5 Proven Ways To Tackle Teen Anxiety

5 Proven Ways To Tackle Teen Anxiety

It’s never easy watching those we love the most struggle.


Especially with a joy-killer like anxiety.


Every bit of instinct in us wants to help them through it.


But how?


It can be incredibly frustrating when it seems everything we try just sets them off further or doesn’t seem to work.


And if left unchecked, their anxiety can even start to take a toll on your own health and wellbeing.


We’ve spoken with many “do-and-be-it-all” moms of anxious teens, whose emotional buckets have run bone-dry from being on duty 24/7.


The sleepless nights, the many phone calls throughout the day, the panic attacks before tests, the morning fights to get them to school…


The exasperation, anger, resentment and guilt that can take over, catching you off-guard and causing you to question your worth as a parent…


As much as your young one is suffering, it’s not just them who is effected, is it?


We see you, mom!


And we want to arm you with 5 science-backed tools to help you feel more empowered to ease your teen’s anxiety, fuel their flourishing and make your life a little easier too.



1. The Powerful 4-7-8 Breathing Technique


Have you ever noticed, when your child is in the grips of anxiety, how hard it can be to reason with them? And anything you may say or do just sends them spiralling out further?


When they’re in a state of stress, their nervous system becomes activated, which triggers their fight/flight response. In this survival state, their ability to think clearly and to reason is impaired (1).


Therefore the best thing you can do for your teen or young adult when they’re in this state is to first help them calm their nervous system. Take the foot off the accelerator and pump the brakes. And one of the fastest and most effective ways to achieve this is by using controlled breathing (2).


Here’s a simple tool many of our teen clients love and continue to use long after our coaching ends. It’ll help you guide your child into a calmer state next time they’re feeling panicky or overly anxious:


Step 1:

· Inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four.


· Concentrate on filling your lungs and abdomen with air.


· Let your body feel how air is filling your lungs.


Step 2:

· Hold your breath and mentally count to seven.


Step 3:

· Exhale slowly through your mouth while mentally counting to eight.


· Concentrate on getting all the air out of your lungs during that time.


Step 4:

· Repeat. Return to step 1 and continue the process for 3 or more times until they’re feeling calmer and more relaxed.


Start by calming your teen’s nervous system and fight-or-flight response. Then you’ll be able to better reason with them and help them act on what’s causing them to feel anxious.



2. The Ice Cold, Calming Face Dip

As early as the 4th century BC, the therapeutic benefits of cold water have been documented (3). It’s also one of my favourite stress-management, mood-boosting and performance enhancing hacks.


When your teen or young adult is feeling particularly anxious, see if you can encourage them to spend at least 5 minutes under a cold shower, bath, pool or ocean. If this is too much to start with, see if they’d be willing to finish off their hot showers with 30s of cold water and slowly work their way up over a couple of weeks.


If they refuse point blank to do anything of the sort and are giving you that, “OMG, have you completely lost it?” look, encourage them to dip their faces into a bowl of ice cold water whilst holding their breath for up to 30s (4). Once they’ve regained their breath, they can repeat the process two more times.


It sounds counterintuitive to dunk an anxious person in freezing cold water, I know. But in both scenarios, their body will begin to release a “concoction of chemicals” within minutes that’ll leave them feeling much better, clearer and more alive than before!(5). On top of that, the cold water triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the stress-response (6).



3. The Surprising Effectiveness Of A walk

Did you know that walking briskly for thirty minutes three times a week is as effective as the standard treatment of antidepressants for major depression?(7) And that walks as short as thirty minutes every day (or as often as possible) can lower heart rate, ease anxiety and relieve stress?(8).


So make it a daily bonding ritual and invite your teen or young adult to join you on walks in nature, on a nearby beach if there is one or around your neighbourhood. Even if you drag them out of the house and have them complain for 30 minutes, it’ll still be beneficial (for them!) And as their mood improves over time, so will yours. It helps to keep a long term view here 😉


4. Use Your Nervous System To Regulate Theirs

Hard truth…


When it comes to helping your teen with their big emotions, your emotional state and own ability to self-regulate is critical.9


Anxiety and the behaviour that comes from it is a sign of a distressed nervous system. And the most powerful language for one nervous system is another nervous system. So with a steady heart and calm nervous system, you are better prepared to gently guide your child’s nervous system back to feeling safe and calm once again.


