It’s Not Just Worry and We Don’t Grow Out of It: Anxiety in Youth

by | Aug 14, 2018 | Anxiety, Child Health, Stress

Khalida Nasir, Psychologist, Baulkham Hills NSW

14 August 2018

Have you ever felt like you “should” be able to do that thing, but it’s just too hard? Have you ever been told to “just grow up and do it”? Have you ever felt so stuck and like it’s just so hard to move forward?

With the competing demands and immense pressure that comes from growing up and being a teenager it is no surprise that young people find themselves feeling anxious and stuck. We find ourselves growing up in a world where there are constant expectations to keep up with school, family, social and online pressures, all whilst we are trying to figure who we are and strive for independence…. it is no wonder this is such a common occurrence.

So, do we just ride this wave and hope it goes away?

Not exactly…. While there may be misconceptions that this is all just part of growing up and we “just get over it” or grow out of it, this is not always the case. Learning how we can manage anxiety early and equipping ourselves with tools to better manage, is of the utmost importance to ensure anxiety does not go on to affect our lives and limit our potential.

So, what is anxiety?

Anxiety is our fear response which tries to help and warn us in light of perceived danger or threat.

It affects the way we think about things, the way we feel in our body and what we do. While it aims to assist us to prepare and respond in these situations; it is sometimes excessive for the situation and can be more unhelpful than helpful.

Sometimes it can get so full on that we find ourselves crippled by the fear and it actually gets in the way of our ability to do our day to day tasks, thereby affecting our functioning and overall quality of life. It can stop us from finishing that assignment, attending that event, making friends, meeting new people, getting that job and communicating our needs.  

Did you know?

In Australia, 1 in 6 young Australians aged 12-17, have experienced anxiety in the last 12 months. That is approximately 440,000 young people.

For young people, predominantly this interferes with their ability to go to school or work and how they build and maintain relationships. It is particularly a concern for young people who are developing as it can cause setbacks and lifelong consequences socially, academically and emotionally.

What to look out for

Pay attention to your thoughts, physical sensations, feelings and behaviours and ask yourself…

Feelings

Are you feeling overwhelmed and scared to do something/go somewhere?

Are you feeling tense, nervous and on edge and don’t know why?  

Are you feeling like things are out of control and it’s hard to calm or slow down?

Thoughts

Are you having unwanted uncontrollable thoughts?

Are you overestimating the likelihood and frequency of bad things happening?

Do you feel like your thoughts are constantly racing and your mind can’t slow down?

Physical

Does your heart race, chest tighten and you find it difficult to breathe?

Are you having difficulty sleeping and concentrating?

Do you feel nauseous or sick in the stomach, experience tension in your body or feel completely numb and detached?

Behaviour

Are you withdrawing or avoiding from things?

Are you finding it difficult to concentrate, make decisions and get things done?

Are you finding it difficult to move forward?

Some Tips to tackle anxiety

  1. Identify what is causing you to feel anxious in the first place? What is happening just before? What triggers you?
  2. Know how your anxiety affects you in the way you think, feel and what you choose to do or not do.
  3. Listen to your thoughts and what you are telling yourself. Anxiety can be tricky and our worries aren’t always that accurate. Question the accuracy of your thoughts and put it to trial, gain evidence for and against your worry and bring it into perspective. Ask yourself, do I need to be this worried? Will it really be as bad as I think? Even if it is, can I handle it and will I care in a year’s time?
  4. Slow down and BREATHE! Attend to your physical sensations too and regulate your breathing, calm your body and detach from past or future worries by bringing yourself to the present.
  5. Retrain your brain: Our brain is a muscle, it learns from what we tell it and what it experiences. So, tell it good things and face the worry, allowing it to see and learn that the worry isn’t all too bad.
  6. Enlist support! Who said we had to do this alone? Enlist a parent, family member, friend or professional to support you through it all.

What next?

Everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives or at least knows one person who has. While knowing what works for you is of utmost importance knowing you don’t have to do it alone or figure it all out by yourself is just as important. There’s support out there and reaching out to see a psychologist to help you or your loved one work through anxiety can be step number one. If you would like some support for yourself, a friend or a loved one, you can contact The Talbot Centre for more information.

 

Khalida nasir

Psychologist, Baulkham Hills NSW

Khalida understands that there are times in our lives that things don’t feel quite right. During this time we may feel alone in our struggle and like there is no way out. She likes to take a non-judgemental and holistic approach in supporting you along the way to take a step back, gain some clarity and move forward with confidence.

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