The Women’s Department at Newcastle church had an online programme discussing anxiety during the lockdown period on the afternoon of Sabbath 16 May. With mental health awareness week being held from 18-24 May, it was fitting to talk about the anxiety which many people are experiencing at the moment.
As a teen, I was asked to talk about anxiety from a teen's perspective. Other presenters spoke about anxiety from a youth, a young parent and as a high-risk individual, point of view. We also talked about Bible characters such as David, Ruth, Hannah and Jonah who experienced anxiety through different phases of their lives.
Anxiety is a normal, human feeling of fear or panic. When we face stressful situations, our brain uses the in-built alarm bell system to tell us something is not right and that we need to deal with it. Our brain wants the difficult situation to go away, so it makes us feel more alert, stops us thinking about other things, and even pumps more blood to our legs to help us run away!
Most people will experience some form of anxiety from time to time and this is quite normal when life becomes a little more stressful. Things like exams, presentations such as the one in this report, or running out of money can make us nervous and worried from time to time. Such anxious feelings do eventually go away and afterwards we usually calm down and feel better.
Unfortunately, some people end up having way too much anxiety and worry over a long period of time, which they struggle to control. Such anxiety can start to affect one’s life daily, and that’s when anxiety becomes a problem and may need some medical attention, whether it’s in adults or teenagers.
I would like to share with you a few things about anxiety from a teen’s perspective, in view of the current lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Anxiety in Teens
Teens are not exempt from anxiety. Did you know that:-
13.3% of 16 – 19 year olds and 15.8% of 20 – 24 year olds have suffered from problem anxiety?
This means problem-anxiety is much more common amongst teens than many adults think.
The Symptoms of Anxiety
There are many different types of anxiety; teens may find that they experience one or more of the following conditions. However, every teen’s experience with anxiety may be different.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
• feeling nervous, on edge, or panicky all the time
• feeling overwhelmed or full of dread
• feeling out of control
• having trouble sleeping
• low appetite
• finding it difficult to concentrate
• feeling tired and grumpy
• heart beating really fast or thinking you’re having a heart attack
• having a dry mouth
• feeling faint
• stomach cramps and/or diarrhoea/needing to pee more than usual
• sweating more than usual
• wobbly legs
• getting very hot
Anxiety During Lockdown
Quarantine isn't the best environment for people with anxiety. Lockdown conditions can be very stressful for everyone due to the feelings of isolation and change to their normal day to day routine.
Lockdown can lead teens to feel trapped and alone because it isn’t exactly the same without school and church, both of which offer a chance to meet friends. With social distancing, teens miss out on going out, eating out, shopping with school or church friends.
Even those teens or adults who don’t normally suffer from anxiety may still find these lockdown times particularly difficult.
Sadly, even when lockdown is lifted, whether partially or completely, the effects on our mental health will continue to be felt.
Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, a charity that supports people with mental health conditions, says that:-
"After you've been inside for a long time, it can feel very strange to go outside."
"You perhaps lose your confidence to do things you haven't had to in a while."
Dealing with Anxiety
Thankfully, there are things that can be done to reduce feelings of anxiety.
The charity ANXIETY-UK suggests that -
The first step is to speak to someone that you trust about how you are feeling. This could be a teacher, a parent, a relative or another adult that you trust. Talking to someone will reduce the pressure of anxiety and stress, it may also help you to realise that you are not alone in how you are feeling.
Under the current lockdown situation, with all the social distancing, it might feel like there’s no one to talk to apart from parents.
However, teens need to know they can, in confidence, talk to counsellors at charities that help teens with conditions involving anxiety, such as.
• The "No Panic" Youth Helpline for 13 - 20 yr olds
• YoungMinds Crisis Messenger.
In conclusion, we have seen that anxiety is completely normal. It is something that we all experience to some extent. However, if anxiety gets out of control or stops a teen from doing everyday things, then this can lead to feelings of unhappiness, upset and frustration.
When this happens, it's time to talk to someone about your feelings and get some help.
In addition, parents must educate themselves on issues such as anxiety so that they are able to spot the symptoms and therefore help to support their teens when they are going through a dark patch.
Above all, every one of us, both teens and adults can confidently lean on our faith in God as a source of strength to cope with all life’s challenges. I would like to conclude with this promise from the Word of God: -
"Give your worries to the Lord, and He will take care of you." ~ Psalm 55:22