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Teen Anxiety--Tips for Staying Calm in a Changing World PDF Print Email

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By Jennifer Naparstek Klein, Psy. D., The Counseling Center


Jan. 30, 2019:  Anxiety is a basic function of survival--humans and other animals depend on this natural warning system to alert them to danger so they can protect themselves from potential harm. Usually, this alarm system becomes activated in legitimately stressful situations. For people living in current-day Westchester County, that might include making a public presentation, going on a first date, being called on in class by an intimidating teacher, receiving a stern warning from a boss, or enduring a parent saying something “totally embarrassing” in front of “all of my friends!” For a mouse, the sight of a snake approaching for a tasty snack would constitute a stressful situation, and, in fact, snakes and other predators can be pretty alarming to humans as well. But most often what we experience as a stressor is not what happens to us in the woods but what occurs in the office, the classroom, and, for teens, at the lunch table or at a party.

The parts of the brain that manage our anxiety responses are the amygdala, often thought of as the emotional center in the brain; two parts of the frontal lobe, cognitive centers that help us decide if the threat is real and manageable; and finally, the hippocampus, our memory center for threatening events and trauma. Whenever we experience a stressful situation, these three areas have little conversations with each other and collaborate to create our response, releasing neurotransmitters to effect a behavioral reaction. For many people--an estimated 40 million or more in the U.S.--the anxiety centers are overactive. Their systems operate on high alert most of the time. As you can imagine, this is not a comfortable way to live, and therefore attention to anxiety disorders is a major part of mental health care in the U.S.

Several kinds of disorders fall within the category of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, social phobia, panic disorders/agoraphobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Often teenagers’ symptoms do not rise to the level of these disorders, but many struggle to deal with unease, nervousness, worry, dread, and even fear. As their brains develop, and as they grow from children into young adults, their daily lives can be fraught with very palpable anxiety.

In my seventeen years as a psychotherapist here in Bronxville, during which a good portion of my practice has focused on teens, I’ve noticed some trends in terms of what teens are most worried about. Of course, in treating school-aged teens spanning ages 13 to 18, I see a lot of growth and development and therefore shifts in what my clients worry about and what they prioritize. Their most common concerns are: 

1. Fitting in socially, or, alternatively, feeling left out. This encompasses pressures associated with conforming to a group versus defining their individuality.

2. Relationships at home--how they get along with parents and siblings.

3. Performance--struggles to meet academic and extra-curricular expectations/college goals.

4. Sexuality--worries associated with sexual exploration, expectations, and identity.

5. Independence versus dependence--this concern can overlap with worries about relationships at home, but it’s significant enough to deserve its own category.

6. Other stressors in the home, such as chronic disability or illness, death of loved ones, divorce and marital discord, etc.

How teens handle these stressors while going through puberty, with its hormonal upheavals and continued brain development, are influenced by heredity, learned coping mechanisms, natural and learned resilience, peer influences, substance use, exercise, and the ability to care for oneself.

Of course, what will relieve the anxiety is unique for each person, and special goals must be tailored to the person who is struggling. A good starting place might involve talking with others: sharing one’s stress with loved ones, friends, school counselors, grandparents--any trusted person. Freud coined the term “the talking cure,” and when dealing with anxiety, having conversations, working through problems and finding solutions, can be enormously cathartic. Once an anxious teen gains some perspective, he/she can begin to learn to use “self-talk,” a skill that involves talking oneself down--chipping away at the anxiety to get to a calmer place. When a teen is dealing with deeply distressing moments, feeling even a little bit calmer can bring substantial relief. 

Since anxiety has such a strong impact on our bodies, and our minds work much better when our bodies are calm, it’s always a good idea to try to counter the physiological reactions associated with stress. Taking slow, deep breaths lying down, and even doing some calming yoga poses or stretches until breathing and heart rate return to normal can be soothing. Some people like to listen to music, take long baths, or practice meditation or mindfulness exercises. Physical exercise also contributes to psychological wellbeing by helping us expend excess energy. Perhaps most important, sleep deprivation or unhealthy eating run counter to psychological wellness. When we sleep well and eat well, we prepare ourselves to handle stress more effectively. 

If you’re a parent or other trusted adult who has made these suggestions and your teen has seemed to reject them all, take heart--they might be secretly listening! However, sometimes teens can feel so overwhelmed with anxiety that they don’t believe that anything could possibly help. In such high-stress moments, it can be difficult to put strategies to use. But in my experience, those who try--taking small steps and being persistent--often begin to see positive results at managing stressful moments. Each success builds a teen’s confidence, and one achievement adds to another.      

Finally, don't be afraid to reach out to a professional. Even a short stint in psychotherapy can help an anxious person, especially during the teen years when things change so rapidly and new demands arise regularly. 

Pictured here: Jennifer Naparstek Klein.

Photo courtesy The Counseling Center of Bronxville

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

 

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Sunrise Senior Living

500 North Columbus Avenue
Mount Vernon, New York 10552
914-667-5660

www.sunriseseniorliving.com


The Osborn

101 Theall Road
Rye, New York 10580
914-921-2200

www.theosborn.org

Bereavement

The Bereavement Center of Westchester

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York 10707 
(914) 787-6158

www.thebereavementcenter.org

Chemical Dependency Services

The Maxwell Institute

The Maxwell Institute of St. Vincent's Westchester offers outpatient chemical dependency treatment and education services for adults, adolescents and their families. Treatment includes individual and group psychotherapy, couples counseling, and psychiatric evaluation and medication management when indicated. The Institute welcomes individuals and family members who are experiencing marital and/or work-related distress as a result of alcoholism and other forms of chemical dependency.

