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June 11, 2015

Every adolescent faces countless changes and shifts throughout their teenage years, making anxiety management a main priority to obtain healthy day-to-day functioning. For most teens, anxiety acts as a gentle prod, pushing them forward through life in a productive way. But for some, anxiety can take over, becoming a chronic burden that stifles their academic success and beats down their emotional and physical health.

Here are a handful of signs your teen may need help managing their anxiety:

  • Excessive worrying and fearful behavior
  • Tends to withdraw in social settings
  • Inner restlessness, nervousness or extreme stress
  • Complains about muscle tension, cramps, stomachaches, headaches, limb and/or back pain, fatigue or discomforts associated with pubertal changes

Here are four proven stress reducers that can teach the modern teen how to deal with anxiety in a healthy way:

 1. Meditation

Everyone’s doing it. High-energy broadcast news anchors, iconic rock legends, even sports superstars. What are we talking about? Meditation, of course.

“In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity — and I would like to think that would help provide people a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world,” says Sir Paul McCartney.

Indeed, with endorsements like these, as well as easy-to-use guided apps like Headspace, Mediation and mindfulness have hit the mainstream. And it’s no surprise, as anyone can practice meditation in hopes of reducing stress—even adolescents and young adults.

Mediation in a nutshell is the deliberate act of regulating attention through observation of oncoming emotions and thoughts. There are many different ways to practice, but they basically all follow these steps:

  • Direct focus to an attention anchor (breath, external object, person whom we love)
  • Observing and acknowledging internal and external distractions
  • Letting distractions go to return back to attention anchor of choice

Meditation aligns with the 21st century notion of schooling in the U.S., which “views learning as a holistic process that seeks to educate students academically, emotionally, socially, ethically and spiritually.”

>>>Interested in learning more about mindfulness? PQ Therapist Tom Jameson, MS, NCC, has more tips for quieting the chaos.

2. Gardening

Gardening, specifically horticultural therapy, is a stress reducer that works for all ages. When teens are placed in caregiving roles, they are empowered to create an environment and attitude that is both growth-focused and life-affirming.

Garden therapy has a rich history in improving anxiety and trauma — pharaohs were prescribed walks in lush gardens to treat mood instability in Egypt, while philosophers taught meaningful lessons in the gardens of Greece. Seeing gardening through from planting to harvesting helps young adults connect with the earth and naturally learn how to deal with anxiety.

3. Yoga

Research published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics has found that teens who completed a 10-week yoga course, rather than 10 weeks of regular physical education, scored better on tests measuring mood problems or anxiety, and also noted fewer negative emotions.

Yoga is a great stress reliever because it can be done virtually anywhere and requires little equipment. At Pacific Quest, students practice yoga as part of their daily routine and embrace it on their path to whole-person wellness.

4. Communication

Encouraging your teen to communicate to you the causes of stress in their lives is a stress reducer in and of itself. Peer pressure, tests, bullying and competition are all real stressors that plague youth.

If your child does not feel comfortable enough to discuss what plagues them, they may not know how to deal with anxiety and may turn to negative ways of coping. When listening, use positive and uplifting phrases such as, “It’s nothing we can’t handle together” or “Take a deep breath and begin again.” Let your child know you are there for them and will do whatever you can to help bring back balance into his or her life.

If you think your teen needs help learning how to deal with anxiety and stress, Pacific Quest is here to help.

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