Common Daily Habits to Cope with Teen Anxiety
Anxiety is much more than being nervous. In this country, 7.1% of children between three and seventeen (which rounds to a whopping 4.5 million!) are diagnosed with anxiety. With so many children, including teens, struggling only six out of ten teens receive treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021-a). So, what does a parent do? How do they help? While treatment is extremely important, this is only part of the picture. Self-care, outside of treatment, is important as well. Tying formal therapy and day-to-day strategies together can be a challenge. These are some common daily habits that can help your teens cope with anxiety in their everyday lives.
- Have a healthy eating plan
Eating the right type of food can make a difference. Healthy eating falls under self-care. When taking care of ourselves, we can feel more in control of our anxiety symptoms. Good foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (for example, beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021-a).
- Physical activity
Getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day can make a difference with anxiety (Hirschlag, 2018). This can include running, walking, yoga, or even a more organized workout. The benefits of exercise are that it: decreases muscle tension, changes brain chemistry as the heart rate goes up which releases antianxiety chemicals in the brain, and helps build resistance to stormy emotions (Ratey, 2019).
- Get plenty of sleep
It is important not only to get enough sleep but enough GOOD sleep. This means sleep without access to screens such as cell phones. Teens are supposed to receive 8-10 hours of sleep a night in order to be fully rested (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021-b).
Writing is a great skill to help combat anxiety (Hirschlag, 2018). It allows for teens to release their emotions in a healthy, private way. This also gives them time to reflect on their emotions and process them as they write their feelings down. They can keep writing as a nightly journal, something they keep on hand throughout the day, or simply something they write and shred as needed.
- Limit Social Media
This may feel like a difficult one in this day and age with everyone having constant access to phones, computers, or tablets. In the long run, though, the extra effort is worth the benefits. One study had shown that 48% of teens who use social media for five hours a day have at least one suicide risk factor, compared to the 33% of teens who just use social media for two hours daily(Shafer, 2017). Social media use affects everyone differently, but lack of self-control using it can lead to struggles with anxiety, insecurity, and poor self-esteem (Shafer, 2017). This is not saying to take phones away, but to break up the day with more social activities off the screen. Use the time to have fun with friends and family which is good for everyone!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 22-a). Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 22-b). Anxiety and Depression in Children. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html.
Hirschlag, A. (2018, December 18). How to Cope with Anxiety: 11 Simple Ways and When to See a Doctor. Do You Live with Anxiety? Here Are 11 Ways to Cope. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-cope-with-anxiety#long-term-strategies.
Ratey, J. (2019, October 24). Can exercise help treat anxiety? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-treat-anxiety-2019102418096.
Shafer, L. (2017, December 15). Social Media and Teen Anxiety. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/12/social-media-and-teen-anxiety.
About the Author:
Ana Marino is a residential counselor at Mountain Valley Treatment Center. She works with teens ages 13-20 who struggle with anxiety, OCD, and/or depression. Ana works with teens teaching them coping skills to help them in their daily lives, encouraging self-care, and working through their thoughts and feelings effectively. Ana has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and plans to go back to school for a Master’s in counseling.