Each week I work with people who are experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and also PTSD. Over the last year I have worked with more and more teenagers who are having anxious episodes for a variety of different reasons. Whether it’s around friendships, exams, body confidence or social pressure, anxiety in teenagers is rising. With adults, there is a common theme that runs through each person I work with. This is the fact that most adults that come into my clinic or work with me online, have no idea how to deal with their anxiety or have any control over their anxiety. Adults generally tend to spend years battling the symptoms and not addressing the issues, mainly because the naked eye can’t usually detect anxiety on another person, as it can be quite easy to smile on the outside and keep the fact that you’re suffering on the inside your best kept secret.
Then there’s the difficulty in forming the words, ‘I have anxiety’, or ‘I need help’ or something like ‘I’m not coping’. It’s usually elements of shame that prohibit adults from declaring their ‘weakness’, when shame can very easily be turned into strength to overcome that personal inner battle. The initial main difference between adults and teenagers is that adults will usually have suffered within for years and tried to ignore their anxiety or avoided working on their issues. Teenagers are however very different. They are still holding on to elements of their young child mind. They cannot simply smile through it and repress their feelings. The child within easily expresses emotions, and the transitioning child-to-teen, heading towards young adult cannot mask their cry for help. The anxiety is simply too strong to contain.
Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Another common pattern I see, is that adults will literally do anything for their children. If they need to change the child’s diet and improve the nutrition of their kids, adults will drastically stick to a health plan. If it’s a plan for an adult however, they tend to lack in committing to ‘staying on track’. A cheeky doughnut here, a glass of wine there, what harm is one more cigarette? Just like anxiety, taking a fully responsible approach tends to be avoided as some adults continue to try to mask their symptoms, but when it’s their child, nothing is getting in the way of their mental and emotional health and their child’s happiness. You may or may not be aware, but children and teenagers tend to copy, adopt and pick up behaviour that is demonstrated by adults. I’ve seen the angry dad in my clinic who sounds like his mother. The anxious mum who was brought up by an anxious parent. Some behaviours are simply a mirror of what was played out in the living room of the individual’s own home, perhaps at some point in their life. Last week, last year…ten years ago, whenever, the unconscious mind is a sponge for learning and accepting patterns that it can then live out through your own behaviour as a child, teenager or adult.
A major cross over pattern that I see with adults and teenagers with one major difference is that adults and teenagers firstly have no idea (as I said previously) ‘how to work or control their mind’ and thought patterns. This is down to education. Schools tend to focus on the importance of learning historical dates over ‘what we do inside our heads’ and ‘how to cope’. I have worked with highly intelligent, extremely successful adults who have no idea of how to ‘escape, deal with, or process’ the performances that play out inside their own heads. Coaching them through various techniques can often be met by resistance. Why? Because it’s actually quite simple, yet you may have been forced to believe (global programming) that transforming your life takes years, a lot of money and time. So really, on that belief that is projected on to you, you should just continue to suffer and be a victim of society where your mind and it’s toddler style behaviour, shits all over your life. But back to the main difference between adults and teenagers. With teenagers, they absorb the work. Why? Because it is so simple and so effective, empowering, freeing, liberating and healing. So why do adults resist? Well, it’s quite the generalisation; but in this advanced world of having deliveries arrive on the same day to your front door, the ability to talk to someone on a screen across the world on a device the size of a deck of cards, adults tend to regress back to the thought that working on the inside takes a lot of time and it’s extremely painful. Wrong. Holding on to your emotional challenges and not dealing with them is always going to be more painful that ‘doing the actual work’.
Let’s get back to the teens. Anxiety is formed via a set of thoughts. Those thoughts that you can’t see are happening inside the teenagers head. They are mental movies they are watching and playing over, usually catastrophising and then there’s the inner talk. That’s the conversations you have inside your head, the things you say, the things other people say and the ever changing tones of panic, fear, worry that communicate to you between your ears. There’s a lot of different voices, tones, volumes and sounds that play out on the playlist of your mind. It’s the same for adults. The structure of the experience is the same. Thoughts, mental movies inner talk. It’s the same. It is the content that is different, however investigating the specific content for the experience will give you the fine detail of what is happening inside the teenagers mind where an intervention or several interventions can then take place. It’s that simple. Simple enough that it can’t make one single lesson at school. Thoughts, inner sounds and how to deal with them…class dismissed.
