We caught up with Scilla Andreen who is the Producer of Angst which is a movie that teaches students and parents how to dialogue about anxiety. In this episode, Scilla shares her best anxiety tips and tactics for managing it.
Anxiety Tips for Teens & Parents (From Angst The Movie Producer) Key Takeaways
- Sometimes what kids need is a breathing room. They need space. Let’s give them a moment. Acknowledge what they’re feeling is real and validated. Be a good listener.
- If you want to get your kids to open up, share a little bit of your own vulnerability. Take your parent hat off for a minute. Be another human being who was 14 at one time.
- We have the tools that we need to get through anything. It’s a mental exercise to pull those tools out and use them when we need them.
How do you open up the conversation around anxiety?
I went to a mental health conference in Hong Kong that was attended by people from all over the world. I presented the movie, Angst. There is an absolute desperation from parents, students, and educators. There are so many forms of anxiety, it just runs the gamut. It was amazing how people viewed the film. It is a great opportunity to open up the conversation, to drive and blow right past all the uncomfortable aspect of opening up or starting the conversation.
Can you talk to us about how the film Angst breaks the process down?
The best part is the stuff that’s a little bit more obvious. It’s all young people from age 8 to 24, parents, and experts talking in the film. It’s the students who are talking about anxiety. Some are in therapeutic environments so they’ve learned to master the dialogue. Then there’s also the other half of students in our film who are not in therapy; they’re not in a professional therapeutic setting. They’ve learned to reach out to people and it’s a practice. It’s like an exercise, it’s a muscle and you have to use it. We have not been using it.
How do kids respond to the movie?
We’ve booked about a hundred screenings since we launched September 25th. I’ve gone through so many screenings. I’m always hoping that we’re gonna get a ton of students there. The audiences are maybe 25% students. They are sitting there with their parents and look like they don’t want to be there. They are not the first to ask questions. The parents then raise their hands and ask questions. Sometimes it makes the students uncomfortable. We realized when kids watch it alone with their own peers; they are more engaged. They answer more questions, they participate, and they don’t have that generational stress of the parent, who is always jumping in to fix, heal. Kids feel less vulnerable when they’re just with their peers.
What does it mean that it is okay to let someone know how you’re feeling?
We say it throughout the movie in different ways. Anxiety is silent and invisible to so many. You don’t see it. If you don’t speak up, nothing’s going to change. When you don’t speak up, the anxiety starts to cook and fester. If you don’t speak up, no one will be able to help you. It changes your brain waves when you don’t speak up. Talking uses the motor function because you have to move your lips. When you’re talking, you have to make a sound and you have to form a sentence. It’s helpful just to speak up.
What do you mean by “what goes up, then comes down”?
It started with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve had a couple myself. I thought I was having a heart attack or dying. Emergency rooms don’t know what’s going on. They thought it was a heartburn. Nobody ever gets to the root of it. One of the things I wanted to accomplish with this film, was to create a vocabulary and an action item. If you are around someone who is having an anxiety or panic attack, you know how to jump in instinctively to help them. Just like if someone were choking, you could do the Heimlich maneuver, or if they pass out you could do CPR. With a panic attack, and I’ve had the privilege of being able to be there for three different people, you can just place your hands on their arms and say, “I’m here, I’m not leaving, let’s breathe. This is gonna pass.” Panic attacks usually pass within a minute or two, but they can last longer. It goes away fast, and then you feel better. You can learn to practice that.
What is the role of the parents when someone is having an anxiety attack?
This is an observation I’ve seen, parents want to fix. We love our children. We are here to protect and love them. We all say, “when I was young I used to go out and play and come home when it got dark. There was no cell phone leash on me.” However, with parents nowadays they want to know where their kids are and that their kids need to respond to them or they will take away their phone. When they’re having a tough time, parents need to manage their time better. Parents need to get more sleep and buck up; just push through it. What kids need is breathing room; they need space. They need no judgment and this comes from their peers too. Let’s give them a moment, acknowledge that what they’re feeling is real and validated. Be a good listener.
Why do we need to show great listening techniques and skills for our kids?
We are the greatest role models for our children. We get to see them every day in every kind of circumstance. Parents need to model what we want for our children to have in life. When your kid is having a tough time, don’t try to fix it. Ask them why they are having a tough time. There are times when you can give them space. I am a huge fan of, “if you want to get your kids to open up, share a little bit of your own vulnerability”. Talk about when you were younger, things you struggled with. Take your parent hat off for a minute and be another human being who was 14 at one time. Share a real story.
Michael Phelps who is in the film and the most medaled athlete in the world has anxiety. He is uncomfortable in his own skin at times and admitted that he didn’t even want to be on the planet. He says it’s so beautifully in the film “we have the tools that we need to get through anything.” We need reminding that we have them, and we need to use them. It’s a mental exercise to pull those tools out of wherever we store them and use them when we need them.
Would you say that telling someone about your anxiety is the biggest tool?
Yes, and the person who is on the receiving end of being told should be a good listener. You can’t fix it but you can certainly be there for that person. There are a lot of tools you can use to help someone. Journaling, listening to music, holding ice cubes in your hands, snapping, going for a run. There are so many great things. Getting off your screen and getting outside in the sunlight. Walking on grass as opposed to walking on concrete. We need balance in our lives and we need empathy. In order to nurture more empathy between us, we need to act as human beings. Get out into the fresh air and sunshine. We need to look at each other in our eyes so that we can have that effect on the brain.
What is feedback that you get from parents?
The feedback has been incredible. In every screening we always hear parents say, “I wish this film had existed when I was growing up. I would have saved myself and my family a lot of heartaches”. From the student’s side, we hear, “I am so glad my dad is seeing this movie because he never believed me”. Overall people cry, people are moved and I think the movie accomplishes the goal I set out to make. My goal for Angst was to change the world in a minute of viewing. We are asked sometimes, why we don’t talk about medication. The reason is because you can’t go and get medication within a minute of viewing. You have to go to a doctor to begin a prescription. We don’t say medication is good or bad. There are so many resources out there. Anxiety is treatable.