being bullied

Interpersonal Violence

 
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Interpersonal Violence

A closer look at what it is, how that can look, and how to get help

 

What is interpersonal violence?

Interpersonal violence occurs when one person uses power and control over another through physical, sexual, or emotional threats or actions, economic control, isolation, or other kinds of coercive behavior. Some different types of interpersonal violence include:

  • Abuse is any behavior toward another person that is physically violent or involves emotional coercion, or both and one person is in a position of authority.

  • Bullying which is a type of harassment that can be verbal, physical, or online. It can also take the form of coercion where someone is threatened by another person and as a result of those threats, the person being bullied feels intimidated and pressured into acting a certain way or doing a certain thing. This is called peer pressure. Bullying can occur in all settings—school, work, home, neighborhood and the internet.

  • Intimate Partner Violence occurs when one intimate or romantic partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through words and actions that are physically and emotionally abusive. Dating violence can take many forms including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. It occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can be instigated by either males or females. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

  • Sexual Violence is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. This can happen between strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, “friends”, intimate partners and family. It includes:

    • Inappropriate touching

    • Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration

    • Sexual intercourse that a person says no to

    • Rape or attempted rape

    • Sexual harassment or threats

    • Peeping or Voyeurism (watching private sexual acts)

    • Exhibitionism (exposing themselves in public)

  • Youth Violence refers to aggressive behaviors, including slapping, hitting, kicking, bullying, punching, fist fighting and knife fighting, as well as robbery, rape and homicide.

  • Gang Violence refers to acts of aggression and violence and criminal activity committed by a group of peers where the group usually has an identity (e.g. a name; a sign; a neighborhood). In some neighborhoods, the pressure to join a gang occurs early and can be very difficult to resist. Members often join to feel a sense of family and community, and to achieve power and respect. On the flipside, members may worry about their own safety and fears of being abused by others in the gang. Gang members include all genders.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a trained volunteer. One hotline is the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Information website provides additional information about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

What triggers violence?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become violent. Some of those reasons might be:

  • Anger

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Trying to control another person

  • Having a short temper

A person’s belief system might also influence how the person behaves. Someone who acts aggressively or violently may believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with anger or an acceptable way to get something that the person wants. The person may also have grown up in a family where violence was part of how family members interacted with each other.

Some ways to stop being violent

Violence is NOT okay and nobody should have to put up with it. Being angry, confused or frustrated are all normal emotions, and there are non-violent ways of expressing these emotions. If you’re having trouble managing your anger, you might want to check out the Anger & Violence and Anger Management articles.

Deciding to do something about your violent behavior is a big step and it takes a lot of courage.

Look at what makes you violent. To stop this behavior, it might be useful to make a list of the things that trigger your violent behavior. This could be a person, a situation, a mood, or drugs and alcohol. By knowing what triggers your violent behavior, you can start to avoid these things or try to work out ways to deal with the situation.

Who is affected by your violent behavior? Does it hurt anyone physically or emotionally? Do you want to have safe and secure relationships, or do you want people to be afraid of you? These questions might help you see how your violent behavior can negatively affect you and the people around you.

Talk to someone. Putting an end to violent behavior is not always easy, and having someone to support you can be helpful. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Going to counseling or visiting another mental health professional might be able to help you find ways to deal with your violent behavior.

Drugs, alcohol and violence

Using drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood that a person might act in a violent way. If you’re finding that you become violent while drinking or taking drugs, you might want to look at ways to better manage your drug and alcohol intake. A counselor or other mental health professional who specializes in addictions counseling can help you do this.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

 

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Knowing Someone Who Is Being Bullied

 
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Do you know someone that’s being bullied?

A closer look at what you can do if you know someone that’s being bullied

 

What is bullying?

Bullying usually involves one or more people teasing, being violent towards, or harassing somebody on an ongoing basis. Bullying can happen in person or online and through cell phones. Check out the Cyberbullying and Being Bullied articles for more information.

Is someone you know being bullied?

Bullying might be difficult to recognize, as it can happen when the person is alone. People who experience bullying might be scared to talk about it, or they might feel ashamed about being bullied. This could lead to them trying to hide what is going on. If you haven’t been present when a person is being hassled, some indications that he or she is being bullied are:

  • Lack of motivation

  • Vagueness (especially when he or she is talking about certain topics)

  • Unusual behavior

  • Physical injuries

Take care that you don’t immediately assume that the problem is bullying. These signs might be visible for a variety of reasons, and not only because a person is being bullied. People can show these signs because of their personalities or because they’re dealing with other issues.

What to do if you think someone is being bullied

Talk to that person. It’s a good idea to talk to the person you think is being bullied to find out more about the situation. Try to remember that the person you are talking with could be very sensitive about the situation and could be scared to talk about it.

Let that person know you care. Help boost this person’s self-confidence. If a person is being bullied, it could affect his or her confidence. It can help to let this person know that you are a friend and that you care. It can also help to point out all the great things he or she has to offer others to boost his or her self-esteem.

Include the person into your group. Making a special effort to include the person into your group could help raise the person’s confidence.

Stick up for him or her. If you see someone is being bullied, it might be helpful to say something. Take care to ensure that in trying to stick up for the person being bullied, you don’t make the situation worse or put yourself in danger.

Speak to someone. Letting someone else know about the situation can help you solve the problem. A teacher, counselor or another adult could be helpful. It might also be helpful to involve the person experiencing the bullying in the discussion. Together, you can go and talk to someone about the situation.

Bystanders’ role in bullying

A bystander is mainly someone that is outside of the actual bullying, aware that it’s happening, and making a decision to not become involved. Whereas those bullying and being bullied are directly involved, bystanders observe the bullying happen and choose not to act. There are several things a person does, or does not do, that can make them a bystander. Some of those things include:

  • Purposefully ignoring the event entirely

  • Witnessing the event and choosing not to take the appropriate actions

  • Witnessing the event thinking something along the lines of, “at least that person wasn’t me.”

What is so wrong with being a bystander?

Research on bullying has often concluded that it occurs most frequently in the presence of bystanders who choose to merely watch the events unfold instead of doing something. By being there, you may give bullies more incentive to embarrass and threaten their victims because they will have an audience.

Unfortunately, many people believe that being a bystander is the best option to take. Some reasons people may not intervene:

  • Believing it’s “none of their business,” and therefore they choose not to take sides because it seems too nosy

  • Feeling as though stepping in will make them the new target for the bully

  • Thinking intervening will only make things worse

  • Fearful that telling a teacher or other adult will make them a “snitch” or “tattletale”.

  • Feeling it won’t doing anything or change the circumstances (this is especially true in students who have approached teachers before regarding bullying, only to find that no action was taken)

If you are in a bystander situation, how do you intervene?

Bystanders need to realize that bullying is a serious problem, and that a lack of action on their part will only give bullies more opportunities to torment their victims. Some argue that close to 50% of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene, which just further shows the importance of intervening. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you witness bullying:

Don’t assume that this is a private matter between the bully and the victim. Incidents of bullying, especially those that are frequent, are often not because of personal reasons.

Don’t combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied person. However, don’t use insults or physical violence to defend the victim. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it harder for the victim.

Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurrent problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.

If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration in a person, and can turn their life into a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to feel that way.

