Author: Dana Crater, MD, FAAP
Some degree of stress, worry, and anxiety are normal as part of the pre-adolescent and adolescent phases of life. In fact, it’s part of every phase of life, isn’t it? However, if you are noticing that your child seems burdened by their worries and anxieties, or that their daily life, interactions, and school or social success are being affected, it’s time to look into it a little more deeply.
A great first place to start is a visit to your pediatrician. Pediatricians are accustomed to evaluating a child with anxiety, and along with the parents and the child, helping to figure out just how severe the problem is, and what measures can be taken to help.
While you are waiting for that appointment, or if you are just not sure and want to try some methods of prevention and treatment at home first, here are some suggestions.
1) Ensure adequate sleep. Insufficient sleep in children and adolescents is directly related to levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression.
2) Decrease and limit screen time. Studies prove over and over again that the more time kids spend on their phones, computers, and devices, especially on social media, the more likely they are to become stressed or develop anxiety and depression. Included in this recommendation is to take the phone out of your child’s bedroom at night.
3) Ensure daily exercise. Exercise releases the body‘s natural endorphins, which leads to feeling happier in general. Daily exercise also leads to better quality sleep.
4) Encourage daily journaling, an anxiety workbook, and or daily mindfulness/meditation. There are many anxiety workbooks for preteens and teens available, and there are also many mindfulness apps that teenagers find helpful even if it’s only for five minutes a day. Many of our patients like the “Calm” app, which has very specific sessions targeting anxiety, confidence, anger, and gratefulness to name a few.