How do I help anxious teenagers?
Here, my aim is to highlight some of my favorite tools when treating anxiety that have proven to be very effective:
Self Hypnosis, Mindfulness & Marbles
I ALWAYS use marbles with teenagers ;-)
When you think of a marble, what do you think? What does a marble conjure up for you? For me it is children playing.
The teenagers I see have anxiety, panic attacks and they feel pressurised, very ‘adult’ and are often very serious. And they are only 18!!! To me they have ‘the world at their feet’ and anything is possible. They need to LIGHTEN UP!
This pressure could be formed by the parents, the college or by their own perfectionism.
So, I use marbles in therapy to evoke the sense of being a child that can play, a child that can learn and enjoy without pressure.
By mindfully holding a cold marble in a closed fist, it becomes a focus. The marble warms in the fist as you focus and weirdly as it warms it seems to ‘disappear’ and become part of the hand. This is a metaphor for their issue/their anxiety. When thoughts are focused in the right way, anxiety/worry can be held, controlled and accepted.
It provides a physical anchor for control and relaxation.
Always good for any client to learn diaphragmatic 7/11 breathing. Breathing from the tummy and inhaling for a count of 7 and exhaling for a count of 11. The longer exhale reducing the heart rate and adrenaline.
Mindfulness & Grounding
Mindfulness exercises or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are ways of paying attention to the present moment. Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, so we're better able to manage them.
MBCT is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression.
I teach grounding to everyone. It's very simple; I invite the client to be mindful of their feet upon the floor, noticing what part of which foot seems most connected and then spreading that feeling, allowing roots to grow from the soles into the ground to form a solid a secure foundation.
Thought of Fact?
We identify the difference between a thought, a belief and a fact. To question and look for evidence whether thoughts and beliefs are true facts…
Looking at language – is it positive or negative? Is it past, present or future tense?
Often clients focus on the past and future. They guess what may happen in the future and often see what may happen in a negative way rather than working towards what they hope will happen.
The balancing work I do is really about reframing their ‘what ifs’ and getting a balanced view and perspective on their current situation. What if they fail their exams, what if they choose a subject they do not enjoy, what if they continue to put huge pressure on themselves, what if they work for hours on end and lose focus and momentum, what if they get distracted by Xbox or watch Netflix?
What would happen if you took a different attitude?
If you looked at what you have currently in your life that is good and a strength for you? What about ‘lightening up?’
We talk about anxiety and any issue as a sensation within the body, from there we give it a shape, colour, size, position, texture. This always amazes me how everyone knows exactly what their shape is when asked.
So, how does their issue represent itself to them as a metaphor? I ask the client to draw it out on an A3 Flip Pad and I ask – what does that person need in the picture?
This requires them to find their own solutions, it also encourages great rapport building whilst adding to the therapeutic relationship because when you work with a client’s specific pictorial metaphor they feel understood and heard.
A vital tool is for them to be who they are at a given time, as long as they are happy and comfortable being that way. That means if they are an avid reader that has a very small group of loyal friends and they are happy – that is perfect. If they are sociable and silly at times – also good.
Yes, they are in the process of growing up and true confidence comes from being able and willing to show who you are and realise that some people will like you and some will not and that is okay.