Resiliency Skills For Teens with Anxiety

resiliency skills for teens

Resiliency Skills For Teens with Anxiety

One common misperception parents and teens have is that the anxiety they experience is always proportionate to the stressful situations that they encounter. When people experience stressful situations, they often underestimate their ability to cope with these situations and feel stuck. Viewpoint Center empowers families to develop a different perspective when it comes to experiencing stressful situations that honors the stressful emotions these situations bring up and helps them work towards a sense of mastery and resilience. In our latest Whiteboard Wisdom video, our Assessment Director, Dr. Jordan Rigby, and primary therapist, Jessica Walker, discuss ways for teens with anxiety to develop resiliency skills and manage stress in a healthier way.

Why Do Teenagers Struggle with Resilience?

Adversity, discomfort, distress, and loss are all part of the human experience. But for teenagers, coming to terms with these experiences for the first time, it can feel earth-shattering and completely strip away any strategies they’ve developed to cope. There are different aspects of resilience that can help us when the rain starts pouring because we know that it is going to. We have the capacity to build that umbrella out and protect ourselves from the rain. 

When stressful situations occur, each of us have a “resilience” umbrella intended to shield us from the rain that is coming down. Sometimes that umbrella just barely covers our immediate surroundings and sometimes it is wide enough to invite a friend or two to stand underneath. Often, teenagers resist the idea of an umbrella altogether and choose to just wear a hoodie or a rain jacket, although they feel defeated when the rain soaks through their clothes. 

How Does Anxiety Get in The Way of Coping with Stress?

Teenagers who struggle with generalized anxiety are often hyperfocused on things outside of their control. Without a solid sense of what it feels like to be grounded and in control, their worries tend to multiply with no sign of stopping. When faced with a stressful situation, they feel powerless to change anything. Chronic worriers tend to believe that they have already mentally prepared themselves for every worst-case scenario and anticipate that they will never be able to successfully solve these problems. 

One reason that anxiety gets in the way of coping with stress is that teens with anxiety are typically looking for ways to avoid stress–by being hypervigilant, cautious, and inquisitive–rather than how to accept stressful situations and respond differently. By labeling stressful situations as overwhelming and hopeless, they are less likely to consider ways to separate stressful events from a stress response. 

At Viewpoint Center, we appeal to teenagers by validating that many life events are inherently stressful, but that it is not the event, but rather our response that determines whether we are able to face stressful situations and overcome the stress associated with it. The goal of our multidisciplinary assessments is not just to identify what is “wrong” with an individual, it is also to identify an individual’s strengths and give them tools to build these skills.

Ways Teens Can Build Resilience In Their Everyday Lives

  • Be hopeful and optimistic. It is easy to adopt a hopeless outlook on life when focusing on the rain. Negative thoughts often spiral when they are accepted as entirely true. While they usually stem from realistic fears, they often extend to the worst-case scenario. Challenge these negative thoughts by looking for evidence of reasons to be hopeful, whether that is reassuring themselves that the “trigger” is temporary or that they are in control of how they respond, rather than react.
  • Focusing on things you appreciate. While the situation may feel out of their control, considering the support that they do have can help bring teens back to baseline when feeling overwhelmed. Encourage them to name the people that care about them and appreciate them. If this is difficult, suggest affirmations like “I am loved,” “I deserve to be valued,” or “I am not alone.”
  • Identify the issue you are trying to problem-solve. Teens have a tendency to overgeneralize when they are feeling stressed out, which leads to a “me vs the world” mentality. While there may be many smaller events that contribute to their sense of hopelessness, identifying the immediate crisis helps them narrow down the strategies that they can use to problem-solve more effectively. By focusing on one goal at a time, they may learn that each challenge presented to them is an opportunity to reflect on what is and is not working for them and to adapt accordingly.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments. Accomplishments don’t always have to be rewarded with gold stars, certificates, or medals. Teenagers often look to others for approval and recognition, rather than relying on their internal compass to feel proud of themselves. A sense of accomplishment comes from viewing oneself as being able to do something well or focus on what’s in their control, not from external validation. Thes accomplishments do not always have to be shared with others to be seen as valuable. Teens develop confidence by collecting evidence that they can be successful–whether this is in school, in relationships, or in facing anxiety and stress.


ViewPoint Center Can Help

ViewPoint Center is a specialty hospital for teens who struggle with depression and other mental health issues. Located near Salt Lake City, Utah, ViewPoint Center is a comprehensive therapeutic assessment facility that is licensed and provides 24-hour nursing. Viewpoint offers comprehensive assessments. Post evaluation, treatment plans are established to meet the unique needs of each patient. By the end of the treatment period at ViewPoint, families have a clear understanding of the child’s diagnoses and are offered full guidance on how to move forward and seek proper treatment.

For more information, call 855-290-9682.