Is stepping in yourself the only way? What if the bullies might try and attack you?

You should never step in to protect a bullied victim if it might also put your own safety at risk. If this is the case, you should talk to a teacher, counselor, or even the school principal if the problem keeps happening. Be sure to ask if you can speak to them in private, in case you are afraid of being the next target for bullies. Even if you are not directly stopping the bullying, by taking action and going to seek outside help, you are taking steps away from being a bystander.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

 

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com



 
 

Cyberbullying

 
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Are you or someone you know being cyberbullied?

Take a closer look at what that means and what you can do about it

 

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that is carried out through the Internet or over technology, such as e-mail, chat rooms, forums, social media, instant or direct messaging, text messages, or in the comment section of a post or web page. According to some estimates, nearly half of American teens have experienced cyberbullying.

Examples of cyberbullying behavior are:

  • Teasing and making fun of others

  • Spreading of rumors online

  • Sending unwanted messages

  • Defamation

  • Threatening to hurt someone

  • Telling someone to kill themselves

  • Pretending to be someone else online to get pictures or personal information out of a person

Cyberbullying can happen to anyone and the bully can act anonymously. People can also be bullied online by groups of people such as classmates or collective members of an online community.

How you feel if you are being cyberbullied

Just like bullying in real life, cyberbullying can have terrible effects on a person. Being bullied can lower your self-esteem and you might feel alone, sad, angry and scared. If you are being bullied, it’s not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied—they might be able to help you.

In some extreme situations, cyberbullying can be illegal, but in every instance, bullying is wrong. If you feel that your safety is threatened, call 911 or your local police.

How to stop cyberbullies

If you are being cyberbullied, it’s possible that you’re feeling powerless and isolated. However, there are actions you can take to stop the problem.

Keep a record (including time and date). This may help you (or the police) to find out who is sending the messages.

Tell someone. Talk to someone you trust, like a parent, friend, counselor or teacher.

Contact your phone or Internet service provider and report what is happening. They can help you block messages or calls from certain senders.

If messages are threatening or serious, get in touch with the police. Cyberbullying, if it’s threatening, is illegal. You don’t need to put up with that!

Don’t reply to bullying messages. It’ll only get worse if you do. By replying, the bully gets what he or she wants. Often if you don’t reply, the bully will leave you alone. Take advantage of the blocking feature that exists on most social media platforms.

Change your contact details. Get a new username, e-mail and phone number if you have to. When you’ve switched things over, only give your close friends and family the new contact information. It can also be helpful to turn off anonymous messages (or direct messaging altogether).

Keep your username and passwords secret.  Keep your personal information private so it doesn’t fall into the hands of someone who will misuse it.

 

 

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

 
 

Intimate Partner Violence

 
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Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence

A closer look at how to recognize intimate partner violence and what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that takes place between two people who have a romantic relationship—spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends. Many people also use the word “domestic violence.” IPV can occur in many forms and can affect people of any age. If someone is hurting you, it can be frightening, and you might not know how to make the abuse stop—especially if you live with the person who is abusing you. It’s important to remember that no one has the right to be violent toward you and there are people who can help you.

IPV can take on many forms, including:

Physical/Sexual. Forms of physical violence include pushing, shaking, punching, slapping, forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, throwing things at you, using weapons, damaging your property, or hurting or killing your pets. If someone is being physically violent to you, seek safety as soon as possible. Leave the situation as quickly and safely as possible, and call 911 or your local police.

Emotional/Verbal. This form of violence is often unrecognized as IPV, but it can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. If someone is making threats, texting or speaking to you in a way that is frightening, putting you down, or using blackmail against you, he or she is being emotionally violent. Emotional violence also includes insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, preventing you from having your own opinions and controlling what you do and where you go.

Economic. Having money—and making decisions about how to use it—is one form of independence. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or forcing you to ask for money unreasonably, this is another form of IPV.

According to the CDC, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.”

You might assume that IPV only happens between adults or in relationships where two people are living together. But this isn’t the case. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely to report violence in their romantic relationships than any other age group. According to a recent national survey, 8% of high school students reported physical violence and 7% reported that they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner within the last year.

How can I keep myself safe?

At times you might underestimate the amount of danger you’re in, either because you might not realize it or don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is because you think that your partner really loves and cares for you. Your partner might promise to “never do it again”, you might feel like you are to blame for their behavior, or perhaps you think you can change your partner. But you are not responsible for your partner’s action—ever—and there are actions you can take to ensure that he or she does not hurt you anymore.

Steps to ensuring your safety:

  • Call the police. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.

  • Leave. It can be incredibly hard to end a relationship, especially if you’re sharing a home with the person who’s hurting you. Because the person who is abusing you might be manipulating you or isolating you from your friends and family, you might feel like you can’t leave, or that you have nowhere to go. But there is support for you when you feel like you should leave a place where you feel threatened or unsafe. If you need to leave, make sure to take important items, like your IDs, credit cards, cash and cell phone.

  • Get support. Making a decision to leave an unsafe relationship can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, counselor or social worker. You might also want to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453. Hotline volunteers can direct you to local resources and shelters in your area where you can find additional help and support. Our crisis helpline directory also offer links to other services and resources in your country in Oregon, as well as national helplines.

IPV is just one form of violence. Abuse can come from adults, strangers, or your peers at school. You have the right to feel and be safe. For more information on steps you can take to ensure your safety, check out the following articles:

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Helping a Friend in a Sexually Abusive Relationship

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Is your friend in an abusive relationship?

A closer look at how you can support them

It is usually difficult to know if a friend is in a sexually abusive relationship. That being said, there are some warning signs that you might notice, especially in their behavior. These can also be true if your friend is in an emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive relationship.

What to look for:

  • Your friend is losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy

  • Your friend is overly worried about what his or her boyfriend or girlfriend thinks

  • They’re acting overly happy or seem to be worried and anxious when with their partner

  • If someone calls your friend’s partner out on something negative, your friend makes excuses for their partner all the time

  • They avoid friends and social activities that do not include their partner

  • Your friend jokes about their partner’s violent outbursts

  • Your friend has unexplained injuries and the explanations seem odd or unlikely

  • Your friend’s behavior has changed dramatically since they started dating this current partner

How you can help

If you do suspect that your friend is being abused by their partner, there are some ways you can help, but it is always important to remember that if you believe that you or your friend are in some immediate danger, you need to go to the police.

Encourage your friend to talk. Try to get your friend to do most of the talking. Here are some open-ended questions you can ask your friend:

  • How are you feeling about your relationship?

  • What do your friends and family think about your relationship?

  • Do you have plans for the future of your relationship?

Try to talk when you’re alone with your friend, not in front of other friends or family members, especially their partner. Sometimes it can be easier to talk if you’re also focused on another activity like going for a drive, making a meal or doing the dishes. You should talk to your friend or seek help from an outside source, but do not confront your friend’s partner. This could make the situation worse and you could even be putting yourself in an unsafe position. You will also want to suggest that your friend not talk to their partner about your conversation.

Listen to your friend. Don’t be judgmental. If your friend is in an abusive relationship, they probably already feel down. Don’t make your friend feel worse.

Don’t blame your friend for what’s happening. Don’t tell your friend what they should have done differently. Concentrate on what makes them happy and how your friend can take action to change things now.

