If you have an anxiety disorder, you know exactly what it feels like. You know how your thoughts spiral out of control, how that cold, empty feeling engulfs your chest, and how your stomach twists itself into a knot. Anxiety attacks can be scary, and oftentimes, we as teenagers find ourselves unprepared as we battle against it.
Fortunately, simply clicking on this article is the first and most important step you can take in managing your anxiety. Here are a few literal and abstract things you can equip yourself with in the next battle you have with your anxiety.
Keep in mind, however, that some of these tips may not work for you, specifically. We are all different, so do not get discouraged; instead, search for what does work.
Now I know what is going through your mind: sitting cross-legged on the ground and going “Ummm” in a deep voice sounds silly. Yes, meditation does put a fairly interesting image in our heads, but pretending to be a monk is not what meditation is.
Meditation is simply taking a quiet moment to check in on your mental and physical state. In my personal experience, meditating regularly has been a total game-changer in managing my anxiety. It becomes a way for your brain to take a well-deserved break from a busy life while also addressing any worry or stress that could develop into an anxiety attack trigger. This self-awareness is super helpful when it comes to recognizing anxiety as soon as it pops up. Also, meditation teaches you that you are in control (because it often feels like anxiety takes that away) through basic breathing exercises. If you can control your breathing, you will have the upper hand on anxiety.
There are many platforms available to help you learn how to meditate, but the most effective one I have found is an app called Headspace. Without a subscription, you still have access to a series of basic meditation exercises and free previews of other series, and, if you eventually decide to subscribe, they have special offers quite often to help you save some money. I also find a feature of another app, Calm, helpful for in-the-pinch situations. Calm has a free feature that animates an effective deep breath through a circle that expands and condenses. I find this especially useful if I find myself in a situation where I cannot pull out my earbuds, close my eyes, and meditate during an anxiety attack.
Most of us are probably beyond the age of keeping a diary. However, journaling is really effective in managing anxiety.
I am extremely guilty of bottling up my thoughts and emotions, and it has a tendency to build up and spill over, in the form of anxiety. For me, my journal is a judgment-free place where I can express these thoughts and emotions, instead of keeping them to myself.
The first step of journaling is to acquire a journal, obviously. It does not have to be anything fancy; it can even be your old, pink diary from third grade. And, in reality, that is the only step of journaling. There are no rules. It is your journal, so do whatever is going to help you most.
However, if you prefer structure or if you are having a hard time getting started, a journaling app like Reflectly may be the route you want to take. Reflectly also helps you track your mood, provides journaling prompts for you, and sends you cute, motivating notifications often.
This is probably the weirdest advice I have ever heard for anxiety, but it works. Having some type of candy with you can help redirect your anxious thoughts. Hard candy, specifically, works great for this. If you are having an anxiety attack, suck on the candy, and put your focus on its flavor. As a result, your brain gets a break from obsessing about the trigger of the attack.
The best part of this tip is that any type of hard candy works. Peppermints may be better for those who suffer from stomach trouble as a symptom of anxiety. Sour candy also works well because, in a way, the sourness can help your thoughts redirect rather quickly.
Chewy candy, like gum, can also act as an anxiety reliever by both redirecting your thoughts and channeling that anxious energy in a safe way. Biologically, the feeling we get during anxiety is from our fight-or-flight instincts, so we have energy (also known as adrenaline) pumping through us to prepare for one of those reactions. This also explains why some of us get shaky during anxiety attacks. Basically, chewing gum provides a way to release and burn this energy.
Having support as you battle your anxiety is probably the single most important piece of advice in this article. We as humans are natural pack animals. We cannot face our battles alone.
Building a support system can be difficult, but it is well worth it. Find people who you can trust. Find people who understand what you are going through. Find people who you can open up to without feeling judged. If you have access to therapy, utilize it. Seek help from your friends, trusted adults, local teen helplines, and social media support groups.
Although stigma about mental health still runs rampant, there are individuals out there who are willing to help. You are not alone.
**Remember, some of these may not work for you specifically. We are all different, so do not get discouraged; instead, keep searching for what does work.**