Even before the COVID 19 pandemic began, anxiety in teens and young adults was on the rise.
“According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder” (McCarthy, 2019).
What is to blame for this steady increase in mental health issues in our young people? Well, as it turns out, it is a combination of factors. Pressures to succeed in a very competitive workforce has contributed to the decline in mental health, as well as the rise of social media (i.e., seeing everyone’s “highlight reel” on Facebook, Instagram, or Snap Chat can certainly make the average teen feel “less than”) and increasing threats in the world (lockdowns, active shooter drills, etc.). The combination of all of these environmental factors can be deadly if unmanaged in our youth.
Below, parents will find a list of sensory items and books that can help teens and young adults manage anxiety.
Top 5 Fidgets and Sensory Experience Items
For a younger child, this might look like a squeeze ball or a fidget toy of some sort. And for teens, “worry jewelry” like this is popular. A textured worry ring like this that a teen can fidget with or spin around his or her finger when feeling anxious can provide great relief.
Worry stones like this have become increasingly popular in recent years. These stones have an indention in the middle where pressure can be applied with the thumb for some pressure point relief. Stones can be plain black or brightly colored, depending on preference.
“Faith” stones are also popular, even if you do not prescribe to a particular faith. These stones have a word or mantra engraved on them, such as “faith” or “hope.”
Mood or Lava Lamps
Light therapy is said to help with depression and seasonal affective disorder. Teens that experience anxiety are also often struggling with depression. Classic lava lamps can be very soothing in the same way that a sensory timer is therapeutic for younger children.
Weighted blankets are extremely popular right now, but there are a plethora of other weighted items available as well. For example, a weighted eye mask can provide a much needed rest break for an anxious teen that struggles with getting proper rest. Some can even be refrigerated and used for headaches as well.
Even as an adult, I can fidget with mermaid-style pillows like this for hours, drawing intricate designs in the sequins. These are a favorite for all ages!
Top 5 Books for Teens with Anxiety
Be Fearless in the Pursuit of What Sets Your Soul on Fire by Papeterie Bleu
Don’t underestimate the power of an adult coloring book. Coloring is extremely therapeutic for all ages, and we love this one with inspirational messages.
Wreck This Journal! by Keri Smith
Whether your teen is artistic or not, this journal will provide some therapeutic relief as it has prompts that direct teens to draw, shred, paint, transform, etc. Teens can work through sadness, anger, frustration, etc. in one sitting!
The Ultimate Self Esteem Workbook for Teens by Megan MacCutcheon
Created by a licensed professional counselor, this workbook has exercises to help teens discover and play to their strengths, as well as plenty of personal testimonials from teens just like them.
Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide by Natasha Daniels
Powered by the desire to write a book teens will actually read, this self-help style book will help teens recognize that inner voice that bullies them and kick it to the curb.
The Mindfulness Journal for Teens- Prompts and Practices to Help You Stay Cool, Calm, and Present by Jennie Marie Battistin
This book has dozens of breathing exercises, guided meditations, and journaling activities that will enable teens to slow down, be present in the moment, and gain the peace of mind that comes with mindfulness.
Teens are also welcome to check out our dedicated self-help page on anxiety and stress, which includes top tips, videos, and relatable stories to help teens cope with feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress.
As stated in my recent article, Gadgets, Books, and Strategies to Battle Anxiety in Young Children, managing anxiety in teens requires a willingness to experiment and find what is working best for your child at a certain period of time. This is an ongoing, flexible process that ebbs and flows with success and temporary setbacks.
During these times, it is important to have a strong community that will empower you as the parent to stay strong in your efforts. Reaching out to local support groups is recommended, as well as maintaining friendships and relationships to keep your own mental health strong.
The Lily-Jo Project also offers a free Facebook Group to support parents during these unprecedented times. Resources of all kinds are posted frequently. I am a moderator for the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join this group here!
McCarthy, C. (2019). Anxiety in Teens is Rising- What’s Going On? Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.