Anxiety in Teens – How to Help a Teenager Deal With Anxiety

Anxiety in Teens - How to Help a Teenager Deal With Anxiety

Anxiety can be tough for anyone to deal with, but add in the whirlwind of changes that come with adolescence, and anxiety can feel like an intrusive mind hog that spends way too much time squeezing, surprising and overwhelming anyone it lands on.

If anxiety is making a menace of itself, the good news is that there are ways to take it back to small enough. First though, it’s important to understand the telltale signs of anxiety and where they come from. When you understand this, anxiety will start to lose the power that comes from its mystery and its unpredictability. 

Teens With Anxiety. A Few Things You Need to Know

Anxiety has absolutely nothing to do with strength, character or courage.

People with anxiety will be some of the strongest, most likable, bravest people any of us will know. Anxiety and courage always exist together. Courage doesn’t mean you never get scared – if you’re not scared, there’s no need to be brave. What courage means is that you’re pushing right up against your edges. It doesn’t matter where the edges are. They will be different for everyone. The point is that courage is all about feeling them and making a push to move through them – and people with anxiety do it all the time.

Sometimes it drops in for absolutely no reason at all. 

Anxiety happens because your brain thinks there might be danger, even when there is no danger at all. Brains are smart, but they can all read things a little bit wrong sometimes. 

Anxiety is soooo common. Almost as common as having feet. But not quite.

On average, about 1 in 5 young people have anxiety. Without a doubt, someone you know or care about will also struggle with anxiety from time to time. Stats don’t lie. They don’t gossip and they don’t start scandals either, which is why they’re so reliable. They’re good like that. 

Everyone experiences anxiety on some level.

Anxiety exists on a spectrum – some people get it a lot and some people get it a lot less, but we all experience anxiety on some level at some time in our lives – exams, job interviews, performances. Sometimes it can happen for no reason at all.

Anxiety is a feeling, not a personality.

Anxiety doesn’t define you. It’s a feeling – it will come, but it will always go, and it’s as human as having a heartbeat.

Your brain that is strong, healthy and doing exactly what brains are meant to do.

Your brain is magnificent. It’s just a little overprotective. It loves you like a favourite thing and it wants to keep you safe. And alive. Brains love keeping people alive. They adore it actually.

Anxiety can look a little something like this …

Here are some of the common signs of anxiety in teenagers. If you have some of these, it doesn’t mean that teenage anxiety is a problem for you. This list is a way to make sense of things that feel as though they’re getting in your way, but if you experience some of them and you’re travelling along beautifully, then there’s no problem at all. Something is only a problem if it’s causing you a problem. 

Thoughts …
  • Negative thoughts – what-ifs, thoughts about being judged or embarrassed, small thoughts that grow into big worries.
  • Excessive worry about physical symptoms (that a cut might become infected, that a headache might mean brain cancer).

An anxious brain is a strong brain, and anxious thoughts can be persuasive little beasts that stick to the inside of your skull like they belong there. Write this down and stick it to your mirror, so you see it every morning when you’re getting a faceful of your gorgeous head: ‘Thoughts are thoughts. They are NOT predictions. Let them come. And then let them go.’

Feelings …
  • Fearful, worried, overwhelmed, out of control.

  • Dread, as though something bad is going to happen.

  • Panic that seems to come from nowhere.
  • Feeling separate to your physical self or your surroundings. (This is called depersonalisation and it can be driven by anxiety. Manage this one by managing your anxiety. Keep reading for how to do this.)
Physically …
  • Racing heart.
  • Tightening in the chest
  • Butterflies.
  • Tense muscles.
  • Shaking hands.
  • Feeling as though you’re going to vomit.
  • Dizzy or light-headed.
  • Feeling as though you want to burst into tears.
  • Feeling angry.

These are all because of the surge of neurochemicals that happen when the body is in fight or flight mode. They can feel frightening, but they are all a very normal part of the way your brain and body protect you from possible danger (more about this later).

Behaviours …
  • Skin picking (dermatillomania).
  • Pulling out hair (trichotillomania).
  • Nail biting.
  • Avoidance of people or situations, even if they are things that would probably be fun. (This isn’t necessarily about wanting to avoid the people involved and more about wanting to avoid the anxiety that comes with certain situations such as parties or get-togethers or anything unfamiliar.)
  • Feel compelled to perform certain habits or rituals that don’t seem to make sense (e.g. having to stack things in even numbers, having to touch the door handle a certain number of times before you leave, compulsive hand-washing, checking locks etc).

People with anxiety tend to find all sorts of ways to make their anxiety feel smaller for a little while. These self-soothing behaviours will often escalate with the intensity of the anxiety, but will ease once anxiety is under control. If you can manage your anxiety, this will help to fade these symptoms. (Sit tight – we’ll talk about how to do that.)

You might have a bit of …
  • Tummy trouble – (constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel).

