When we feel overwhelmed it can paralyze us. Teen anxiety and overwhelm can seem more heightened. Overwhelm is a natural response to heightened anxiety or stress that creates a panic reaction or sense of impending doom. Fear is real. It’s served a purpose for thousands of years. It’s helped us to sniff out danger — to survive. But it has a place and time and we have to learn to manage and mitigate feelings of fear skillfully to avoid intense overwhelm. When we’re caregivers, we must protect our self-care because burnout causes us to have a shorter fuse and struggle to model positive behaviors.

Teen Anxiety and the Brain

For adolescents, overwhelm can lead to stress and anxiety. In addition, these feelings can be magnified and intense during the teen years. The adolescent brain is still under construction and the malleability of this developmental stage can increase feelings of stress. Hence, teens need skills to manage when overwhelmed.

And as supportive adults, we have an opportunity to guide teens. 

  1. Slow down. Take a few deep breaths, allowing your belly to expand gently.
  2. Identify your needs. Ask what feelings are coming up and what one might need in this moment. Anxious teenagers might not be aware of what they’re feeling. We can help by  guiding them to self-awareness by getting them to slow down and do a body scan to recognize how they’re feeling.
  3. Get some fresh air and move the body. Move a muscle, move a thought is a popular saying in recovery circles. This provides the instant gift of perspective. It’s easy for adolescents to get caught up in screens and forget to exercise. 
  4. Write down feelings. Our feelings matter. And for adolescents, this process of learning to identify and articulate emotions and physiology creates emotional literacy and intelligence. What’s more it builds esteem as we nourish ourselves.
    “Adolescents have big feelings and those feelings need to be validated and honored just like everyone else,” says Alexandra Seymour, MS, AMFT, SoCal Adolescent Wellness Program Therapist
  5. Create a vision board. Encourage teens to visualize their dreams, and be creative. This can be reframed as art if the vision board vibe feels too touchy feely for the teen in your life. 
  6. Read daily affirmations. A little positivity goes a long way balancing teen anxiety and it can be as simple as using affirmation cards from a favorite writer or thinker like Melody Beattie, Gabby Bernstein, or Louise Hay. Or perhaps you write your own affirmations. 

Research shows that confidence plays a huge part in our capacity for managing our emotions and relationships. Hence, it is key to encourage confidence in anxious teens. In addition, this sense of self-esteem builds on one’s ability to process emotions without succumbing to dread or catastrophizing. So, when in doubt, remember to note: you made it this far! And you didn’t make it this far to ONLY come this far. Tell you teen: You got this. 

At SoCal Adolescent Wellness, we provide the professional expertise to teach families the skills of emotional awareness, self-regulation, behavioral modification practices, and fundamental mental health support tools. We connect the symptoms and experiences with evidenced-based therapeutic interventions as we develop unique treatment plans for teens and families. We guide clients to help them adjust and adapt to anything that life brings. We are here to help.