Since the first lockdown, I have noticed an increase in the number of parents contacting me for help with their teenager.
The range of symptoms that they are experiencing has also grown. I have seen many who have developed a stutter, facial and body tics, OCD, health anxiety, social anxiety, anger issues, and no motivation for anything they used to enjoy.
Within this blog, I want to explain how and why this has occurred and more importantly how you can reduce these symptoms.
We have two very different parts of the brain. The conscious part is who we are, when we are working from this part of the brain we are generally positive, rational, and we look for solutions based on facts, not emotion. Think of a day when you are busy, doing many different things and you can adapt quite easily if things don’t go to plan, this is your conscious brain working at its best. We don’t have problems here, we find solutions and answers.
The second part is called the sub-conscious brain, it is also known as the fight, flight, and freeze brain or the “Chimp” brain. This part is always negative, obsessional, hyper-alert, and emotional it is much quicker and stronger than the conscious brain. Its main job is to keep us alive.
The sub-conscious brain activates when it believes that your life is in danger, if you saw a runaway tiger running towards you, this part would alert you to the danger, your heart rate and blood pressure would increase, your hands would sweat and you would be running away quickly. The same can happen in everyday living, if the chimp brain thinks your life is in danger it will start these physical changes and make sure you are alert to danger.
As a human race, we like routine and habits, many day to day tasks we do without thinking as they are already hard-wired into our brain. When we learn to drive, we find it difficult, there are many things to do and remember but after a few months it gets easier, we don’t have to think so hard. When things change in our lives our chimp brain becomes unsettled and believes we are in danger, our blood pressure and heart rate increases, our stomach churns, we can experience brain fog and we feel anxious, depressed, or angry.
During the pandemic, just about everything changed, we had no routine to follow, we had to adapt. Staying apart from friends and family, working and schooling from home, wearing face masks, and not being able to plan as news reports changed daily. This caused many of us to activate our sub-conscious mind, 24 hr news coverage caused us to fear our surroundings and trying to process all of this was difficult.
At this time teenagers were not just having to deal with changing hormones, school work, exams, pressure from social media but also the huge differences that the pandemic brought with it. It is of little surprise that many found the situation stressful and started to show symptoms of anxiety and depression. Activating the sub-conscious mind is tiring, your mind and body are getting ready to fight or run away from whatever is happening and if this continues more and more you will feel tired and worn out but because the Chimp brain can’t find solutions you notice that you achieve nothing.
The teenagers I have seen developed physical symptoms such as stuttering, tics, and vomiting quickly, the sub-conscious believed that this was an action that it could take that would help the person survive the stressful situation and it became a habit. The good news is that this can stop just as quickly when they access their positive conscious mind.
Understanding that you do have control over your thought process can give you the power to choose what is best for you. Unfortunately, we think negatively quicker and easier than we do thinking positively, remember our sub-conscious is quicker and stronger as it wants us to stay alive by looking out for dangers.
Thoughts are just thoughts, we don’t know what will happen in the future, we can imagine what we could do either in a positive or negative way. The sub-conscious thinks of the here and now in a negative way, the conscious brain will look forward in a positive solution-focused way. Our brain does not understand the difference between imagination and real life, when we are thinking the brain believes that it is actually happening. When we think negatively again and again and again, we believe our thoughts have really happened many times.
When we have a thought we can allow ourselves to decide if this is useful and helpful or if it is causing us anxiety and stopping us from doing things we enjoy. Choosing our thoughts carefully makes a huge difference in how we are feeling and coping. The difference between “I can” and “I can’t” or I will succeed” or “I will fail”, we don’t know what will happen but looking in a positive way allows us to move forward knowing we can adapt if life does not go to plan.
We come up with our best ideas when we are feeling relaxed, maybe going for a walk, doing a hobby, showering, or daydreaming. The reason for this is that we are not actively thinking about what we are doing, we are allowing both minds to tick away in the background so allowing the best solutions for us to appear, they always come to mind at the strangest times.
Teenage physical symptoms can disappear so quickly because those clients I have seen decided that the thoughts they were having were not helpful, there were no facts to back them up, so they decided what thoughts would help, how life would be better. Their anxiety reduced and so did their symptoms. Changing your thought process takes practice, the more you do it the more it becomes the norm. Anxiety and depression reduce and this allows us to do more, cope better and make decisions based on fact and not emotion.
If you would like my 5 Top Tips to help an anxious teenager to become a happy and confident adult here is the link https://www.subscribepage.com/anxious-teen
I also have a free Facebook group for parents of anxious teenagers where I give information, tips, and a weekly relaxation session, it is called the Happy and Confident Teenager. https://www.facebook.com/groups/392539025498400