Coping Skills For Teens: How To Handle Difficult Emotions
Stress and other difficult emotions are often thought of as being experienced only by adults. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), teens actually experience a higher level of stress than adults do during the school year, and 34% of teens believe their stress will increase over the next year. However, there are strategies for building a tool kit of coping skills to manage difficult emotions, and help is always available through licensed online counselors.
Why Is It Important To Cope With Difficult Emotions?
Whether you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, anger, or any other challenging emotion, you’re not alone. These are common emotions that people of all ages experience at times. It can sometimes be tempting to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as binge-watching Netflix, escaping into video games, eating far too many unhealthy snacks, or even turning to alcohol and drugs. However, there are more effective positive coping skills available for helping teens with anxiety.
Starting The Process Of Using Healthy Coping Skills
How do you begin replacing unhealthy habits with positive, productive ones as a teenager? It might help to first become more aware of any coping mechanisms you currently use that aren’t really helping you. Maybe as soon as you feel that familiar twinge of anxiety, you grab your phone and start scrolling through social media. Perhaps you turn to the snack cupboard anytime you feel overwhelmed. It’s important to be gentle and not judge yourself for turning to these kinds of coping mechanisms. The fact that you’ve developed these ways of coping means you’ve made an effort to handle your difficult feelings in one way or another.
Once you’ve identified some unhealthy habits, you can change them into effective coping mechanisms that can improve both your mental and physical health. For example, when you notice yourself grabbing your smartphone, you could set it down and take a few deep breaths instead, or you could even go outside and take a short walk. Rather than reaching for those sugary snacks, you could opt for fresh fruit or nuts, which offer several health benefits and can give you some energy to face the situation at hand.
If you want to develop healthy coping mechanisms that last in the long term, it may be easier if you write them down, commit to them, and make them a consistent habit. While this might be challenging at first, over time, it can become part of your regular routine.
You may also find it useful to talk to a teen counselor who can help you look at your feelings and assess where they might be coming from. They may help you to determine the root of the problem so that you feel more empowered to manage challenging feelings.
Healthy Coping Strategies For Teens
You may even want to make your own list of coping strategies to turn to when stress or challenging emotions arise.
These positive coping strategies are meant to help you calm down and regain control over your emotions so that you can return to the situation at hand feeling more capable and empowered.
- Write, color, draw, sculpt, or create in another way.
- Sing, dance, or play an instrument.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Go for a walk or drive.
- Clean and organize your surroundings.
- Read a chapter of a book.
- Hold an ice cube. This is a common grounding technique to redirecting the mind away from overwhelming thoughts or feelings.
Interacting with others can be a great way to receive social support and manage difficult emotions.
- Talk with someone you trust, such as parents or guardians, friends, other families.
- Write a note to yourself or a friend.
- Volunteer or find a way to help others.
- Snuggle with a pet.
- Role-play the situation that you're stressed about.
Research shows that positive thinking can help teenagers to reduce their anxiety. There are ways you can train your brain to focus on the good in life. The following suggestions may, over time, work to naturally encourage you to be more mindful of yourself while facilitating resilience in a variety of situations. In addition, these can be important skills to build and use not only in your teen years, but throughout your lifetime.
- Create a gratitude list of all the things you are grateful for in life.
- Brainstorm solutions for the situation at hand.
- Write down all of your strengths and positive attributes.
- Make a pros and cons list if you're struggling to make a decision.
Sometimes, it may help to release intense emotions, and this can be done via a variety of mechanisms.
- Watch a YouTube video or show that makes you laugh.
- Scream into or punch a pillow.
- Get your body moving with exercise.
- Allow yourself to cry.
Your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your stress levels and ability to handle stress and other emotions. Consider making some of the following changes to improve your mental health.
- Set aside at least eight hours for sleep each night.
- Fuel your body with healthy foods.
