Coping Skills for Anxiety for Youth (7 Useful Tips)
Coping skills for anxiety for youth are effective and accessible strategies that anyone can learn. This blog will explain what anxiety is and how coping skills work. Then, we will cover seven useful coping strategies that can help young individuals deal with their anxiety.
What are some Coping Skills for Anxiety for Youth?
There are many useful coping skills that young individuals can easily develop to tackle their anxiety head on. These are simple techniques that require regular practice to be truly effective. Nevertheless, they can completely change your subjective experience of anxiety symptoms and make you more functional in life.
A few examples of such coping skills are:
- Grounding Techniques
- Engaging the Pre-Frontal Cortex
- CBT Practices
Understanding Anxiety in Young Individuals
Anxiety is a natural response our body elicits whenever it is in stress. This stress could be a physical danger or an emotional trigger that brings out feelings of fear, worry, apprehension, and distress.
In general, youth is a turbulent time full of transitions and adventures. A teenager or young adult may face a physical stressor such as a fist fight, molestation, or bullying. Emotional stressors for them can include relationship issues, academic stress, financial pressure, or more. Individuals belonging to marginalised communities or the LGBTQ community also face many such stressors on a regular basis.
When the body responds with anxiety, it prepares the person for the stressor at hand by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the body, awareness of sensory information, and energy production. All the muscles also tighten so that they may fight or flee from the situation to rescue themselves.
While this is a normal reaction that is essential for survival, an excess of anxiety can interfere with functioning. You develop an anxiety disorder when this starts happening.
How do Coping Skills Work?
Coping skills are ways to tolerate, minimise, or deal with stressful situations. These can be taught to anyone and when practised regularly, they become more and more effective.
Think of it as a muscle you are trying to develop. The more consistent you are with practising when things are alright, the better able you will be to use them when stressed.
Each coping skill is designed to address the issue and how it affects your functioning. The idea is to reduce the intensity of the struggle or increase the individual’s resilience. When it comes to anxiety, coping skills will target the body’s systems involved with the fight or flight reaction.
These are easier to use for young individuals since their brains have more plasticity than older people. Consequently, breaking old habits and forming new ones are less challenging.
7 Useful Coping Skills for Anxiety for Youth
In this section, we are going to explore seven coping skills for anxiety for youth. Keep in mind the sequence of the techniques as they are listed in the way they work best when done chronologically.
These skills address the biological functions that occur when a person is feeling anxious. They aim to bring the body back to homeostasis and send signals of safety to the nervous system.
First, begin by grounding yourself in the present. As anxiety usually involves negative thoughts about the past or future, grounding techniques help draw your attention back to the here and now.
These techniques utilise your sense organs in order to remind you that the things you’re anxious about are not really happening yet. If they were, the anxiety would have been effective in saving you. But since most anxiety attacks come from imagined scenarios, one needs to distract themselves with reality.
For example, you might be getting all worked up about an exam tomorrow. The test hasn’t started yet so thinking negatively about it is only taking away your resources, which could be better spent studying.
To ground yourself, use all five senses and absorb all the sensory information around you. What can you see? What do those things look like? Their colour, shape, and appearance. Focus on that.
Can you hear, smell, or taste anything? What is it? What does it feel like? Use your hands to grab any objects around you. Feel their texture and soothe yourself with the fact that you’re in the present.
It helps to have devices like weighted blankets, touchstones, or soft huggables for moments like these.
Discharging Excessive Energy
Now that you’re back to the present, observe if there is any excessive energy in your body. Since anxiety is designed to prepare you to attack or run, your body will be producing more energy when you get triggered.
This could look like restless limbs, fidgeting, pacing around, biting fingernails, grinding teeth etc. If you notice yourself doing anything like that, engage in any kind of physical activity to release some of that energy.
You could go for a run, walk, or swim. Some people like to dance or practice yoga. If physical exercise is not your cup of tea, just jump around or shake your body. It’s also a good idea to do some kind of house chore that doesn’t require much thinking.
Relaxing Your Muscles
Once the excess energy has left your body, only then can you truly relax. Self-regulation is all about observing if there is any tension or tightness in your body. Do you feel any muscles tightened up for no good reason?
Most people contract the muscles in their neck, shoulders, thighs, abdomen, pelvic region, fists, and feet. If you catch yourself doing it, relax them immediately. Sometimes, it’s easier to relax them if you purposely contract the muscles as much as you can for four seconds. Then, when you let go, they feel a lot looser than before.
Doing this exercise sends signals to your autonomous nervous system that you are not in any present real danger. As a result, you’re able to restore functionality in the rational parts of your brain that shut off when you’re anxious.
Engaging in an Activity You Enjoy
When you feel relaxed enough in your body, maintain that relaxed state by distracting yourself with some fun activity. You don’t have to get back to your books immediately. Instead, try something like a hobby, a crossword, or talk to someone.
Do it for just enough time till your body steps out of its anxious state. Doing more than that would become a problem. We all know how bad procrastination can get with the internet. So, it’s a better idea to find something more active than passively scrolling on social media.
The previous items listed here are to be done in SOS situations, just when you feel an anxiety attack coming. The remaining three items are about maintaining good mental health to avoid attacks in the first place.
Speak to a mental health professional to learn more about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) practices. To explain them briefly, these practices are notebook-pen exercises that allow you to recognise unhelpful patterns in your thoughts.
Once you can identify them, the exercises help you replace the thoughts with more rational, neutral, and realistic ones. With enough practice, you can learn to do it without the notebook, and thus become better at coping with anxiety.
Another way to keep track of your thoughts is to journal on a regular basis. If doing it every day or multiple times a day seems too much, you can always use it on a need basis. Every time you feel charged with anxious thoughts, pen them down to get a better perspective.
This will help you release some of that excess energy, process your thoughts from a third perspective, and refer to your notes whenever you need to analyse your behaviour. Journaling is an excellent way to increase self-awareness, a useful tool for any mental illness.
Finally, research shows that meditation is an effective coping strategy for individuals dealing with anxiety. Most members of younger generations hold certain reservations against this practice as it requires stillness and staying calm.
However, thanks to resources on the internet, meditation is now super easy for anyone who is interested. There are plenty of videos and audio recordings of guided meditation clips that make it a lot more possible to achieve that state of stillness.
You can even listen to them in your sleep or while you’re resting. Moreover, there are also quite a few phone apps that make meditation user friendly and accessible through short and simple daily activities.
Coping skills for anxiety for youth are effective and accessible strategies that anyone can learn. This blog explained what anxiety is and how coping skills work. Then, we covered seven useful coping strategies that can help young individuals deal with their anxiety.
The coping skills mentioned here included Grounding Techniques, Discharge, Self-Regulation, Engaging the Pre-Frontal Cortex, CBT Practices, journaling, and Meditation.
FAQs (Coping Skills for Anxiety for Youth)
What are some good anxiety coping skills?
There are many coping skills that work effectively in fighting anxiety. Some of them are as follows:
- Grounding Techniques
- Engaging the Pre-Frontal Cortex
- CBT Practices
How do you help a teenager with anxiety?
Teenage anxiety is quite a prevalent problem anyway and the pandemic has only made it worse. Some useful tips to help a teenager with anxiety are:
- Encourage seeing a mental health professional or a counsellor
- Talk to them about their worries and listen
- Try CBT workbooks written for their age group
- Encourage physical activity
- Seek local support groups for anxious teens
What is the 5-4-3-2-1 coping strategy?
This is a grounding technique that uses your sense organs to help calm you down and reorient yourself to the present. First, try to notice five things you can see. Then, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Repeat the process if needed.
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