Think back to high school for a minute. Can you see the halls, the cafeteria…the classes?
Now try to remember the heartbreak of a break-up or fight with your friends. How about the embarrassment you felt if someone posted something on your locker? Or getting your name called on the loudspeaker? The dread of a new schedule and who would you sit with at lunch? Ever run for student council?
You couldn’t pay me to go back.
And now, throw in the question of when to get your teen a smartphone. Now add in the possibility of Snapchat. Or your every move being tracked by your parents’ GPS. Add in photographic proof of any missteps (that could ruin future job or college prospects!). And lastly, the in-your-face messages telling you how you should look.
I think our tweens and teens feel more pressure than we did.
I hosted a mini-retreat for teens at EVOLVE mindful movement in Portsmouth (I often run wellness workshops for teens on the Seacoast). As a life coach, yoga instructor and K-8 teacher, I love working with people to make a positive dent in this world. I spent the day with several young women, teaching them stress-busting tools and happiness hacks they can do anywhere — from school to their rooms. While you might picture the typical apathy and angst teens emote, yesterday they were all ears.
These young women are desperately looking for ways to skate through life’s lemons.
Here are some of my favorite stress-busting tools for teens (or tweens, or even YOU!)
- Tara Brach’s RAIN: (For a memory hook, I urge the teens to remember this stress-busting tool when it felt that the world was raining down on them.)
R= Recognize: =What is going on inside me? Try to pause and recognize what is happening through emotions or sensations.
A= Allow: Breathing into the feelings and letting them be. Trying not to shift, bury, fix, or judge them.
I= Investigate: Gently ask yourself questions: what am I feeling? Where am I feeling it? What am I believing? What do I need most?
N= Nurture: Talk to yourself in a soothing manner. Or, imagine yourself being hugged and nurtured by a loved one
- Breath of Joy: Sure, it might feel a little out of one’s comfort zone, but I dare you to try this alone in a room. $5 says you can’t help but smile and feel a shift. Basically, you’re breathing in for 3 short breaths and swinging your arms and then letting it all go. Look HERE for a visual.
- Aromatherapy: This could be essential oils, body spray or favorite hand cream.
I certainly pull out of the bottle of my favorite Hawaiian sunblock in the middle of winter. That smell uplifts me like nothing else! Whatever it takes.
- Inner Pep Talks: I teach tweens and teens about the voices in our head. The two voices often present are the inner wisdom (our gut) and the inner critic. The critic often needs redirecting so she doesn’t grow out of control.We get better results from a kind inner voice and inner pep talks.
**A go-to I recommend: I am ok. I am enough. I am doing the best I can. Things always work out for me. I even post inspirational quotes in this unlikely place to help my teen (and myself) out.
- Gratitude: It’s easy to be consumed by the negative. At the end of the day just before bed, tweens/teens and adults can think of 3 specific things we are grateful for and write them down. This prompts our mind to notice and soak in all the little good things that happen during the day. We instead feel that life consists more good than bad. It also helps us skate through the tough times when we are still aware of things that bring us joy.
- Grounding with 54321: This is a silent little action I take when I am overwhelmed and it can be done anywhere. It gets you out of your head, where anxiety lives, and therefore calms you.
Look for 5 things you can see and silently name them.
Feel and name 4 things (sneakers, floor, chair underneath you, desk).
Label 3 things you can hear.
Notice 2 smells.
See if you can taste 1 thing or pop a piece of gum in your mouth.
- Belly Breathing: There is something magical about connecting with your belly and breathing air into it, fully filling up your lungs. Exhale all the air out slowly and feel the movement in your belly. Repeat. We are actually tricking your body into kicking on the parasympathetic nervous system! It’s kind of like you start breathing like calmly and your brain says, “Huh. I thought I was stressed but I am breathing like a calm person. I must be relaxed.” (And the body follows suit and kicks in the calming physiology.)
- Legs Up the Wall: I had to warn my group that this is a little weird – but it works! I add a blanket on the feet, one over your body and one wrapped around the top of your head. So comforting, so relaxing…the shift in emotions is palpable. Go HERE for more info.
- Art! Doodling, making jewelry or any type of project helps us focus, get in the flow and stop ruminating about our worries. Yesterday, I had the teens look through magazines, pick out pictures that spoke them about their goals and vision for the best possible year ahead and simply glue them down on poster board. The results were many posters with images of strong active women outside, having fun, with friends, smiling, happy and relaxed…which brings me to my final tip….
- Visualizing Goals: This can be done in your head for 30 seconds every morning or by looking at a Vision Board you’ve created. The power of this activity daily is profound and catapults you forward into taking action toward meeting your goals. The secret sauce is picturing what happens when you meet your goals (fun job procured at favorite local ice cream shop!) and feeling how that will feel – pride, freedom with some cash, happiness by saving for a car, more connectedness by making friends outside of school, etc.) Go HERE for more science and inspiration.