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STRENGTHENING ADOLESCENTS AGAINST ANXIETY

Last Tuesday evening, we hosted a Parent Education presentation with Karen Young, the creator of the internationally acclaimed website "Hey Sigmund," an online resource that provides new, research-driven information with a particular emphasis on strengthening the mental wellness of children and adolescents.

Karen provided us with a mix of research and practical advice from a professional & personal perspective on how the important adults in young peoples' lives can support strengthening them against anxiety. For those who may have missed this practical & personable presentation, here are few "takeaways" and links to further resources that may be useful.

What is ANXIETY?

• The working of a robust and healthy brain that is being protective.
• An average human experience. 
• The most common child and adolescent mental health concern.
• For as many as 1 in 5 young people, anxiety symptoms can become so intrusive that it can interfere with day-to-day living and their engagement with the world by undermining confidence & self-belief.

ANXIETY

IS IT threatening?IS IT inevitable?IS IT Important or Meaningful?
MOVE TO SAFETY
Fight or flight
MOVE TO FUTILITY
Tears, Rest, transformation
MOVE TO COURAGE
Feel anxious,  do brave

How to RESPOND?

  • Parents do not cause anxiety, but our children's anxiety will trigger our own (check yourself) 
  • If we are asking our kids to be brave, we'll often have to go first (be a positive role model)

When responding to anxiety, the questions for all parents/carers to ask are:

  1. What am I protecting you from?
  2. Will my response move you forward or hold you back?

Worst RESPONSE

  • AVOIDANCE is the single most unhelpful response to anxiety 
  • AVOIDANCE will feed anxiety
  • AVOIDANCE will catastrophize the perceived threat
  • AVOIDANCE will interrupt the capacity to rework associations and trust in one's ability to cope

The only way through anxiety is through it! The brain learns through experience. The more an experience is repeated, the stronger the neural connections.

Best RESPONSE

  • Ride the wave: help them to get comfortable with being uncomfortable & ride with them.
  • Reconnect: the antidote to anxiety is trust
  • Get grounded: go for a walk, breathe, stretch, practice mindful meditation, 
  • Offer statements of validation and confidence "this too shall pass," "I can/ you will cope"
  • Change the narrative of y/our thoughts changes our/their interpretation of anxiety. Rather than, "something is wrong with me" or "something bad is going to happen" to …. "it's happening because it is something that matters."
  • Change focus on what they can't do to what they can do, ie. What would brave feel like right now?
  • Move from "what if" to "even if"
  • Support how can move from unpleasant & unmanageable to icky but manageable, one step at a time (a shuffle instead of a leap)
  • Encourage help-seeking from identified trusted adults

Final words. Learning is a social activity; therefore, when we are overly anxious, we can't fully engage in learning, and it impacts our capacity to reach our potential.

"Anxiety is very manageable, and any important adult in the life of a child has a profound capacity to strengthen children and teens against anxiety and towards courage and resilience.  With all anxiety comes opportunities to strengthen children and teens with a mindset, skills, and qualities that will lead them towards deeply fulfilling, brave, wholehearted living. " Karen Young. "Hey Sigmund"

Further resources & articles of interest

https://www.heysigmund.com/

Apps: 

  • Breathe
  • Calm
  • Smiling Minds
  • Worry Time

Video of the book by Karen Young for kids about anxiety "Hey Warrior" https://youtu.be/fzhka72RV30

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-determination-theory-2795387

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html?fbclid=IwAR2cA_o6efxtvENeGWnrTccgJzIZeKXkYxeNqSqX9DErD2qe9YfKAbexzkQ

https://theconversation.com/teaching-young-people-about-sex-is-too-important-to-get-wrong-here-are-5-videos-that-actually-hit-the-mark-159438https://theconversation.com/young-people-learn-about-relationships-from-media-you-can-use-books-and-movies-to-start-discussions-158784

DONNA NAIRN
Director of Counselling