Carter Weinstein is a freshman at Georgetown University and the author of Conquering Fear: One Teen's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety. Weinstein believes so many teens have anxiety currently because of increasing stress due to the pandemic.
“Teens today have an unprecedented amount of stress due to an immense amount of schoolwork, social pressure, and academic competition and college preparation,” Weinstein told us. "These stressors don’t even include personal struggles (e.g., family dynamics, health of oneself or loved ones, etc.). Teens are prone to have anxiety already, thus the pandemic (restricting them from seeing their friends, secluding them behind a screen, etc.) has only made matters worse.”
Weinstein believes having to navigate a new world due to the pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety among teens.
“Most teens are comfortable with constants: habitual actions and stability in our environments,” Weinstein told us. “It’s possible that teens struggling most with mental health felt secure with what life looked like before the pandemic and now, the shifting and many unknowns is unsettling to say the least. Their world has turned upside down by a new virtual reality - which amongst other things can be intense and isolating. Any disruption from the status quo for teens is cause for anxiety - let alone not knowing if and when the status quo will ever return.”
Weinstein believes teens are more apt to talk about anxiety because the culture has shifted where it’s becoming accepted to talk about mental health
“Public figures like Prince Harry and Michelle Obama, athletes like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, and artists like Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato - have come forward to voice their struggles with mental health,” Weinstein told us. “In fact, the Indianapolis Colts have done an exceptional job with their players, the NFL community and all of the fans - with their ‘Kick the Stigma’ campaign. Their intention is for conversations about mental health to be comfortable and widely accepted. All of these public figures have let us know that despite appearances, even the most successful people (in the eyes of teenagers) have challenges. Recognition that everyone is working through something and that no one is alone in dealing with challenges - will only lead to more productive and impactful conversations.”
In writing his book, Weinstein found there was a disconnect between the adult psychologists who wrote teen-self-help books, and the teens themselves reading them.
“In my own journey through anxiety, I had hoped to find someone who ‘looked’ like me (was similar in age and had similar interests) who could relate first-hand to what I was experiencing,” Weinstein told us. “When I could not find this, I decided to write my own book to provide that relatable perspective which might help others.”
Throughout the book, Weinstein shares anecdotes about his journey along with the tips and tricks that helped him conquer his own fears. While these things may have worked for him he said, they are just examples to help teens look for similar tactics that could help them.
“I experienced anxiety when I first went to sleepaway camp around the age of eleven,” Weinstein told us. “Although I was not aware of the terminology at the time, I certainly recognized the irregular feeling of overwhelming stress and all-consuming fear. My separation anxiety has been something I have been working on all of the time (from going to collegiate summer camps to participating in soccer id programs).”
Presently, Weinstein is away at university and believes he conquered his fear by continually utilizing the tips and tricks discussed throughout the book to better himself.
“This book is targeted towards teens and young adults (as well as caregivers such as parents, teachers and counselors),” Weinstein told us. “Ideally, I would love to get the book into the hands of every incoming high school freshman or college freshman, so out of the gate, they know that everyone has struggles and they are not alone.”
Tips that worked for Weinstein in overcoming his anxiety include finding a support person (parents, a school counselor, a professional), accepting that he wasn’t the only teen going through something, be willing to work and try new things, and making a plan with his support person/people. Other tips include small exposures, deep breathing/meditation, visualization, exercise, sleep, and distraction
“The only way to conquer your own fear is head on,” Weinstein told us. “It is an arduous process that requires a significant amount of mental fortitude. However, I believe that the success in the end is worth the struggle.”
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com