The teenage years can arguably be the most turbulent and unpredictable years in a person’s life. It is a time of great learning and reflection as our bodies mature and our brains develop. While this can be a very exciting time in a person’s life, it can also be stressful and even at times scary as they try and process these emotional and physical changes.
As a result, anxiety can be a major concern for both teens and their parents during these formidable years. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), approximately 32% of adolescents aged 13-18 in the United States experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. This is one of the many reasons why anxiety activities for teens are so important.
In this blog, we will take a deeper look at teen anxiety, including some of the biggest factors in its development. We will also look at some of the more effective tools for managing teen anxiety, including activities that you or your teen can do throughout the day. If your child is dealing with severe anxiety, reach out to us to learn more about teen anxiety treatment at Ridge RTC .
What is Teen Anxiety?
Teen anxiety, like anxiety disorders of any kind, is more than just the typical worries and concerns that pop up throughout the day. While those feelings of anxiety come on for a reason and typically fade away quickly or once the issue is resolved, teen anxiety involves prolonged feelings of fear, worry, or nervousness. These feelings often develop for no real reason and can interfere with a teenager’s daily life, such as their performance at school, their ability to form and maintain relationships, and their overall well-being.
Some of the biggest reasons why teens may experience anxiety include:
- Academic pressure
- Social pressures
- Body image
- Self-esteem issues
- Family or home dynamics
- Uncertainty about their future
Risk Factors of Teen Anxiety
Teen anxiety can arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Understanding these risk factors is essential for early intervention and support.
Some common risk factors for teen anxiety include:
- Family History – Much like other mental health conditions, including substance use disorder, teens who have a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves
- Trauma – Experiencing trauma, abuse, or significant life changes can trigger anxiety in teenagers
- Biological Factors – Imbalances in brain chemistry or hormones can contribute to anxiety disorders
- Personality Traits – Teens with perfectionist tendencies, a strong need for control, or a history of shyness may be more susceptible to anxiety
- Social Isolation – Loneliness and lack of social support can exacerbate anxiety symptoms
The Power of Mindfulness and Grounding
Mindfulness is a practice that involves being present in the moment. For teens dealing with anxiety and anxiety disorders, it can help them manage their emotions and navigate their daily lives in a healthy and productive manner by encouraging them to observe and even accept their thoughts and feelings without trying to change them.
For teens suffering from anxiety, mindfulness can serve five key purposes:
- Reduces stress: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, activate the body’s relaxation response, reducing stress hormone levels.
- Enhances emotional regulation: Teens can learn to properly identify and manage their emotions, preventing them from having unhealthy and even potentially dangerous anxiety-driven reactions.
- Increases self-awareness: Mindfulness helps teens become more aware of their thought patterns and triggers, allowing them to respond to situations more calmly and rationally.
- Improves focus: Through the use of regular mindfulness, teens can enhance their attention span and concentration, helping their overall academic performance and success.
- Promotes resilience: Mindfulness teaches teenagers that they can handle difficult emotions and situations, thus fostering resilience.
Much like mindfulness, grounding can also help with bouts of anxiety. Grounding techniques are similar to mindfulness in that they use various senses to help remain in the moment and gain back control.
Examples of grounding include:
- The sound of soothing music
- The smell of a comforting scent
- The sensation of touch
Anxiety-Reducing Activities for Teens
Now that we’ve established the importance of mindfulness in combating teen anxiety, let’s explore some specific activities that teenagers can incorporate into their daily routines.
It’s important to remember that not every one of these techniques will work for every person. It’s important to try out different techniques until you find one or even multiple ones that work best.
Focusing on your breathing can be a great way to calm down your nervous system and eliminate feelings of anxiousness.
Simply telling your teen to breathe, though won’t necessarily do the trick. It’s important that they practice specific deep breathing techniques. Examples of this include:
- Alternative nostril breathing – Cover one nostril while slowly breathing through the other. Alternate this technique back and forth.
- Up and down breathing – Hold out one hand with your fingers spread apart. Take the other hand and trace the outline of your hand with the fingers spread. Breathe in when you trace up a finger and breathe out when you trace down.
- Belly breathing – Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in and feel your belly rise. Slowly breathe out as you feel your stomach fall.
Meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. While there are often meditation classes available in your community, we know that teens these days prefer to utilize technology. If you can’t convince your teen to go to an in-person class, consider trying one of the many apps or online resources to find meditation sessions designed specifically for their age and needs.
Similar to meditation, yoga helps to calm the brain and reduce anxiety. Yoga combines mindfulness with physical activity to help center the mind, body, and spirit.
Also like meditation, yoga classes are available both in person and at home through the use of various apps and online resources.
Journaling can be a great way for anyone to express their thoughts and feelings in a personal and private way, especially teens. Reflecting on our thoughts, feelings, and emotions can provide not just clarity but also a sense of relief.
Sometimes something as simple as writing down what happened during your day or a particular event that made you feel stressed can help clear your mind and move on.
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. Doing this helps release physical tension that builds up as a result of stress and anxiety.
As with any type of physical activity, make sure your teen knows the proper way to do it so they don’t inadvertently hurt themselves.
Getting outside and becoming one with nature can be very therapeutic. Taking walks through nature is not only good for the body since it is a form of physical activity it can be a peaceful setting for the mind to relax and forget.
Engaging in creative activities like painting, drawing, or crafting can be therapeutic and relaxing. Additionally, listening to calming music or playing a musical instrument can also help reduce anxiety.
Expressing yourself, whether it be through art or music, can be a great way to come to terms with whatever is happening in your life that may be causing stress and anxiety, and is also a healthy way to process those feelings.
Support groups are not just valuable for those suffering from a substance use disorder. They can also be helpful for those struggling mentally too. It is important that, even if they don’t want to talk to you about their issues, your child has someone that they can trust to open up to. This can be a friend, another family member, a therapist, or a treatment professional.
Teen anxiety is a significant and often underestimated issue that can have long-lasting effects on a young person’s life. While mindfulness, grounding, and other anti-anxiety activities can help, sometimes just those techniques aren’t enough.
If you and your teen have tried some or all of the techniques listed above and they are still struggling with anxiety, especially to the point where it is hindering their ability to be successful in school, additional therapies may be required.
Ridge RTC is a specialized mental health residential program for teens who require therapeutic assessment and additional support. We provide a supportive and caring environment for teens who need more intense care than they can receive at home, at school, or in a traditional residential setting. Our programming focuses on stabilizing, evaluating, and preparing teenagers for a happier and more productive life beyond the program, through the use of anti-anxiety techniques as well as other therapeutic methods.
For more information about our programs, or to learn how we can help your child, contact us today.