Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Everyone feels it from time to time, especially when we are faced with something that is new to us. It’s a normal reaction to stress. It becomes a psychological concern when the anxiety levels become so severe as to create panic attacks and excessive uneasiness that interferes with normal functioning.
It feels intensely personal, as if no one in the world could understand how you feel, but you’d be surprised at how universal the experiencing of the above symptoms is. Although we each seem to have specific things that we are anxious about, there are a few areas that many seem to share.
According to researchers, psychological problems among teens have been on the rise since the 1930s, and Americans’ obsession with material gains and success may be to blame.
“We have become a culture that focuses more on material things and less on relationships,” said lead researcher Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me” and an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Twenge said this focus is affecting mental health on a societal level.”
There is great pressure to have certain material things, such as certain clothes, devices, shoes and accessories. I’ve seen it tear up families. Parents want to be able to provide these things, but just can’t. I would like to tell you that if your friends are judging you by your material things, they are missing everything about you. You are your precious thoughts, your loving expression, your hopes, your humor, your loyalty, your courage, your creativity, and your worries. But they most often can be turned around in time.
Anxiety relates strongly with ones self-image. An image is the idea a person has of ones abilities, appearance and personality. Generally speaking, if a person has a good self-image, they have less anxiety than people who have a poor self-image. However, sometimes the image we have of ourselves isn’t accurate. We might think that we’re not attractive when we really are, because we’re looking at some slight imperfections, and not seeing the whole picture.
Or students might think that they are not smart, because they are taking courses in an area that isn’t reflecting their intellectual modality. When they begin to do things in the area that they love, they thrive. Still, we all need to know how to balance a checkbook and write a letter.
Companies make trillions of dollars from peoples’ anxieties. Clothes, cars, supplements, make-up, places to be seen, boyfriends or girlfriends on your arm are meant to help you build an image of success. It continues for adults. But it’s shallow stuff. Soon it’s out of style, and you have to find some other external indicator of coolness. More important is what’s going on in you.
You’re the one in control of that. You define what is important to you. Things change. When I grew up people made fun of the computer nerds. Now they rule big business and run our national security programs. We didn’t have phones and tablets. We talked to each other. We had conversations and parties and when we were troubled, we talked to each other. We found out that we all had a few insecurities, trouble with adults and boyfriends. We supported each other.
We didn’t have the problem with bullying that some face now. But remember that bullies put other people down in the attempt to keep the self-image of whatever they think they have that’s so great. When they are exposed for what they do, they have to face their shallow self-images.
Some people can understand where bullying comes from and let it bounce off their shoulders. Others feel really hurt, and their anxiety increases. They must seek help and report any harmful bullying, and if one adult doesn’t act on it, go to another, and another. Find friends who are also bullied. If all else fails, you have the law on your side. It is against the law to repeatedly harass another person. Hawaii Revised Statute 711-1106 e. (1) A person commits the offense of harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm any other person, that person: (e) Repeatedly makes communications, after being advised by the person to whom the communication is directed that further communication is unwelcome.
Web MD’s article on Anxiety and Teens suggests that teens start their own relaxation program.
This is also true for adults. Set aside 20 minutes a day for relaxation. Find a comfortable space to lie down or sit. Remove distractions as much as possible, including your devices.
During this time, remain as still as you can. Focus on noticing what parts of your body feel relaxed and which feel tense.
The goal is to imagine that every muscle in your body is becoming relaxed and free of tension.
Picture all the muscles in your body beginning to go loose and limp. Breathe slowly and evenly. Each time you exhale, picture your muscles becoming even more relaxed. Breathe out tension with each exhaled breath. After 20 minutes, notice the difference.
Some people find that chanting, singing, praying or focusing their eyes on a peaceful object like a candle flame, or flower can help them relax. When you get up the relaxed feeling may fade, but over time many teens find that they are more able to maintain the relaxed feeling beyond the practice session.
Another thing that may cause anxiety is when you have followed a path, and created an image for yourself, and then you find out you don’t really want it. It can lead to depression, a feeling of waste and anxiety about what to do next. No experience is ever wasted if you learn from it.
Re-invent yourself. Do some soul searching, with your soul and not just your mind, and find out what you think would bring you peace in your life. Begin to make a transition toward that. Check it out as much as you can. Our country was founded on people re-inventing themselves. We love those inner and outer adventure stories. It gives us hope too, in case we feel ready for a change.
Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org