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Make deep breathing a part of your everyday routine.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Whether you believe in a specific religion or not, spiritual coping skills may provide you with feelings of acceptance and peace.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Connect with nature.
- Volunteer for a worthy cause.
Having A Hard Time Coping?
If you’re experiencing stress or difficulty with challenging emotions, you don’t have to face them alone. You can reach out to a professional counselor experienced at helping teenagers who face similar concerns. If you’re a teen, you can turn to your school counselor for help, but if seeing a counselor in person makes you nervous, you might consider online therapy. Online therapy has been proven to be effective for anxiety, and you can talk to a therapist from the comfort of your own home. In some cases, it may be necessary to speak to your parents so that they can look into getting you (or themselves) a therapist.
TeenCounseling is one alternative to in-person therapy for teens, and it tends to be more affordable than in-person therapy. The same services are offered to adults through BetterHelp.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are Emotional Coping Skills?
Emotional coping skills are just as they sound: skills to help you cope with your emotions. Coping skills usually refer to actions or activities that you can turn to in order to manage challenging or unwanted emotions. Using healthy coping skills is a great way to keep stress in check and maintain control over your mental health. Exercise, meditation, and talking with a loved one are all considered healthy coping skills. Making a to-do list, getting at least several hours of exercise per week, cooking, gardening, visualizing your "happy place," and doing breathing exercises are also wonderful examples of healthy coping skills.
Although unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance, eating, sleeping, and substance use may seem like an effective "quick fix," they won't help you in the long term. Remember, finding healthy, positive strategies to handle your emotions is crucial to good mental health!
What Are 10 Ways To Cope With Stress?
One of the best things about healthy coping skills is that there are so many of them. No matter your personality or preferences, you're sure to be able to find an effective set of coping skills that can help you cope with stress and other difficult emotions. Here are ten examples:
- Take slow, deep breaths while visualizing a place that is safe and calm
- Enjoy a warm cup of tea, taking in the aroma and the flavor
- Move your body: Dance, do yoga, take a walk or a jog, or play a sport
- Go outside without your cell phone and connect with nature
- Write in a journal about everything that's on your mind
- Make a list of things you're grateful for
- Enjoy a craft or hobby
- Write down and repeat positive affirmations, also known as positive self-talk
- Talk to a friend, parents (or other family), or spend time with a pet
- Listen to your favorite song and sing along
These coping skills can help you relax and get to a place where you feel more capable of handling the source of your stress.
What Are Some Coping Skills For Teens?
Considering recent research that has shown today's teenagers are just as stressed (or even more stressed) than adults, it's important for teens to find healthy ways to cope with their emotions and healthy ways to feel good. First, it's crucial to realize that your lifestyle has a huge impact on your ability to handle stress and other emotions. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle by getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and staying active is a great place to start.
Journaling and self-reflection are great ways to cut back on rumination and stress, as writing things down helps to get them physically, visibly on paper so that the thoughts aren’t just bouncing around in your head, so to speak. Making a to-do list can help you to organize your thoughts and responsibilities, while keeping a gratitude journal can help you think positively. Writing and self-reflection can also help you to appreciate and see the importance of the simple things in life again, like the color of a flower, feeling the sun on your skin, petting your dog or cat, and so on.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to handle stress is to allow yourself a break, regardless of whether you’re a teen or an adult. The key is to not spend your entire break thinking about the things you'll have to do once it's over. Instead, focus on relaxing and allowing yourself to rest your mind for at least a few minutes.
Speaking with a friend or loved one is also an excellent way to handle stress. Even if you don't talk specifically about the things that are bothering you, a conversation with another person can help you put things into perspective. Spending time with a furry friend is also a lovely way to cope with negative emotions.
Finally, there's no shame in getting professional help if you need it. If you feel like your emotions are taking over your life, or if you feel powerless due to your stress levels, a counselor can help you work through your thoughts and feelings. They can encourage you, provide insights and tools, and offer valuable suggestions as far as ways to cope.
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