By Dr. Sheila Modir, pediatric psychologist at CHOC
Adolescence can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride – the ups, downs, twists, and turns that can really throw a teen off. The rollercoaster ride can include the pressure of academics, family conflict, making and maintaining friendships and finding who you are throughout all this turbulence – it can be a lot!
However, amid these challenges, there exists a treasure trove of coping skills inside of us that can serve as valuable tools to tap into to help teens feel better.
Take a few minutes to watch this video and then we can delve deeper into understanding each of these coping skills:
Ask yourself, “How do I feel today?”
First, this video had you check in with yourself to see how you were feeling. Understanding our emotions is the first step in coping. When we are experiencing many feelings at once, learning to identify and label them – whether it’s anxiety, anger, or joy – can be empowering.
Dr. Dan Siegel, award-winning educator and psychiatrist, once said, “We must name our emotions in order to tame our emotions.”
For example, if you can label the feeling you are experiencing as anxiety, then you can acknowledge it and practice a coping tool that makes you feel better when you are anxious.
Repeat a daily mantra
The next coping skill highlighted was tapping into the power of positive mantras. Finding your own mantra or using one that was in this video can impact your mindset. These statements can serve as your beacon of strength during tough times, reinforcing your capability and determination. In fact, there is research that shows that affirmations can help decrease stress, increase wellbeing, and improve academic performance!
Take five minutes to write in your journal daily
Journaling is a time where we can jot down our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Journaling holds a lot of power as it helps us organize our thoughts, gain clarity as we write, and shows us patterns of how we behave and react during certain situations.
One research study found that journaling or drawing about a stressful event two times a day, for one week, helped reduce depression, anxiety, and anger. The video provides some journaling prompts, but you can also journal about your day or whatever is on your mind.
Use a distraction strategy to help yourself calm down
Next, the video features a distraction technique that uses your five senses. Other distraction techniques include remembering song lyrics, counting backwards from 100 by intervals of 3 (100, 97, 94….), or finding all the things that are blue in the room you are in.
Techniques such as these help in redirecting your attention away from overwhelming thoughts and emotions.
Use the S-T-O-P skill
Finally, the video ends with introducing the S-T-O-P skill. STOP stands for:
- S – Stop.
- T – Take a step back.
- O – Observe.
- P – Proceed manually.
This is a valuable tool from the evidence-based practice called dialectical behavior therapy and encourages you to pause during big emotions. By stopping, taking a deep breath, and observing how you are feeling, you can proceed a little more mindfully as opposed to reacting with intensity. You can take a moment to identify the feeling, acknowledge it, and then choose how you want to move forward and focus on what makes you happy and calm, as opposed to continuing down a path that is upsetting.
Practicing these coping skills won’t get rid of all the stress and pressure you are experiencing – that is the rollercoaster ride called life, BUT it can help equip you with the tools you need to make this rollercoaster ride less bumpy and more in your control.
The biggest key is to practice these skills consistently. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to these coping skills so find the ones that work for you and practice them at least once a day. You’ve got this!
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The mental health team at CHOC curated the following resources on mental health topics common to kids and teens, such as depression, anxiety, suicide prevention and more.