Have you noticed that your teen appears to be more on edge lately? Maybe they appear like they may be feeling more anxious or possibly angry. Let’s talk about mindfulness and how helpful that can be to managing feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.
Mindfulness techniques have been shown to be effective in managing anxiety, stress, and improving mental well-being in individuals of all ages. However, in today’s world, teens are more prone to anxiety than ever before due to the pressure of school, social media, and the general uncertainty of the future. In other words, it is essential to discuss mindfulness techniques that could help teenagers manage their emotions more functionally.
The first exercise we can engage in to utilize mindfulness is breathing exercises. This is one of the most effective and straightforward mindfulness techniques. Anxiety is often characterized by rapid, shallow breathing and quickened heartbeat. Taking slow, deep breaths can help reduce feelings of anxiety. When a teen begins to feel anxious, encourage them to sit or lay down, close their eyes, and take deep breaths in and out. A way to imagine doing this is picking an amount of time your teen is comfortable with holding their breath. Once we have defined that number we will breathe in the pattern of a square. For example, if I choose 4 seconds then I will do the following: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold that in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and then hold that for 4 seconds. You would assist your teen in following this pattern until they notice a shift in their body’s tension. The focus on breathing takes the mind off the stressors and brings it to the present moment. It also increases oxygen to the brain and slows the heart rate, a tool for bringing the body back into a state of balance and relaxation.
The second option is mindfulness meditation. This will not be for everyone, but I encourage you to utilize this with your teen a few times before judging it’s benefits. Mindfulness medication is another fantastic way to teach teens how to slow down and refocus. You can guide your teen with breathing meditation; it involves focusing on the breath rather than trying to eliminate the thoughts in the mind. Encourage them to sit quietly with their eyes closed, bringing their attention to their breath. Instruct them to notice the sensation of breathing, noticing the air moving in and out of the nose or mouth. Explain that the goal isn’t to stop thoughts from arising, but to observe the thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them pass without dwelling or reacting to them.
Onto the next which is physical activity. Believe it or not, physical activity can also be a form of mindfulness. Encourage your teen to engage in activities like yoga or Tai Chai, an excellent way to incorporate mindfulness into their routine. Even weightlifting or running can utilize mindfulness. These activities encourage being in the present moment, taking deep breaths, and moving the body with awareness. At the same time, they’re being physically active, which helps with anxiety and depression.
Just a couple more, hang in there with me!
Next, gratitude journaling! This one is perfect for the teen that already enjoys writing, journaling, or exploring their thoughts in written forms. Gratitude journaling involves writing down three to five things each day that the person is thankful for creating a habit of being present and mindful of the present moment’s goodness. This technique teaches teens to appreciate what they have, bringing them back to the present moment, and shifting their thoughts from a negative to a more positive outlook.
Another mindfulness activity that can be helpful for managing anxiety is body scan meditation. This technique involves lying down or sitting comfortably and taking slow, deep breaths while bringing awareness to different parts of the body. Starting from the toes and moving gradually upwards to the head, the person focuses their attention on each body part, noticing any sensations or tension. You can support your teen by providing prompting questions such as, “bring your attention to your shoulders, take some deep breathes and raise your shoulders then release them and etc.” This mindfulness activity helps to bring awareness to the physical sensations in the body, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
You’ve made it to your last skill which is mindful action. Encourage your teen to practice mindfulness while engaging in daily activities such as eating, walking, or doing homework. When they’re eating, for example, encourage them to savor each bite, noticing the different flavors and textures. With homework, they can focus on one task at a time, without distractions to help them stay present and attentive. Mindful action techniques allow teens to stay present in the moment and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
Managing anxiety as a teenager can be challenging, but these mindfulness techniques can help. They provide practical tools that help teens feel more in control of their thoughts and emotions, which can improve overall mental health and wellbeing. Try exploring these different techniques and see which one resonates best with your teen. As stated above, it’s vital to give these a try more than once. Often we try something once and decide it’s not for us but we need practice for it to become most effective. Introducing mindfulness into their daily routine may take time and patience.
In conclusion, Mindfulness techniques can be useful tools for managing anxiety in teenagers. Breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, physical activity, gratitude journaling, body scan meditation, and mindful action are just a few examples of practical tools that can help reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing. It is essential to introduce these techniques as part of the teenager’s routine consistently. Additionally, making mindfulness practices fun and engaging can help teenagers feel more motivated to incorporate these techniques into their daily routine. By doing so, we help teenagers understand that mindfulness reduces anxiety, and it is okay to prioritize self-care and wellbeing.