In the gut are hundreds of millions of neurons. This is affectionately known as ‘the brain in our gut’. These neurons are really important for mental health because they send information from the belly to the brain. When the environment in the gut is out of balance (not enough good bacteria, too many bad ones), the messages sent back to the brain can stir anxiety.

And those zzz’s …
  • Difficulty sleeping – either trouble falling asleep, or waking up and not being able to go back to sleep. 

When you’re still, quiet and trying to relax, negative thoughts or worries will see it as an invitation. They’ll put on their fancy pants and get the party started in your head. Pushy little sleep-thieving pirates that they are.

Practical, powerful ways to help manage anxiety. 

Understand why it feels the way it does. 

Understanding why anxiety feels the way it does will be one of your greatest tools in managing it. Think of it like this. Imagine being in a dark room that is full of ‘stuff’. When you walk around in the dark, you’re going to bump into things. You’re going to scrape, bruise and maybe drop a few choice words. Turn on the light though, and those things are still there, but now you can navigate your way around them. No more bumps. No more scrapes. And no more having to hold your tongue in front of people who can confiscate your phone. Here’s what you need to know …

Anxiety happens because a part of your brain (the amygdala) thinks there might be something it needs to protect you from. When this happens, it surges your body with a mix of neurochemicals (including oxygen, hormones and adrenaline), designed to make you stronger, faster, more alert and more powerful so you can fight for your life or run for it. This is the fight or flight response. It’s normal and healthy and it’s in everyone. In people with anxiety, it’s just a little quicker to activate.

The amygdala acts on impulse. It’s a do-er, not a thinker – all action and not a lot of thought. It just wants to keep you safe, because safe is a lovely thing to be and because that’s been its job since the beginning of humans. The amygdala can’t always tell the difference between something that might hurt you (like a baseball coming at your head) and something that won’t (like walking into a party) – and it doesn’t care. All it wants to do is keep you safe. 

When there’s nothing to flee or nothing to fight, there’s nothing to burn the neurochemical fuel that is surging through you. The fuel builds up and that’s why anxiety feels the way it does. Here’s how that works:

»  Your breathing changes from normal, slow breaths to short, shallow breaths. This is because your brain tells your body to conserve oxygen on breathing, and send as much as possible to the muscles so they can get ready to run or fight.

You might feel puffed or a bit breathless. You might also feel your cheeks burn red (from the blood rushing to your face) and your face become warm.

»  If you don’t fight or flee, the oxygen builds up in your body and the carbon dioxide drops.

You might feel dizzy or a bit confused.

»  Your heart races to get the oxygen around your body.

Your heart can feel like it’s beating out of your chest and you might feel sick.

»  Fuel gets sent to your arms (for fight) and to your legs (for flight).

Your hands, arms and legs might feel tense or shaky.

»  Your body starts cooling itself down to stop it from overheating if it has to fight or flee.

You might feel a bit clammy or sweaty.

»  Anything happening in your body that isn’t absolutely essential in the moment for your survival will shut down to conserve energy. Your digestive system is one of these. It shuts down until the ‘danger’ is dealt with, so the fuel it was using to digest your food can be used by your body for fight or flight.

You might feel butterflies in your belly. You might also feel sick, as though you’re about to vomit, and your mouth might feel dry.

»  The amygdala also controls your emotions so when it’s in fight or flight, it’s switched on to high volume. This means your emotions can be too.

You might burst into tears or get angry.

Everything you feel when you have anxiety is to do with your body getting ready to fight or flee, when there is actually no need for either. It’s okay – there are things you can do about this. Let’s talk about that …

Dealing with Anxiety – The How-To

Here are some ways to manage anxiety by strengthening the structure and function of your brain in ways that protect it against anxiety. Remember though, the brain is like any other muscle in your body – it will get stronger with practice. I wish I could tell you that it would get stronger with pizza and tacos but that would be a dirty big lie and very unhelpful. Delicious maybe, but unhelpful. What isn’t a lie is that the following strategies have been proven by tons of very high-brow research to be very powerful in helping to reduce anxiety. 

  1. Mindfulness. But first to show you why.

A mountain of studies have shown that mindfulness can be a little bit magic in strengthening the brain against anxiety. In a massive analysis of a number of different mindfulness/anxiety studies, mindfulness was found to be ‘associated with robust and substantial reductions in symptoms of anxiety.’ 

Mindfulness changes the brain the way exercise changes our body – but without the sweating and panting. Two of the ways mindfulness changes the brain are: 

  • by strengthening the connections between the amygdala (the key player in anxiety) and the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that can calm big emotions (and anxiety counts as a big emotion). The stronger the connections, the more the pre-frontal cortex is able to weigh in during anxiety and calm things down.
  • by teaching the brain to stay in the present. Anxiety is driven by a brain that has been cast into the future. Thoughts start out as ‘what ifs’ and turn into persuasive little beasts that won’t let go. Mindfulness helps to keep control over your brain so you can stop it from worrying about things it doesn’t need to. 