Misinterpreting the spoken word.
Teenagers are mis-understood by adults, because adults (generalisation alert) tend to not know how to communicate with their child around what’s happening inside their head. ‘Don’t think about it’, ‘it’s not important’, ‘you’re being silly’, ‘you will be fine’ are all ways of dismissing the teenagers issue, as it’s not that simple. It is however in many other ways, simple. The difficulty is, teenagers and adults do not know how to communicate fully what is happening on the inside. ‘I have anxiety’ is a common statement that comes up at the start of sessions. This is what we call surface level communication. This is investigated further and brought down to specific details, that can lead to triggers, areas of one’s life and beliefs that are structuring the anxiety within the individual. (here it comes) No one has ever had a session with me and said; ‘I have low-self esteem, I am angry at my partner, I have a negative inner voice inside my head, I feel guilty for choices that I’ve made, my inner child is panicking inside of me from patterns it picked up as a child whilst watching my parents, I tell myself I am not good enough, I keep thinking my wife will leave me’, the….list…goes…on. This is anxiety. Not, I have anxiety.
What is it that your teenager is communicating to you? It may seem minor or irrelevant as an adult, chances are that what they are telling you is the trigger to their anxious feelings. ‘I feel you don’t love me’ said one 14 year old. ‘Of course we love you silly’ said the parent. Words are not strong enough to diffuse the feeling the child is experiencing in their personal structure. A complete shift is needed from the parent in how they act, not in just what they say. ‘What if they don’t like me at school’? What if I’m too fat? What if they laugh at me? All triggers, formations and structures to anxiety that are represented in internal thinking and inner talking that causes the breath to quicken, the heart to race and the palms to sweat. Relax, you are over reacting – will not help anyone.
Any anxious person, adult or child needs resources.
To overcome your anxiety, to control it, to stop it, to end it, you need to learn how to be resourceful with your mind. You need to know how to think, how to stop your inner chatter and how to think and communicate in the space inside your head with more self-awareness and control so that you can change how you think and feel for the better, in any time and in any place. You also need specific outcomes to work towards. If the teenager is scared socially, they need to work on their mind and as difficult as it may seem, they need to face the fear. If socially they are anxious, start with small steps. Encourage an outcome or goal where the teen speaks to one or two people. So the steps are small and then they build up to taking action to overcome the fear. Don’t go straight in at the deep end. Start small and build from there. How often have you thought the worse and then it never ever happens…? Anxiety in teens can disappear quickly but it’s better to take smaller steps. Always have an outcome so that the tools and resources that you do learn for your mind and your thoughts can be activated and utilised otherwise the screaming toddler within, will just come back and throw another tantrum.
Anxiety at any age needs work and that work, even if you’re working with a practitioner comes down to you taking action. Never expect a therapist or a coach to fix you. They simply facilitate the work that you need to do. It’s like going to the gym, you don’t just go and talk to the trainer, a lot of the work happens between training sessions. There are so many different ways for me to talk to you about anxiety but there are two important factors I want to share with you.
Firstly, a lot of people do not realise that their anxiety can be triggered by any one of the following feelings and emotions. Anger, frustration, rage, guilt, regret, shame, remorse, low self-esteem and more. Any one of these can cause anxiety, unease and panic, usually the individual can’t control the emotion, or it is so strong and overwhelming from a past experience that they can’t consciously pinpoint it. Secondly, the emotion that triggers the individual which they are unaware of may not be what is happening in their life. The 14 year old anxious of being social may be feeling emotions from their 7 year year old self, that also felt anxious at a younger age. Meaning this is the age where the pattern was imprinted neurologically. My anxiety for motorway driving threw me off guard as a 33 year old confident driver, who quickly found the 8 year old within myself anxious in the memory in car with his parents on the motorway….
Tips to help you:
1. Practice being mindful and present.
2. Develop mindset tools that help you control your thoughts.
3. Have clear outcomes to achieve small goals to stop the anxiety getting stronger.
4. Face the fear by working on your goals.
5. Work with your mind everyday.
7. Work with an anxiety professional.
For over 8 techniques to help you with your mind and emotions, get a copy of my best-selling book, ‘Your Mind is Your Home’. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Mind-Home-overthinking-thoughts/dp/1912779390/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=kamran+
End of post.