Don’t tell your friend what to do. Instead, encourage your friend to think about options. You might ask your friend if he or she has already tried getting help, or you might suggest places to seek help.

Be specific about why you’re concerned. For example, say things like, “I feel bad when he says you’re stupid” or “We hate to see you nervous and unhappy.”

Make sure your friend knows they have your support. Your friend might be feeling very isolated and alone. Let your friend know that you are there for them, and that they have already begun seeking help by talking to you. Make sure your friend knows you are willing to support them in any way that will help.

Help your friend work out some realistic strategies. What works in this situation will depend on how willing your friend is to see that there is a problem.

Your friend has to find their own way through the situation, but talking to you or a trusted person can help. If your friend does not want to talk to you about it, you might just suggest that your friend call a helpline (like one of the ones listed below), where they can get help without bringing anyone personal into the situation. Encouraging your friend to realize their strengths as an individual can be the best protection you can give, and the best way to ensure that your friend does not become a victim of abuse again.

Where to get help

Finding the courage and the appropriate way to talk about these issues with your friend is important. If you need advice or information for how to do this, there are lots of services and support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship or has been sexually assaulted. Though you should not feel personally responsible for a friend’s situation, you can always choose to help.

You can call:

For more information, you can check out our articles on Abusive Relationships and Sexual Violence. Kids Health may also have useful information on sexual abuse.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Peer Pressure

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Peer Pressure

A closer look at how you might be affected by peer pressure and ways to avoid succumbing to it

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is the influence you feel from a person or group of people to do something you might not otherwise consider doing.

It’s not uncommon to want to be part of a group and feel like you belong in a community, especially if you are new or less experienced than the people around you.

Peer pressure often happens because you don’t want to be alone or left out. So you go with what other people think in order for them to include you. A peer can be anyone around the same age as you, like a friend, classmate, or even someone you’ve seen on TV and admire. You might try to live up to people’s expectations, but it’s important to be mindful to not have other people’s expectations cloud what you want.

If you’re dealing with peer pressure, you’re not alone.

How does peer pressure affect us?

Peer pressure isn’t always a negative thing. It can be a positive influence and help challenge or motivate you to do your best. However, it’s helpful to recognize that peer pressure can also be negative. It can result in you doing something that doesn’t fit with your sense of right and wrong.

Peer pressure might influence you in a number of ways, including:

  • Fashion choices

  • Alcohol and drug use

  • Decision to have a romantic partner

  • Choice of who your friends are

  • Academic performance

Where does peer pressure come from?

Peer pressure can be present at school or within a broader community. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Peer pressure can affect you in a number of different ways:

  • Directly. Peer pressure can be as simple and direct as someone telling you what to do. It might be a good idea to talk to someone you trust if you feel threatened, or if you are being hurt or pressured into something you don’t want to do. You could talk to a family member, friend, teacher or counselor.

  • Indirectly. Peer pressure might not always be obvious to you. It’s not uncommon for a group of friends to have particular habits or activities that they do together. But when you’re with a different group of friends, it might be unlikely that you do those same things. For example, you might only smoke when you are with certain friends, or you might be more likely to study when you are with other friends.

  • Individually. Sometimes the pressure comes from you. Feeling different from a group can be hard. Sometimes this happens when people move to a new city or start a new school or job. This often means having to make new friends and fit into a new environment. To avoid feeling out of place, you might do things to make sure you feel like the rest of the group. When people feel unsure about themselves, they might be more likely to feel the effects of peer pressure.

What can you do about peer pressure?

Being an individual means making decisions based on what is best for you. It means taking ownership and responsibility for what you do and how you think. But being an individual also means that you can be a valued part of a comfortable and welcoming group. It might be hard to resist peer pressure and stay an individual. Here are some suggestions that can help you manage peer pressure better.

Value common interests. Hanging out with people who like doing similar stuff may help you avoid a situation where you feel pressured into things you don’t want to do. Remember that being seen hanging out in the “cool crowd” might not be as much fun as it looks if you’re not comfortable with the decisions that crowd is making.

Say no. Having the strength to say no can be hard, but it can also make you feel good to stick with what you believe in. Explain to people in a calm way why you don’t want to be part of something, and you might earn respect from others and gain confidence in yourself.

Try not to judge others. If possible, try not to place judgments on other people’s choices. Respecting someone else’s choice may help them to respect yours. Remember that you don’t have to agree with their actions. Focusing on the reasons why you don’t feel happy with the choice might help you to not judge them.

Take action. Taking action against negative peer pressure can be easier when you’re more comfortable in your environment. Standing up for yourself and others can be a way to gain that comfort. Both of these are ways in which you might be able to create a positive atmosphere within a group.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Stress

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Feeling stressed?

A closer look into stress, its causes, and how you can manage it

What is stress?

Stress is a common feeling that comes from a physiological reaction your body has to certain events. It is the body’s way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina and heightened alertness.

Even though stress can be a positive thing (like motivating us to make positive changes in our lives or giving us that “extra push” for an exam) sometimes we have too much stress and begin to feel that our lives are out of balance. When this happens managing stress could become a challenge.

What causes stress?

Common events that can stress you out (also called stressors):

  • Tests and exams

  • Problems at school or work

  • Relationships

  • New and greater responsibilities

  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

  • Moving to a new place

  • A traumatic event—such as the death of a loved one

  • New or chronic illness or disability

  • Peer pressure or being bullied

  • Unrealistic expectations placed on you by yourself, friends, family, or culture

  • Watching parents argue

  • Feeling guilty

Everyone’s threshold for handling stress is different, and can change from day to day. Depending on your own resiliency (or ability to thrive in spite of adversity), even dealing with one stressor could be enough to overwhelm you. Could you imagine trying to juggle several stressors at once?

How does stress affect the body?

The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The brain tells your glands to produce more of the hormones called adrenaline and cortisol, and to release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism. These changes within your body help prepare you to deal with pressure, which is also known as a stress response. When this natural reaction works properly, the body’s stress response improves your ability to perform well under pressure.

Can I be too stressed?

If you have too much stress in your life, it can do more harm than good, but sometimes stress is necessary to get through certain situations. For example, feeling stressed out about an exam might encourage someone to study more and prepare for the exam. However, there’s also a chance it could become overwhelming—making you panic and feeling so nervous about an exam that you can’t study or concentrate.

It’s important to remember that stress affects people in different ways, and what causes one person to become stressed may not have the same effect on someone else. Try not to compare yourself too much to others, they’re all experiencing things unique to them as well.

What can happen if you’re experiencing too much stress?

Too much stress may have negative consequences for your health, both physical and mental.

Psychological/Emotional Consequences

  • Feeling hostile, angry, or irritable

  • Feeling anxious

  • Avoiding other people

  • Crying

  • Moodiness, feeling frustrated with things that normally don’t bother you

  • Low self-esteem or lack of confidence

  • Anxiety attacks

  • Depression or sadness

Physical Consequences

  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, or indigestion

  • Headache

  • Backache

  • Inability to sleep

  • Eating too much or too little

  • Raised heart-rate

  • Smoking

If you are experiencing any of these problems you may want to talk to your local doctor, counselor or other mental health professional.

