3 Steps to Reframing Our Overwhelming Emotions

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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.