Reducing Teen Stress and Anxiety during Pandemic

The Enormity of the COVID19 Experience

My heart goes out to teens and young adults. Staying compassionate, offering to collaborate on tasks and being available to talk through emotions is critical in reducing teen stress and anxiety during this pandemic.

Don’t try to solve issues. Offer suggestions and avoid getting hurt if they aren’t taken. Young adults often like to figure things out for themselves, which means trial-and-error learning. Sometimes the best support you can give is managing your own frustrations, sharing your feelings without blame or guilt and validating their successes.

Strategies and Practical Approaches that WORK

  1. Help teens acknowledge these uncomfortable feelings without trying to fix them – It’s natural to have low morale and feel stuck right now. This situation is no one’s fault and everybody is trying hard to manage the best they can. Focus on building their resilience. Consider past difficulties and reflect on how they overcame them. Explore how those strategies could apply to current challenges. Write these strategies down so teens can refer to them later.
  2. Set realistic and appropriate goals – Teens may not be able to concentrate with hybrid learning as well as they have in the past. Keeping that in mind, work together and come up with do-able daily and/or weekly routines. Collaborate on a daily schedule that includes timed work and break periods, exercise, physical distance socializing and screen-free times. Having a reliable routine will keep kids grounded and on track. It helps them with predictability in these uncertain times.

  3. Instill gratitude – every day, no matter how small, find one thing to be grateful for.  Eating a yummy dinner, FaceTiming with a dear friend or playing a fun video game. It’s easy for teens to dismiss what they have in favor of longing for what they don’t. Help them shift their perspective to see the positive things that are going on instead of focusing on the things they are missing.

  4. Wonder instead of worry – When teens don’t know what to expect and feel perpetually uncertain, their anxiety increases. In these times, they’re likely to act out because they may not have the language to express the combination of anger, frustration, sadness and worry that’s underneath their behavior. Help them tolerate the insecurity and pivot. Being curious instead of worrying means wondering about possible outcomes from a place of confidence that they can handle whatever arises.

To be honest, I used mental health days with my daughter when she was a teenager. About twice a semester, she would hit a wall: she needed sleep and some down time to get her head back in the game.  So, we periodically gave her a “Sick-and-Tired” day off from school. It wasn’t planned but we had agreed as a family in advance that she could have 2 such days per semester. It was a successful collaboration: she felt that she got the mental health day she needed and we saw a positive difference when she returned to school.

Deeper Dive:

What’s a Normal Level of Anxiety?

Kids and Mental Health Days