Managing stress

It may not be possible to get rid of the stress altogether in your life, however managing your stress is possible. Below are some ideas for managing stress:

  • Tackling the problem. When you’re feeling stressed, you might not realize right away what is causing you stress. First you need to figure out what the problem is and make it manageable. The problem will not go away on its own. In fact, if you ignore the problem, it will probably just get worse. Once you know what the problem is, there are a number of ways you can de-stress.

  • Go for a walk or run. Exercising can be a good way to relieve stress. It helps to get rid of pent up energy and can leave you feeling much calmer. Exercising also releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones, which make you feel less pain and make you happier overall! Any sort of exercise can be helpful during stressful times. You may want to go and kick a football with friends, dance, or head to the gym.

  • Hang out with friends. If you are feeling stressed, hanging out with friends can be a great way to keep your mind off of things for a while. By talking with friends, you could realize that similar things that stress you out, also stress your friends out. If you are stressing out about school or work, remember that it is also important for you to have a social life. It is okay to go do something fun with your friends and take a break from your other responsibilities sometimes. Balance is key.

  • Turn the stressor into something fun. Sometimes you might find that the problem isn’t all that bad. It might even be fun! For example, locking yourself in your room or library to focus on doing work might help with stress. However, working in a silent room might also be making you more stressed. You might want to try getting a group of friends together to study in one place, and then maybe grabbing a bite to eat after. Studying together could lower everyone’s stress levels.

  • Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing can help to relax the body and calm you down. Taking deep breaths before an exam, game, job interview or before going on stage may help to calm you down and allow you to focus on the task at hand. The Developing Coping Strategies or Mindfulness articles may also be helpful.

  • Set realistic goals. With unrealistic goals, it is hard to keep things in perspective and cause you to get too stressed out. Setting realistic goals (both short-term and long-term ones) and managing your time and expectations may help to reduce or manage stress. You may also want to check out our Problem Solving and Putting Your Goals into Action articles.

  • Have multiple paths to achieve your goals. There is never one path to achieving your goals. It is important not to put all your eggs in one basket. You could investigate and plan other ways to get where you want to go, whether it’s a university degree, job, or holiday vacation. Everything might not always play out how you thought it would, but you might end up happy with the results. For example, you might get a new job and be very excited about it. After a few days, you might realize your tasks are not as enjoyable as you had hoped. Though your path to achieving job experience is not exactly what you thought it would be, in the end, you might reach your goal and be completely happy with it.

  • Try to avoid harmful behaviors. It may be tempting to use smoking, alcohol, drugs and caffeine as a means of managing your stress. Try to avoid using these substances as a coping mechanism because, in the long run, they may make you more stressed out and can be harmful to the body. Once you rely on something like caffeine, you may realize you are unable to function without it. You may also be tempted to engage in other negative behaviors besides using drugs or alcohol, such as procrastinating, overeating, skipping class, or blaming others. These behaviors will likely get you into trouble, create conflicts, or make you even more stressed out once everything begins piling up.

  • Watch what you’re thinking. Your outlook, attitude, and thoughts influence the way you see situations, people, and the world around you. Is your cup half full or half empty? A healthy dose of optimism can help you make the best out of stressful circumstances. Even if you’re out of practice, or tend to be a bit of a pessimist, everyone can learn to think more optimistically and reap the benefits. Learning to embrace the challenges that come up in your life will help you change how you view adversity. Embrace them and conquer them.

  • Speaking to someone. If you find that you are always stressed and have a hard time focusing on daily tasks, it may be helpful to talk to someone. It can be hard to ask for help, but your friends and family members might not be able to read your mind and know what’s going on with you. Talking to someone else might help you realize that something you are stressed out about is actually pretty manageable. Parents, teachers, or a school counselor may be able to help you cope.

Stress and relationships

Maintaining relationships with friends, family, co-workers, or boyfriends/girlfriends may cause you to become stressed, or your being stressed might affect those relationships. To help manage the stress, it could be helpful to talk to someone about what’s upsetting you. Talking to someone that you trust could help you work out why you are stressed out by the situation or relationship and also offer solutions about healthy ways to manage the stress. You can talk to a friend, family, member, or teacher, but if you feel more comfortable talking with someone else, you can also talk to a doctor, counselor, or even trained volunteers on a helpline.

For additional information:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally written by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Being Bullied

What to do if you’re being bullied

A closer look at being bullied and how you can help yourself stay safe

There are many things you can do if you’re being bullied. Different strategies can work in different situations. You can try and work it out by yourself, but if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. Don’t be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied—other people can be of great help. If you are being bullied at school, find a trusted teacher, school psychologist, guidance counselor, or administrator with whom you can speak. If you are being bullied at work, seek out a supervisor or a human resources manager.

Working it out yourself

Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you aren’t feeling unsafe, frightened or physically threatened), you might decide to try and work it out by yourself first. Try and remember that no matter how hard you try, the bully might not be willing to change his or her behavior. At this point, talking to someone else can be really helpful.

The following tips might be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with verbal bullying on your own.

When possible, ignore the bully. Ignoring can be helpful, particularly for one-time cases. Bullies are looking for a reaction from you and often lose interest if they aren’t given the satisfaction of making you upset.

Suggestions for ignoring the bully:

  • Walk away when the bully approaches you. Try and imagine that you’re walking away from a friend. This can be a way of making sure your body language (which you’re usually unaware of) doesn’t give away a sense of fear

  • Concentrate on something else. Try thinking about what you’ll do next weekend, counting to 100, or planning your homework

  • Have a saying or a statement that you can repeat in your head when the bully approaches you to block out a sense of fear

Build a virtual wall around you. It might be helpful to build an invisible wall around you by visualizing it in your mind. Any verbal abuse then just bounces off the wall, never passing through to affect you.

Use visualization. Bullies can be pretty scary. Picturing that person looking silly might help to make them less problematic for you. For example, picture the bully’s head shrinking, or picture the bully in his or her underwear.

Stay positive. It can be hard to remember all your good points when someone is doing their best to be negative. Try to think of all the things you do well, and remember that you are a valuable person. Thinking of how bad the bully must be feeling can also help you stay positive. Often times, people that bully have been bullied elsewhere in their life. Everyone’s story is different, and we never know what someone is going through.

Surround yourself with people who care about you. Surrounding yourself with positive people who know and like you for YOU can boost your confidence. This will help you let bullying comments more easily roll off your back. It’s important that you connect with people who genuinely care for you and recognize all of your great qualities.

Hang around other people. You might be safer if you stay in groups. If you are alone, try to identify people who can offer you safety.

Be confident. Bullies usually pick on people that they think are weaker than they are, so it might help if you stand up to them.

Suggestions on how to stand up to a bully:

  • Telling him or her to leave you alone may get a bully off your back

  • Ever heard of the phrase “kill them with kindness”? Being nice to a bully may throw him or her off

  • Using humor can also throw a bully off track

  • Use positive self-talk. Try saying to yourself something like I know I am better than that. I’m not like that. I don’t have to pick on other people to know that I am good

  • Remember that your friends accept you for who you are.

Keep out of a bully’s way. It might be possible for you to avoid the bully. This can mean getting to school in a different way, or avoiding the places that you know he or she hangs out. By avoiding a bully, you’re not giving in, but looking after yourself and making sure you are happier and more comfortable.

