PA News

Combatting Anxiety

Greetings, Saint Mary’s Parents and Guardians,

As we settle into the school year, you may be seeing increased signs of stress or anxiety in your student.

Anxiety is the feeling of worry or apprehension that something bad is going to happen or that you can’t cope with a situation. It can include physical reactions like tension, shakiness, nausea, or an upset stomach. Anxiety, an expression of fear, is a completely normal emotional response, just like happiness, anger, disgust, or sadness. But it becomes disordered when it is so prevalent that it disrupts healthy coping. A typical reaction to feelings of anxiety is to want to avoid these uncomfortable feelings as much as possible.  For example, when a student experiences severe anxiety about going to school, they will typically want to avoid coming to school. 

One of the most important things we can do to support our students is to normalize the experience of anxiety without minimizing how hard it may feel for the person experiencing it. Many people experience anxiety on a regular basis, and sometimes anxiety is even good for us, as it can help us to meet expectations and important deadlines that are coming up. Anxiety can come and go depending on the events in a person’s life and may be experienced in vastly different ways by different people. The key thing to remember is that while it is very common, the experience of anxiety can also sometimes be very painful.  

Here are some ways you can help your teen manage anxiety:

-          Help your student practice breathing and other grounding exercises to reduce feelings of anxiety. Two great resources are Anxiety Happens: 52 Ways to Find Peace of Mind and The Anxiety Toolkit for Teens.

-          Encourage your student not to avoid difficult situations. Avoidance brings on additional anxiety and negative self-talk.

-          Remind your student that practice is the best way to lessen the discomfort they feel in an anxiety-producing situation. The more they face their anxiety, the less scary and overwhelming it will feel. Remind them they can do hard things!

-          Let your student know that with support and some practice and commitment, they will be able to overcome their anxiety. While anxiety can be incredibly challenging and hard to experience, it is also extremely treatable. Once your student learns the coping strategies that work for them, they will always have those tools to fall back on.

-          Check out stem4education for free mental health apps, including the user-friendly “Clear Fear” app that provides breathing and grounding exercises, goal setting, tracking, and other concrete activities to help young people cope with anxiety.

-          Listen to "A Better Way to Worry” on the Hidden Brain podcast, where psychologist Tracy Dennis-Tiwary discusses how to interpret anxiety and manage the intense discomfort those feelings can generate.

The counselors at Saint Mary’s are well-equipped to talk to your student about coping with and managing anxiety.  If you notice your student struggling with overwhelming feelings, please encourage them to reach out to their counselor. 

Best,

Sonya, Jourdan, Kerri and Anne