Okay then. What else can mindfulness do?

Plenty. Mindfulness can improve concentration, academic performance, the ability to focus, and it can help with stress and depression. It also increases gray matter, which is the part of the brain that contains the neurons. Neurons are brain cells, so we want plenty of them and plenty of gray matter for them to hang out in.

So mindfulness hey? What is it exactly

Mindfulness is about staying in the present and ‘watching’ your thoughts and feelings without hanging on to them for too long. It’s this ‘hanging on too long’ that gives them the juice they need to become something bigger. Minds quite like to wander, especially anxious ones, so staying in the moment can take some practice. Here’s the how:

  • Get comfy and close your eyes.
  • Notice your breathing. How does the air feel as you draw it inside you? Notice the sensation of the air, or your belly rising and falling. Notice your heart beating. If your mind starts to wander, come back to this.
  • Now, what can you hear? What can you feel outside of you and inside your body? If your mind starts to wander, focus on your breathing again. 

Is there an app for that?

There are some brilliant apps that can guide you through mindfulness. Here are three (with links) for you to have a look at: 

Smiling mind – a free app has tailored programs for different ages. 

Stop, Breathe, Think – start by choosing words to describe how you’re feeling right now, and the app will suggest the best meditations based on where you’re at.

Insight Meditation Timer – another free app with guided meditations from over 700 teachers. It also has a very excellent feature that shows a map of how many other people are meditating in the world (using the app) at the same time as you. How to make the world feel a little bit smaller and a little more connected. Nice.  


The effects of exercise on mental health are proven and powerful. The research on the positive effects of exercise on anxiety could probably cover a small planet, or, you know, a very big building. The point is that there’s tons of it.

Here’s how it works. Some neurons (brain cells) are born with the personality of puppies – very excitable and quick to fire up. We need these. They help us to think quickly, act quickly and remember. In the right amount and at the right time, these neurons are cell-sized bits of brain magic. Sometimes though, they can get a bit carried away with themselves. When too many of these excitable neurons get too active, anxiety can happen. 

To stop these neurons getting over-excited and causing trouble, the brain has a neurochemical, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid is the name it likes to go by at scientific get-togethers and when it wants to make an impression). Neurochemicals are the suave little messengers in the brain that carry important info from one cell to another. GABA is the brain’s calm down chemical – kind of like a sweet lullaby for the parts of the brain that are in very serious lullaby need. When the levels of GABA in the brain are low, there’s nothing to calm the excitable neurons. Exercise is a really effective way to get the GABA in the brain to the right levels. 

Once these neurochemicals are back to healthy levels, the symptoms of anxiety tend to disappear into the sunset, or into a box with a very tight fitting lid – we don’t know for certain but wherever they go, it’s somewhere far away from you which is the important thing. 

Any activity that gets your heart going counts as exercise. This will be different for everyone. It doesn’t have to mean pounding the pavement with your running feet on to the point of that you’re gasping for sweet life and demanding an oxygen tank. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but it’s just that there aren’t always oxygen tanks handy when you need them. A brisk 20-minute walk or 8-10 minutes of going up and down the stairs a couple of times a day will also do it. Whatever works for you. Try for something you can do at least five times a week. 

If vigorous exercise and you are still in the getting to know you trying-to-like-you phase of your relationship, non-aerobic exercise like yoga can also ease anxiety.

Breathe. But practice, practice, practice. And then practice a little bit more.

Anxiety can feel like such a gangster at times, it can be hard to believe that something as simple and as normal as breathing can out-muscle it – but it can. Here’s why. Strong, deep breathing initiates the relaxation response. The relaxation response was discovered by a Harvard cardiologist to be an automatic response that can neutralise the surge of neurochemicals that cause the awful physical feelings of anxiety. Because it’s an automatic response, you don’t need to believe it works, it just will – but you do have to initiate it.

Breathing is the switch that will activate the relaxation response and start to put the symptoms of anxiety back to small enough. Once you start slow deep breathing, your body will take over and do the rest. Breathe in through your nose for 3, hold for 1 and then out through your mouth for 3. (If you’re the type who quite fancies a visual, imagine holding a cup of hot cocoa and smelling the warm, heady aroma for three, hold your breath for one, then blow it cool for one.) Make sure the breathing is going right into your belly, not just into your chest. 

In the thick of anxiety, the brain is too busy with other things to remember to do strong deep breathing. To make strong deep breathing easier for your brain to access, practice it a couple of times a day when you’re calm. 

Food. You’ve gotta look after your belly

We used to think that anxiety or depression caused tummy trouble, but increasingly researchers are thinking that it actually works the other way – an unhappy belly can make an unhappy brain. The good news about this is that it doesn’t take too much effort to put it right, but eating well is super-important.

