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Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all connected. Upset thoughts and hurt feelings often lead to bad actions. However, good actions can improve your thoughts and feelings and get you out of a rut! Below are some different ways that Tracy can behave that can help him to feel and do better in the future. Things that we do to feel and do better are called Coping Skills. What are coping skills that you use when you are stressed?

Here are some ideas of different coping skills you can use when you are having a hard time. They can also be used before you are having a hard time to stop it before it starts. Read through this list and then think of your own ideas that may help you to cope.

young woman exercising

Build a staying healthy plan: Sometimes people are surprised to hear that one of the best ways to deal with stress is to work on it regularly – not just on the days or weeks when stress is higher. If you practice some healthy behaviors on a regular basis, it makes it easier to use these behaviors to deal with stress. For example, some healthy habit ideas are listed below.

Exercise: Tracy’s regular running helped him to feel better physically and mentally. Any kind of exercise is helpful for keeping one’s life in balance and maintaining good physical and mental health. Not everyone needs to run to stay healthy. Some teenagers or young adults say they like to dance, play sports, or do yoga. Some people like hiking or rock climbing. The trick is to find the kind of healthy movement that works for you and keep at it. Researchers have shown that regular exercise can improve mental health and helps to fight depression and anxiety!

Eating healthy: People who are stressed do not always eat heathy. This is the time when they may grab whatever is easiest and some of their choices may not be that good. When one is under stress, the human body especially needs good food for fueling the brain. Be sure to hydrate by drinking enough water. Cut back on caffeine. Eat fruits and vegetables. Getting enough healthy food keeps our brains and our bodies healthy and sharp.

Sunlight: Being in the sun 20 or 30 minutes a day helps people sleep better and improves their moods. Sunlight actually makes vitamin D! Most people don't get enough vitamin D and this can lead to depressed thoughts. Get outside and get healthy!

group of people hiking

Meditation: There is strong research that tells us that regular meditation helps reduce stress and improves physical and mental health. Just taking 15 minutes to “chill” with meditation can really help fight stress. There are a lot of online apps for meditation. Some of them are just five to ten minutes long. You have to try this for a while to see the impact but it really pays off if you take up meditation.

You don't have to be an expert to benefit from meditation. Try just sitting with your eyes closed and clearing your mind of stressful thoughts. Some people like to imagine sitting in a peaceful place like by a stream. When a stressful thought pops up, turn it into a leaf and let it float away in the stream. As you practice, you can let all of your stressful thoughts turn into leaves and float away which clears your mind. 

Dr. Dzung Vo has developed some short guided meditation exercises that you can do with your phone or computer. Check them out HERE

Sometimes when we are feeling really stressed out, it can help to take time to breathe and gather our thoughts. This simple exercise can be practiced almost anywhere and in just a few moments!
  • Take a few seconds to get into a comfortable and seated position.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose and hold it, hold it, then release your breath through your mouth.
  • Allow your eyes to close, or allow them to gently scan the room not focusing on any particular place
  • Take another deep breath and become aware of the sounds around you, allowing them to come and go without labeling or judgment
  • Notice any sensations you're feeling in your body, and allow your breath to cleanse those areas
  • Now, take a few seconds to let your mind wander--but try not to focus on any one thought. Instead, allow your thoughts to come and go.
  • Focus attention back to your breath and the sounds around you.
  • Take one final deep breath and open your eyes, or return focus back to yourself

Music: A lot of young people say that listening to music is a good way to relax and chill out. What music do you listen to when you need a break to calm down? Who are your favorite bands? Do you have songs that you share with friends when they are feeling stressed?

Our friends at ReachOut have a great article about using your favorite music to cope. Check it out HERE

Support: One really good idea for managing stress is to stay connected to people who support you. Do you have people in your life who listen and keep what you say confidential? These may be helpful people to talk to when stress is getting you down.

Try making a list of your most supportive people and keep it someplace that you can read it when you are having a hard time. We like to write each major place or group in our life and who our supportive person is there. For example, write school followed by all of the supportive people you know at school. Then write family and a list of all of the supportive people in your family. There is no right or wrong way to do this. It is just one helpful way to think of all of the supportive people that we know. If you find you have an area without supportive people, start thinking about who you might be able to connect with there for some extra support. Usually, if you think hard enough, there is someone!

group of kids hanging out

Who turns to you as a supportive person? Is there anyone in your life that would put you on their list? Would it be your brother, sister, mom, or dad? What about your friends? Maybe someone from school? Supporting others can be a coping skill too! Giving and receiving support can both be helpful ways to cope with stress!

Connecting: Sometimes when people are stressed, anxious, angry, or sad, they may stay away from people and be by themselves. In other words, they may isolate themselves from others. A little bit of this is okay, but if it happens a lot and/or for a long period of time, this usually makes stress worse. A good stress management plan usually includes connecting with supportive people. Sometimes we may even be the support person for someone else, such as a close friend, when he or she is having a stressful time.

Keeping busy: Another way of staying “connected” is to keep doing things you enjoy. Sometimes when people get super stressed or even depressed, they stop doing the things they used to like to do. They may stop taking walks, riding bikes, going to school events, or doing hobbies. One way to manage stress is to try to continue to do at least a fun thing or two. Not only does it keep you too busy to think negative thoughts, it provides some fun and enjoyment that helps a person to stay more balanced.