Anxiety in Teens... Allowing Yourself to Feel Uncomfortable
Anxious teens are much different from anxious children. Many young children have fears like being scared of a monster in the closet, but as they age, these worries begin to involve themselves. A lot of fears in adolescence surround the idea of “not being good enough”. Teens commonly worry about their bodies, not fitting in, and other fears about how their peers perceive them.
Anxiety is a protector. It's the flight-or-fight response designed to keep you away from harm and needs teens to tell it that everything is okay and that the threat isn’t real. But sometimes, just telling the body that everything will be okay doesn’t work. Anxiety responds to action. Mentally, teens need to allow anxiety and its thoughts in and take total acceptance of them. When teens invite these sensations in, their emotional brain (the one that triggers anxiety) will back off and calm down.
For teens, learning to rest in their anxiety is the way to heal it. Allowing yourself to be present and accepting of uncomfortable sensations can provide your mind and body with an opportunity to unwind and release accumulated stress. This process aids in detoxifying from the stress response. Acceptance in anxiety will bring a sense of peace and understanding that everything will be okay to teens
When teens say to themselves, “I accept and allow this anxious feeling”, their tolerance to anxious sensations will heighten and eventually lead them to feel calm. Anxiety no longer lingers when teens stop feeding it with resistance and fear, rather than trying to force it away. Adolescents may think that saying “yes” to anxiety is giving up and surrendering to the negative thoughts that infiltrate their minds. In reality, it's a statement of empowerment that must be done with 100% effort and intent.
Let's say an adolescent is anxious about speaking in class. Rather than sitting in the back of the classroom trying not to be called on, the teen should lean into the uncomfortable sensation that they are feeling instead of pushing them away. Make these sensations your friend and take them with you while allowing your thoughts and emotions to flow through the anxiety you feel.
When you start accepting your anxiety you are no longer responding to it in a negative way. As soon as teens stop responding to the sensations with fear, the anxiety will no longer be fueled by their negative thoughts and discomfort will begin to disappear.