The teenage years can be tough, and anxiety in teens is on the rise – so how can we recognize it in our children and what can we do about it? Adolescence is the time when teens get to spread their wings a little, to stretch them out before they fully fly the nest. But with the tolls of modern-day life; peer pressure, the need to perform well at school, social media, and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic, anxiety has been on the rise in adolescents. This video has a really useful explanation of the causes of anxiety.
So how can we spot anxiety in our children, and what are some coping mechanisms for dealing with it? What does God think about mental health and what does the Bible say about it? In this blog, I will be looking at ways to recognize anxiety, as well as some coping mechanisms, followed by some Bible verses to help in times of anxiety.
Causes of anxiety
There can be many causes of anxiety in teens. Some are school-based, like the pressure to perform well, there can also be social anxiety, due to not wanting to appear different and wanting to fit in. Puberty can be a cause of anxiety, as our bodies naturally develop at different times so we may be ahead or behind our peers. Environmental issues can play a factor, whether the teen is going through a difficult time with their family, financially or otherwise. The coronavirus pandemic has also played a huge role in raising anxiety, as worries have surfaced about the future. Social media is another factor, as the more we are on social media, the more we compare ourselves to others which can cause anxiety.
Signs of anxiety
It’s important to remember that anxiety can look different from one person to another. There can be obvious symptoms such as shaking and sweating, but others may be far more subtle, such as difficulty sleeping, and the feeling of nausea. Other signs of anxiety in teens are wanting to withdraw and finding it difficult to concentrate, and it is not always easy to spot whether these are related to anxiety. A lot of anxiety centers around school so wanting to avoid school and social interaction can be a key sign that something’s not right.
Coping strategies for anxiety
If you think that you or your teen is experiencing anxiety, then these quick tips may help.
– Remember that the feeling of fear is part of the fight or flight survival strategy and is perfectly normal. Breathe slowly through the fear until it passes.
– Write down your fears and put them away. Some people have a worry jar for this purpose.
– Talk about your feelings. Is there a close and trusted friend that you can talk to and share things with? They may have a different perspective than you.
-Pray. As we will see a little further on, God loves you and wants to be intimately involved with your life, the way that a loving Father would be. Tell Him your fears.
-Look after yourself. Rest, eat well, exercise.
Supporting children or friends through anxious times
If our teens are experiencing an anxiety attack, we can stay with them, reassure them and help them to breathe through it, until the anxiety passes.
At a calmer moment, perhaps we can reflect with our child on what might be causing the anxiety. Give space to them to share their feelings. The feelings of anxiety are very real and it can be easy to dismiss each others’ fears as unrealistic, but fear is fear. The best thing we can do as friends or family members is to listen without judgment. We can help to identify triggers and work out strategies to help in times of anxiety. Finally, we can encourage them to do the things that are known to reduce anxiety: physical exercise, sleeping well, eating healthily, drinking water, and spending quality time with loved ones. Helpguide.org provide great guides on steps we can take to improve our own mental health.
The most effective treatment for anxiety is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which looks at your negative thought patterns and helps you to turn these into more positive ones. Sometimes medication is also needed to help those with severe anxiety. If you feel your anxiety is affecting your quality of life, seek advice from a medical professional. Click here for a really useful website for supporting those with anxiety, here for a fuller explanation of anxiety in adolescents and here for Bankrate’s key mental health statistics 2022.
So what does the Bible say about anxiety?
Seven bible verses about anxiety
1. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6.
2. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles” Psalm 34:17.
3. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:25-34.
4. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30.
5. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.
6. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27.
7. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” Psalm 23:4.
In times of anxiety, why not read these verses out loud? Speaking out the word of God carries weight and changes our feelings. The word of God is true and unchanging, unlike our emotions, so say these out loud, sing them, write them out, and memorize them. Get the truth of those verses into your heart and mind. The word of God brings life, like water to a desert.
Your Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to be burdened by anxiety, He wants you to come to Him, to cast your burdens onto Him, and walk away, released from its heavy weight.
Father, I give to you my anxiety. May the truth of Your word come and renew my mind. Thank You that You are with me, even in the darkest valley. Amen
There are many amazing technology tools to help manage anxiety. As well as helping you implement a daily practice of connecting with God, the Glorify App has meditations, guided prayers and soothing playlists for anxiety, stress & insomnia..