Teens and the Anxiety Epidemic

Well I hope you’re enjoying the school holidays and this gorgeous summer weather we’ve been having. I actually hit the surf on Sunday and it was glorious. There’s something so cleansing about swimming in the ocean. Diving under a wave and emerging surrounded but soft, pure white foam. Nature’s spa bath.

One of the things I love about camping is reconnecting to nature. I spend 90% of my waking hours outside and often barefoot. I become aware of the phases of the moon, the tides and the stars (walking to the loo in the middle of the night.) I enjoy the sunsets and occasional sunrises when I wake up early enough. I sleep well, eat well, there’s time to talk, play cards, read novels and take nana naps and long walks.

One of the things I don’t miss at all is TV.  In fact that’s probably a big reason I have time for all those other things.  That, plus the fact that the housework in a caravan takes about 5 minutes.

Being in slow motion and feeling so relaxed got me thinking about why so many people are anxious. Of course being on holidays is a stark contrast to everyday life when you’re working and the kids are at school but it really bothers me how many children and teens suffer from anxiety. Apparently 25% of 13 to 18 year olds have mild to moderate anxiety and 5.9% have severe anxiety.  That’s reaching epidemic proportions and it’s really disturbing.

As with depression, sometimes there is a clear reason for anxiety and sometimes there’s not.  As a parent it can be challenging to know how to help your anxious teen and even if you do have a strategy they’re not necessarily compliant.

Here are some potential contributing factors and suggestions:

  1. Magnesium Deficiency – Stress and anxiety deplete the body of magnesium. Magnesium is actually needed to switch off nerve signals and relax muscles. Taking the right magnesium supplement gives the body the essential ingredients it needs for the nervous system to relax.  Signs of magnesium deficiency are muscle cramps or twitches.  We’ve found that in many cases the Active Elements Formula 3.1 can help reduce the symptoms very quickly. CLICK HERE TO BUY  An appointment with our Naturopath, Kimberley Nightingale, may also be helpful. Kim specialises in mental health issues and is particularly good with teens.
  2. High Sugar or High GI Foods – When your blood sugar rises rapidly the pancreas can release too much insulin and cause the blood sugar to drop below normal levels. When this happens adrenalin is released to bring the blood sugar levels up again.  Adrenalin triggers the fight or flight response and you may feel shaky and anxious. Adding protein, good fats and fibre to meals helps stabilise blood sugar.
  3. Caffeine and  Energy Drinks – As well as the sugar high>sugar low>adrenalin effect caffeinated drinks like coke and pepsi, and energy drinks like Red Bull with Guarana (which contains caffeine) can create anxiety. These drinks are stimulants and they are addictive and so suddenly withdrawing them from the diet can also initially increase anxiety. I knew a teacher who had to take stress leave thinking that it was her work causing anxiety and heart palpitations. She was drinking 12 cups of coffee a day!
  4. Screen Addiction – One of the biggest issues with teens is the amount of time they spend looking at a screen. This is a topic for an entire blog but one of the key problems is that once a teen has a smart phone they can quickly become addicted. Every time they get a text message or a Facebook comment the brain creates a burst of Dopamine. This is the same brain chemical produced when you have a win on the pokies or a shopaholic buys something new. It’s the brains “reward chemical” and behaviour that’s rewarded will be repeated.  This is why people will check their phone 200 times a day. This constant temptation and distraction reduces our ability to concentrate, relax and be content in the moment. A school did an experiment removing access to phones from teens for three days.  All of them initially felt anxious without their phone and many simply couldn’t last three days. Those that did get over the anxiety reported feeling much more relaxed, creative and social. Having said that there are some great phone Apps for meditation. Take a look at 1Giant Mind or Head Space.
  5. Media – Whether it’s watching the news, reading a newspaper or listening to the radio or surfing the Internet we’re constantly exposed to negative stories about the state of the world or the traumatic events that happen to individual people. And we don’t just hear a story once, it’s repeated many times. If you listen to the radio, for example, you’ll hear the same awful story every hour on the hour. If you watch TV the worse news stories are in the promo many times leading up to the News. This “brainwashing” changes your view of the world in a very negative way and contributes to anxiety.
  6.  Self-Esteem – The Media also plays a role in teens not feeling good enough. One of the biggest sources of anxiety for teens is being unhappy with their body. It’s an issue for all of us but teens are particularly vulnerable to comparing themselves to the standard images of what the media portrays as beauty. I highly recommend taking a look at the movie Embrace and watching it with your teens.
  7.  Disconnection with Nature – Take your teens camping. Teach them how to pitch a tent, light a campfire, cook damper on a stick. Lie on a blanket at night and look for shooting stars. Go somewhere away from phone coverage and once they go through the withdrawal symptoms you may just fond you have a happy, relaxed, social child.

If you need help with an unhappy teen we’re thrilled to let you know that we have a new practitioner starting next month who specialises in working with teens. Mary Mangano has a background in teaching and is now working as a counsellor and life coach.
And remember we are happy to offer a FREE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING ASSESSMENT for you or your teenager. You can CLICK HERE to book.

Have a great week,

Warm Regards,
Alison Burton
Health and Happiness Guru

Simply Natural Therapies
41 Tunstall Square
East Doncaster
VIC 3109
03 9842 7033