The teenage years are scary enough without experiencing anxiety too. There is so much growth in so little time and so much academic pressure today. Sometimes, your kid is not just ready for all they have on their plate.
Some young children mature faster than others, resulting in confusion for parents in terms of how much they can handle, as well as what they can handle. Kids who peak physically early may feel the pressure to be more mature and to “live up to their visual age.” Meanwhile, some slower developing tweens may fear getting left behind if they don’t keep up with their faster moving peers.
Complicating matters is that one out of eight teens experience generalized anxiety disorder. They experience a lot of internal worries and can be sensitive. They’re like fragile glass that could break when mishandled.
When anxious, people are prone to negative thinking. When faced with uncertainty, they imagine the worst possible scenario. They might even experience intrusive thoughts about people not liking them, strangers judging them, and failing at every task.
They are less present in their surroundings because they often worry about things going bad. That means they can appear unfocused and distracted. You might even notice a dip in their grades or their sleep being shortchanged because they are taking longer or in some way struggling to complete their homework.
Anxiety is so commonplace that it is openly talked about in popular media. In the series, “Healing Powers of Dude,” Noah’s dog, Dude, broke his father’s statue, so he enlists his friends to help him fix it. As they try to fix the sculpture, Noah imagines terrible things happening. His father’s career is in ruins. His mom is leaving his dad. His sister being forced into child labor.
That is what someone who is a negative thinker who always thinks the worst case scenario does and it just adds fuel to the fire of anxiety.
Helping Teens with Feelings of Anxiety
Fortunately, there are ways to help kids alleviate anxiety. One of the most important things is open conversation and of course love and acceptance from friends and family.
Teens with anxiety are often more insecure, so they may need assurance and encouragement. A parent has to be careful and not become a life preserver, balancing positive affirmations with an emphasis on your child gaining their own coping skills.
Anxiety looks different from person to person. Sometimes, people with anxiety may leave without reason or quickly “freak out” over small things. It’s essential to be understanding but also to encourage problem-solving. It’s good to express your belief in their abilities and strengths, but also cue them on how to manage uncomfortable sensations and thoughts.
Nutrition for Teenage Anxiety
You are what you eat. More than just a feel-good quote, this phrase has great significance in terms of your mental health.
The right food can calm the brain and lower stress and anxiety.
Your body is in a constant process of creating new cells. Your skin regenerates every 27 days. Your liver regenerates every five years, and your bones every ten. This may be surprising but your body is made up of the food you consumed within the last ten years.
So, before you eat anything, think about its impact on your functioning.
Essential Minerals and Vitamins Mental Health
Just as Omega-3 Fatty Acids directly impact heart health and vitamin E gives you glowing skin, certain nutrients support brain function and the lack of which can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and brain fog.
Here are some food and natural supplements that calm the brain and reduce anxiety.
Food and Natural Supplements for Teenage Anxiety
Numerous clinical trials worldwide have seen that certain natural remedies are as effective as prescription medications, and are even safer.
Mental and physical health problems are often caused by compounded stress and nutrient deficiencies, thus, taking stress-relieving supplements and other vitamins, minerals, and natural treatments can improve mental health.
Meanwhile, anti-anxiety medications might proclaim to reduce feeling stressed, but they also come with a host of side effects including:
- blurry vision
- drowsiness or fatigue
- loss of memory or concentration
- problems with balance, coordination, or speech
- upset stomach
It is important for parents to realize that vitamins and minerals can help calm the brain and keep the body healthy without the side-effects that can impact the developing brain of a teen.
Magnesium for Calm Brain
Magnesium fuels around 300 bodily functions. This includes regulating the body’s stress response, supporting the nervous system and metabolism, synthesizing antioxidants like glutathione, and maintaining cognitive function, attention, and desirable social behavior.
Magnesium is in demand within the body and is bound to get depleted. Unfortunately, most Americans have a magnesium deficiency. We are living very busy lives and stress depletes this essential nutrient.
What happens if people don’t get all the necessary vitamins and minerals?
There is a strong link between low essential nutrient intake and the risk of developing cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression.
Magnesium shortage is heavily linked to mental health issues, including anxiety, OCD and depression.
Meanwhile, supplementing with magnesium leads to lower stress levels, better sleep, high energy levels, and a calm disposition. For this reason, it was referred to either as the best anti stress supplement or best calm supplement by many experts.
Magnesium is among the safest supplements for stress regulation. It’s incredible how magnesium acts so fast in the body. Most people feel calmer within minutes.
You can also increase your magnesium levels by eating nuts, avocados, and legumes. School-age kids often enjoy seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and flax, which are high in magnesium.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Learning and Memory
Omega 3 Fatty Acids, present in flaxseeds and fish oil, are famous for their positive effects on heart health, including normalizing blood pressure.
However, Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also helpful in learning and memory, as they help build brain and nerve cells. They slow down age-related mental decline and ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Research shows us that an Omega 3 deficiency can lead to ADHD, anxiety and depression symptoms.