We know there are trillions of microbes that live in the intestinal tract. These send signals to the brain that can change mood and behaviour. If you eat too much processed food or too much sugar (or not enough good food) it can knock out the balance of good bacteria in your gut. This can upset the balance of everything and heavily influence your mood by sending funky messages back to your brain. Eating unprocessed, healthy food, and food that contains good bacteria (such as miso or yoghurt) can help to balance things out inside your gut and put things back on track. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating something unhealthily delicious now and then, but make sure that you’re not overdoing it. The healthier your gut, the healthier your mental health. Gut bacteria are the rock stars of the mental health world. It’s really important to keep yours happy, because, you know – cranky rock stars can be painful and annoying and cause more than a decent amount of trouble. 

And finally …

Make sure you love yourself a little louder. At adolescence, you’re at a point in your life where the world is opening up to you. It’s a world that needs your wisdom, your courage and your interesting and very wonderful take on things. Anxiety can have a way of shifting the focus too often to the negative, but the things about ourselves that we would like to change often have very wonderful strengths built into them. Of course you would always rather not have anxiety, but there are so many strengths in you. Spend plenty of time noticing them. 

Anxiety is something that happens, not something you are. What you are is smart, with truckloads of emotional intelligence, and a very wonderful and uniqe way of looking at things, as well as being the person people can count on, the one who thinks of things that other people haven’t, creative (even if you aren’t doing anything creative, it’s in you), sensitive, strong, and brave. You would be most people’s favourite type of humans. 



Hey, I was wondering if I could have some advice as to what I should do. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed, finding it easy to get stressed and I feel constantly on edge as though I am going to just burst out in tears. Additionally, I have also been suffering with the physical sympt , which I don’t really want to list. I am 14 years old and I am trying to look for advice on what to do but I am really worried about talking to my parents about it, so I don’t really know what to do. Please can I have some advice?

Karen Young

Hi Ebony-Jane,

I love that you have reached out for help on how to feel better. What you are describing makes a lot of sense in terms of the feelings of overwhelm, stress, and feeling as though you are going to burst into tears. Anxiety can come with all of these, as well as the physical symptoms. The most important thing is understand that this is not anything ‘going wrong’. Anxiety is a really normal human experience which we all feel in some way or another. Having said that, sometimes it can happen too much. It just means your brain is working a little too hard to protect you, as it says in the article.

Strong steady breathing is the best way to calm this. It will help to calm the neurochemical surge that is causing your feelings and physical symptoms. The thing is though, it’s important to practice strong steady breathing for a while so it can be an automatic response. During anxiety, the brain gets really busy, and if strong steady breathing hasn’t been set up as an automatic response (through practice), it will be more difficult for your brain to access it. Exercise and mindfulness will also help. If you can do 20 minutes of exercise each day – either going for a fast walk, yoga, or youtube exercise routines – this will help to restore the brain chemicals that can calm anxiety. The Smiling Mind app is a free app to use, and contains lots of mindfulness meditations. If you can do this for 10 minutes each day, it works to calm the amygdala – the ‘anxiety’ part of your brain. Finally, sleep is so important for anxiety. A lack of sleep will make anxiety more likely. Try to get at least 9 hours sleep a night whenever you can. If you aren’t able to during the week because of early starts, try sleeping on the weekend when you can. A warm shower before bed, mindfulness, strong steady breathing, no devices for at least 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep will all help to relax your brain into a beautiful, restorative sleep.

I understand it can be difficult to speak to your parents, especially if you aren’t sure where to start, but I would really encourage you to try. Start by letting them know you would like to speak with them about something, and would it be okay if you had a chat, maybe after school, or after dinner, or before bed when the house is settled. This will help to ‘break the ice’, either because they’ll say, ‘can we talk about it now?’ or, if they are busy, they will be the ones to come to you say, ‘Would you like to talk about it yet?’ It’s very likely your parents will understand because they’ve probably felt the way you are feeling at some time in their lives – most of us have. It takes so much courage to start a conversation like this, but you’ve already started it by coming here – you’re amazing, and you can do this. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your parents initially, is there another adult who might be able to help? Maybe a relative you feel close to, or a teacher you trust or a school counsellor. Teachers and school counsellors every day would see people who feel like you do, so they would really get it. If you want, they would be able to help you talk to your parents about what’s happening in a way that makes it make sense.

The good news is that anxiety is very manageable. It can feel awful sometimes, but there are ways to manage it so it doesn’t get in your way. Try the strategies in the article, and if you can speak with an adult you feel close to, they will also be able to help you.

I hope this helps. You are brave and brilliant, and anxiety doesn’t change that at all.

Liel M

WOW! this helped me so much. i now know how to control my anxiety and i was always so worried about it harming me and now i know it’s just a feeling that will slowly go away and i can control. Thank you so much!

Thomas C

Wow, I never knew that 1 in 5 young people will struggle with anxiety. I think that my son might be dealing with anxiety because he won’t hang out with his friends and he is always second-guessing the decisions he makes. It seems like it would be a good idea for me to find a counselor that can help him change his thinking patterns and help him feel better.