The Maxwell Institute also offers community education services through its programs in drug and alcohol prevention in the schools. For persons wishing to become credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors (CASACS) in New York State, the "Maxtrain" program provides the 350 classroom education hours that are an important part of the credentialing requirements.

The Maxwell Institute is grateful for the support of The Community Fund of Bronxville-Eastchester-Tuckahoe.

92 Yonkers Ave
Tuckahoe, NY 10707
(914) 337-6033

www.stvincentswestchester.org/maxwell

 

 

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Counseling Center

Founded in 1971, the mission of the Counseling Center “is to provide a wide range of psychotherapeutic and counseling services to individuals, couples and families by a staff of highly trained, experience and dedicated psychotherapists.
Director: Virgil Roberson

The Counseling Center
180 Pondfield Road Bronxville,
New York 10708
914-793-3388

www.counselingcenter.org

Dentists

Dr. Henry A. Blom

10 Studio Arcade
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1157


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Bronxville Dental Care

Jenny A.  Kanganis, D.D.S.

Guy N. Minoli, D.D.S.

Since 1994, Dr. Kanganis and Dr. Minoli of Bronxville Dental Care have been leaders in the dental community, providing exceptional dentistry to generations of Bronxville families. They have a long history of excellence and have earned a reputation built on trust, compassion, and dedication. Drs. Kanganis and Minoli believe in a conservative, holistic, and minimally invasive approach to dentistry. Bronxville Dental Care welcomes patients of all ages and offers a comprehensive range of services, including cosmetic and restorative dentistry, implants, and pediatric dentistry. Dr. Kanganis especially loves treating children. As a mother herself of two recent Bronxville High School grads, she understands the importance of helping children to feel comfortable during their visits, while earning their trust and teaching them to become active participants in their oral health.

20 Studio Arcade

Bronxville, New York 10708

(914) 337-6536 
www.bronxvilledentalcare.com


Dr. Anthony Fiore

44 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-3863


Dr. Quentin M. Murphy

77 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1004


Scarsdale Pediatric Dental

777 Post Rd.
Scarsdale, NY 10583-5000 
Phone: 914. 472. 9090 
http://www.scarsdalepediatricdental.com/


Dr. Michael J. Vitale

1 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-8430

 

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Dr. Lesa Kelly

77 Quaker Ridge Road
New Rochelle, New York
914-637-2663


Dr. Neil Goldberg

77 Pondfield Road Ste 2
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-4499

Ear, Nose and Throat

Dr. Mark Fox

ENT and Allergy Associates
1 Elm Street
Tuckahoe, New York 10707
914-961-2515

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Lawrence Home Care of Westchester

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, NY 10707
(914) 787-6158
www.lawrencehomecare.org

 

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Jansen Hospice and Pallative Care

670 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
(914) 787-6158
www.jansenhospice.org

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New York Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital

In July 2014, Lawrence Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Hospital established a new relationship aimed at enhancing care, improving access and lowering health care costs for residents of Bronxville and surrounding communities in Westchester County. Lawrence was renamed New York-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital.

Lawrence Hospital Center was founded in 1909 and is a 291-bed acute care facility with over 1100 employees and 400 physicians. It provides emergency care to approximately 35,000 individuals every year.   It became a designated New York State Stroke Center in 2006.  Its physicians provide expertise in virtually every area of medical specialty and include over 100 primary care physicians. And, Lawrence delivers about 2000 babies every year in the home-like setting of newly designed Labor and Delivery recovery rooms.

Outpatient services include diagnostic testing and laboratory services, ambulatory surgery options, and rehabilitation and sports medicine services. The Hospital has a Women`s Imaging Center where female patients receive diagnostic services in a private setting. Outpatient physical therapy, lymphedema therapy, speech and occupational therapy services are provided both on-site at the Hospital and at Lawrence`s satellite center, The Center for Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, in Scarsdale.

The Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The Hospital is fully licensed by the New York State Department of Health. Lawrence`s laboratory is accredited by the College of American Pathologists.

55 Palmer Avenue
914-787-1000 (main number)

Internal Medicine Physician

Dr. Anne Galloway

77 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-4986


Dr. Kerrianne Page

14 Studio Arcade
914-779-9066


Dr. Raymond Chow

700 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York
914-723-2446

Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Polly Kanganis

4 Studio Arcade, Bronxville, NY 10708
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-771-9441


Dr. Thomas J. Rubeo Jr. MD
Bronxville Women's Care, Pllc
One Pondfield Road, Suite 302
Bronxville, NY 10708
914-337-3715

Orthodontists

Dr. Patricia Halloran

55 Park Avenue
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-1239


Dr. Joseph Ciccio

1 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-4700

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Dr. Peter Rizzo

77 Pondfield Road
914-337-1118


Dr. Michael Elia

1 Stone Place
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-337-3976

Pediatricians

Westchester Health Pediatrics (formerly Children’s Medical Practice of Bronxville)
1 Elm Street
Tuckahoe, New York 10707
914-337-7474


Scarsdale Pediatric Associates
2 Overhill Road Suite 220
Scarsdale, New York 10580
914-725-0800


Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
495 Central Avenue
Scarsdale, New York
914-725-7555

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