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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

8 Tips to Manage Anxiety During the Transition to College

Being a teen is stressful by default. Adding the whole "getting into college" process to the mix of

hormonal and emotional changes can push your child to their limit. If there's anything the recent college admission scandal has taught us is that things can easily get out of hand when there's so much pressure, ambition and decision making to address. In this post, we'll share 3 practical tips your teenager can follow to prevent and ease anxiety. We'll also discuss 5 ways that you can help them manage their anxiety during the application process and transition to college.


3 key tools for teens to manage their anxiety


1. Try relaxation techniques

Yoga, meditation and practicing diaphragmatic breathing are great relaxation techniques that help our bodies produce endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals. Yoga and meditation train our mind to focus on one thing, usually our body or our breath. Meditation, in particular, teaches us how to distance ourselves from negative thoughts by observing them rather than fighting them. This prevents thoughts from escalating and soothes anxiety. Diaphragmatic breathing, slow breaths from the belly, slows us down and automatically lowers stress levels.


2. Exercise

Perhaps the most effective stress reliever of all, exercise reduces stress in more ways than you think. It releases tension from our body, helps to produce endorphins, improves sleep quality, and boosts our energy levels and self-esteem. Exercise as simple and easy as a walk around the block will be effective in changing your mood.  Any exercise will do, but aerobic, yoga and martial arts are a touch more beneficial.


3. Follow a balanced diet and lifestyle

Refined carbs disguised as comfort food, like chocolate or potato chips, are fun to eat and taste great, however they also result in a “crash” which causes a drop in energy and mood.  Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine have a similar effect. What goes up must come down. By altering your mood with drugs, alcohol or sugar to create a short term high, you eventually come down from that high with increased symptoms of anxiety or depression.  Although there is no food or drug to magically reduce stress, a balanced diet and adequate hydration improves our mood, energy, and overall wellness. Why ruin that with unhealthy habits!


5 tools for how parents can help


1. Offer guidance without overstepping

It's funny how when we are asked to make life-changing decisions, we often forget to turn to our most reliable source for advice – our intuition. So, if you see that your teen is lost among all the options available, encourage them to trust their intuition. When they picture themselves in a certain class or a campus, or years from now in a certain profession, do they feel like they belong? Or is there something that doesn't quite feel right? Ask questions and write down their answers so that your teen can refer back to it if needed.


Remember that your role in this is advisory. Your opinions and ambitions can be helpful but not the focus. Your teen’s decision should be made based on their belief of their talents and personality. It’s important to support that, even if there’s a part of you that thinks differently.


2. Create a calm home environment

When your teenager is already feeling on edge, you don't want to add to it. So maybe turn a blind eye from time to time to those unwashed dishes, they may not be worth the nagging. (Your kids will love this one)


3. Love them unconditionally

Now more than ever, your teenager needs to feel loved no matter what. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts, and don't (ever) compare them with their siblings or classmates. That never ends well.


4. Put things in perspective

Don't obsess over choices already made or what happens next. It’s become very obvious that the college application process is a game, and where you are accepted is NOT an accurate representation of who your child is and all they have to offer the world.  Help them to get excited for the next steps in life, but also teach them to relax and seize the day.


5. Don't hesitate to seek professional help

Many anxiety symptoms can go unnoticed. For example, you can't really know that your child often experiences trouble breathing or worrisome thoughts unless they tell you. What you can know is that they are fatigued or fall sick easily, they are agitated, or have sudden outbursts. Maybe they even avoid social interactions and activities they used to enjoy. Don't dismiss these symptoms as mild stress that will go away. They may be the start of an anxiety disorder that if left untreated, it will only get worse.


The transition to college is a very stressful process and can increase anxiety in even the most  well adjusted teen. Discuss seeking the support of a mental health therapist. Therapy will not only ease your teen’s mind, but also teach them how to cope with the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.


At the end of the day, feelings of anxiety is a normal response to high-pressure situations and life events. Unfortunately, the college application process and transition out of high school fits into this category.  Your role in this is to be supportive and remind them that no matter what happens, life goes on – and it can go on many ways when you're only 18!


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