Feeling sad is a natural human emotion. And we WANT to feel a full range of emotional experiences. If there were no sad, we wouldn't know the full extent of happy. << That's the dialectic in it... being able to acknowledge that both sides of the coin CAN exist at the same time.
But when the scales tip for your teen to the point where sadness is overwhelming...
... and they are isolating
... and having trouble making it through the day or even getting out of bed in the morning
... or they feel like life is pointless or too much to bear
Well, then sadness is problematic and a plan to cope is in order. Use the following tips to help your teen create a plan to shift out of sadness and to cope with intense lows.
Validate Yourself and Feel Your Feelings
Before you can change your emotions, you need to acknowledge that they are there and that it's OK to feel them. You have to go THROUGH to get TO the other side. So, start by observing and describing the feelings as they are.
Once you have actually acknowledged and accepted that you are sad, you can decide whether it feels like you are ready to change them. At the teen support center, we always give teens the CHOICE to remain sad if it suits them. In some cases, like grieving for example, feeling sad is to be expected and something that we wouldn't necessarily want to change right away.
Take Your Time and Listen To Your Body
If you're having trouble getting out of bed, do you need more rest? Have you been pushing yourself too hard? If you're isolating from friends, has there been drama that makes you feel worse when you are around them? Learn to listen to what your body is trying to tell you and you may come up with solutions that you didn't know were even a part of your sadness.
Break the Cycle with Opposite Action
In DBT, the skill of Opposite Action is one in which you recognize the BEHAVIORS that come with your feeling and that do opposite behaviors to break you out of an unhealthy cycle. So, if you've been avoiding your friends because you don't want to be a burden on them with your sadness, reach out and text a friend about something fun or interesting instead (not about your sadness.) If you've been holding everything in, make a choice to write a letter to your parents explaining how you feel,then read it to them too.
Do something soothing to take care of yourself. Take a walk or go get a manicure. Take a warm bubble bath. And don't forget to do something nice for someone else in your life too! When you can take the focus off of your inner experience and turn it into outward kindness, it has been proven to boost your mood.
Make a list of activities and topics of discussion that you can use when you're feeling sad. In the midst of depression, it can be hard to even consider that life can be fun or that you can feel happy. When you can be proactive and have a list of activities you're willing to engage in ahead of time, all you have to do is commit to trying even one in those low moments to experiment with how they will improve your mood.
Understand that you are not alone in your depression. Research has shown that social support is one of the biggest predictors of your overall happiness and resilience. If your teen feels alone in their experience, group therapy may be the recommended treatment option to help them gain peer support and feedback while also learning healthy and appropriate coping strategies to manage difficult feelings. Click the button below to contact us and explore the next best steps to help your teen shift out of sadness.