“Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Things like tests, meeting new people, speaking in public, going on a date, and competing in sports can make us feel apprehensive or uneasy. But some teens react much more strongly to stressful situations than others. Even thinking about the situation may cause them great distress.”1
Teenagers feel anxious due to the way they think about situations. For example, if a teenager believes making a speech in front of the class will result in humiliation and rejection, then anxious feelings may prevent a good performance. If a different student has prepared well for a speech and thinks this is an opportunity to show off what’s been learned, then excited feelings may make the speech better than it was rehearsed.
Recently a teenager here was killed from cliff diving, and I wish he had sensed the danger and used his fear to be careful and check out before he dove the depth of the water and the rocks that killed him.
Fear is the emotion people feel when there is an actual object which could injure or kill them. Anxiety is experienced the same way, except there is no object to harm us.
The best strategy to deal with anxiety is to notice what has triggered a reaction, the anxious feelings, and mistaken thinking which produced the anxious feelings. With awareness, a teenager can use truth to dispute mistaken thinking. For example:
- Perfectionism: all or nothing, an A or failure
- The event is permanent, pervasive & personal
- Worst case scenario: focus on the negative
- Dismiss positives: the compliment’s false
- Mind reading: their motives are against me
- Magnification: making a mountain out of a . . .
- Fault finding: it’s all my fault
Truth to dispute
- Shades of gray: between are grades B, C, and D
- It won’t last; it’s only in 1 part of life; it’s not me
- With effort, many positives could happen
- My positive qualities count!
- I can’t predict the conclusion & I can handle it
- It’s not that important or such a big deal
- I will take responsibility for my part of this
- So, identify the upsetting event: I was rejected by someone.
- Scan your feelings: hurt, scared no one will ever like me back, worried what people think, sad
- Listen to your mistaken thoughts: I’m a total loser, I should just die, I’m a fool, I’ll always be alone
- Truth to dispute: I’ve overcome other losses, I’m resilient, I’ll meet other people, I’m learning
- Outcome: I still wish it would’ve worked out, their loss, I’m glad it happened now instead of later
Change how you feel and behave by changing how you think!
Resource 1: https://teens.webmd.com/anxiety-and-teens#1
If you need more principles, processes and provisions to manage your moods, call the Healthy Counseling Center for help at (509) 466-6632.