Parental Strategies for Teenagers and Young Adults with Anxiety
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Helping Young Adults with Anxiety Anxiety is part of being human and comes from the Amygdala, a primitive part of the brain that has evolved to ensure our survival. The amygdala is on continual alert to sense any danger that might be a threat and then will flood our system with threat hormones to incite us to fight or flight.
In modern life the Amygdala will often get it wrong as it can respond to emotions as if they are life threatening situations and hence we can over react to something that it senses a threat such as humiliation, embarrassment or exclusion. These fight and flight hormones surging through our bodies often have nowhere to go and we don’t physically respond as if we are in real danger so they build up and build up creating anxiety. Mix this with the social pressures and changes that young adults are undergoing and it is a heady mix where they will often feel out of control and completely at the mercy of their anxiety and emotions.
A little warning about change We can change our way of thinking and we do that from experience. So the more of something that we do then the more it becomes our default way of behaving or reacting. Now change takes effort and can sometimes be very uncomfortable which means that sometimes it seems that things may be getting worse before they get better, But stick with it and we can affect a positive change faster than you might think..
The challenge of being a parent We all want the best for our kids, whatever age they are and I guess that if you are a parent reading this then you are probably rather worried about your child. Something that you might want to keep in mind is “Is my behaviour supporting my child or adding to their anxiety”? Firstly bear in mind that anxiety like emotions are more contagious than flu? Just try smiling at someone and see whether they smile back and if they do then smiling actually makes us feel better. It’s the same with anxiety, an anxious person in the house can make us anxious and then we feed it back to them creating a circle of anxiety. Sometimes the parent is actually the best starting point for dealing with a child or young adults anxiety – If I can reduce your anxiety you can help reduce the anxiety of your household. I see many Mum’s and dad’s as the first part of the therapy and I can train you with techniques to help you manage better and reflect positive change.
Secondly I am sure you are aware that we treat the same information from different people in different ways. Young adults are in the process of asserting their independence and that means that it can be very difficult for you to get through to them. If you can let me support the young adult they can normally develop a better relationship with themselves and with their family all around a better vision of themselves. In my treatment and support of young adults I have found that there are three additional things that they can do that often help in conjunction with my services; these are Mindfulness, exercise and gratitude. All of these can help support new ways of thinking and create new pathways ion the brain that leads to a calmer and less anxious person. They all help and can form part of an overall strategy with psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, that although not magic can create a magical positive change.
Mindfulness Mindfulness is a technique of thinking about just one thing at a time. Has there ever been atime when you have sat on a park bench and noticed everything that was going on around you. Imagine noticing one thing at a time – perhaps how green the grass is, what the leaves on that tree looks like, the colour of the sky, the sound of a bird, the smell of cut grass/ This is the basis of mindfulness, a simple technique and yet surprisingly powerful, it can help reduce all of those stress hormones and increase activity in the ‘thinking’ part of the brain.
Exercise Exercise is quite an amazing thing. It can not only make us feel better whilst we are doing it but the effects can be long lasting. Exercise actually is a catalyst for the creation of some of our ‘feel good’ hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Exercise boosts levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which has been shown by research (the Journal of Neuroscience) to reduce anxiety, make us more resilient and reduce negative thoughts.
Gratitude Our brains are wired to take note of the negative stuff and potential dangers. It attaches emotions to our memories so that we learn where danger is and therefore react accordingly. Sometimes we are so alert looking for the bad stuff we don’t put the same importance on the good stuff so our minds are out of balance and full of just negative thoughts. This often means that we can always be thinking of the worst case scenario and catastrophize about what might happen or we might attach anxiety to events that just don’t merit any concern or worry. Simply by being grateful and remembering all of the good stuff can change the balance and contextualise the negative thoughts so they can be rationalised and weighted in a manageable way. At the end of every day just take a mental note or write down all of the good things from the day or things that you are grateful for. Whether it was a big thing or something as simple as a returned smile there are thousands of things that happen to everyone that we can be grateful for every day.
And Finally Do remember that anxiety is just a normal part of our make up. Everyone has it because it is part of our survival instinct and we probably couldn’t survive with drawing on it now and again. In fact a little anxiety and adrenalin can be helpful when we want to perform at our best on the sports field or in exams – so we cant eradicate it completely. But be patient and kind and with a little time we can help these young people to manage their anxieties and realise their potential.
If these are issues that affect you and you would like a free 15 minute telephone consultation to see how I can help you then please contact me here