Anxiety is a healthy reaction when we think there may be danger, trouble, a threat or something unpleasant is about to happen. When we become anxious, we have both emotional and physical reactions. For example we may feel on edge, nervous, have fear, and panic. Physically, our breathe and heartbeat get faster, and we may get sweaty or tense.
Anxiety is common for young people as they are faced with many changes, new experiences, and challenges. Things can feel a little hectic, and at times it feels out of control. Feeling anxious is normal.
Anxiety is only a problem or mental illness when it happens without a clear threat or danger. It can also be a problem if your response to anxiety prevents you from coping with everyday life.
Without help, a person may have a ‘panic attack’ when the physical symptoms of anxiety appear for no known reason. These symptoms are extreme and can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, or tingling feelings. When these happen, the person may think they are about to have a heart attack or even die.. Even though scary, panic attacks will not kill you.
Tips for dealing with anxiety
When you are experiencing anxiety the first thing to do is understand what is going on and know that it is normal to feel anxious at times. Worrying will only increase the anxiety! You can also:
- Let someone you trust know how you are feeling and try to work out what it is that may be contributing to these feelings – what is the threat or the things worrying you? Try to name them all, even if they seem small or silly.
- Try to do some activities that will help you to relax your mind and body, gentle exercise is good, or doing something you enjoy. Singing out loud to your favourite music is a really good activity!
- Learn and practice deep breathing
- Don’t totally avoid doing things that worry or stress you but get support for these from someone you trust and start small. Set small goals and building up to the more difficult things once you have achieved the first goals.
- Remember to recognise your attempts to overcome your anxiety, even if you only partially succeed. It’s hard to face fear!
- Remind yourself that many other adolescents are also probably experiencing anxiety at times and that it is normal to go through a variety of emotions. In fact, this is part of growing up, learning to deal with these situations and it’s the path to adulthood.
- If your anxiety is very extreme seek help from your school counsellor, doctor or helpline.