4 Ways to Calm the Overwhelm Quickly

When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, your brain is NOT processing information.

This means that when your teen is in emotional distress, it’s not the time to talk about feelings or solve problems.  It’s time to practice coping until your teen finds a sense of calm.

TIPP skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) change your body chemistry quickly so that your teen can return to balance.  TIPP is an acronym for temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Let’s look at each one in detail below:


Alter your body temperature to calm down quickly.  Splash cold water on your face or run cold water on the insides of your wrists.  Take a hot shower. Keep a frozen face mask in your freezer and place it on your face for twenty seconds.

Intense Exercise

Drop and do twenty push-ups (if you can!)  Do jumping jacks. Take a brisk walk around the block.

Paced Breathing

Slow down your breath to slow down your body’s reactions.  You can use tools like the Calm app for guided paced breathing exercises.  See an example below.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tense and relax the muscles in your body one at a time or all together to release tension and return to calm.  Here’s an example of the PMR that we practiced this week in our DBT groups.

You can’t teach someone to swim when they’re drowning, so help your teen tackle the tools they need to decrease emotions quickly and effectively cope with emotional overwhelm.

Need support with your teen helping them overcome extreme emotions? We’ll work with your teen to create a coping plan that works so that they can love the life they live (even if they have anxiety or depression.)

Click the button below and connect with us for a free parent call. We’ll help you get clear on the behaviors that are hindering your teen’s happiness and collaborate with you to develop a plan for the next best steps in support.

3 Steps to Reframing Our Overwhelming Emotions

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 1.44.19 PM.png

Often times it's not the feeling or sensation itself that is overwhelming for your teen, but their INTERPRETATION of that feeling.

They feel anxious before a big public speaking presentation and they interpret this anxiety as a sign that the speech won't be good enough, or that others will judge them for it.

They feel sad when peers don't invite them to a party and they interpret this to mean that they are not likable, or that others find them annoying.

The interpretation of the feelings becomes a JUDGEMENT about having the feelings and ultimately a LABEL that your teen in turn takes on to define them.

And that label reinforces the feeing and creates feelings of helplessness, frustration and overwhelm.

Most times these interpretations and judgements don't come from thin air....

They've been developed from past experiences and interactions that prompt us to see our present selves through a lens that's been shaped by embarrassment and disappointment and external feedback that may have even been intended to be helpful.

But nonetheless we move through our lives with these interpretations.

And tirelessly sifting through the stories we tell ourselves can be exhausting.

And confusing.

And can make us feel fragile to feedback or perceived facial expressions or tones of voice.

Today let's commit to taking the time to pause, to breath, to step back and examine the stories we tell ourselves.

Are they true?

Are they helpful?

Are they empowering?

If you'll never be 100% sure whether your classmate thinks your presentation sucked or whether it was good, choose to believe the option that lets you move forward freely... not the one that's weighed down by your own self-criticism and fear of inadequacy.

Easier said than done, of course.

Here's how we teach this skill in DBT at the teen support center:


Notice the body sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise from your experience. Just make space for awareness without creating a MEANING for these things.


Put words to your experience and use NON-JUDGMENTAL language and just the objective facts. Like, "I'm noticing that I keep having a thought that I'm not good enough." << This feels a whole lot different than, "I'm not good enough."


Be mindful of what comes up in the moment, then redirect your attention back to the present experience. If you were playing music with friends and you noticed a tightness in your chest, a feeling of embarrassment and a thought, "I should know this song" when you make a mistake... well, just notice it, make space for it, then fully return to playing the song and moving forward.

It takes time.

It takes practice.

And it's all worth it when you learn how to live life without defining your worth by your emotions in any one moment.

5 Must-Have Skills for Parenting an Emotional Teen

How to Cope with Making Mistakes-2.png

Focusing on SKILLS and not a “vent sesh” will help you as a parent to feel more effective in communicating, interacting with and responding to your teen to help to de-escalate emotional situations.

In our DBT Parenting Group, parents learn 5 skill sets to effectively parent an emotional or high-risk teen with success:


Parents learn to slow down their own emotional reactions so that they can respond in ways that are helpful. This also empowers parents to change patterns of dysfunction that may have played out across generations. Ultimately, our mindfulness skills provide parents with a choice about how they want their family to operate.


Learning to find the middle path will help parents develop more balanced and less extreme responses. It’s what allows parents to look for the valid aspects of their teen’s problematic behavior and learn to acknowledge the feelings without condoning the behavior so that acceptance can lead to change, rather than starting with change that typically creates more conflict when a teen feels misunderstood.


All parents who have high-risk or emotional teens need support in managing the stress associated with this difficult parenting task. Parents learn how to take care of themselves in times of crisis and also how to respond to their teen in these times so that they can know exactly how to help without enabling their teen or making the situation worse in some way.


Parents learn to understand their own emotional triggers and responses so that they are able to lessen emotional situations in the home and respond more effectively to the needs of the teen. This means more balance, more peace, less stress and less conflict.


This skillset helps parents develop and focus on the goals of their interaction with their teens. This results in more effective interactions and less emotional reactivity on the part of both parent and teen. Simply put, parents feel closer and more connected to their teen while still being able to set limits that work.

Sound like exactly what you need to supercharge the treatment process for your teen?

YOU Have the Power to Radically Shift Your Teen's Mood

Inside Out Treatment for Lasting Results-2.png

If you have a teen in treatment, learning the skills to validate their experience AND continue to support positive change are critical to your teen’s long-lasting success.

Here are three reasons that DBT parent skills training is critical to your teen’s treatment success.

