Coping With Stress
Life can bring situations that leave you stressed for a few days, weeks, or months. Even if you're not always thinking about this stress, it can be like a background soundtrack playing in your life.
Finding ways to cope, including talk with a friend or trusted adult, can help protect you from the negative effects of stress.
How Can I Build Skills to Handle Stress?
How well you get through a stressful situation depends a lot on you. Here are some steps you can take to cope:
Understand the Situation
Take some time to think about what you're facing. Try to describe your situation in a sentence or two. What's stressful about this situation for you right now? It can help to write down your thoughts.
For example: “My family just moved, so I switched to a new school in the middle of the year. The stressful parts are not knowing anyone, missing my old friends, and dealing with all new schoolwork.”
Once you’ve put the situation in words, learn all you can about it — you might read about it or talk with others. Learning helps you feel more confident and prepared. Plus, it reminds you that you're not the only one who has gone through this.
Notice and Name Your Feelings
Accept the way you feel. It can help to write down your feelings too.
For example: “I'm mad that we had to move. I feel left out because I'm the newbie. I also feel lonely and sad because I’m missing my old friends and old school. I'm worried about keeping up in math and social studies. I guess other people would feel this way if they were in my situation.”
Commit to a Positive (or Fact-Based) Attitude
A positive attitude can help if you feel stuck or dragged down by unhappy feelings. It also boosts the problem-solving that a stressful situation requires. A positive attitude helps you see the options within a situation, while negative thinking narrows your view. Instead of wishing things were different, look at the facts of what’s actually happening. This will put you in a better place to accept things.
For example: “My parents got new jobs here, so I know it’s not possible to move back to my old school.”
Don't Dwell on the Negative
Try not to get stuck dwelling on negative feelings or focusing on only the bad parts of your situation. Your power lies in how you react to — and cope with — what you're facing. Replace any negative thoughts (like “I can't do this”) with more encouraging words or ways to solve the problem.
For example: “Others have switched schools before and come through it. I know I can manage this. I’ll see if this school has clubs like at my old school that I can join.”
Choose parts of the stressful situation that you can change. For example: “I can talk to the guy who sits next to me in social studies class. I'll ask if he'll share notes and study with me. That could help me make a new friend and catch up on schoolwork.”
Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation like a good friend, parent, teacher, or coach. It helps to know that someone understands and cares about what you're going through. Spend time with people who believe in you, make you laugh, and help you feel good about yourself.
Care for yourself. Take very good care of yourself when you have a lot going on in your life. If your body feels good, you’ll feel better able to handle stress. Eat healthy foods, exercise daily, and get enough sleep. Do something every day that helps you relax — whether it's trying yoga, taking a soothing bath, cooking, playing with your pet, taking a walk, or listening to music.
Notice life's good stuff. Look on the bright side and try to find positive things in your life. Each day, think of 3 things you’re grateful for. Gratitude helps fuel a positive attitude and can help keep problems in perspective.
What if I Can’t Cope With Stress?
If your stress feels too strong, happens too often, or feels like more than you can handle, talk with a trusted adult to get help and support.
If there isn’t an adult to turn to, reach out to a confidential helpline. These are free and available 24 hours a day: