This should be a time for young adults to dream, explore and plan for the future with excitement and expectation. However, in this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing rules and policies, there is a very natural anxiety about what happens next, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Here are a few tips for helping young adults and teens manage anxiety in times of change, so they are able to stay focused on their goals and embrace the next step with confidence.
1. Anxiety is Something that We All Experience from Time to Time
Anxiety is a normal, human feeling of fear or panic. When we face stressful situations, it can set off our brain’s in-built alarm bell system, which tells us something isn’t right and that we need to deal with it. “Threats” aren’t always physical. They can include important deadlines at work or university, conflicts with friends or family, or financial or logistical worries.
In the short-term, this can be a good thing; it can energize people and help overcome obstacles. But when this response is continual rather than in response to a genuine threat, it becomes a problem. Melanie Greenberg, clinical psychologist and author of “The Stress-Proof Brain” (2017), writes that unmanaged stress has a significant negative impact on health. The good news is that people have the ability to change their response to stressful situations.
2. Symptoms of Anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are some common signs and symptoms of anxiety. Physical signs that you are experiencing anxiety can include, but are not limited to the following:
· racing heart and/or faster breathing
· having trouble sleeping, or feeling tired/grumpy
· feeling tense or experiencing aches (especially neck, shoulders and back)
· sweating more than usual or feeling dizzy
· feeling sick or stomach cramps
3. Understanding Your Anxiety
‘Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.’
– Michael Jordan
Anxiety is a response to a feared consequence to a real or imagined event. Inherently, anxiety is an internal signal that you need to:
· identify and adjust your perceptions about a situation
· allow that change in thought
· create behaviours that support the new thought patterns
In teenagers, anxiety often plays out as avoidance. For example, if a teen is anxious about their performance in a school subject, they may develop cramps or aches and need to visit to school nurse, and then end up missing the class, or even the rest of the school day. This leads to them having to struggle to catch up on missed work at home, often without the right support, which ends up reaffirming the anxiety and reinforcing the cycle.
In the end, it is perceptions, and fears that drive our actions, and once we open ourselves past our debilitating self-chatter, anxiety disappears. This is extremely helpful when working with young adults on goal setting for the future during uncertain times.
4. Redirecting Your Stress Response
‘Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.’
– Helen Keller
The first step is to recognize the anxiety, the next step is to own it and face it. By taking the time to understand your brain and body’s natural stress response, you can work on changing your stress mind-set with new tools and ways of thinking that you practice every day.
Slow Things Down: Slow down your breathing as a first response
Stay Mindful: Redirect your mind from reflex worries and fears to a compassionate, accepting “observer” stance
Find a Sense of Control: Focus your energies on trying to effect change in the things that you can actually influence, and ‘be mindful’ of those you can’t control
Identify the Source of the fear: Is your anxiety based on a fear of something you have never experienced or are you internalizing someone else’s concern? If it isn’t yours, remind yourself of this in an attempt to let it go. If it is due to a past situation, use this time to determine what you could do differently to access a better result this time.
Broaden Your View: Stay creative and positive, and open to what you can learn from the challenge, rather than worrying about it
Find the Right Mind-set: Work on solving the problem, don’t avoid it, or bury it
At The Bedrock Program, we work with young adults to identify and manage self-damaging ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, and replace them with the confidence and mind-set needed to thrive in this new career landscape.
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The Bedrock Program
Career coaching for teenagers, young adults, and parents