By Dr Puja Kapoor
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 years will experience an anxiety disorder. As teenage is full of new challenges, anxiety is a normal reaction to these circumstances. Anxiety motivates teenagers to do their best, preparing them for challenging situations like public speaking or sporting events. But if it is not dealt with, it increases the risk of psychiatric disorders like depression and suicidal ideation. Managing anxiety is an important life skill.
Here are a few tips to curb anxiety in teenagers :
Push their limits
Teach them to gently push their limits to attempt things they are anxious about. But make sure you don’t push them into extreme situations at a stretch. Set up small goals to be achieved as it gives confidence to go for more complex situations. Continuously working on the situations which cause anxiety leads to adaptability, and lessens the anxiety associated with the task.
Choose something enjoyable
Before going for things which make them nervous or anxious, like an upcoming test, presentation, or an important meeting, make sure they do something enjoyable or interesting to mitigate the anxiety. Talking to a friend, or watching a light clipping/ comic serial, or listening to music helps in bringing down the anxiety levels.
Work out with a friend or in a group
A simple bike ride, yoga, dance class, or even a brisk walk with a friend or in a group helps in alleviating anxiety and diverts kids from things they are anxious about. Exercising regularly builds up resources that bolster resilience against stormy emotions. It has been found that teenagers with high levels of physical exercise protect against developing anxiety symptoms as compared to those with low levels of physical exercise.
Discuss with the concerned person/friend
It is always good to discuss problems/concerns with an appropriate person/friend, who could help children in finding ways to tackle the situation. Discussing the problem with the concerned person eases the emotion and helps to cope with the anxiety.
Encourage them to engage in dialogue with themselves and write down their strengths and weaknesses. Reminding oneself of strengths helps to build confidence and knowing weaknesses gives an insight into the way forward. Delineate negative points and encourage them to improve on these.
Live a balanced life
Show children how to live a balanced life with plenty of physical exercises, adequate sleep and diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Teach them to avoid alcohol or other drug abuse later in life as it decreases the capacity to handle stress and anxiety in the long run.
Encourage them to ask for help
Whenever they feel things are moving out of control and as a parent, you feel the need for an expert to show the way forward, do not hesitate. Mental health is not a priority in our country and asking for help is considered a taboo in the society. A teenager should understand his limits and should not dither in asking for help. As disproportionate anxiety is the initial symptom for depression or other psychiatric concerns, its understanding and management should be done at the earliest.
(The writer is a paediatric neurologist & co-founder of Continua Kids.)