Asking someone for help

To stop bullying—whether verbal, written or cyberbullying— it can be helpful to tell someone that you are being bullied. This can seem scary at first, but telling someone can lighten your load and help you to work out how to solve the problem. Talking to someone is particularly important if you feel unsafe or frightened, or if you don’t have many friends. Asking for help or talking to someone about your situation is not being weak or “giving in”. In fact, telling someone can take a lot of strength and courage.

There are many people who might be able to help, including friends, older brothers and sisters, teachers, family, counselors or parents. Teachers and counselors are specially trained to help you. In the workplace, you could also talk to a human resource manager or union representative.

Identify strategies that work for YOU. There are a number of ways to cope with the sadness, anger, fear, and isolation that can accompany bullying.  This can be something as simple as counting to ten or thinking of your favorite happy memory. It’s important that you identify coping strategies that work for you: think about what makes you happy or calms you and try to incorporate those things into your life. In the moment, use strategies that help you act appropriately and feel better. It can be a mantra you repeat to yourself or taking calming breaths. In the long term, there are a number of ways we can help ourselves cope with the feelings bullying creates: exercise, watching funny movies, talking to friends, playing with the family pet, etc. Find something that works for you, and if it helps, make a list of those things so you can remember all of the activities you’ve found helpful.

Some tips for getting help:

  • It might be easier if you talk to someone you know well and trust. This person can give you much needed support and might have suggestions for dealing with the situation that you might not have considered.

  • If you decide to talk to a teacher or counselor, you might feel more comfortable taking a friend with you. If you feel you might get too nervous to speak, write down what you’d like to say on paper or digitally. Don’t feel ashamed about coming forward—teachers and counselors are there to help.

  • If you think that the person you’re speaking with doesn’t believe you, or isn’t taking you seriously, or if that person doesn’t help you take action, it doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid or that the bullying should continue. It’s important you tell someone else and continue to do so until you get the help you need. It’s important to be your own advocate and speak up for yourself.

  • Being bullied can be upsetting and stressful, and it can affect your life in many different ways, including your self-esteem, relationships, work and education. If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. There is no shame in asking for help.

  • Remember, if you are in any danger of hurting yourself or someone else, it is vital that you ask for help immediately.

Your rights

Unfortunately there are no federal laws prohibiting bullying, but ever state has it’s own set of laws revolving around bullying. However, federally-funded schools are required to intervene if the bullying turns into harassment or is happening due to race, ethnicity, disability, age, sex, or religion. If the school fails to do anything to stop the harassment or discrimination, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to help.

Remember that everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves or asks to be bullied.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Abusive Relationships

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Abusive Relationships

A closer look at abusive relationships, how to identify if you or someone you love is in one, and where to get help

When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.

Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend and good about yourself.

Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.

Key signs of an abusive relationship

While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:

Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.

Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.

Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.

Gaslighting. This is a common tactic used by abusers to manipulate you and to make you question your reality. They are confident liars and slowly start showing this side of themselves to you, isolating you from loved ones and tearing into your sense of identity and all you care about. If you’ve ever been made to feel like you were losing your mind, it’s likely you were with a gaslighter.

Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that he or she will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. He or she might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.

What to do if you are being abused

It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.

It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.

It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, overworked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.

If you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.

Breaking the cycle of violence

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their boyfriends or girlfriends very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.

After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from him or her. It’s possible to begin thinking that the violence is your fault, or perhaps you start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You could also be feeling scared that he or she will hurt you if you try to leave.

Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.

The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this and you deserve better.

Where to get help

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself. To develop a safe plan to leave, check out loveisrespect.org’s comprehensive safety planning guide. The sources listed below can also help you get safe.

Helplines

Many free helplines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Check out our Crisis Helpline article to find crisis helplines and services offered both nationally and within the state of Oregon.

Some national helplines you can reach out to:

Both hotlines are confidential and staffed 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who are ready to talk to you about whatever you’re feeling.

 

State resources

You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information on state coalitions.

Womenslaw.org has information regarding legal matters and abuse per state that might be helpful looking at before leaving the abusive relationship.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Developing Coping Strategies

 

Coping 101

A closer look at developing coping skills that work for you

 

How can I develop coping strategies?

In some situations, despite our best efforts, we still can’t fix the problems we find ourselves in. For example, if you didn’t get into your dream college it’s natural to feel upset and disappointed. It may trigger thoughts of not being good enough or asking yourself why that happened to you. If your dream college rejects you, don’t feel discouraged. You’re able to talk to your friends about what they’ve done when a college rejected them or you can talk to a school counselor to see what your other options are. If you spend all your time thinking about why you didn’t get in then you lose time looking at other colleges that you may like just as much as your dream college.

When things don’t go as planned, there are other alternative routes to take. These routes become easier to identify once you find the right coping strategy. If you’ve tried a number of problem-solving strategies and none of them have worked, it might be time to focus on developing skills to help you cope with your problem.

Coping strategies can help you learn to accept situations that are beyond your control and find ways to help you feel better even if the problem still exists. When you develop coping strategies, you’re able to build resilience. You’re able to see things in a better perspective and you’ll feel much better about how you handled a certain situation. Being able to cope with things makes you a stronger person.

To develop coping strategies, try taking the following actions:

  • Challenge negative self-talk. Try and focus more on positives about yourself rather than the negatives. The less you bring yourself down, the better you feel about yourself. Check out our article here for more information.

  • Talk to people who can support you.  Opening up, whether it’s to a best friend, a close family member, or a counselor, can be helpful. They may offer a new perspective or just a comforting response to help you through. If you feel uncomfortable talking to someone in person, you can also call a helpline anonymously. There is always someone there to listen to you.

  • Relax. Breath. A little relief can go a long way towards helping you reflect on your situation and what can you do for yourself. You may want to try deep breaths, a long walk or something else that you find soothing.

  • Distract yourself. Try not to spend all your time and energy thinking about your problem. Keep yourself occupied. Keeping busy can help lift your mood and may even offer opportunities to channel your emotions into positive outlets.

  • Get involved. Make time for enjoyable activities so that you don’t focus exclusively on your problem. Volunteering in areas that interest you may also help.

Different coping strategies

There are numerous ways we can use coping skills to deal with the circumstances and emotional states we find ourselves in. Sometimes our emotions are so intense that relaxing in the moment is out of the question. In order to come to a centered place, we need to get out of our minds and bring ourselves to the present moment. When we are grounded, we are more capable of handling our emotions in an effective way.

Some ways of doing this are through tapping into the five senses. To practice these mindfully, absorb your attention into everything you do. If you’re eating, notice the textures, the different flavors, and the temperature of the food. Really try to be with the moment as much as possible. If you find your mind wandering off, be gentle with yourself and come back to the present moment. It can take a lot of practice to be fully present, so go easy on yourself.

