Tips to help young people and parents stay sane in an overloaded world
Why are so many young people anxious? As a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the treatment of children’s mental health problems, anxiety is by far the most common difficulty.
Young people express worries about friendships, social situations, body image, exams, their health and the pressures of managing social media. These are just some of the many factors which play a role in the rise of anxiety.
Anxiety is completely normal and something that everyone experiences from time to time. It comes and goes in phases and often young people find the personal resources to cope through simple remedies such as talking to friends, teachers and/or parents. But at what point should we be concerned that anxiety levels are no longer normal? When anxiety starts to define a young person’s life and controls what they can and can’t do and where they can and can’t go, then it’s time to take some action.
Before accessing professional support there are also lots of things that parent’s and young people can try and resources to access. Here are my top tips:
Talk to young people about Anxiety, what it is and how it affects us. This understanding can help them develop a different relationship with anxiety and start to recognise it as an uncomfortable but not dangerous emotion.
Breathing and relaxation exercises are some of the first tools young people require to help them regulate their anxiety. Getselfhelp.co.uk provides a free guide on deep breathing as well as lots of other helpful information.
Mindfulness practises help us all to slow down and gradually gain control over our reactions. Helpful resources include Sitting Like a Frog – Mindfulness Exercises for Kids by Eline Snel. For older children and parents, Headspace is a popular app.
Don’t forget the basics – Encouraging children to get enough sleep, to eat a healthy diet to exercise and to manage their technology (easier said than done) all support a young person’s attempts to manage anxiety.
There are some excellent self-help resources available including Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley; Overcoming your child’s fears and worries and Overcoming your child’s shyness and social anxiety by Cathy Creswell and Lucy Willetts. Based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles, these books share some useful coping strategies such as controlled breathing, thought management to combat worrying thoughts, graded practice and problem solving.
Young people aged between 10 and 18 years can access online advice, self-help tools and counselling through Kooth.com. Interactive counselling is available until 10pm every night, 365 days of the year.
Finally, remember Anxiety is treatable. Change takes time and progress may not follow a straight path, but with understanding, patience and perseverance it is possible for young people (and parents) to stay sane in this age of anxiety.