This helped me know that I can control on what I am doing and not let anxiety get to me.I am 13 and I am stressed so much about school and other stuff. My school is getting shut down for months bc of corona virus so I think it would give me a chance to control it.You made me understand anxiety now ty!


I feel the same! I have really struggled this year with COVID and I feel like no one cares about me. Your information has given me some good coping strategies to try and use.


Hey, I need some help. I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder, I think I also have a panic disorder but it might just be how bad my anxiety is. I wasn’t raised well and have many anxieties and mental issues from it but im trying my best to improve, im not great at seeking help because i feel scared of people and have trust issues, im a junior in high school and i have a help room but its not very helpful, the teacher always reminds me how everything is on me which i already know and makes me feel shameful of my anxiety attacks and its not helpful. She usually tries to interrogate me instead of comfort me and when i tell her she scolds me and makes me go about my day. Today i had a horrible anxiety attack, my throat is torn from it and my ribs hurt and my glasses are broken, im scared to go back, i just wanna be normal and happy. Im constantly having fear and anxiety because of my gender dysphoria, the last trans person that went to my school kept getting jumped then had to move schools. Today the subtitute didnt read her sub notes and now the class knows about my birth name and they all looked at me and started whispering, i feel like i cant go back, theres a sub all week and i dont feel safe without my teacher. I feel humiliated and i feel like a screw up, i know this might not be the best place to discuss it because some people are unaware of what gender dysphoria is and i dont wanna confuse anyone or make them feel uncomfortable. The school administration dont help much, ive tried. I feel like they dont care about my safety much and they never try to think of anything. Id greatly appreciate if anyone tries to help ease my mind.

Angela Lee

You hang in there, fingers and toes!!
Everyday is a new day and an opportunity to take control of our anxiety!
You are very intelligent (i can tell by your writing) and I am sure an amazing person! All through life people will whisper or talk about you (good and bad) but the only person you have to prove anything to is yourself. Sometimes you have to go outside the school to get the support you need. School employees deal with a lot and sometimes do not pick up what you’re putting down. So call a hotline. Call your insurance company who can steer you towards a counselor. Keep talking! Someone will listen! Everyday, look in the mirror and Name 5 things you love about YOU. Name 5 things you love about our world/your town/your family… You are going to be just fine. Remember, it doesn’t rain forever even when it feels like it may.

Tracy Y

I just came across your comment from January. I am a parent who suffers from anxiety and my 17 yo son has it. Your comment broke my heart. I don’t know what your situation is now, but I hope you are doing ok during this whole pandemic. I am sorry that some of the adults in your life are not helpful. I am sorry your sub pretty much outed you. I am sorry you have so much anxiety. I’ve suffered with it my whole life but didn’t recognize until I saw it in my son. It’s a horrible, debilitating feeling. If you ever need someone to talk with I would love to correspond with you. I swear I’m not a criminal. I’m just a mom who cares about you!


Hey Cres, not sure if you would read this but thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry that you are going through those challenging situations and you are so brave for still believing. It takes a lot of courage to face those things and feeling like everything is against you but you seem so motivated in getting better that I truly believe you will!!! Only 5 min of mindfulness has helped me with my anxiety and the chaos of this pandemic, so try that and knowing that I can’t control anyone’s feeling but my own is a huge step in understanding how to confront certain situations.


You have done a great job explaining anxiety disorder. I am 45 years old who off an on deals with anxiety. I read this Article to help my teenage daughter. It turn out that the article can be a huge help for anyone fighting with anxiety disorder. So many thanks.


Agreed! I have a 15 year old daughter and this article helped her to understand that her anxiety is normal

Debbi D

Thank you! What a great article! Opened my eyes to what my teenage son is going through!


Thank you for this lovely article. It’s written in such a fun and interesting way, bringing light to what can be a very dark time in the lives of ours teens x


One thing I don’t think you mentioned in this excellent article is low blood sugar. Some of its symptoms can mimic a panic attack. I am 73 and have had severe anxiety most of my life. I realize now that many of my worst episodes were probably related to low blood sugar.

Another thing to mention is caffeine. Too much can be a huge contributor to anxiety. Drinking coffee when you are hungry (and maybe experiencing low blood sugar) can cause a severe anxiety episode, including inability to think, perspiring and shaking).
Teens seem to be drinking a lot of coffee or sweet coffee drinks from Starbucks, etc. nowadays. The sugar might help low blood sugar temporarily, but without other food (preferably protein), it can bring on even more extreme symptoms within a short while. Low blood sugar, caffeine, sugar–a terrible combination for anxiety-prone people.

Unfortunately, I know these things from experience.

Lisa L

I really loved this article. ITgave .me underrstandig ofwhat was happe ing emotionally and how to deal with this for my teen….apologies for my lack of computer skills

Jodi H

Amazing easy to read and understand. I have anxiety and my child just started dealing with it so I was able to explain it but this breaks it down to a really simple and easy way of understanding. One of the best article I’ve seen. I wish I had this with my anxiety as an adolescent. This is a great help for me to share with my daughter. Thank you for this!

Sasha L

I’m an almost 14 year old girl and I’ve experienced anxiety surrounding school for the majority of my life. Whether it be going to daycare/kindergarten to high school like i currently am, i just find it so hard to go every day. like today for instance, i really wanted to go to school to do drama club and music class and some others and see my friends etc but i just couldn’t no matter how hard i tried. and my therapist just always says ‘mindfulness and meditation are the answer’ ‘just breath in and out and count to 10’ but i feel like a total idiot doing it and it just frustrates me because it doesn’t do anything for me no matter how hard i try. please help.

Karen Young

Sasha, something to remember is that anxiety will also show up when there is something meaningful or important for you to do. Try to keep your eye on that important thing and ask yourself what is one tiny step you can take towards that. Anxiety feels awful – I really get it – but know that the more you avoid things, the more you will be driven to avoid. In the same way, the more you are brave, the more you will be brave. It will feel hard at first, but just ask yourself what you can do that would feel brave enough. Know that there is so much courage in you – there really is – and when you are able to tap into it, you will be even more amazing than you are.


I’m 13 years old and I love to swim, i was about to make Nationals for it too. But then I broke my wrist 2 days before I was meant to compete. We went to hospital and they put me in a brace, i still trained the next morning and competed that weekend. I freaked out when I got near the water and competing has never been the same since. How do you think that I should fix this. I get panic attacks alot around competing and I don’t know why or understand why at all. I was hoping for some advice maybe?

Karen Young

Margot I’m so pleased you’ve reached out for advice. It’s completely understandable that you might be overwhelmed with anxiety after a trauma like a broken wrist. It’s your brain trying to protect you. It’s registered that the water might cause trouble for you because of your injured wrist and it is getting your body organised to flee. Know that even though this feels awful, you are completely safe. The way to move through this is to teach your brain that the water is actually safe for you. The way for this to happen is by feeling your anxiety, and doing what you need to do even through your anxiety. The brain needs to experience things before it can learn it is safe. What this means is that the more you can compete, the more your brain will learn that this will be okay for you and it doesn’t have to hit the panic button. Before you compete, take a strong, deep belly breath. This will activate the relaxation response and make it easier for you to feel calm. Then, stand with your body expanded (think superhero). This will help to get the chemistry in your body to a state that is more consistent with less stress and more confidence. Finally, know that you can feel anxious AND do brave. I know how scary panic attacks can feel, but I know you can do this. You are strong, and brave, and amazing. You’ve got this. You really do.

nicola w

Thankyou so much for this. It has helped my daughter to understand why her body feels the way it does when she has anxiety. It is given in such a positive way that other sites dont do. I have screen shot certain parts for her to keep on her phone so she can look at when out and feeling bad. Thanks once again.

Danielle S

One of the absolute best articles on this topic that I have ever read. Thank you!!! Very easy to read, thorough, informative; well explained and wonderful for a teen reader!!!

lexi H

I was currently having bad anxiety which i’ve struggled with for three years now. After i read this article i just feel so much better and way more educated. i’m 14 and I am a germaphobe who is struggling in this pandemic but this helped tremendously. <3


Amazing article and very helpful to reduce the anxiety in the starting phase of the career as your tips can be very helpful to all. Keep sharing such posts.

Tracey M

I don’t know how to help my 15 year old son , he was always a worrier and anxious but it’s out of control now , he was always sporty but his dad tried to persuade him to go to a training class with older kids in January and he was very anxious about it , his dad tried to force him . There was a big argument and he hasn’t spoken to his dad since then almost 4 months ago . It has gone on so long it’s tearing the family apart as he won’t even be in the same room as his dad , I tried to persuade him to talk to his dad and to see a counsellor to help with his worries and now he won’t speak to me either or his 2 sisters , he’s doing exams in a month and he’s refusing to go to school just lying in bed with the covers over his head . He has no friends outside of school , won’t even go into a shop to buy a bottle of water because he’s worried about interacting with whoever is behind the counter . I am at my wits end , I don’t know how to help him he has totally isolated himself , I want to kiss and hug him and reassure him but he won’t engage at all , I’m desperate,has anyone any experience like this can you advise me please

Karen W

I hope your son is better now ?. If not, I would speak to your doctor about him and see what he suggests. My daughter was very similar at the same age but we were fortunate in that she was willing to have counselling. This along with how we communicate and parent her and huge family support over the past few years has got her back to a good place. All I would say is ‘never give up on him’ which I’m sure you wouldn’t. Regards, Karen xx

Susie s

I am sorry you are going through this. I have gone through something similar with my daughter. She is having peer problems and has had to deal with bullying in the past and now refusing to go to school. I can see she is suffering from anxiety, wont talk to her dad, school or therapist only me. And to be honest I feel terrible for admitting I feel helpless and starting to suffer anxiety myself. Did you get any support or resolution? How are things now? A few people I have spoken to have told me to just drag her there…firstly she is bigger than me and secondly she needs to want to go or she will just walk out the door when there. I am not about to resort to physical abuse. I have received no real helpful practical advice. She is smart and could go to university next year if she only could get through a few more months.