The supplement is deemed safe for children when given in appropriate doses. Omega-3 is the best natural anti anxiety supplement for kids. When choosing Omega-3 supplements for your child, ensure they contain EPA and DHA.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are naturally present in cold water, oily fish. Eating two servings a week can improve your heart health.
B Vitamin Complex for Stress-Relief
There are thousands of diseases worldwide, 90% of which are caused by stress. 70% of all physician visits are stress related.
Stress is a feeling of emotional and physical tension. As we strive to grow in school or work, we face the constant need to improve and adapt to change, and this can push us to a breaking point.
People under stressful situations experience mental and physical symptoms, such as anger, digestive troubles, fatigue, irritability, muscle pain, panic attacks, and sleeplessness.
Stress is a common trigger for anxiety. Managing stress is essential to remaining healthy and productive. The story of evolution is a story of adaptation to stress. Only those who were able to adapt through painful changes continued to thrive.
Stress has become an accepted part of daily life, yet most do little to counter it.
While challenges are unavoidable, proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise can help combat stress.
B Vitamins play an important role in reducing stress and decreasing symptoms of anxiety.
There are 8 B Vitamins
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate [folic acid])
- B12 (cobalamin)
These B vitamins support a variety of enzymes in different bodily functions, including producing energy from carbohydrates and fat, breaking down amino acids, and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients throughout the body.
From the list, the best supplements for stress and anxiety are Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12. All are water-soluble vitamins found in many foods and supplements.
Foods rich in Folate include:
Besides being great stress-busters, Vitamin B6 and B12 also fight cancer and heart disease.
Foods naturally high in Vitamin B6 include:
- dark leafy greens
Foods containing Vitamin B12 include:
- dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt)
Vitamin B Complex deficiencies have been linked to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. While one should always check with their provider, vitamin B foods and supplements are safe for children and help reduce anxiousness.
Food sources of other B Vitamins include:
- Vitamin B1 – berries, pork, legumes, lean meats, nuts, soy milk
- Vitamin B2 – dark green vegetables, eggs, fish, grains, lean meat, mushrooms
- Vitamin B3 – cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, tuna, poultry, potato, liver
- Vitamin B5 – avocados, broccoli, mushrooms, organ meats
- Vitamin B7 – soy products, egg yolks, fish, organ meats, cheese, sweet potatoes
Vitamin C for Dopamine Processing
Vitamin C is essential for overall health and plays a vital role in maintaining healthy brain function by modulating the neurotransmitter dopamine at the synapses in the brain. It is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables.
Calming Herbs for Kids
Herbs are safe for children and adults of all ages. However, research reveals these remedies are beneficial for children over age five. Parents can use essential oils and herbs in cooking and teas.
Lavender is one of the most popular teas and essential oils. Its soothing, floral aroma is known to promote relaxation and calmness. Lavender oil can be used in a diffuser or applied topically to the skin. It is also a common ingredient in many beauty and personal care products.
Lavender can alleviate anxiety symptoms in children by calming the nervous system. It’s also helpful for children who want to meditate and do breathwork to calm their busy minds and reduce physical tension.
In recent years, clinical trials have seen improvements in the mood of patients who use Lavender.
Chamomile is a natural way to help your child feel better. This herb may be known for working wonders for Peter Rabbit and also the many children who have used it for centuries to treat ailments, from fevers to anxiety.
Chamomile herbal remedies help induce sleep, enhance focus, and lower cortisol levels, the body's stress hormone. When cortisol is lower one can sleep better, lose weight, and mentally feel less stressed.
Chamomile tea is an enjoyable way to lower stress levels and can be served with ice.
Lemon Balm has numerous powerful benefits including its calming effect and mood-boosting properties. This fragrant herb is also known to improve cognitive performance and attention span.
Whether you enjoy its zesty flavor in tea or baked goods, lemon balm is sure to leave you feeling more relaxed and focused.
Herbal Supplements for Teens and Young Adults
Teens are going through a lot and it’s natural for them to feel anxious. These herbs have anti-anxiety and improved mood effects that can help with complex teen anxiety.
Like Lavender, Passionflower has calming benefits that ease anxiety levels. It can also calm a busy mind at night and improve sleep.
More potent than Lavender and Passionflower, Valerian root improves sleep in children and adults. Improved sleep leads to improved attention span and a positive mindset.
Valerian is among the dietary supplements not recommended for children below 7 years old.
Give Alternatives a Try
There are many science-backed alternatives to SSRI medications and anxiety medication that are safe and natural. Supporting the developing brain and making sure it isn’t negatively impacted by psychiatric medications is critical.
The good news is that supplements, herbs, teas, and nutrition can have a powerful impact on an anxious brain and body.
American Psychological Association (2022), What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?
Harvard School of Public Health (2022), B Vitamins
The Health and Food Supplements Information Service is by PAGB consumer healthcare association (2022), What happens if people don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need?
Mental Health First Aid by National Council for Mental Wellbeing (2018), Stress VS Anxiety
Mind Org UK (2022), Stress
Oregon State University (2017), Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: an Overview
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.