How Teens Can Learn to Manage Anxiety without Turning to Drugs and Alcohol
Between the social pressures, changing bodies, and burgeoning responsibilities, teens are at a high risk of developing anxiety problems. And those teens are also at a high risk of turning to drugs and alcohol to help them cope. While some may find that substances help them manage with anxiety in the short term, the long term consequences of relying on drugs and alcohol are severe. Teens must learn healthy coping strategies early on, as anxiety could be something they are forced to deal with for many years.
Why drugs and alcohol are poor coping mechanisms
Depressants, whether they be benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or alcohol, appear to give relief to those suffering from anxiety disorders. One of the main problems, however, is that in the long-term these methods of coping can actually exacerbate anxiety problems.
While they “may initially appear to have calming effects on an individual’s degree of stress, excessive use of these drugs can lead to impairments in an individual’s physical and mental functioning, which can be a major source of stress. More commonly, though, withdrawal from alcohol and other CNS depressant drugs may trigger rebound anxiety and even panic attacks.
Not only will substances eventually make anxiety worse, but it’s very easy for people to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, especially if they’re using them to manage an existing condition. Drug abuse is higher in people who suffer pre-existing mental issues. For more information on the warning signs of prescription drug abuse, check here.
Learn to control what can be controlled
A lot of anxiety stems from a fear of being out of control of a certain situation. While it’s unhealthy to try to control the uncontrollable, it is healthy to look to the things i life that can be controlled – especially when doing so will make one happier, healthier, and less-stressed.
The three major aspects of life that teens should focus on getting under control are diet, exercise routine, and sleep schedule. The mind and body are not two, disconnected entities. In fact, the overall health of each depend greatly on the health of the other. A healthy mind and body is greatly aided by eating a proper diet and getting enough physical activity.
Many people with anxiety fall into horrible sleeping patterns – a vicious cycle where they can’t sleep because they are anxious and they are anxious because they can’t sleep. Break out of this cycle by practicing proper sleep preparation techniques. The first and best tip is to limit the consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Next, refashion the bedroom as a sleep-only zone. This means not bringing a laptop into bed to do homework. Don’t browse Facebook or Instagram before falling asleep. We must teach our brain that when our head hits the pillow, it’s sleep time and nothing else. Here are some more tips for falling asleep if suffering from anxiety.
Take time to breathe
Seriously. We take it for granted but there are few things that help us cope with anxiety better than focused breathing. This can be done through meditation or yoga, or simply by sitting in a calm, relaxed environment and really focusing on breathing slowly, in and out. Control muscle movements. This kind of relaxation exercise is how we focus on the present, instead of on some past trouble or future problem.
While substances can appear to be a quick fix for anxiety, they not only fail to tackle the root causes but will also exacerbate the situation. Beyond that, they will lead to drug abuse, dependency, and full-on addiction. Learn coping mechanisms for anxiety early on to be equipped to handle stress as it increases as we age, which it inevitably does.
Contributed by Caleb Anderson