How is your son now?

I’m going through the exact same thing with my 15 year old, and I just do not know where to begin.
He’s not up for counselling or even talking about it to anyone. (He opens up now and again to me, but rarely.)

I just hope there’s light at the end of the tunnel.


Great article. I feel helpless to see my teenage son living with high anxiety. Therapy only works so much….. This article explains HOW anxiety develops in human brains and TECHNIQUES to get in control of that emotion. I will definitely share this article and THANK YOU for having written it.


My 12 year old has anxiety. She gets worried about thoughts. Shes not suicidal but has racing thoughts about it and it scares her. I think she is in a new way of worrying but she is so scared she will hurt herself or me. Of course she doesn’t want to.Again. She says it’s just thoughts and she would never do it. She doesn’t think she has control. Is this part of anxiety? I have it bad and was scared of weird thoughts but I would have never done it. I’m hoping shes the same. Yes we are searching for counseling bc of the new level of it.

Karen Young

Hi Bobbie. The symptoms you describe could certainly be part of anxiety. It’s important to remember that thoughts are just that – thoughts. It is not at all unusual with anxiety to have racey thoughts – sometimes scary ones. It can feel ‘out of control’, because during anxiety the ‘thinking brain’ gets a little overwhelmed by the feeling part of the brain. This can happen to all of us on some level – sometimes more, sometimes less. Your daughter has a strong, powerful, wonderful brain that is working a little hard to protect her. That’s what anxiety is. It can sometimes flood us with anxious thoughts to make sure we’ve thought of everything that could possibly go wrong – but they are just thoughts. Anxious thoughts are a sign of anxiety, not breakage. Counselling is an excellent idea. Therapy will support your daughter with information and strategies to calm her racey thoughts. It will also help you to feel more able to support her when she is having racey thoughts. This support will also help to make sure any anxiety your daughter might be experiencing stays at manageable levels.


I’m 17 and I started feeling extremely nauseous randomly, it started when I was scared of a certain teacher but that sorted now. I’ll be feeling fine and the next I feel like I’m going to get sick, I know it’s all in my head but I have this irrational fear of throwing up, it’s a real pain. I understand that it’s all in my head but I still find it very hard to prevent or get rid of the nausea. A bunch of my symptoms were in the list above and that was very reassuring to read. I’m trying to log my emotions sometimes to search for possible patterns and I’m starting to try mindfulness. This website has been a little boost to encourage me to take action.


Hi Holly,

When I was reading your comment all i could think was gosh this is similar to myself.

Being sick is also a fear of mine, i dont beleive it has actually happened since i was around 12, so being scared of something that is an unknown is normal.

I think something that would be good for you to do is to practice the breathing like the above article suggested. When you start to feel sick, take several deep breathes, if you can go out side for a walk and try to remove your thoughts from your head. Really focus on that midfullness in the moment thinking.

Im sorry i couldnt give much more advice, but the first step is always trying to learn.


am Julius aged 18 I have been experiencing anxiety for a year now,I usually become anxious when I want to do a social event such as public speaking, now I have just been so worried that this might ruin my life,does anxiety stop with age or what?
Your article was helpful and pleasing thanks very much


Hi Julius,

I was reading this article for myself, to educate myself on my own emotions and also to be able to teach others about their’s.

Unfortunatley, anxiety isnt something that turns off when you get older. You do just get better at managing it. When I was your age, public speaking made me very nervous and I would display all of the symptoms in this article.

I was working for a car manufacturer and frequently had to speak in front of groups of 20-30 people. At the beginning, i would be so nervous and would feel sick before doing it. But overtime i gained the confidence that i knew what i was talking about and my anxiety lessened.

What i would suggest to you is to do your research, know your stuff on the topic your discussing. If you feel confident in the material and that you know what your saying, you will expereince less anxiety.

I hope this helped.

It does get better.



Almost a year ago i started having anxiety. i thought it would never get better, mainly because i didn’t know how to relax.
But it did get better.
I still struggle, but i grew stronger.

If it gets really bad, i watch the clock, and calculate 30 minutes, anxiety attacks last about 20/30 minutes.
With that, i try my best to keep myself together and think that Everythingoes, even if those feelings are horrible, i just try to think that it shall pass.

Lately i feel more in peace and i’m happy for that. I feel more free! i really missed that, like that’s who i am supposed to be!

I hope everyone gets better.

And i will listen to the advices, thank you very much for sharing! as a 19 years old i Need them.