Coping strategies through the five senses:

  • Touch. Wrap yourself in a soft blanket, walk in the grass with bare feet, hold a warm mug of tea, hold your best friend’s hand, explore nearby textures, notice the feeling of your clothes on your skin and the quality it holds (heavy, soft, scratchy, loose, etc)

  • Sight. Notice the textures around you, name the colors you see, look at photos you’ve taken when you were at peace or happy, identify plants or animals on a walk

  • Hearing. Listen to all the small sounds happening around you, hear your breath as you breathe in deeply, try to identify all the instruments used in some soft music, listen to a guided meditation

  • Taste. Notice the texture of the food or drink, identify the different flavors, let food melt in your mouth as you explore its qualities, drink something refreshing

  • Smell. Enjoy the different scents of your environment, try to figure out the different smells you come across, light a candle or incense

Once you find yourself in a space where you’re capable of relaxing and soothing yourself, explore using your current strengths or talents as a form of self-care. If you’re unsure what that might be for you, try thinking of things that make you feel fully absorbed, perhaps losing track of time from how involved you are with this activity. This sensation is called “being in flow”. You’re partaking in something that naturally speaks to you and allows you to transform your feelings by channeling them into something that makes you feel good. If you’re having a hard time thinking of what that might look like for you, try exploring some of the possibilities below.

Coping skills for self-care & relaxation:

  • Yoga

  • Journaling

  • Listening to your favorite music (or songs you can sing along to)

  • Taking a hot bath or shower

  • Going on a walk

  • Putting yourself out in nature

  • Meditating

  • Self-massage

  • Reading a book

  • Studying something that interests you

  • Painting or drawing

  • Having someone play with your hair

Our feelings often act as a sort of internal communication with ourselves. Pay attention to the feelings you have, but don’t become absorbed by them. They’re trying to tell us something about ourselves. Maybe it means we need to set better boundaries for ourselves, or perhaps, telling us how much we care. Although it’s important we sit with our feelings at times, it’s equally important to let those feelings pass and move on. This isn’t the same as avoiding our problems—it’s creating space to let things go.

Healthy distractions:

  • Writing poetry, short stories, fan-fiction, or exploring creative writing prompts

  • Playing or learning an instrument

  • Doing something creative like painting, sculpting, woodworking, or building things

  • Working out

  • Playing video games

  • Watching a movie

  • Calling a friend

  • Watching funny videos online

  • Browsing wholesome content on social media

  • Experimenting with makeup

  • Learning a new language

  • Cleaning up your room

  • Taking care of your pets or plants

  • Cooking a nice meal

Practice acceptance

When you’re faced with a difficult situation, an important question to ask is: “What’s the best thing I can do to resolve this problem?” If there’s anything you can do, it’s important to work through the options one step at a time. Writing out your options and then weighing them with a pros and cons list may be a helpful way of narrowing down the best resolution. However, sometimes you might find yourself in a situation that you can’t change, no matter how much you would like things to be different.

There’s not much you can do about your height, your age, most of your physical features or the family you were born into. There are also things that have happened in the past that you can’t change. What has happened has happened, and we can’t change the past, but you can still change the way you deal with a situation in the future.

The best way to deal with situations you can’t change is to practice acceptance. This means accepting the way things are without insisting that they should be different, and deciding to get on with life in spite of the situation. Accepting how things are or happened and letting go of the attachment you have to more favorable outcomes will reduce the amount of suffering you put on yourself. Sometimes, accepting things as they are and removing expectations (from yourself AND others) can remove the pressure for things to be perfect or to always go well, and can better allow you to heal.

Coping Strategies and Resolutions

Is there a situation that you don’t like? If you can change it, try working through the eight steps in the Problem Solving article to find a solution to your problem. If not, see how you feel after trying to accept the situation. What can you say to yourself to accept the situation? What sorts of things can you do to get on with your life in a positive way, in spite of the problem?

Remember that problems are a normal part of life, and that we usually feel better when we do something to resolve them rather than just dwell on them. But, if you can’t solve the problem, it’s helpful to change the way you think about it. Practice acceptance and move on with life in a positive way.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr. Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond, Foundation for Life Sciences (2005)


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Putting Pressure on Ourselves

The “Shoulds”

I should do this. I should be like that. I should know already. Ever find yourself saying these things to yourself? You’re not alone. Many of us set expectations for ourselves that start with “I should…” that are actually damaging to our mental health and personal growth. Below, we unpack the “shoulds” and how to reframe your thoughts around these expectations.

Why “shoulds” shouldn’t be a thing

We all have rules that underlie many of the things that we do. We call these “shoulds” because we often think in terms of “I should do this” or “I should do that”.

In our society, certain behaviors and qualities are promoted as desirable, while others are given very little importance. For instance, things like being good at our work or being attractive, outgoing, sociable, self-disciplined, etc. are often reinforced by our parents, schools, friends and the media.

Some of our “shoulds” can be helpful. For example, believing you should be friendly and supportive to others will help you get along with people and have better relationships. Similarly, the belief that you should work hard at school may help you do well on your exams, and the belief that you should look for solutions when problems arise may help you to solve problems.

In an effort to be liked and accepted by other people, we often take on many of these rules, which become part of our own belief system. However, these should statements can get us into trouble, especially when we can’t live up to them. Often we aren’t even aware of our “shoulds” until we start to think about them.

Should statements can make you feel bad

While some of our “shoulds” are helpful, when you hold onto these beliefs in an absolute, inflexible way it raises your chances of feeling bad about yourself and can damage your self-esteem. This is particularly the case when we can’t meet our own expectations. For example, if we believe that we should always do well in our assignments but in reality we fail to do so, or if we believe that we should always be confident and relaxed, but in reality we feel shy and self-conscious, we may end up feeling very stressed and unhappy.

Whenever we tell ourselves that things must be a certain way or that we must achieve certain things, we put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure and increase the likelihood of upsetting ourselves. Of course, learning to be flexible doesn’t mean that you have to ignore your values or preferences. It is important to know what you want and to work towards your goals, while also being aware of how realistic your goals are.

You also need to accept that things won’t always work out the way that you would like. For example, self-talk such as: “I would like to do well in my assignments, and I will try my hardest” is healthy and appropriate because it is flexible—it doesn’t demand that it must be perfect. This type of self-talk doesn’t create stress or anxiety because the thoughts are preferences rather than rigid rules.

For more information on challenging thought patterns, check out our Common Thinking Errors article.

Some common “shoulds”

Take a look at some of the common “shoulds” or rules that many people live by. Are any of these relevant to you?

  • I should be liked and approved of by everyone

  • I should always be successful in the things that I do

  • I should always do things perfectly

  • I should be thin/muscular/sexy, etc.

  • I should always look good

  • I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend

  • I should be the same as everyone else (I shouldn’t be different)

  • I should feel confident in every situation

  • I should be clear about my future and know where I am heading

  • I should always say the right things at the right time

  • I should always be able to meet other people’s expectations

  • I should always do what people want

  • I should always feel calm and in control

  • I should always be happy

  • I should never make mistakes

  • I should put other people’s need before my own

  • I should never say anything that might make other people feel uncomfortable

  • I should always make the right decisions

The trouble with “shoulds” is that they are inflexible. While there is no problem with wanting or preferring things to be a certain way, when we believe that things must be a certain way we make ourselves feel bad.

Converting “shoulds” into preferences

Identifying and challenging your “shoulds” is one of the most helpful ways of avoiding upsetting emotions like anxiety, anger, depression, or resentment.

Example: Michelle: “I don’t have as many friends as some of the other girls in class.”

Michelle’s shoulds: I should be popular. I should be more outgoing and make friends with everyone. Everyone should like me and want to hang out with me. If I’m not as popular as everyone else, then I am no good. Because I don’t have as high a number of friends, it means that I am no good.

