Simple Techniques for Children and Teens to Manage Stress

Simple Techniques for Children and Teens to Manage Stress

Manage Stress, Young teenage girl meditating

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the feeling that there just isn’t enough time to get done everything you need to do? Or that you aren’t doing a good job at anything because you have so many different tasks on your plate or roles that you play? Of course you have!

Most adults know these feelings all too well, and sadly we see them in the students at our learning center at younger and younger ages. We are all struggling with managing self-care, school or work responsibilities, with exercise, daily chores or errands, family responsibilities, and meaningful relationships…not to mention the pull of all those random tasks on our phones that seem so important!

The way we see it, time management and stress management work closely together. We’ve seen students come into our learning center offices for educational therapy with severe anxiety, manifested through self-harm or general avoidance of responsibility. It can be crippling. And sometimes it can be totally reversed through a process that involves simple strategies to manage emotions along with taking control of one’s schedule with time management strategies we share through our executive functioning coaching program.

We find that collaboration with mental health care professionals can be the key to success in executive functioning coaching. The anxiety or stress overload and the time management challenges seemingly dance together until they are simultaneously addressed.

This month we’re excited to share some insights on managing stress from the emotional perspective from local therapists from Achieve Concierge, who specialize in working with youth to address social, emotional, and performance challenges.

The following is a guest article from Meagan Erwin, Educational Psychologist and Hannah Rovazzini, Marriage and Family Therapist who work collaboratively at Achieve Concierge.

Even though we are well into the new year, we wanted to share some insights to make sure this is your best year yet!

Homework, studying, finals, sports practice, rehearsal, volunteering, hanging out with friends… sometimes, the list of things we have to do feels never-ending.

How can you manage all of these commitments while maintaining your overall sense of well-being or happiness? How can we get it all done, and done well?

Due to life’s demands, and its ebbs and flows, we want to talk to you about a concept that we believe as clinicians will help you smoothly navigate the daily grind. In therapy, we tend to use clinical terms for this, such as “distress tolerance.” Since this is a helpful way for us to understand the challenges our patients face, we want to help you understand this term, so you might better understand its usefulness for yourself or your child.

We identify distress tolerance skills as the responses individuals have when it is difficult, or impossible to change a situation (i.e. when you feel stuck). Distress tolerance skills are used to help us cope and survive during a crisis, as well as to help us tolerate short or long-term pain (physical or emotional). Essentially, distress tolerance is a fancy way of saying, “how well can we handle our stress?”

Everyone is different in their approach to managing stress and the level of stress they can handle without feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes it is something apparently insignificant that triggers overwhelm, like the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” because we haven’t dealt with the bigger stresses in our lives along the way. Other times, the tipping point for our stress overload is a significant emotional trigger, like a break-up with a close relationship, or a critical disappointment in our school or workplace.

There are many different ways to cope and everybody is different! But using any of the skills below will help you manage your emotions, big or small and will help you get back to living life.

Here are some simple techniques that work well to help you get back into the moment or stay focused:

  • Just breathe.
    When you are in a tight space and don’t have a lot of options, the simplest thing to do is to take some deep breaths. Breathing from your belly helps you get away from short breathing in your chest, which can increase stress. Belly breathing allows you to slow down your mind, get back into the moment, and focus on the simplicity of a breath. Try starting with 5 to 10 deep belly breaths.
  • Change your space.
    Changing your environment allows your mind and body to reset. For example, in between school and homework, take a ten minute break and get a glass of water, walk your dog or do some quick stretching outdoors. These mental breaks, although small, allow your mind to re- engage with your body. Be sure to do some mental check-ins throughout your day in order to best gage your stamina.
  • Relaunch your task with 5-4-3-2-1.
    A creative way to re-zone your focus is by following the 5-4-3-2-1 rule. Start by mentally focusing your attention. Begin by noting 5 things you can see, then 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 you can taste. Hopefully once you complete these tasks you will feel recentered, more balanced and perhaps even calmer.

We hope that you can use these three skills in any moment or environment where you may feel overwhelmed.

Are you ready? Let’s do this! 5-4-3-2-1

About the Authors

Meagan is a state licensed child and adolescent Educational Psychologist and advocate for children in the schools. She has a thorough understanding of how ADHD, Autism, and Anxiety add to the complexities of parental and peer relationships, academic performance, and self-esteem. With a positive psychology approach, her primary goal is to empower parents to support their children in learning tools to cope with the ups and downs life presents. In therapy and coaching courses, she specializes in helping students have an awareness of learning styles and develop appropriate coping skills to find success socially and academically.

Hannah received her Master’s in Arts from Pepperdine University in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has strong expertise in working with varied mental health issues, specifically regarding family dynamics, mood disorders, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders and trauma. In her practice, Hannah uses a range of modalities including: Mindfulness, ACT, CBT, DBT and Narrative Therapy. She has worked extensively with the Eating Disorder population at all levels of care, including residential treatment. Hannah finds it most important to allow her clients to be the experts of their personal stories while offering professional adaptive coping skills so that all people may pursue lives worth living.

To learn more about Meagan and Hannah’s amazing work, check out:

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