Hi. I’m Alina and I am 16. I have anxiety everyday and I don’t know how to control it a lot of the times. What should I do? I don’t want to take any medication. I want my treatment to be all natural. And I don’t want to go to a person who can help me because I am worried they are going to give me medication.

Karen Young

Alina, you are so powerful in strengthening yourself against anxiety. The most important thing is to keep moving towards brave behaviour. That will teach your brain (and you) that you can feel anxious and still do brave things. Also, try the strategies in the article – mindfulness, exercise, sleep, healthy food. They are all really important in protecting yourself against anxiety. Understand where your feelings and symptoms are coming from, and know that you’ve got this. I know it can feel as though you don’t, but that’s the work of a strong, healthy brain that’s being a bit overprotective. It is not a true reflection of your capacity, or the situation you are facing. You can do this.


I have a 13 year old daughter who is going through some of the same things. She seems overwhelmed and just wants me to fix it. She also says she wants someone to talk to. I have tried to get her to eat better, and rest and sleep more and put her phone down at night. I have also tried to get her to take her daily vitamin. The first time she came to me crying and distraught and I didn’t understand her stress. I didn’t know how to handle this. She has many friends and is sociable, has very good grades in school, and dances and involved in a school sport. It makes me feel terrible that I cannot help her. I will share your article with her and my husband. I am hoping your techniques will be able to help her cope.

Karen Young

Hi Renee – Here is another article that might help It can be so difficult to watch anxiety having such an impact on someone you love so much, but know that anxiety absolutely doesn’t mean breakage. The videos on this link might also be helpful Know that your daughter has everything she needs to cope with her anxiety with strength and courage. The key is helping her to realise this.


Hi your article is very helpful… I have a 14 year old girl who is smart and brave… she had passed in a science and special class in one of the prestigious school in our place,,,, her anxiety started when in first grading she was not included in the honor list… since then she skips her classes and many times don’t want to go to school…. I am so worried since I am pretty sure that she will be kick out from her class…. she keeps her room closed and doesn’t want to talk to us when her classmate called she just said m ok but still has stomach ache… what will I do? Her room is now smelling as she didn’t take a bath and clean her room. I’ve been hurt because when I attempted to convince her to go to school she called me “fuck u” and it’s been unbecoming of her I can’t see the old dolly (her nickname) in her.

Karen Young

If you can, talk to your daughter about the information in the article and keep encouraging her towards brave behaviour. If you can help her understand more about her anxiety (with the information in the article), that can be a really powerful way to take the ‘anxiety out of anxiety’.


Thanks for the great article.

I do mentor ship to the youth and ANXIETY is big problem in the society.

I have got great insights on how to deal with it.


Hi Karen, my name is Sam and I’m currently working on my Masters in Social Work and doing social work placement in schools. I’ve been working with mostly teens who are experiencing anxiety, and your article has really helped me to put into relatable words the manageability of anxiety. Your article has also really helped me to see different ways of managing my own anxiety! I just want you to know how helpful your article is!

Rebecca Connery

As a teacher of 11-18 year olds, supporting student achieve academically and manage their feelings and emotions is often a difficult task. Year on year we have more students present with anxiety. This article is incredibly insightful and will really help me to help the students I am working with. Thank you.


Thank you for this article. I have printed it off for my daughter who is 16 and suffering from anxiety.


Hi my name is Jennifer. I’m a mother (with anxiety myself) of a beautiful 14 yr old girl with severe anxiety. We both are medicated for our anxiety because it causes severe panic attacks. Although mine is mostly under control, I understand the adolescent mind is still developing the front lobe of the brain that helps control this. I have to say it can be extremely challenging to give another person advice on how to manage their anxiety. My daughter and I are very close and when she’s melting down it’s easy for myself to go into anxiety. But again I’ve learned to control mine. So I usually try to get her to focus on me and breath with me. She does it but sometimes thinks I’m crazy. I have to say this article is perfect for her. I’m going to sit down and read each part with her and talk about it. That way I’m sure she understands each part and hopefully she will be able to implement these techniques herself at times. THANK YOU SO MCIH FOR THIS ARTICLE!


Thank you for this article. It helped me understand what my daughter is going through. I’ve never had anxiety so it is so hard to know what to say when she tells me she HAS to leave school or other places. I didn’t understand why she would shake or become clammy..or feel sick. She doesn’t sleep well either. What do I say when she tells me how she feels? Just “I understand” ? I don’t wan to encourage her running away from responsibilities like school, but don’t want to put her in a position that makes it worse.

Shammah B

Hi. My name is Shammah and I’m 15 years old. Anxiety has existed in my life at the age of 10 and I am trying to control it since then. Thank you for your article! It was soothing to my brain and probably the best article to deal with anxiety. I promise to practice mindfulness in my everyday life and will share with others.


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Thanks so much @maggiedentauthor♥️…
“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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