1. YOU will benefit from learning and using new skills. It’s not likely that you’re living a stress-free existence if you have a teen who experiences emotional overwhelm.

Learning how to be more mindful of your own emotions, how to self-soothe when times get tough and how to unwind and openly communicate will help you at home, at work and in every single other aspect of your own life.

2. Participating in skills training shows that you think treatment is important and you’re committed to change in your family system.

By investing the time and financial commitment into changing your own role in the relationship and managing your own responses will reinforce that your teen is not a problem to be solved, but a part of a family unit that’s all working towards positive change and a happier, healthier way of life.

3. You’ll learn to accept what you can change and have the biggest impact over what you can.

You may not be able to directly change your teen’s behavior and that can feel super frustrating.

What you WILL do is learn how to change your responses which will provide an opportunity for your teen to change in response to you. It’s a win-win!

Want IN on the science-backed program that we've seen radically change the way that parents and teens interact and had resulted in major shifts in the parent-child relationship for the positive?

Impulsive Isn't an Excuse for Poor Choices

Skills to Stop Self-Harming-3.png

Saying, "I'm just impulsive" to justify acting on urges is a cop out.

It's like saying, "I'm just an inactive person" to justify not taking the time to exercise.

There are skills that you can learn and actions that you can take to improve.

And at the teen support center, while we believe that you're doing the best you can, we also believe that you can improve, be more skillful and make better choices. (If we didn't then why would we do what we do?!)

Often times emotional teens act without thinking through all the consequences.

In fact, this happens a lot with teens in general. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain that's responsible for decision making isn't fully formed.

So making effective decisions takes some work.

So that your teen doesn't act in an instant on intense emotions...

and self-harm

or lash out

or steal

or cave to peer pressure.

We've seen many a teen act impulsively to avoid intense emotions.

And we've heard the line "I'm just impulsive" many a time too.

It's time to stop owning skills deficits as personality traits and own the responsibility to do the work to improve.

Because we know you can.

Because we believe in you.

Are you ready to believe in you too?

We’re here when you are.

Short Term Discomfort for Long Term Success

Skills to Stop Self-Harming-2.png

It’s easy to decline support when your life is working well.

It’s easy to say “I’m fine” and really mean it… because there’s nothing happening in the moment that would prompt you to think otherwise.

It’s easy to forget about the distress, discomfort and destruction that may have happened a week prior when in the moment all you really want to do is feel good for once… to NOT think about those things.

But then…

All of the sudden..

It’s not working again.

And panic attacks


Anger outbursts

School avoidance

It returns.

And then what?

You call or email in crisis mode and hope that someone will “fix” the problem.

So you don’t have to feel it.

So you don’t have to experience it

But the truth is, unless you spend SOME of those “easy” moments diving deeper into what’s driving the difficult ones, nothing will ever change

You’ll continue a pattern of feeling good, feeling overwhelmed to the point of crisis, having a breaking point, then a honeymoon period before starting the whole cycle all over again

What’s more, the empathy, accommodations and support your teen’s high school provides looks a whole lot different than how your teen will seek and receive support in college. In their career. In their life.

So why not lay the foundation with skills that can last a lifetime and lead your teen into effective choices and stable successes… not intermittent times of joy that are so fragile that we’re afraid to look at what’s not working for fear that it’ll ruin it all in an instant.

Breaks in anxiety and shifts in sadness are nice, but lifelong skills to actually manage the ups and downs without your life falling apart when you have a bad day are even better.

Need proactive support? We’re here

Need crisis support? We’re still here

WHEN you get the support is up to you.

The skills to stop self-harming

Skills to Stop Self-Harming.png

You can’t run away from your problems without running into more problems…

Many times when our teen clients experience discomfort, the natural tendency is to avoid.  

Friend drama?  Pretend it doesn’t exist

Parent conflict?  Isolate in your room

Too much school work stress?  Shut down and don’t do it

The problem with avoidance, though is that the problem doesn’t go away.  

And it gets bigger and bigger… as do the consequences of not approaching it.

Think about it…

What happens if you’re still self-harming in your thirties?

Or, avoiding work every time you’re anxious when you’re 25?

Avoidance as a long-term strategy simply doesn’t work.

At the teen support center, we teach our clients to TOLERATE discomfort.

We want you to be prepared for life’s ups and downs that include leaning into the unknown.

Expect it

Understand it

Learn how to LIVE with it

It’s like learning how to want ice cream without actually eating ice cream.

You CAN experience and acknowledge your urge without acting on it EVEN when it’s uncomfortable.

It’s hard and it doesn’t always work, but that’s why tolerating discomfort is a practice.

It’s also why you need more than just a distraction skill or two to cope with hardships.

You can only cope for so long before the emotion and urge take over.  

You need to be able to feel the feeling without letting it overcome you and direct your behavior.

And it works when you work it…

The proof is in the RESULTS.

Our teen clients are celebrating multiple months without self-harm and we’re excited to support them in the skill-building steps that prompted this progress.

5 Truths of Senior Year Success

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 3.15.02 PM.png

Ready for your high school senior to move from feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the college application process to feeling SURE and SECURE with the roadmap for college-bound success?

In this FREE Parent Podcast you will learn:

✔️The secret to choosing the best college with your student and why this matters now more than ever

✔️Why choosing a roommate is not a good strategy and how your student can best navigate roommate drama and difficulties with ease

✔️The critical stress management strategies and healthy habits that your student needs now so that they can confidently approach life on their own

✔️How you can complete the Common app, FAFSA and piled up paperwork while maintaining your sanity AND a solid relationship with your teen in the process!

Click below to listen!