We all face stress and anxiety in our lives, and kids are facing pressures and anxieties these days that older generations were not exposed to. For this reason, it is vitally important that we help our children and teenagers to develop their own coping strategies for negative thoughts and feelings.
Coping strategies come in all shapes and sizes, and those that work for one person may not work for someone else. What is more, different strategies are often more effective in some scenarios than others.
For example, if you are a quiet person who is feeling overwhelmed in a large crowd, then dancing to release endorphins may not be the coping strategy you need. Instead, perhaps a simple breathing exercise would help to center you and calm you down.
However, if you are usually a bubbly person but you have recently been feeling low and despondent, then turning on some feel good tunes and dancing about your room might be the perfect medicine.
The key for all young people is to be able to recognize and talk about their feelings because this is the first step towards making those feelings better. The second step is to have a ‘tool kit’ or ‘treasure trove’ of coping strategies that they can call upon to actively help themselves when they are experiencing negative emotions.
The following is a list of 100 activities and exercises that you can look through and try out if and when you are feeling unhappy. Some are active and energetic, others quiet and controlled, and you will slowly become aware of which ones work best for you.
Perhaps you could print this list out and keep it in a safe place, so that you can read it and remind yourself of all the fun and easy ways there are to make yourself feel better.
Coping With Stress
Because kids have the pressures of school work, tests, examinations and extra curricular activities, they can easily become overwhelmed and stressed. Often, taking time to get organized and to clear your brain is a great coping strategy. Here are some ways you could do that…
- Write a list (in chunky pens) of all the things that you are worried about.
- Write a list of all the things that you need to do
- Tidy your room to clear your head
- Squeeze a stress reliever ball
- Go for a run or jog in the fresh air
- Share your worries with a friend or family member
- Envisage outer space and slowly draw your focus back down to earth
- Stop, breathe, count to 10
- Stop what you are doing, touch your ears, then your shoulders, then your heart
- Start a gratitude journal filled with all the things you are grateful for
- Set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes of timeout
- Write and color some fun ‘positivity post its’ that say ‘you can do it’ and ‘everything is ok’
- Draw up a monthly calendar and write all your deadlines in colorful and happy writing
Coping With Depression
With all the hormones and physical changes that occur in teenages, bouts of low mood and depression are not uncommon. The trick is to try to be active rather than give into the gloominess. Here are some ways of doing that…
- Pull on a hat and scarf and go for a walk (even if its raining)
- Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t chatted to in a while
- Go to the bathroom and brush your teeth with lovely minty toothpaste
- Pick up the phone and call a family member
- Book yourself a haircut
- Create a list of all the places you want to visit this year and pin it to your wall
- Choose a city in another country and google it – find out all you can about it
- Play some happy and upbeat music loudly and dance to it
- Sing a simple song aloud like ‘if you’re happy and you know it’
- Sit in front of a mirror and laugh out loud until the laugh becomes genuine
- Go outside and smile at the first person you see
- Go outside and give a dollar to the first homeless person you see
Coping With Low Self Esteem
It is hard enough to feel confident and happy as a child and teenager, but the advent of social media makes it even harder. It can become very difficult not to compare yourself to others and experience feelings of inadequacy and sadness as a result. However, here are some ways that you can combat those feelings…
- Turn off your social media accounts for a whole day
- Turn off your social media accounts for a whole week
- Look in the mirror and tell yourself ‘i am beautiful’ out loud
- Write a list of 10 things you love about yourself
- Write a list of 10 things you think other people love about you
- Write a list of 10 things you have done that you are proud of
- Join a club, group or society even if you are afraid and go to one meeting – then if you like it you can keep going, and if not you can stop.
- Get out old photos and look through them and smile
- Create a positivity mood board filled with cuttings and colors and words about YOU
- Create some positivity posters with paints, pens or whatever else you have lying around and stick them on your bedroom wall
- Get an early night and try to develop a healthy sleep cycle
- Set an alarm and get up 5 minutes earlier than you usually do.
- Wear an elastic band on your wrist, and ping it every time you think something bad or negative about yourself
- When you are negative or cruel to yourself, stop and think: ‘would I treat my best friend this way?’ If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t treat yourself that way either
Coping With Anxiety
Panic attacks and anxiety are very common among children and teenagers, and very often ‘distraction’ is the greatest coping strategy for these feelings. Here are some ideas for how to effectively distract yourself away from negativity and towards positivity and peace…
- Get out the flour, eggs and sugar and bake a cake
- Paint a positive scene in a fantasy world
- Lie down, close your eyes and imagine the place where you feel most safe and loved
- Breathe in for 3, hold for 3, breathe out for 7, then repeat
- Go for a walk in nature and really take in the sights, sounds and smells
- Go for a dip in some cold water, whether it is the sea or a swimming pool doesn’t matter
- Shake out your right arm for 8 counts, then your left arm, then your right leg, then your left leg. Repeat the exercise with 4 counts, 2 counts and 1 count each
- Breathe slowly and name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you can taste
- Spend a few minutes stroking a dog or cat and think about their day
- Repeat a positive mantra to yourself quietly: ‘Everything is fine’, ‘I can do this’
- Write a list of all the things that you are anxious about and then tear it up
- Make a lovely hot drink and sit with a friend and enjoy it
- Do some simple yoga postures with deep breathing
- Tell someone you are feeling anxious and try to explain why
Coping With Anger
Anger can be a powerful emotion amongst young people. This is because frustration mixes with an inability to explain what you are feeling and results in rage and upset. Knowing how to channel your anger into more creative and positive ways is an important part of growing up. Here are some strategies to help you do that…
- Press your hands against a brick wall and push as hard as you can for 10 seconds, then release
- Run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then jog back to where you started
- Take up a wide stance and let out a primal yell as loudly as you like
- Write everything that you are feeling in a stream of consciousness diary. Do not stop to correct or edit what you write, or even to punctuate it properly. Just keep writing for 5 minutes continuously. Then take a deep breath and close the book.
- Stop, breathe in, then as you release your breath let out a sustained hum
- Give somebody a big hug
- Think of someone who is worse off than yourself and call to check in on them
- Channel your energy into housework and tidy your bedroom and all your drawers
- Have a clear out and give old toys and clothes to charity
- Release your energy into an abstract painting or drawing
- Play some beautiful, classical music to calm yourself down
- Listen to some calming nature sounds, like waves, rainforest noises or birdsong
- Look out of the window and focus on one thing. Think about its shape, color, texture and use. Write a short poem about that object
- Sing along to your favorite song
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