Converting Michelle’s shoulds into preferences. I prefer to be popular, but this isn’t always possible. People are different and have different personalities. Sometimes it’s better to have a few friends I truly care about than a lot of friends who I hardly know. I am OK as a person, whether I have 10 friends or 100. My friends do not define who I am as a person.

You’re allowed to have ideas on how you wish to present yourself in this world and how you want to be seen. However, those ideas are not always possible as we are complex beings living in a complex world. Remember to be forgiving of yourself and that the perceptions of others don’t have to be yours, too!

Blaming others

People let us down at times, and sometimes you might do things that you later regret. It is reasonable to be disappointed or annoyed when this happens. However, if you have very strong ‘shoulds’ about how people should behave, you may end blaming people for their actions. For example, “They should do the right thing!”, or perhaps, “I should do the right thing!”. 

The problem with blaming is that it makes you feel angry and frustrated, but it doesn’t solve the problem. In the end, it is a waste of your energy. Even if other people are at fault, telling yourself that they should not be this way doesn’t change the situation—it just makes you feel bad.

Try it out

You can avoid getting upset in all sorts of situations by learning to think flexibly. This means learning to prefer things to be a certain way, but accepting that situations will not always be the way we would like them to be. Often times, life affords us a learning moment or the opportunity to have patience and forgiveness when things don’t go our way, and that’s okay.

Try it out! Try and identify any “shoulds” that cause you to feel bad, and change that should into a preference.

  • What thoughts are the sources of my pain and frustration?

  • How can I transform those thoughts into preferences?

  • What would be the advantages of doing this?

  • What would I need to say to myself to do this? (Hint: try repeating the mantra, “It is what it is”)

  • How might changing this should into a preference affect the way I feel and respond to those around me?

 

 

Information for this article was provided by:

  • This fact sheet came from: Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions. By: Dr Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond

  • Foundation for Life Sciences (2005) www.fls.org.au


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Self-Esteem

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Self-Esteem

A brief look at self-esteem and how to cultivate it into your life

What is self-esteem?

Your self-esteem is the way you look at or perceive yourself. If you have healthy self-esteem, it means that you like yourself and you believe that you are just as cool as everyone else. If you have low self-esteem, it means that you believe that you’re inferior to others. People who have low self-esteem tend to focus on what they believe are their shortcomings, and sometimes blow those flaws out of proportion. They might ignore their strengths and achievements.

How does your self-esteem affect your life?

Your self-esteem can affect how you feel, how you relate to other people, how you deal with challenges and how relaxed and safe you feel in your daily life. Here are a few examples:

The way you feel. In order to be happy you need to like yourself. If you have low self-esteem or if you’re constantly putting yourself down, you’re more likely to feel depressed, anxious or unhappy than someone who has a positive view of himself or herself.

Your relationships. Low self-esteem can influence the way you interact with other people. For instance, you might find yourself being unassertive (not saying what you think, feel or want), and doing things you don’t want to do. Low self-esteem might also cause you to seek constant reassurance from your friends, because deep down, you might not be sure that they like you. Or you might find yourself trying too hard to please other people. You might always agree with them and offer to do things for them in order to”earn” their friendship. Being treated badly by other people can reinforce the belief that you aren’t good enough and lower your self-esteem even more.

Your willingness to move out of your comfort zone. Trying new things and moving out of your comfort zone every now and then is important for growing and developing as a person. Low self-esteem might hold you back from new experiences because you may become overly concerned with the possibility of failure or looking stupid.

How relaxed and comfortable you feel in the world. When your self-esteem is low, it can be difficult to feel relaxed and comfortable in everyday situations. For instance, if you have low self-esteem, you might feel awkward and self-conscious in many situations. You might worry too much about what others think of you, and you might be constantly on the lookout for signs that people don’t like you. If someone doesn’t acknowledge you, you might immediately assume that he or she doesn’t like you.

The self-fulfilling prophecy of low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can become a vicious circle. For example, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you might withdraw from people and give out unfriendly vibes. You might not look people in the eye, smile or initiate conversations. This kind of behavior might make you appear cold and distant, and as a result, people might not make the effort to be friendly toward you. You might then detect unfriendly vibes from people, and your belief that you’re not very likable would be reinforced. This is called a “self-fulfilling prophecy” because your low self-esteem affects your behavior towards others, which in turn causes people to be distant toward you and reinforce your original beliefs about yourself.

Building healthy self-esteem

There are many benefits associated with having good self-esteem—feeling good, taking up appropriate challenges, relating to people as equals and feeling relaxed in daily life situations. Good self-esteem isn’t something that you can achieve overnight. You need to work on it over time. This is particularly important in situations where you’re faced with setbacks or difficulties. Here are a few ways that you can build and maintain healthy self-esteem.

Accept yourself. Every one of us has faults and weaknesses—this is part of being human. The key to good self-esteem is self-acceptance. This means accepting yourself as you are without condemning yourself for your perceived shortcomings.

Avoid labeling yourself. When you don’t reach a goal or perform as well as you hoped, it’s easy to label yourself as”bad” in some way. For example, you might say things like I’m an idiot. This is a form of labeling. Labeling yourself is a negative way of thinking, because it relies on an over-generalization. Each person is a complex mixture of characteristics, traits, qualities and behaviors, and no one—including you—can be summed up by just one trait. Labeling simply makes you feel bad about yourself, and serves no useful purpose. It’s much more helpful to be specific and stick to the facts. For example, instead of labeling and saying things like I’m a failure, stick to the facts and say I didn’t get the grade I wanted. Check out the article on Common Thinking Errors for more tips on how to avoid labeling.

Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Having healthy self-esteem means that you are able to feel good about yourself even though you’re not perfect. You can be aware of your strengths and still acknowledge your weaknesses without judging yourself. Many people are too aware of their weaknesses, but ignore their strengths and good qualities. For this reason, it can be helpful to spend some time thinking about all the positive qualities that you take for granted. It might be helpful to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses you’d like to improve upon.

Set goals. Although it’s important to practice self-acceptance, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim to improve some things about yourself or your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to set goals for things that you’d like to achieve, or to change things that you aren’t happy with. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable in some social situations, it might be useful to work on your communication skills and taking more social risks. While it’s often very helpful to set meaningful goals, it’s also important to maintain a flexible attitude. This means accepting yourself whether or not you achieve your goals.

Be objective about situations. When you personalize an event or situation, you take responsibility for things that aren’t your fault, or you blame yourself for negative outcomes without taking all factors into account. In reality, situations and circumstances might have been beyond your control. Instead of personalizing things by saying I failed because I’m dumb, be objective and say I failed because I didn’t study or I failed because I don’t like French class.

Avoid comparisons. Some people are in the habit of comparing themselves to others. They judge themselves on things like their looks, their grades, their friends, their achievements and even their personality. There will always be people who seem to be doing better than you are, and if you compare yourself to them, you’ll end up always feeling unsatisfied with yourself. The reality is that people have different strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths, have realistic expectations of the things that you could change or improve, and most importantly, avoid comparing yourself to others.

Sometimes parents compare siblings. If this happens to you, you might try asking your parents to stop, letting them know how this makes you feel.

