Of course, they want a new phone! But you’re the adult with the wallet and the wisdom. So don’t be afraid to throw in some “healthy” gifts along with The Most Wanted. Teens who battle anxiety, whether on an average level – such as sweaty palms before an oral presentation or butterflies before a date – or as a full-blown clinical disorder complete with panic attacks – can benefit from any of these gift ideas that double as stress-busters and can help them calm down:
1. Put Your Worries Here: A Creative Journal for Teens with Anxiety. This innovative book provides “therapy that doesn’t look like therapy!” 100 engaging prompts give teens fun but effective ways to manage anxiety in the moment. (Trace your toes! Shred your anxious thoughts! Break up with your anxiety!) Wrap this up with gel pens and watch them relax and smile.
2. Running shoes – or a basketball, yoga mat, or other athletic equipment that resonates with your teen. Or, a gym membership! Physical exercise consistently ranks as one of the top methods for dissipating stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and starting the flow of calming endorphins.
3. Essential oils. Lavender, rose, chamomile, jasmine, lemon balm, and ylang ylang are some of the most common suggested for anxiety and stress relief. A tiny vial tucked in their backpack can provide a quick calm-down tool before a test, or a diffuser in their bedroom can help promote relaxation and sleep.
4. Bubble wands. Yes, seriously! At my recent stress-busters presentation at the local high school, bubble wands and kinetic sand ranked at the top in most popular anxiety relieving techniques. Great stocking stuffer!
5. Weighted blankets. While the science isn’t there yet, these soft and heavier blankets have a calming effect for many people. Find one in your teen’s favorite color and let them curl up.
6. Nature videos. There’s a variety of great videos available that will repeatedly play soothing scenes of waves rolling onto a beach, waterfalls, sunsets, gentle rain, etc. Let your teen watch a bit of this at the end of the day instead of the horror movie.
7. Coloring books. Coloring helps teens move away from anxious thoughts and focus on the moment. Themed books range from wild animals, stained glass, flowers, butterflies or birds, to zodiac signs, beach scenes, tattoos, and muscle cars!
8. Kinetic sand. As mentioned above! This soft and non-sticking sand feels really soothing as it runs through your fingers. It can be squeezed, squished, formed, sifted, smashed, rolled, flattened – all while calming the body. AND, it’s super simple to clean up! It gives anxious teen hands something to relax with while doing homework, watching TV, talking on the phone or just chilling
9. Music. Yes, they’ve already got a gazillion tunes on their play list, but they might not have those songs that are scientifically proven to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol and relieve anxiety. Check out “the world’s most relaxing song” Weightless, here along with 10 other tracks that reduce stress.
10. A paper shredder. (???) Yes, a paper shredder! Teens feel so empowered when they write their anxious thoughts on paper and then put that paper through the shredder. Watching and hearing their stress disappear and be destroyed right before their eyes feels “so satisfying!” Buy a big one for their room or a small 7” x 2” that fits easily into a backpack or canvas bag.
Hey, parents . . . don’t forget that the best thing you can do for your anxious child is to be calm yourself. Pick something off of this list for you as well! And Happy Holidays . . .
Lisa M. Schab received a Bachelor of Science degree in interpersonal communications from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in clinical social work with honors from Loyola University of Chicago. She has 30 years experience as a practicing psychotherapist and 40 years experience as a freelance writer. Lisa has authored 18 self-help books for children, teens, and adults, including the international best-sellers, The Anxiety Workbook for Teens and The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens. She has been interviewed as an expert for articles appearing in The New York Times, Scholastic Choices Magazine, Teen Vogue, Psych Central, Today’s Parent, Parent Circle, and The Mother Company, among others. She has also written professional training courses available for continuing education credit through Professional Development Resources (www.pdresources.com,) and has authored regular columns on Tweens & Teens for Chicago Parent Magazine and Healthy Families for Sun Newspapers. Earlier in her career she spent six years as an early childhood teacher and one year as a school social worker. Lisa is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW.)