We know that after a long day it can be so tempting to just jump in with solutions, judgment, irritation, maybe even exasperation – anything to make it stop. And quickly! The last thing you may want to do is calmly “be with” your child when they’re spinning out.


But it just doesn’t work. It often adds more fuel to the fire and makes your already difficult life even more difficult. The trick here is to gently respond in a way that says to your child, “You’re safe. And I’m on your side.”


5. Use Cognitive Reappraisal To Decrease Anxiety

Cognitive reappraisal is a fancy term for ‘changing the way you think of something’. It’s when you reinterpret a situation in a way that alters its meaning and changes its emotional impact without actually changing the situation.10 When we use this technique, we reframe our situation, this time paying more attention to the good things or downplaying the bad (without invalidating it).


Try this method with your teen or young adult:


1. When they fixate on something that’s causing them to feel defeated, nervous or overwhelmed, ask them, “What’s a more helpful way to view this situation?” It encourages them to reframe something difficult in a way that disarms the intensity of emotions it’s evoking.


2. When they’re jumping to conclusions that aren’t true, use the sentence starter, “That’s not true because…” and encourage them to complete the thought.


3. If they’re jumping to the worst-case scenario of an event, ask them, “What’s the most likely outcome going to be?”


4. When they’re feeling overwhelmed by a mistake, failure or setback of sought, ask them, “How could this be an opportunity for growth or learning? What other new opportunities may this lead to? Are you grateful for any part of this situation?”


By gently shifting their focus and thoughts, you can help shift their emotions. This makes cognitive reappraisal a really effective method for reducing emotions like anxiety (11).


Pro tip: What will help you better guide your child when using this tool is for you to first model it out loud before expecting them to do it. More important than any tool is how you use it. In this case, if used insensitively, it can be seen as dismissive and underplaying, which will further trigger your teen.



Wrapping Up

Anxiety doesn’t only affect the teen struggling with it. It can take its toll on the entire family – especially you, mom. So please look after yourself too!


Treating anxiety and changing your teen’s relationship with it can be a long journey. But an infinitely worthwhile one! And the sooner it’s treated, the sooner all your lives can improve. Most importantly, it’ll also help to prevent more potentially severe mental health problems from developing as they grow older.


If you find your teen isn’t improving or is particularly resistant to anything you have to share with them, it may be worth getting them a coach who can help them reduce their anxiety, develop their confidence and improve their resilience so they’re better equipped to not only cope with life’s challenges but thrive in spite of them.


Here’s to stronger, happier, healthier families and to your teen flourishing and thriving!




1. Schmader T, Johns M, Forbes C. An integrated process model of stereotype threat effects on performance. Psychol Rev. 2008;115(2):336-356. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.115.2.336


2. 2022. Breathing to reduce stress – Better Health Channel. [online] Available at:


3. 2022. The Internet Classics Archive | On Ancient Medicine by Hippocrates. [online] Available at:


4. Tomoko Kinoshita, Shinya Nagata, Reizo Baba, Takeshi Kohmoto, Suketsune Iwagaki, Cold-Water Face Immersion Per Se Elicits Cardiac Parasympathetic Activity, Circulation Journal, 2006, Volume 70, Issue 6, Pages 773-776, Released on J-STAGE May 25, 2006, Online ISSN 1347-4820, Print ISSN 1346-9843, 5. Watson, K., 2017. Cold Shower Benefits for Your Health. [online] Healthline. Available at:


6. 2022. What are the Benefits of Cold Therapy? | Wim Hof Method. [online] Available at: .


7. Duke University. “Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 1999.


8. 2022. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. [online] Available at:


9. Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Caregiver Co-regulation Across Development: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-80. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


10. Gross JJ, John OP. Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Aug;85(2):348-62. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.348. PMID: 12916575.


11. Hofmann SG, Heering S, Sawyer AT, Asnaani A. How to handle anxiety: The effects of reappraisal, acceptance, and suppression strategies on anxious arousal. Behav Res Ther. 2009;47(5):389-394. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2009.02.010

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