Anxiety expert offers advice for teens

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Anxiety expert Lynn Lyons gives a talk to students and teachers at MVRHS about strategies for coping with anxiety and depression. —Elizabeth Dourian

By Alicja Vickers

For many teens, the stresses related to school — sports, relationships, college applications, and dozens of other pressures — hover over the heads of students like concrete blocks ready to crash.

To offer helpful ideas for handling stress, Lynn Lyons, a licensed clinical social worker, delivered a talk to regional high school students last week.

The talk ignited mixed emotions and opinions in students, with some agreeing completely and some disagreeing.

Ms. Lyons started off by explaining what anxiety means, and what causes anxiety. “With teens, I think the main causes that I hear are pressure to do well in school, worry about the future, and worries about social things, like friendships and fitting in,” said Ms. Lyons.

Many students can agree that striving for academic success may cause anxiety in teenagers. Tenth grader Victoria Scott is one of them: “For me personally, I get stressed out when it comes to school, for sure. I take pride in getting good grades, yet it isn’t always easy when you have other commitments such as sports and extracurriculars. It’s easy to get stressed. After the talk, I realized that most high school students go through the same thing,” said Victoria.

“I think having her come to our school was a good idea,” said 10th grader Katie Morse. “She taught us how to deal with anxiety, which is helpful, because some teens use drugs and alcohol as a way of dealing with it, so it was good she educated us on alternatives to that.”

Some alternatives Ms. Lyons mentioned were treating anxiety as if it were background noise. She pointed out that there is not a way to make anxiety immediately go away. She also stated that kids not knowing how to deal with it sometimes turn to substances and alcohol.

“Teens turn to alcohol to help their anxiety because it is very disinhibiting. If you are socially anxious, it masks your fears and helps you engage. Marijuana helps some kids escape and check out, so they see it as a relief to their anxiety,” said Ms. Lyons. She further explained at the assembly that alcohol and drugs are not the answer because they are only a way of escaping and not of dealing with and accepting the issue.

“Some students disagreed with what she was saying, but I completely thought she had good evidence and proof to back up her statements,” said 11th grader Jake Hairston.

As the assembly went on and students began to form their opinions, some started to disagree with what she was saying. “She kept repeatedly using examples such as fear of podiums, planes, and little things like tests, but I think she was missing the big picture,” said ninth grader Violet Cabot. “She didn’t seem to understand that anxiety isn’t just little fears in your day-to-day life, it’s a chronic feeling many have because of overall stress and fear of bigger things like social interaction.”

Tenth grader Isis Burt also had a strong opinion on the assembly’s contents. “I think Lynn Lyons addressed only accessible anxiety. It was as if she was trying to invalidate anxiety and depression’s effects on people’s lives,” said Isis.

“I think the assembly was a great idea. Its main goal was to provide different ideas to handle anxiety and break the myth of what anxiety really is. I believe it helped accommodate many students with anxiety,” said French teacher Pierre Bonneau.