Over the past number of years, I see an increasing number of teenage clients who come to me after worried parents feel their child needs some help with anxiety at school.
Many teens lost out on important years of socialising and the regularity of school over the past number of years.
Many find that they can feel nervous in the company of others. I notice that this particularly is difficult for first and second year students.
A teen experiencing social anxiety feels excessive fear of social situations.
In school, this can present as nervousness and self-consciousness which come from feeling closely watched, judged, and criticised by others. Even answering a question or reading in front of the class can cause some teens huge anxiety. The following are some of the tips I share with my teen clients in my private practice to help overcome social anxiety.
With practice, social anxiety can be reduced with the following techniques but sometimes talking to a counsellor is necessary if there was a particular trigger for the social anxiety and/or the anxiety doesn't lessen after following these tips.
1. Manage expectations:
Teens often expect that they should never feel nervous or feel any strong negative emotions.
Learning to make friends with the anxious feelings helps more than trying to control and stop the feelings.
I recommend focusing on breathing slowly and telling themselves that its OK to feel nervous at school. This has the effect of calming the nervous system and stopping the struggle with the anxious feelings (which only causes more stress). 2.Don't give anxiety power over your life:
If your teen has started to limit their social interactions because of the nervousness and anxiety they feel in social situations, it is important to remind them that they don't want anxiety running their life.
It is understandable that we want to avoid uncomfortable feelings and therefore avoid situations where our anxiety increases.
It is best not to avoid social situations completely because of your anxiety- the more you expose yourself to what makes you anxious, the less power you hand over to your anxiety and the more confident you will become. And you are strengthening your socialising muscles every time you meet people. This will get easier in time. 3.Connect with your senses:
Tell your teen that if you feel anxious, remember to breathe in and out through your nose to help slow your breathing.
Feel your feet on the ground and focus on the sensation of your breath coming in and out. If you can take a drink of water, focus on the sensation of the cold water as you drink it. 4. Food choices:
Often teens who feel nervous stop eating. When we don't eat, out body sends out adrenaline to encourage us to go and get food. This adrenaline makes anxiety worse so eating every few hours is important to calm the body and mind. Note also that caffeine and sugar tend to make anxiety worse. 5.Sleep:
Getting to sleep by 11.30pm and staying off screens before that time is essential to allow our brains to process our day and allow teens to feel emotionally resilient during the day.
If your teen isn't sleeping, I would focus on making that a priority over everything else.
For additional support, please follow the booking link here on my website if you would like to book a session for your teen.