Published on July 5, 2023 by Rose Strawser
As we discussed in our last blog post, some of us are more prone to anxiety than others. Perhaps it’s because of our genetic make-up, or the difficulties we’ve had to face in life compared to others, or maybe it comes from some poor coping habits that we’ve repeated over and over again. We will never be able to completely eliminate anxiety from our lives, but we can help make it a little more tolerable by adding some new coping skills to our toolbox.
Feel free to check out our Coping Strategies for Teens with Anxiety – Part 1 for the first set of strategies. Here are a few additional strategies to help:
Create a contract with yourself.
It’s been proven that we remember better when we write things down. Changing our thoughts can be challenging, so let’s do everything we can to make it successful. Create a contract with yourself to help achieve your goals, such as “every day that I complete my mood journal and identify my negative thoughts, then I will reward myself with time spent outside listening to my favorite song,” or, “when I’ve completed 5 fun activities for the week, I will reward myself with my favorite Starbucks drink.” You may want to make a chart where you can check off each time you do a certain activity, helping you to clearly see how you are progressing each week.
Evaluate your coping strategies and think of new ones.
Sometimes what has helped us in the past may not continue to be helpful. For example, in the past you may have felt less stress by spending some time in your bedroom alone, however, perhaps now it just makes you feel lonely and doesn’t help. Be sure to recognize if a coping strategy no longer seems to be working. Maybe you have become more social and spending time with a friend would be a better option instead of being alone in your bedroom. Or maybe you used to always call one particular friend, but that friend may not be as readily available as they were before, so perhaps you want to reach out to a few of your other friends.
Plan ahead for daily hassles and major events.
This one might be a bit tricky. We don’t want to constantly assume that there will be a problem, or fixate on everything that could go wrong. But in some cases it may be helpful to have a game plan in case a daily hassle or major event takes place. Daily hassles are stressful things that we deal with every day – things that may get on our nerves but they’re not “terrible.” On the other hand, major events are stressful experiences that only happen once in a while. Write down ways that you can deal with these hassles and events when they pop up, such as planning a fun activity, taking a walk, meet with a friend etc. Some of these hassles are in our control, for example, we can do our homework in a timely manner instead of waiting until the night before everything is due which would add unneeded stress to our lives. For those items that are outside of our control, make sure to remember to change your thoughts. . . if a friend is moving away, instead of focusing on how much you will miss them, focus on making the most of the time you have with them now. If you are moving to a new home or school, look at it as an adventure and think about the new places you will get to see and experience, instead of focusing on what you might be missing in your old hometown.
Think more positively – Positive Counter-thought.
In part 1 of this series, we discussed identifying negative thoughts by listing them in our mood journals. When we have a negative thought, it is helpful to examine it closely and exchange it for a positive counter-thought. Maybe your negative thought is not true, or maybe you have exaggerated the negative impact of the situation. Instead of thinking “I have no friends”, think about “I enjoy spending time with John”, or instead of thinking “I can’t learn this new material”, tell yourself “I’ve learned new things in the past, so I can do it again.” If it is raining, we can either focus on the fact that we can’t be outside and the lack of sunshine, or we can focus on how the rain is nourishing the plants, and the beautiful rainbow that came from that rain. Continuing to focus on these positive counter-thoughts will keep our emotions in a much better place than being negative.
Speak to yourself as you would to a friend.
This is my favorite. So many of us have an inner critic that speaks negative statements to us that we would never say to a friend that we care about. Why do we think it is ok to speak to ourselves in such a negative way? It’s not ok. We deserve the same love, respect, and kindness that we would show to a friend. If you find yourself speaking in a negative way to yourself, ask yourself if you would say that statement to a friend – if the answer is no, then change your narrative to be what you would use to your friend. There may be times when we need to tell ourselves that we could have put in a little more effort, or need to do better next time, etc., but telling ourselves that we did horribly or will never get better is not going to help us reach our goals.
Seek professional help when needed.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help when needed. Find a therapist or counselor that you can trust. Look for group programs in your area such as The Blues Program for teenagers - www.bluesprogram.org.