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4 Tips for Teens on Dealing with Feelings

Some people say there are only 4 basic emotions -- sad, mad, glad, and afraid. These simplistic list may seem too short to cover the vast range of all the feelings you might encounter in a single day. Yet when you think about a feeling long enough, it can often be boiled down to some variation of one of those four.

And that's the first tip -- identify what you're feeling. Feeling embarrassed is a form of feeling scared. Frustration is a form of feeling mad. Naming the feeling that's bothering you is a first step in understanding and coping with it.

The second tip is to reality check the name. Is it really fear you are feeling, or is is there anger underneath? Maybe it's both?

Whatever it is you feel, it's important to know that feelings are like the weather -- they are just a type of atmospheric condition that will likely change pretty soon. And they aren't WHO you are, they're just HOW you are at one moment in time.

A third tip is to express your feelings. Expressing is different from acting out or blaming someone else for your feelings. It's one thing to say you are mad about something that has happened. It's another to let that angry feeling provoke you into a hurtful act.

It's yet another thing to try to make someone else responsible for your feelings. Blaming others for your emotional reactions gives away your control over your feelings. Instead of shouting you make me mad, a better way to cope with feeling mad is to say I don't like it when this is done, and I choose not to give in to anger about it. Then, walk away.

Telling people how you feel can be like a weather report -- you might simply declare I'm feeling irritable (mad) today without needing to BE irritated with a particular person.

Separating the expression of a feeling from acting on a feeling gives you a lot of power in dealing with feelings. It puts you in charge, instead of the feeling being in charge of you.

A fourth tip is to take care of yourself. What do you need to feel better when you are frustrated (mad) , anxious (afraid), lonely (sad)? Maybe you need protein, or a nap, or to talk with an objective friend. Maybe in the moment you need a distraction like music, or a productive task like homework.

Too much distraction, though, will become avoidance, which can make the feeling grow into something that seems overwhelming. So the best approach, if you can't express the feeling in the moment, is to take the time to review and process it through the four steps above later the same day. Then you can let it go, so it no longer controls you.

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