It is no surprise that anxiety is increasingly prevalent among children, especially teenagers. Anxiety can lead to depression, and early intervention at home and in schools can help reduce the risk. We invited anxiety expert Lynn Lyons to share her insights with the IMS community.

Early in the school year, Lynn Lyons, LCISW, spoke to parents, students, and teachers about understanding the cycle of stress, and she shared strategies for managing anxiety. Ms. Lyons is a psychotherapist who has been in private practice for 30 years, specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders in adults and children. She is a global speaker on the subject, and the co-author of several books, including Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents, and The Anxiety Audit.

Over the course of two days, Ms. Lyons shared her insights on how worrying thoughts and situations engage the amygdala (part of the brain  that processes emotion responses), which can quickly heighten the worry and result in physical “fight or flight” responses. She described the traps we can all fall into, trying to rid ourselves of anxious thoughts and feelings, noting that trying to dispel the worry often just exacerbates it. She said that instead of trying to control or get rid of worrying thoughts, we need to shift our relationship with worry, externalize it, and learn how to tolerate uncertainty. 

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways was how the cycle of stress is always the same, no matter if the cause of it is big or small, real or imagined. Therefore the same approaches can be used to manage it. In follow up classroom conversations with teachers and advisors, students discussed the useful and sometimes surprising things they learned about their own cycle of feelings, and strategies they can use to manage them. 

In an evening presentation and Q & A with parents, Ms. Lyons spoke about the stressors of perfectionism and achievement culture, the influence of constant media access, and how digital devices that allow us to track our children play into our tendencies of needing to know everything, which can actually heighten our worry and fear of the unknown. Ms. Lyons also shared how parental attempts as diffusing stress in kids by saying things like “what’s the worst that could happen,” and, “as long as you’ve done your best,” can often do more harm than good. 

Needless to say, there were many “aha” moments to be had during the various presentations and discussions. To learn more about Lynn Lyons, visit: and continue the discussion by listening to her podcast: