Stress and Anxiety in Teenagers
Young Peoples Unit, NHS Lothian
Cathy Richards Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Overcoming Anxiety

"Help, I need somebody"

When we are anxious and stressed itís often our close relationships that suffer the most. We stop making the effort to phone/e-mail / text our friends and feel rejected if they forget us. We withdraw into ourselves to avoid rejection and end up feeling isolated and unwanted. At other times we might say "No" to invitations to go out Ďcos I feel sure that I will be poor company and that I'm not really wanted anyway or that I will make a fool of myself and feel even worse'.

So what can I do to improve this situation?

  1. Accept that we all need friends.
  2. Donít wait for friends to read your mind, tell them what is wrong.
  3. Often our worries about what people will think of us stop us doing the things that will help so challenge your negative thoughts and try to experiment doing different things. ( see the leaves about thinking and problem solving for more ideas about this).
  4. Donít wait to be invited to watch a video or go shopping. Initiate things for yourself. Ring, e-mail or text message friends suggesting a trip to the cinema, a game of tennis or a coffee.
  5. Do make an effort to be interested in what is going on in their lives. It is easy to become very self-preoccupied when stressed. It is important to talk and to listen to others.
  6. Donít expect neglected friends, who may be feeling that you deserted them, to leap with joy the first time you ring. Persevere.
  7. Plan to go out and do things but donít be too adventurous. It is possible that shopping on a Saturday before Christmas will be too challenging and leave you feeling worse. Start with something really easy first, ask yourself what feels most manageable and go for that.
  8. Donít give up on your appearance, keep taking baths/showers and wearing clean clothes. It will help you to feel better as well as being more attractive to your friends.
  9. Alcohol and Drugs cause problems for both our physical and mental health. Using alcohol and illegal drugs when you are feeling low or anxious is simply another way of avoiding problems, and their use could also serve to make things worse for you. So, rather than avoiding dealing with your worries, avoid drugs and alcohol and use the coping strategies described in the other parts of the tree of wisdom to develop your emotional well-being and resilience. It is important to know the consequences of using illegal drugs. See
  10. The longer you avoid things (e.g. time with friends or going to school) the more frightening they will become. The only way to tackle this is to confront the things you are avoiding and start doing them again. This is really hard so ask for help from the easiest person you know.