Teens: Awareness Can Be a Powerful Tool in Managing Anxiety

Anxiety can get in the way of much of your life. It can interfere with friendships, schoolwork, and family life. And during adolescence, there’s already many life challenges you’re facing, such as peer pressure and school responsibilities.


However, becoming more and more aware of when you’re anxious and the trigger of the anxiety can be a powerful tool in managing your anxiety. For instance, developing the skill of awareness can provide a sense of control. By developing a relationship with your anxiety, that is, become more aware of it, you can better understand how to respond to the anxiety you’re feeling.


Awareness is the skill of knowing what you are experiencing, why you’re experiencing it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. This is a skill that can be cultivated over time, which allows you to identify and express what you are feeling moment by moment. It’s is also the ability to understand the relationship between anxiety and how you choose to behave.


For instance, if you can identify that you’re feeling anxious, then you know it’s time to use coping tools to manage the anxiety you’re feeling. Here are three primary ways you can use to identify whether or not you’re experiencing anxiety:


1. Thoughts – What are you saying to yourself? What are the thoughts you’re having? When you’re anxious, your thoughts tend to centered on something troubling. You might have the thought, “What if I say something stupid?” or “What if I crash my dad’s car?”  The thoughts in your mind can often be the first source of anxiety.


2. Feelings – What are the feelings you’re experiencing? How is your body responding to the anxiety?  There are many changes that happen in the body once it begins to be register that danger is imminent. If you’re thinking anxious thoughts, your body may be responding accordingly.


3. Behaviors – How are you behaving? What actions are you taking? When anxiety really takes over your thoughts and feelings, you might then behave in certain ways that also reflect fear or anxiety. For instance, you might respond with the fight-flight-freeze response. You might feel paralyzed (freeze) when faced with an exam because you’re so afraid to fail. You might lash out (fight) at your parents because you’re afraid that they’re not going to let you enjoy your social life.  Or you might avoid (flight) being around dogs because you’re afraid they’re going to attack you.


By noticing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you can identify whether or not you’re feeling anxious. And with awareness, you can then learn to change your thoughts, manage your feelings, or change your behavior.


You might begin becoming more aware of your anxiety by noticing what you’re doing already. Are you avoiding any person or situation because of the anxiety you have? Are you lashing out at anyone because of the anxiety you feel? Or are you thinking certain thoughts at school or in social situations that cause feelings of stress and anxiety?  Knowing when you’re anxious is the beginning to doing something about it!


However,  keep in mind that if your anxiety feels too overwhelming, it’s important to talk to an adult you trust, such as a parent, teacher, or school therapist.