Worry Taming for Teens
Reprinted from "Treatment for Young People" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3 (1), p. 34
By E. Jane Garland and Sandra L. Clark; Vicki Earle (Illustrator). Vancouver, BC: Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of BC, 2002. 96 pp.
Worry Taming for Teens is a manual written for teenagers to help them cope with anxiety in their everyday lives. It provides tools that can empower teens to reduce anxiety and take charge of their lives.
The manual is written in a creative and interesting manner that is sure to hold the attention of teens. Cartoon-type illustrations help break up and highlight notable points in the text. The book includes a wealth of anxiety coping strategies for teens, as well as useful pointers to help parents maintain a calmer family life, and the workbook style allows teens to add their own anxiety coping strategies. One caution: the information on medication, however, may be dated now and should be discussed with a doctor.
Anxieties, or “worry dragons,” are deﬁned in the manual as worries, thoughts and scared feelings that follow you, frighten you and will not go away. Some worries only surface once in a while, such as when you have a test or have to talk in front of class. Sometimes, people worry constantly. And some worries and anxieties are normal and are necessary to stay safe and out of trouble. For example, a little anxiety can ensure you get your homework done. However, too much worrying is not good for you.
Teenagers worry about things like school, making friends, romantic relationships and doing well in sports. They worry about their physical appearance and about what other people think of them. In addition, teens think about the environment, global economics, jobs, health and family problems. While some worry helps to motivate them to be active in solving these problems, too much worry is a waste of energy— and can become a problem.
The authors provide a number of tools for “worry taming,” including time management (scheduling), overcoming procrastination (delaying or putting something off), mental imagery (thought-stopping and “worry trapping”), relaxation, changing self-talk and challenging perfectionism (a belief that one must be perfect). In addition, the manual talks about friendships and groups, sleep, “fuelling up” (eating healthily), mental rehearsal (imagining handling a situation calmly), laughter and exercise. Drs. Garland and Clark stress that while medication may be recommended in some cases, it should always be combined with anxiety coping strategies.
One of the tools listed above is mental imagery. An example of this is using your imagination to create a place, such as a drawer or a box with a lock, to put your worries into for safekeeping. This is “worry trapping.” You can choose a convenient “worry time” to take your worries out of the box and look at them more carefully—and think about ways of resolving them. You might talk them over with someone else. The authors also suggest picking a particular time to worry—not more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. They suggest “thought-stopping” if worries come outside of an established worry time.
Thought-stopping is an effective tool used in many areas of mental illness and addiction. It involves the interruption of invasive thoughts by visually imagining a stop sign, or imagining the act of putting your worries into a box. In such situations, distract yourself by doing fun things or ﬁnishing other tasks. Worries can be like a tape recorder—playing over and over again. To deal with your worries, you can imagine pressing the “off” button of the tape recorder. You can then imagine switching the tape on and off, to take control of your worries.
With more advanced tools, such as self-talk, you can master your worries by listening closely to what they say and then challenging them. Again, you can set aside special worry time to listen to your worries rather than allowing them to interfere with the rest of your life. To carry the tape recorder analogy one step further, the authors mention “changing the tapes” by changing self-talk from negative to positive.
After you have mastered the techniques of worry taming, you will have “tame thoughts,” “friendly daydreams” and “a mind full of creative ideas.” Then you can use your talent for creative imagination to work on real problems, such as writing an essay or doing a project for school.
I have used some of the tools outlined in the manual over the years and know they work if applied diligently. I have used self-talk to change negative self talk to positive self-talk, time management at work, relaxation (and yoga), spending time with friends, sleeping well, healthy eating, laughter and regular exercise. I have also successfully used mental rehearsal when I’ve had to do public speaking or presentations.
The success of the manual will be determined by the comments from teens who have used the anxiety coping strategies discussed. Sometimes results do not happen overnight, but they come gradually over time with the right attitude and proper motivation to effect change.
About the Author
E. Jane Garland, MD, FRCP (C), and Sandra L. Clark, PhD, RPsych, wrote this manual while working at the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Clinic of the Department of Psychiatry at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Mailis is a freelance researcher and writer. In 2005 Mailis completed a Gastown Vocational Services work practicum at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Vancouver
- Other books in the “Taming Worry Dragons” series published by the Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of BC
- Taming Worry Dragons: A Manual for Children, Parents, and Other Coaches,by E. Jane Garland and Sandra L. Clark (2000). Anxiety coping strategies for kids eight to 12 years old, with tips for parents and other coaches. Can be adapted for younger and older children.
- Taming Worry Dragons: Classroom Manual (Group Facilitator): A Psychoeducational Group Program for the Prevention of Anxiety, by Sandra L. Clark, E. Jane Garland and Christina Short (2004). An eight-week, classroom-based program for children ages eight to 12 on how to cope with anxiety, though can be adapted for both younger and older children. For use with The Kid’s Guide to Taming Worry Dragons.
- Facilitator’s Manual: Coping Skills for Children with Anxieties (Learning How To Tame Worry Dragons), by Sandra L. Clark (2000). An eight-week session program for teaching children anxiety coping skills, to be used with Taming Worry Dragons: A Manual for Kids, Parents and Other Coaches.
- Visit www.cw.bc.ca and click on Bookstore
- For more information on the Youth Pregnancy and Parenting Program, call the Evergreen Community Health Centre at 604872-2511, or visit www. vch.ca/community/Docs/ Community_Health_ Evergreen_Brochure.pdf