In the article, “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience,” author Deborah Farmer Kris recounts how rates of anxiety-related disorders in teenage girls have risen. Furthermore, not only can girls get anxious and stressed out easily, but so can any other teenager or adult. This could be because of the environment they are in, denial of their stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, no validation of their emotions, etc. Damour, a psychologist and author of the new book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls," states “some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth.”
Through decades of research and working with adolescent girls and their families, Damour observed that “the anxiety that teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary.” She notes that adults can make a difference by reassuring their child and have an honest conversation with them about their emotions and what is going on in their life that may make them stressed.
Keep in mind that teenagers brains and bodies are still developing and that change can spur stress. Not only physical or emotional change but also the act of continually switching schools, academic workload is increasing, or social relationships are constantly evolving. With this information, parents should continue to support their child but also let them figure it out on their own. “Teenage girls are particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers – from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot,” said Damour. The growth that they experience on their own will allow them to develop as a person who can withstand these types of stresses in the future and know how to handle them.
It is best not to avoid the anxiety as a whole, but to call it out and realize that one needs help. In this case, parents should stick to the two words that Damour has found helpful: “stinks” and “handle:”
“‘That really stinks’ is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great.”
Validation and empathy go a long way when it comes to the exact thing that a child wants to hear, that they are being heard and that someone understands what they are going through. If teens realize that some level of stress is inevitable then they can accept it and move on to focus on how they can build in recovery time whether that is by having some downtime or getting more sleep.
Sleep deprivation is one of the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns, Damour said. If your child is getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep then a change needs to be made. Most of the time, teenagers may not be getting enough sleep because they are on their electronics. With the change of turning off social media for the night by putting their device on do not disturb or putting their phone in another room can make all the difference.
Stress and anxiety is part of life. It is not a parents job to get rid of it completely but to help their child get through it by sitting down with them and discussing their feelings. Stress and anxiety do not go away overnight, but with some extra sleep, reflection time, and downtime, teenagers can develop a sense of self on their own and figure it out with some guidance from a parent if needed.
For more information on stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation or how Hilber Psychological Services can help, please contact us and check out Lisa Damour’s book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.”
-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD
Kris, Deborah Farmer. “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience.” Mindshift. Web. 12 Feb. 2019. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52994/how-to-help-teenage-girls-reframe-anxiety-and-strengthen-resilience
Damour, Lisa. Under Pressure Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399180052?pf_rd_p=f3acc539-5d5f-49a3-89ea-768a917d5900&pf_rd_r=R1KSEQT2AT89FSXWG6K1