s youth would crave likes, shares, and re-tweets? Social media has altered the landscape in unfathomable, perhaps permanent ways.
Free and Steady Access to Internet Pornography
This is a parallel — and very much related — epidemic. Easy access to pornography is replacing sex education for many kids. The result is a corrupt and dangerous perception of intimacy and sexuality.
Under-developed Social and Emotional Skills
Humans learn more than we may ever know from steady, face-to-face interactions. All this tweeting and texting has left kids without invaluable and irreplaceable social skills. This turns every personal interaction into a source of dread.
The “Happiness” Trap
Thanks to our smartphones, we get a warped image of how everyone else looks, feels, and lives. We compete with images and never feel adequate. This is a recipe for deep-seated anxiety and depression.
Four Steps Toward Anxiety Management for Teens
1. Emphasize the Need for Healthy Communication
This may begin with therapy (see below) but, either way, it must involve IRL (in real life) connections. Anxiety management does not effectively exist unless we embrace the need for healthy communication AND connection.
2. Set Up Regular Tech Breaks
Limiting screen time is recommended for everyone — especially for anyone under the influence of raging hormones and peer pressure. You will get pushback, for sure, but this is arguably the most important first step in safeguarding your teen’s mental health.
3. Daily Self-Care
The best version of you is best equipped to navigate the ups and downs of an anxiety disorder. Encourage teens to work on regular sleep patterns, healthy eating habits, daily exercise and activity, and a few relaxation techniques. As with #4 below, this approach provides a respite from the stress and inactivity of online life.
4. Cultivate Physical Interests
Our bodies have evolved to move, to run, to climb, and to stay active. Getting up and moving has a powerful triple impact. It increases physical and mental fitness. It also serves as a balance to all that sedentary time spent on our devices. In addition, physical activity (sports, exercise, etc.) almost always involves face-to-face contact with others.
How to Beat the Odds
Teens are notoriously tricky to decipher. It’s not unusual for teenagers to become silent when questioned by their parents. This makes it absolutely essential to enlist the assistance of a trained professional. Working with a counselor is a time-proven option as anxiety management for teens.
Most of all, your child’s weekly sessions can be viewed as a safe space. Every teen needs an avenue for sharing their feelings. In such a setting, teens can connect the dots between their feelings and the factors impacting them. This is precisely when skills are taught and tools are shared.
Group therapy for teens can be a powerful and helpful way for teens to manage anxiety while also learning social skills. Groups are also an avenue for increased connection and support.
Finally, teen anxiety is a common part of modern life. Understanding this trend and seeking help to manage it is how you and your teenaged child can beat the odds.
Rachel Eddins is a therapist and founder of Eddins Counseling Group, a group counseling practice serving children/teens, adults, families and couples in Houston, TX.