Sometimes a coping skill can be a life changer. Let’s say you’ve been trying to managing the fact that your parents are divorcing through alcohol use. Or maybe you’ve been dealing with a recent breakup by getting high on meth. Or perhaps you’ve been dealing with pressure from school and your parents by smoking marijuana. Whatever the reason, using drugs in these ways is dangerous. There’s a hook. When you turn to drugs because you are emotionally vulnerable there’s a greater chance for developing an addiction to them.
The smarter choice is to learn how to move through that challenging experience without the drug or alcohol and instead with a coping tool. Learn how to face those difficult and challenging emotions versus hiding from them by getting high.
Although this might sound obvious right now as you’re reading this, the truth choosing drugs over actually facing challenging emotions is a hard choice to make. This is especially true if you’ve got friends around you who are smoking or getting high too. They hand you a pipe and all you can think about is the problem you’re suffering with and so you take the offer to join them. The easier choice is often to hide from feelings.
However, if you can make the harder choice, you’ll be safer in the long run. Here are some easy and critical coping tools to use now and throughout your adulthood:
Exercise. A recent study (October 2014) found that exercise not only helps in the treatment of teen depression and anxiety, it can actually prevent it. Exercise is so essential in one’s overall health that it should be up there with the need to eat. If you’re feeling stressed, angry, frustrated, or anxious, go for a run or walk, and see how you feel afterwards.
Have a chosen adult you trust to confide in from time to time. Although this isn’t usually the first choice for a teen, sometimes talking to an adult is a better option than talking to another teenager. Yes, friends can be incredibly supportive, but an adult who has already lived through the challenges of adolescence and has some years of reflection might have some useful guidance on what to do.
Breathe. Sometimes, when you’re at school or work or even at home, you might have an incredibly stressful moment. It might feel as though every part of you is being pulled in a different direction and you don’t know yourself anymore. Your parents, teachers, and friends each want a different part of you. When you feel stressful pressure, intense frustration, or even anger at life itself, you might need to take five minutes for yourself and breathe. It might sound cliché or lame or too new age for you, but before you judge it, try it for yourself and see how you feel afterwards.
Have a belief in a higher power. This might not work for all teens, especially those whose families are not religious or spiritual. However, a higher power doesn’t have to be what you think. You don’t have to believe in a God necessarily, or even any particular kind of God to receive the benefits of having a higher power. For instance, surfers might see the ocean as their higher power, writers might see nature as their higher power, and hippies might use love as their higher power. Whichever form of higher power you use, you can always go to it to get the support you need when stress is high.
Have a meditation or yoga practice. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. It can be done through a practice of meditation, which is essentially a practice of training the mind to stay present. In the same way, a yoga practice is a series of postures that can keep you present by staying connected to the breath and the body. Essentially, any practice that keeps the mind relaxed can be a great tool for times of stress.
If you can start using one or more of these tools now, using them will become second nature later in your life. And you’ll be able to avoid addiction and all the problems that come with it.