Anxiety is becoming increasingly common in teenagers with around 1 in 3 experiencing an anxiety disorder during adolescence. It’s understandable since it’s the time in life that you are getting to know yourself and the world around you. You observe the world and start gaining control of your own future, which can be a scary thing.
I started experiencing severe anxiety when I was around 16. I had never struggled in school during GCSEs and although I was a shy person, I was content in most environments. Then A-levels began and suddenly everything changed. There was a lot going on in my life anyway but it seemed like a part of me just snapped. Being that age (so close to being an adult but you’re still technically a child) is hard enough and then battling an anxiety disorder makes life feel utterly hopeless. I felt alone but it turns out that a large number of teens feel the same way.
Many years later and I still struggle with anxiety but I’ve found the benefits of it as well as the various ways to manage it. Hopefully, you will find some tips here that can help you overcome anxiety and achieve everything you ever wanted to.
Firstly, you should speak to somebody whether that's a parent, teacher or doctor. Sharing that vulnerability with adults can be hard but it enables you to get the best support possible. I tried to hide it and that made things a lot worse. Once I spoke to a parent, we went to speak to a doctor and then I was referred to therapy. It also meant that the school became aware of my struggles and assisted me in completing my education. Without that step, I wouldn’t have been able to go to university and come away with a first class degree. If one person doesn’t listen to you then try another. Anxiety lives on a large spectrum so some people don’t realise how debilitating it can be.
The next thing to do is set yourself small, regular goals to keep moving forward with life. These can be school related goals (i.e. completing an assignment by a certain time) or social (meeting a friend). It depends which parts of life your anxiety is affecting most then tackle it head on.
At the same time, don’t overwhelm yourself. Anxiety can lead you to focus on all the things you can’t do. Try not to worry about it too much but instead, focus on what you are achieving and the little steps you are taking.
You want to make sure you are taking time out to relax. We all know that anxiety takes the energy out of you so you need to give yourself a chance to replenish the energy that is lost. We all have different ways of relaxing but it may be something like colouring, drawing, making music, listening to music, going for a walk, having a pamper day, the list is endless.
The world of anxiety can suck you in, to the point where you don’t feel like there is anything else. That’s the mindset we want to avoid and a way to do that is by relaxing. You can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time. After all, it is a biological response to a threat. By creating a relaxing environment, your subconscious shouldn’t feel threatened.
One of the most helpful things that got me through some tricky times were distractions. It may sound trivial but the concept is to take your focus away from the anxiety and onto something else. You can read up on some distraction ideas here: https://www.zortex.co.uk/post/7-ways-to-distract-yourself-from-feeling-anxious
If you are a teenager experiencing anxiety, reassure yourself with the fact that it can get better. The older the get, the more you understand about the world, and a lot of people find their anxiety eases naturally. Naturally, there are cases where it stays with you. The reason that life gets better is because you develop your own anxiety toolkit; methods of dealing with it.
One major thing that I noticed with anxiety is that there were certain instances when I would feel no anxiety at all. You may notice that too. For a while it seemed annoying. Why can’t I be like this in other situations? But then I realised that it help guide me in life to a better path. So although you may not be able to get an office job, you may find that you have no problem working with animals. The situations you don’t feel anxious are likely to involve things you enjoy anyway and you may find that your life ends up happier as you will be doing the things you love.