Many teenagers experience daily anxiety, and that often results in obsessive thinking. A teenager with a restless mind needs positive and productive ways to channel their mental energy. During summer vacation, when teens have more unstructured time, coping with anxious thoughts can be become increasingly difficult for both parents and kids.
Teens across the United States and around the world experience anxiety—regardless of economic status, ethnic background, or gender identity. New statistics show that more than 30 percent of adolescents suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder, and some 80 percent of those never receive any form of treatment.
Types and Symptoms of Teen Anxiety Disorders
Several types of anxiety disorders affect young people nationwide, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Here are 10 symptoms of anxiety disorders:
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares when sleeping
- Feeling tired or exhausted a majority of the time
- Easily startled and scared by everyday phenomena
- Trembling or twitching for no apparent reason
- Physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches
- Isolating behavior, including refusal to leave a bedroom or the home
- Extreme fears about a specific thing or situation, like dogs or going to the doctor
- Fearful of social situations like parties or going to school
- Very worried about failing in the future and about bad things happening
- Feeling out of breath or lightheaded for no apparent reason.
Mindfulness Strategies to Calm a Restless Mind
These all-natural tools can support adolescents who are troubled by restless, racing thoughts—and empower their parents as well.
Trust the Process
For these tools to work effectively, a teen has to trust that they will work. The first step is for teens to take a leap of faith and trust that these practices will lessen their psychic pain. The parent’s role here is to encourage and support their teen as they try new approaches.
Through mindfulness exercises, a teen learns to take a mental step back from the fearful thoughts and emotions. This is a powerful practice for the entire family.
Staying in the Present
By staying in the present moment, a teen can avoid drowning in worries about the past or future. Parents can help teens practice this skill by doing simple breathing and movement techniques together, or recommending apps that are teen-friendly.
Reducing the Need to Catastrophize
An anxious teen tends to turn almost everything into a potential catastrophe, and it’s easy for parents to get sucked into the negative mindset. Instead, both parents and kids can work on placing challenges in their proper context.
Getting Out and Into Nature
Unplugging from electronic devices and connecting with the natural world is proven to help calm a restless mind. It’s also a great family activity.
Setting the Critic Aside
Anxious teens tend to be their own worst critics. Through mindfulness, an anxious teen can come to understand that self-compassion is a more effective strategy for well-being. Parents, too, need to avoid criticism and focus on appreciating their teen.
An adolescent who suffers from a restless mind has options for shifting the way they think, and parents can be part of the solution. However, when obsessive thoughts stem from a potential anxiety disorder, assessment and treatment by a mental health professional is essential. Early intervention can help teens with anxiety address the root causes of the problem and learn coping skills for navigating everyday life.