Managing teenage stress and anxiety is a daily task in our house. We have a supply of assorted objects that my teens turn to when the anxiety rises. I’ve learned to let them select which stress reliever will work best for them in any given moment–letting them discover their own course for self-soothing. Some things sit untouched for weeks only to become their #1 choice later on; patience is the key. Here are some of the items we’ve found that have proven especially effective. I’ve also included a few new things that will be under our tree come Christmas morning. (Please note the affiliate links below.) ,
Plastic ice cubes
I found a little bag of these at our local Aldi and figured we’d use them for our summer drinks, but they’ve come in handy as a sensory tool for when my daughter’s anxiety starts to loop. The feel of the ice cold cubes in her hands helps divert her mind and break the looping–and they don’t melt! They can be left around (I’ve found them in the most unusual places), rinsed off and reused over and over. Honestly, the best anxiety hack I’ve ever come across. You may find them at your local dollar store or party goods store, but you can also get them online.
Believe the hype, they really do help calm you down. I’m seeing them at retail stores now, but they’re horribly expensive. I made ours a while back from a twin sheet folded in half. They don’t need to be the size of a regular blanket, just big enough to cover the body. If you have basic sewing skills (or know someone who does) they are easy enough to make at a fraction of the retail cost. Check out this video tutorial.
Steer away from the many sound-making apps available because they keep your teen tied to their smart phone. To reduce anxiety a teen needs to distance themselves from technology (at least temporarily). Having an internet free device like this one provides soothing wave or wind sounds and gives your teen the aural and physical escape they need.
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty
This putty is a perfect fidget toy for teens since it takes a bit of work (and heat) to get it to optimal pliability and it snaps and pops, which is fun. It never dries out and is safe left out on solid surfaces, but don’t let your teen leave it on fabric or a tree trunk as you’ll never get it out. (I speak from experience!) Plus, the metal tin is pretty cool. Comes in many colors, scents, glow-in-the-dark, magnetic and different size tins. But teens have big hands, so start them out with the 3.2 oz size (you’ll be surprised how long it lasts).
This anti stress lip balm is scented with eucalyptus and spearmint. It provides discreet relief if your teen’s anxiety peaks at school or out in public–they can just apply it to their lips and inhale deeply. A great stocking-stuffer or as part of a package of Bath & Body Works stress relief lotions and bath salts.
I used to think that by now my daughters would have heard every one of my stories about growing up, but this book proved me wrong. It’s an interactive journal that deepens relationships between mom and daughter. Mom fills out one side, “What I wanted to be when I grew up,” and daughter fills out the opposing page, “Three things I might want to be when I grow up and why.” We pass it back and forth on our bed pillows. Don’t give up if it sits idle for a while, just pick it back up when time and interest dictates.
This new company offers temporary tattoos that have hundreds of different inspiring, affirming messages in beautiful designs. Each tattoo lasts up to 10 days (with proper application) and can have a profound effect on teens by reminding them of intentions, values, goals, etc. Tattoos are sold individually or in “manifestation packets” on various themes such as self-love, gratitude, and being present.
These rubber-like tubes can be stretched to great lengths, twisted, squeezed and knotted up over and over again. A great colorful fidget toy for when working on homework or for those high stress moments.
We all know that sucking on a pacifier has a calming effect for babies, but did you know we never really outgrow it? Teens won’t want to walk around with a Nuk in their mouth, but a candy sucker? You bet! This year I’m getting my girls these sugar-free ones from Candy Creek; I’m starting with the sampler set.
These have been a go-to item in my daughter’s tool-kit. There are plenty of options to choose from, including Zentangle and Harry Potter themed ones that might be more appealing to boys. My daughter colored this entire book, I think because she valued the positive messages that were part of the design. Don’t forget to include a new set of markers and colored pencils–don’t go cheap here, getting quality supplies shows your child that you value this activity for them.
Hiking Boots, Outdoor Gear
Spending time outdoors is a great for anxiety relief. (Learn more here.) Encourage your teen’s Vitamin “N” by steering them–and your whole family–outdoors more with the proper equipment. Family hikes, bike rides, and any other outdoor activity shows immediate benefits to managing stress.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. I’d love to hear what else you’d add to this list!