A teenager’s life can be stressful – studies, sleeping disorders, preoccupied over the same negative thoughts, even fatigue and muscle aches to name a few. Adolescence is the stage where one gets to face anxiety at its peak. It has been reported that about 1 in 5 teenagers have anxiety. Although anxiety can happen to everyone, we can’t deny the fact that it’s more common for teens due to exams, peer-pressure, family expectations, etc. This only proves that a teenager we know or care about might be experiencing the struggle of having anxiety.
If disregarded, it can put teens at risk in many aspects of their lives, including school performance, social skills, etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the scientifically proven methods to properly treat anxiety in teens, however, there are more practical ways that can help them in their journey of fighting anxiety.
Step 1 – Be Mindful All The Time
Being mindful means being able to stay in the present by carefully watching your feelings and thoughts. Researchers have concluded that mindfulness is one of the keys to strengthen the brain and combat anxiety as it affects the brain just like how exercise affects the body (but minus the panting and sweating). Being mindful impacts the brain by:
- driving the brain to mainly focus in the present and preventing it from overthinking about what will happen in the future. This kind of thoughts can turn to become the little demons that are hard let go in your life, but being mindful gives you the power to control your brain to prevent worrying about the things you don’t have to.
- structuring a firm connection between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. The first is the portion of the brain that can cool down and control abundant emotions including anxiety while the latter is its main player. Being able to construct a firm connection between the two is beneficial for the brain as the prefrontal cortex will do its job in times of anxiousness.
Additionally, being mindful all the time can improve academic performance, helps you to concentrate and stay focused, and lastly, prevent the chances of stress (or even depression). Moreover, it has been found that mindfulness can improve gray matter (the portion where the neurons are). Here’s how to be mindful at the moment:
- Slowly close your eyes in the most comfortable place
- Breathe and feel the air’s sensation, feel how your belly rises and falls as you breathe, and notice the beating of your heart.
Step 2 – Exercise
Researchers have concluded the mountain of benefits one can acquire from exercising not only for the body but also for mental health, particularly in combatting anxiety.
Basically, our brain cells (neurons) are naturally excitable and can be easily triggered, which is beneficial for us so long as they are stimulated in an appropriate way. However, these cells can become a little overwhelmed sometimes which makes them over-active and when this happens, anxiety can arise.
Our brain has several neurochemicals, one of them being gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is the brain’s messenger responsible for delivering information to the cells. It is also the chemical responsible in calming down the brain. The amount of this neurochemical can sometimes drop, leaving these neurons over-excited which may lead to anxiety. This is the perfect time for exercise to step in and do its job. With the proper and right exercise, the levels of GABA can get back to what they should be.
Exercising doesn’t have to be too vigorous and hardcore since whatever activity that can make your heart work is considered exercise. Yoga, for instance, can be put taken into consideration to moderate the levels of GABA. Exercising regularly can bring neurochemicals to their healthy state which, in turn, prevents anxiety effectively.
Step 3 – Learn Breathing Techniques
One of the reasons why a person experiences anxiety is the fact that he is tensed and nervous all the time. But the good thing is that we can combat these feelings by driving ourselves to a more relaxed state, but how to do it? Well, ‘breathing’ is one way that effectively stimulates relaxation. Breathing is an automatic response that can balance nervousness and tenseness. I know that it’s challenging to believe that a normal and simple breathing can turn things around, but of course, in order for it to be effective, the first step is to initiate it.
One example of breathing technique is the ‘4-7-8’ method – inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and completely exhale for 8 seconds. Make sure that the breathing doesn’t just get into your chest but it’s also finding its way into your belly. This breathing technique promotes relaxation to our nervous system in times of anxiousness.
There are a bunch of breathing techniques you can find online apart from this one that you can incorporate to your daily routine to deal with anxiety. Just make sure to follow the recommended steps on how to do it so that it will work on you the way it’s meant to do.
*Note: practice these breathing techniques every day as much as possible so that your brain will get used to them. You will soon notice how your body works on its own.
Step 4 – Watch What You Eat
We have this mindset that anxiety can make us lose our appetite. However, researchers have concluded that it’s actually the other way around – an upset stomach means an upset brain. Be that as it may, we can easily get hold of this by eating the right food at the right time.
There are countless microbes within our intestinal tract, all of which are indicators of the brain which usually affects our behavior and mood. Eating an excessive amount of processed foods is not good for the gut, it actually causes an imbalance which in turn cultivates the mind to be in an imbalanced state as well. This only concludes that eating healthy and unprocessed foods make all the difference. It’s also a good idea to consume foods rich in good bacteria such as yogurt to keep things balance down there. Additionally, eating at the right time is also crucial. Setting a certain schedule time for eating and your adherence to it is necessary so that your brain will be on its best state to function properly.
While you allow yourself to eat healthy foods, you allow your body to absorb energy and nutrients that will fuel your whole self, particularly your mind, to stay focused and alert throughout the day. It’s definitely okay to spoil yourself with unhealthy but delicious foods sometimes, just keep in mind not to overdo it and keep everything balanced. Having a healthy gut means a good mind, so see to it that you watch what you eat. This is one of the things to do that your future self will thank you for.
Going through the adolescence stage can be very overwhelming – you may not be able to catch up with things and you may not end up getting the things the way you wanted to, but that’s okay. You have to instill in your mind that life is not a race, and no matter how fast-paced our society becomes, life will never be about who makes it first. Stop overthinking about how your life will be in the following years because you will only end up feeling anxious. Instead, focus on how you can make things right for the future by concentrating on the present.
As a teen, you might link anxiety to personality. But that’s not true, anxiety doesn’t define you, it will never do. Anxiety is a feeling that will sometimes come into your life but it will always go away. Always keep in mind that you are such a beautiful person and you have a brain that is already healthy and strong, all you have to do now is to maintain it in doing what it’s meant to do. At the end of the day, it’s up to you if you will let anxiety overpower you. I know you might find it challenging to deal with it, especially in your adolescent stage, but there are various ways that you can consider trying to combat anxiety. Four of these ways are already described in this article and they have been found powerful and effective in contending anxiety.