Getting Off the Emotional Rollercoaster: Four Coping Skills for Children and Teens

By Kasey Williams

Some days feel like an emotional rollercoaster for many teens, tweens, and even caregivers. For every joyful moment in life, there is just as likely a moment of sadness, anger, regret, stress or some other uncomfortable emotion. 

As a young person or a caregiver, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time and energy it takes to balance school, family, friendships, relationships, and at the center of it all: yourself. Perhaps your whole body is buzzing with anger because you got in trouble for something you didn’t do, or maybe the heaviness of an argument with your friend is making it impossible to focus during the day. 

As an important reminder: you are not alone in these experiences! Even as an adult I feel all the feels amidst the rollercoaster of life, and I have to remind myself to take a step back from a difficult situation and remember that I have just the ticket to managing my difficult emotions. This ticket is, in other words, my coping skills!

What Are Coping Skills?

Coping skills can help you manage difficult situations or emotions. These difficult situations or emotions can easily trigger stress, which is our body’s reaction to pressure. Stress can make us feel tense or nervous. It makes our heart rate go up and our breathing speed up. 

Of course, stress isn’t always bad, and it can give us the rush of energy we need to motivate ourselves to get things done. However, too much stress can leave us feeling tired and overwhelmed. That’s why it’s so important that we have healthy ways to manage our stress! These four different healthy coping skills can help anyone get through the toughest of times.

Coping Skill #1 – Move your body

I want to acknowledge that when you feel bad, getting off the couch or the bed, or wherever you choose to lay, is HARD! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting yourself rest, binge Netflix, have a snack, and cry a little (or a lot). AND it’s so helpful to get out of your head and into your body when coping with difficult emotions.

Here are some things to try:

  1. Turning on your favorite song and dancing around your bedroom!
  2. Going on a walk or run outside with a friend or family member!
  3. Trying out some yoga! If you’re in elementary school and have never tried yoga before, I highly recommend the yoga slide

Coping Skill #2 – Breathe

Turning towards our breath is a great way to cope with feelings of stress. Even just pausing to take three big, deep breaths can be enough to calm me down. If you have a bit more time on your hands, this breathing technique is one of my favorites. It’s called Square Breathing.

Square breathing is a way of breathing that calms the body and mind. When your breath slows down and is controlled, your body gets the signal to relax, so your heart and your mind will slow back down too.

Imagine your breath is a square, and remember a square is made up of four equal sides. Each side of the square is a different part of the breathing practice.

Inhale for 1..2..3..4, that’s one side

Hold for 1..2..3..4, that’s another side

Exhale for 1..2..3..4, that’s the third side

Hold for 1..2..3..4, that’s the final side…..Repeat!

Coping Skill #3 – Try a Guided Meditation

Meditation is thinking deeply or focusing your mind for a period of time, in silence or in a chat, as a method of relaxation. Meditation can help calm your mind, give you a new level of awareness, and help you find inner peace. Here’s one you can try:

“Close your eyes, be very still and imagine there is a tiny space right in the middle of your head. A tiny space where there is no noise and no movement. It is completely silent here. This is your own secret place, which you may come to whenever you like. Nobody can come in because the door is right inside your mind and they wouldn’t be able to find it. It’s a place that only you may come to when you want to be alone and quiet. Can you open the door inside your mind and step into this quiet space? It feels lovely sitting here in the quiet. It is so calm and quiet inside your mind. As you stay there enjoying the peace and quiet, take in a deep breath. As you breathe in, breathe in a feeling of peace and as you breathe out, breathe out a feeling of peace. Breathe in peace, breathE out peace. You feel so safe and cozy here. Just allow all your thoughts to slow gently down while you enjoy the peace and quiet. Repeat to yourself – I am quiet, I am quiet, I am quiet. Stay for as long as you wish, feeling peaceful and safe. Feel quiet. Feel calm. Feel silent. Feel still. Feel quiet, feel quiet, feel quiet.”

If you’d rather listen to a guided meditation, here’s a Secret Garden Meditation you can listen to.

Coping Skill #4 – Create or Draw

Having a creative outlet is a great way to cope with difficult emotions. Maybe you enjoy writing poetry or songs, dancing, drawing, painting, or performing. There are so many ways to channel our emotions into creativity! You can access a how-to series of videos with many more ideas.

If you’re stumped on what sort of creative activity you’d like to do, I recommend printing out one of these mandalas! Mandalas can be used as a form of art therapy. They are images typically made up of intricate patterns that stem outwards from a center circle. Coloring a mandala is meant to direct your focus away from stressful thoughts and relax your mind. Here is a place you can find and print out some mandalas to color.

More Coping Activities

Access more fun activities and videos to grow your inner belief that you can be successful no matter what. Stress is a normal part of life for everyone, but it does not last forever. Coping skills can give you the rest you need to manage the storm when the going gets tough. Stress management is one of the three modules being covered during our traveling We Are Girls On the Road assemblies at schools across Texas.

About Girls Empowerment Network

Since 1996, Girls Empowerment Network has been helping Texas girls discover they are powerful. Through school-based programs, camps, events, workshops and Spark Kits, Girls Empowerment Network ignites the power in girls ages 8–18 by teaching them skills to thrive and believe in their ability to be unstoppable. Learn more at GirlsEmpowermentNetwork.org.

Kasey Williams is a Program Coordinator for Girls Empowerment Network and a Social Work graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not leading Girl Connect groups or holed up in a coffee shop, you can find her hiking, eating french fries, going on neighborhood walks or watching films at Austin Film Society.

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