Here are some tips for anxiety management. It’s a good topic for today because I am having an anxious kind of day (yes, even therapists get anxious).
1. It’s not as bad as you think it is. Truly. You are worrying about something that is very unlikely to play out exactly the way you think it will. Things usually go better than we predict.
2. Be in the moment. If you’re anxious then you are likely living in the future. If you just choose to exist in the moment, you will find there are things to be grateful for right now. If you are asking, “What if?” about some upcoming situation, you are missing out on “right now.”
3. Do not panic. You have more time to think through and act than you realize. If you are experiencing test-taking anxiety for example, even during the exam you have 60 seconds to close your eyes and breathe. If you are worried about what to say to your friend after an argument, you have time to write out your thoughts before you see your friend.
4. Respond thoughtfully. One thing that makes us anxious is a sense of urgency. We believe we must respond immediately to a text message, email, or phone call. This is simply untrue. Taking an extra 5 minutes to think through what you will say can calm your anxiety.
5. Do something enjoyable. I know this sounds very cliche. However, it’s over-suggested because it has a lot of merit. It’s hard to be anxious when you’re sitting in the sun with a glass of lemonade.
6. Bounce your concern off someone honest. Don’t call a friend who always tells you everything will be fine because you won’t know whether or not you can believe them. Call that friend who is very candid. If they tell you it’s fine, you will feel better. If they agree that it’s not fine, they will give suggestions on how to make it better.
7. Remember to breathe. Deep, slow breaths are the complete opposite to anxious breathing. If you can take deep, slow breaths then your brain registers relaxed feelings.
8. Force a smile. This is for the exact same reasons as number seven. It is incongruous with anxious feelings.
9. Do something for someone else. When we’re overly anxious, we’re often worried about ourselves. We’re not too focused on others. Doing an act of service really helps other people feel cared for, and helps you feel better.
10. I saved the best for last. The thing that is most helpful for me is prayer. Giving up my fear or concern to God, who knows more and has more control than I ever will, and who has my best interests in mind, is a huge relief.
Now, don’t you feel a little better? I know I do!
Most of you already have heard these things. If your teenager has anxiety you’ve probably asked them to try some of these things. It takes a little while and it takes practice. We’re not usually good at things until we work at them. One of the things therapy does that is helpful for teenagers is forces repetition of coping skills. A lot of teens will try something once, say it doesn’t work, and then not give it another shot. A counselor is kind of like your anxiety-reduction coach. If you’re not at the point where you think therapy is needed, try and encourage your adolescent to work at anxiety-reduction skills over and over until they really can do it.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT