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 Managing Anxiety, Teen

Managing Anxiety, Teen

After being diagnosed with anxiety, you may be relieved to know why you have felt or behaved a certain way. You may also feel overwhelmed about the treatment ahead and what it will mean for your life.

By learning how to manage short-term stress and how to live with anxiety you will feel more self-assured. With care and support, you can manage this condition.

How to manage lifestyle changes

Managing stress and anxiety

A teenager meditating outdoors while listening to music.

Stress is your body's reaction to life changes and events, both good and bad. When you are faced with something exciting or potentially dangerous, your body responds by preparing to fight or run away. This response, called the fight-or-flight response, is a normal response to stress. When your brain starts this response, it tells your body to move the blood faster and to prepare for the demands of the expected challenge. When this happens, you may experience:
  • A faster heart rate than usual.
  • Blood flowing to the large muscles.
  • A feeling of tension and focus.

Stress can last a few hours but usually goes away after the triggering event ends. If the effects last a long time, or if you are worrying a lot about things you cannot control, it is likely that your stress has led to anxiety. Although stress can play a major role in anxiety, it is not the same as anxiety. Anxiety is more complicated to manage and often requires treatment. Stress does play a part in causing anxiety, so it is important to learn how to manage stress more effectively.

Talk with your health care provider or a counselor to learn more about reducing anxiety and stress. He or she may suggest some ways to reduce tension (tension reduction techniques), such as:
  • Music therapy. Spend time creating or listening to music that you enjoy and that inspires you.
  • Mindfulness-based meditation. Practice being aware of your normal breaths while not trying to control your breathing. It can be done while sitting or walking.
  • Deep breathing. To do this, expand your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose. Hold your breath for 3–5 seconds. Then exhale slowly, letting your stomach muscles relax.
  • Self-talk. Learn to notice and identify thought patterns that lead to anxiety reactions and changing those patterns to thoughts that feel peaceful.
  • Muscle relaxation. Taking time to tense muscles in your body and then relaxing them.
  • Visual imagery. This involves imagining or creating mental pictures to help you relax.
  • Yoga. Through yoga poses, you can lower tension and promote relaxation.

Choose a tension reduction technique that fits your lifestyle and personality. Techniques to reduce anxiety and tension take time and practice. Set aside 5–15 minutes a day to do them. Therapists can offer counseling for anxiety and training in these techniques.


Medicines can help ease symptoms. Medicines for anxiety include:
  • Antidepressant medicines. These are usually prescribed for long-term daily control.
  • Anti-anxiety medicines. These may be added in severe cases, especially when panic attacks occur.

Medicines will be prescribed by a health care provider. When used together, medicines, psychotherapy, and tension reduction techniques may be the most effective treatment.


Two teens talking outdoors. One teen is sitting on a skateboard.

Relationships can play a big part in helping you recover. Try to spend more time talking with a trusted friend or family member about your thoughts and feelings. Identify two or three people who you think might help.

How to recognize changes in your anxiety

Everyone responds differently to treatment for anxiety. Recovery from anxiety happens when symptoms decrease and stop interfering with your daily activities at home or work. This may mean that you will start to:
  • Have better concentration and focus.
  • Sleep better.
  • Be less irritable.
  • Have more energy.
  • Have improved memory.
  • Spend far less time each day worrying about things that you cannot control.

It is also important to recognize when your condition is getting worse. Contact your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with home, school, or work, and you feel like your condition is not improving.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Get enough exercise. Find activities that you enjoy, such as taking a walk, dancing, or playing a sport for fun.
    • Most teens should exercise for at least one hour each day.
    • If you cannot exercise for an hour, at least go outside for a walk.
  • Get the right amount and quality of sleep. Most teens need 8.5–9.5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Find an activity that helps you calm down, such as:
    • Writing in a diary.
    • Drawing or painting.
    • Reading a book.
    • Watching a funny movie.


  • Spend time with friends, especially outdoors.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein.
    • Do not eat a lot of foods that are high in solid fats, added sugars, or salt (sodium).
  • Make choices that simplify your life.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and certain over-the-counter cold medicines. These may make you feel worse. Ask your pharmacist which medicines to avoid.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits. This is important.

Where to find support

If methods for calming yourself are not working, or if your anxiety gets worse, you should get help from a mental health care provider. Talking with your health care provider or a counselor is not a sign of weakness. Certain types of counseling can be very helpful in treating anxiety.

Talk with your health care provider or counselor about what treatment options are right for you.

Where to find more information

You may find that joining a support group helps you deal with your anxiety. The following sources can help you locate counselors or support groups near you:

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a hard time staying focused or finishing daily tasks.
  • You spend many hours a day feeling worried about everyday life.
  • You become exhausted by worry.
  • You start to have headaches or frequently feel tense.
  • You develop chronic nausea or diarrhea.

Get help right away if:

  • You have a racing heart and shortness of breath.
  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life, get help right away. Go to your nearest emergency department or:
  • Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).
  • Call a suicide crisis helpline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988 in the U.S. This is open 24 hours a day in the U.S.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 (in the U.S.).


  • Stress can last just a few hours but usually goes away. When stress leads to anxiety, get help to find the right treatment.
  • Certain techniques can help manage your tension and prevent it from shifting into anxiety.
  • When used together, medicines, psychotherapy, and tension reduction techniques may be the most effective treatment.
  • Contact your health care provider if your symptoms interfere with your daily life and your condition does not improve.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.