Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences at some point. In some situations, anxiety can be helpful; it keeps us alert, protects us from danger, and helps us notice problems around us. But for some kids and teens, that sense of anxiety grows too strong or too frequent and can get in the way of day-to-day activities. These tips on how to manage anxiety can help.
Find ways to relax
When you feel anxious, your muscles tense up, your heart rate increases and your breathing gets shallower. Take deep breaths for a while to try to get your body back to a resting state.
Try This: Pretend your belly is a balloon. Breathe in to make it bigger, then breathe out and watch it shrink. Count slowly to four when you breathe in and then to four when you breathe out.
Face your fears
It might sound scary, but facing your fears in a safe way is proven to help. It’s called exposure, and it involves taking small steps to get yourself used to things that make you anxious.
Try this: Get the help of a parent or adult you trust and start with something small. They can help safely guide you through exposure to it until you start to become less anxious. Using the deep breathing exercise above will also help.
Take charge of your thinking
The tricky thing about anxiety is that it’s easy to think negative thoughts when you’re anxious, which only makes it worse. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, and avoid thinking negatively, jumping to conclusions, or assuming the worst.
Try this: Ask yourself, “What would I tell my friend if they were in this situation?” or try thinking of times you’ve been able to handle a tough problem. This can help steer you away from negative thoughts.
Get enough sleep
Anxiety can cause a frustrating cycle. When we’re anxious, it can be hard to sleep. But not getting enough sleep can make us feel more anxious. Try to eliminate the things that keep you awake and focus instead on setting aside some relaxing time before bed.
Try this: Dedicate the hour before bed to quiet time. Stay away from your phone, TV, and computer—the bright lights trick your brain into staying awake longer. Try listening to calm music or try meditating instead.
You never have to go through anxiety alone. Having people to turn to for support makes a big difference. A therapist, such as a psychologist, social worker, or counselor, can help you understand and manage your feelings. This might be through talk therapy (also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT), medication, or a combination of both.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency department.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
Text any message to 9-8-8
Chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat
Crisis Text Line:
Text “HOME” to 741741
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).