The teen years are an important time in the emotional and physical development for young adults. For the first time, they are experiencing more independence and learning who they are outside of their family unit. Adolescence also comes with more responsibilities and new life experiences, which can lead to feelings of excitement, but also stress. School is becoming more demanding. Teens are expected to begin planning for the next step in their life, what happens after high school. Peer dynamics begin to shift as well. Some teens may take these stressors in stride, while others may begin to experience symptoms of anxiety. There is no one cause of anxiety, life experiences and genetics may play a role.
During adolescence, the teen brain is still developing. The front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses. This makes teens more vulnerable to making impulsive decisions. When teens are experiencing anxiety, they are more likely to act without thinking. Teens experiencing anxiety will begin to develop coping mechanisms to deal with their struggles, which may be healthy or unhealthy. This time period is when habits will begin to form that could last throughout their adult years.
Learning healthier ways to cope with stress and anxiety as a teenager can help teens establish healthier patterns that they will continue to use as an adult. Choosing an anxiety treatment center just for teens means that professionals are trained to use developmentally appropriate strategies to help your teen address their anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Anxiety can be normal in stressful situations such as public speaking or taking a test. Anxiety is only an indicator of a larger issue when those feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and interfere with daily living.
Anxiety can present itself in many different ways that can include both physical and mental symptoms. Some anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events, even ordinary, routine issues. You may find that your worry is disproportionate to the actual circumstance. GAD often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
- Panic disorder: involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and panic attacks. There may be feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a pounding heart. These panic attacks may lead to worrying about an episode happening again and may lead to you avoiding situations in which they’ve occurred.
- Separation anxiety disorder: a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
- Social anxiety disorder: involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
Treatment Options for Anxiety
The first step towards dealing with an anxiety disorder is to get a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Understanding the root of your anxiety and what triggers it can help you better cope with symptoms in the future. There are many paths to treating anxiety, such as psychotherapy, or talk therapy, where a patient works one on one with a patient to reduce anxiety symptoms. Another method is cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, which focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety. CBT may also include exposure therapy, where patients gradually encounter the object or situation that triggers their anxiety so they can build confidence that they can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms in the future. Other people may manage anxiety symptoms with medication.
If your teen is struggling with anxiety, and their anxiety is negatively affecting their life, it may be time to seek out help. A residential treatment center that deals with anxiety could be that right fit for your teen. It is beneficial to find a residential treatment center that does not take a “one size fits all” approach to treatment, as each student has a unique set of needs. Red Mountain Colorado’s clinical programming is influenced by Buddhist lessons on being present, caring for others, recognizing the impermanence of all things, and teen’s capacity for change, which can help teens challenge their anxious thoughts.
Mindfulness and Anxiety
Mindfulness is the practice of noticing our thoughts and feelings, and remaining aware and open to the present moment. In recent years, psychologists have recognized that meditation and mindfulness can be used not only as healthy coping skills, but also as a clinical therapeutic approach. Regular meditation therapy and mindfulness practice can help ease anxiety in teens that has been brought on by stressful situations and destructive habits.
Mindfulness can be a formal therapy, but it can also be practiced in your daily life. Activities like paying attention when you’re walking to your car can become a mindfulness practice. Notice the sounds your feet make as you walk across the ground. Listen to the change in sound when you walk over crunchy leaves. Feel the sun on your face. Become aware of the scents of nature around you. The more you practice focusing on activities, the more comfortable you will feel applying that practice when you are feeling anxious. By slowing down and paying attention to what you’re experiencing and feeling, without judgement, you can begin to separate a response from a reaction. This practice creates space between the stimulus and reaction which can help with impulse control issues brought on by anxiety.
By being mindful, we can also become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Often, when we are feeling anxiety, our brain is telling our body: “We’re in trouble! Watch out!”. Your body may react with an increased heart rate, tension in the boy, or sweaty palms. It is an inherently uncomfortable situation. Mindfulness gives us the tools to recognize what is happening, and view it from a step removed. When those uncomfortable feelings arise, you are able to take a step back and remain present. Your brain can begin to respond: “I am feeling anxious, but I am safe. I have the ability to remove myself from this stressful situation.”.
Anxiety can also contribute to feelings of low self esteem or hopelessness. You may believe that there is something “wrong” with you because you are struggling with these emotions. Anxiety may tell your brain that your struggles are a burden to family and friends, or that there is nothing you can ever do to work through these struggles. Mindfulness teaches you to create a compassionate relationship with yourself. When we stay present in the moment and remain objective, we can remind ourselves that our family and friends want what is best for us. Our loved ones want to see us succeed and they are always there to support us. Mindfulness plays an important role in letting go of negative self talk to cultivate patience towards yourself. Instead of spiraling in the anxious thoughts, you can instead address yourself the way you would talk to a friend. With love and support.
Meditation and Mindfulness at Red Mountain Colorado
We believe that, as humans, we are very sensitive to other people’s energy. Practicing mindfulness in a group setting helps teens build social awareness, match their energy to other people’s energy, and stay accountable in maintaining a consistent practice. The level of instruction your teen will receive at Red Mountain Colorado is unparalleled. Our co-founders, Maureen White and Josh White, bring a combined 50 years of teen meditation training to their work at Red Mountain Colorado.
There are three ways students engage in meditation and mindfulness practices:
- Daily group mindfulness meditation practice: Students gather together with a meditation leader and are guided through a meditation practice.
- Weekly Mindfulness/meditation talks: Talks that introduce the principles of mindfulness and engage students interactively so they get a better understanding of those principles. These talks occur on a weekly basis.
- Weekly individual one on one sessions with meditation teachers: Individual sessions allow each student to have personalized guidance in order to help them be present with their feelings and understand the obstacles coming up in their healing process.
Instead of turning to negative coping mechanisms when overwhelmed, teens learn how to be more accepting of their experience, name uncomfortable physical sensations and negative thoughts, and try to let go of the control anxiety often has over their decision-making. Our teen meditation therapy program allows teachers to meet students where they are and we do not force the practice on anyone. For some students, meditation is “one tool in the tool belt,” and for others, it becomes a lifelong practice.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
Red Mountain Colorado was founded to help struggling teens work through behavioral and emotional challenges. We specialize in the treatment of trauma-related mental health challenges. Throughout programming, we empower teens to build healthy coping skills and habits that they can use to work through the challenges they face.
Our mindfulness-based teen treatment programs help our students discover their inherent goodness and focus on giving back to the community. From there, they can focus on redirecting their life path in a positive direction and maintaining the strides made in primary treatment in a “real world” setting. For more information please call (970) 315-9533.