Communicate assertively. The way you communicate to other people gives them information on how you feel about yourself. When you communicate what you think, feel or want in a clear way, the unspoken message you give out is I matter and my opinion and needs are as valid and important as anyone else’s. You can communicate assertively by looking another person in the eye and speaking in a clear, audible voice, rather than looking down at your shoes and mumbling, or communicating in hostile, angry tone. Assertive communication encourages other people to treat you with respect, and helps you to feel good about yourself. Be aware not only of the things you say, but also the way you say them. You’re far more likely to be treated with respect when you communicate

For more information about self-esteem:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Challenging Negative Self-Talk

 
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Challenging Negative Self-Talk

A brief look at self-talk and how to reframe our negative thinking patterns

 

What is self-talk?

As we go about our daily lives, we constantly think about and interpret the situations we find ourselves in. It is like we have an internal voice that determines how we perceive every situation. We call this inner voice our “self-talk”, and it includes our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious assumptions and beliefs.

Negative self-talk often causes us to feel bad, and can make us feel hurt, angry, frustrated, depressed or anxious. It can also make us behave in a self-defeating way. For instance, thoughts like ”I’m going to fail for sure” might discourage you from working hard when you are preparing for your exams, and you might actually fail as a result.

Positive self-talk is challenging the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking, and replacing them with more reasonable and helpful thoughts. This is a powerful way to feel better either about yourself or a situation.

Negative self-talk

An example of negative self talk would be if you tell yourself that there’s no reason to study for an upcoming test because you already know that you’re going to fail. You may not even try to study because you believe you won’t pass, regardless. However, if you believe that you will do well on the test or that studying will help, then you’re much more likely to do well on the test. Don’t doubt yourself, you’re capable of achieving a lot more than you think.

A challenge with negative self-talk is that what you think or say to yourself might seem true. You might assume that your thoughts are facts, when in reality they are based on your perceptions. If you are feeling down on yourself for some reason, this can lead to your thoughts being especially harsh.

Negative self-talk can also affect your self-esteem. When you feel down, it is likely that you’re hard on yourself, and you might criticize and judge yourself unfairly. The worse you feel, the more negative your self-talk is likely to become. It can be helpful to put a more positive perspective on things. For example, challenge your self-talk by imagining it's a friend in your situation and reframe it based on what you'd say to them. We're often nicer to friends than we are to ourselves!

Challenging the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking enables you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way. You can practice noticing your own negative self-talk as it happens, and consciously choose to think about the situation in a more realistic and helpful way. You might be surprised to realize how distorted some of your previous thoughts were before.

Challenging negative self-talk

Identifying self-talk can sometimes be tricky because it's so automatic, you might not even be aware of what’s going on in your own mind. However, whenever you find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, use this as a signal to reflect on your thinking. A good way to test the accuracy of your perceptions is to ask yourself some challenging questions. These questions will help you check out your self-talk and see whether your current interpretation is reasonable. It can also help you discover other ways of thinking about your situation. Recognizing that your current way of thinking might be self-defeating—and prevent you from getting what you want out of life—can sometimes motivate you to look at things from a different perspective.

1. Reality testing

  • What evidence supports my thinking?

  • Are my thoughts based on facts or my interpretation of the situation?

  • Am I jumping to negative conclusions?

  • How can I find out if my thoughts are true?

2. Alternative explanations

  • Are there other ways that I could look at this situation?

  • What else could the situation mean?

  • If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation?

3. Perspective

  • Is this situation as bad as I’m making out to be?

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?

  • What’s the best thing that could happen?

  • What’s most likely to happen?

  • Is there anything good about this situation?

  • Will this matter in five years?

4. Goal-directed thinking

  • Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve my goals?

  • What can I do that will help me solve the problem?

  • Is there something I can learn from this situation to help me in the future?

Try it out

Think of a situation in the last week when you have found yourself feeling bad. You might have been feeling upset, stressed, angry, sad, depressed, embarrassed or guilty. Try applying some of the above tools.

For example:

  • ”I tried on my jeans and I looked so disgusting and ugly and fat” turns to ”I tried on my jeans and they were too small”

  • ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I made a total idiot of myself" to ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I blushed and looked away. It's perfectly okay to be shy”

  • "I totally messed up that exam, I'm a loser and I'll never get a good job" turns to "I didn't do as well in that exam as I would have liked but that doesn't mean I'm not going to get the job that I want".

For more tips on challenging negative thinking patterns, check out the Common Thinking Errors article.

Information from this article was provided by:

  • This fact sheet comes from Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr. Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond.

  • Foundation for Life Sciences


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

How Talking to Someone Can Help

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When you need to get it off your chest

How can talking about your feelings help?

Talking about your concerns can give a different perspective

Are you having a rough day? Have you been feeling down for a while? Everyone goes through tough times, and no matter how long you’ve had something on your mind-whether for just a few hours or months-it’s important that you talk to someone about it. You don’t have to confront your setbacks alone. Here are a few of the benefits of talking to someone about how you’re feeling.

Sort through your feelings. Talking about your feelings can help you make sense of them. Sometimes, just verbalizing what is upsetting you to someone you trust can help you sort through your feelings, or make the situation clearer.

Put things in perspective. If you’ve been keeping things to yourself, a situation seem more overwhelming than it actually is. The person you talk with might help you see the situation in a new or different perspective. Someone outside the situation might also be more neutral about what’s going on because the outcome won’t affect him or her personally. The person you speak with might also suggest options that you had not thought about before.

Release tension. Talking through your concerns can also be a great way to vent and release pent-up tension. Just “getting the problem out” can help you feel better. Not only does it feel great, but it can also give you new insights into what’s happening in your life.

Who should I talk with?

Deciding who you want to talk to is an important first step. It’s important that you can trust the person you decide to speak with. You might want to talk with a friend, or someone slightly older, or a family member. Sometimes potential helpers may not have the experience or knowledge to provide the advice or support you need.

Depending on your situation, you might also want to speak with a professional, like a teacher, counselor, doctor or nurse. If it’s necessary, each of these individuals can point you in the direction of someone specially trained to help you cope with your specific issue. If you can’t find someone you know to talk to, or talking to someone you know might feel too embarrassing, you might want to try youth helpline YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491 or by texting teen2teen at 839863, where trained individuals will listen to you. You can call 24/7 to talk with someone if you are in crisis, or call between 4pm and 10pm PST to specifically speak with youth.

Sometimes it isn’t easy

If you’re used to bottling everything up, it can make it very hard to actually talk about what’s going on. Just know, no matter how much or how little you share and get off your chest, you’re allowed to take time to process your feelings and to become comfortable with sharing yourself. Once you find someone that can honor your story and hold space for you to talk freely, you’ll find it much easier to continue doing so. Remember that it’s okay to move at your own pace.

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Suicidal Thoughts: Wanting To End Your Life

Suicidal Ideation

What should I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts? Who can I talk to about this?

Having suicidal thoughts

If you are feeling suicidal, or if you want to end your life, it’s important that you keep yourself safe. Try to remember these thoughts about taking your life are just thoughts. You don’t have to act on them, no matter how overwhelming they are or how often you have them. You won’t always have these thoughts.

Why do people want to end their lives?

Sometimes living can be very painful, and problems can seem overwhelming. At some point, many people think about suicide, but do not plan or act on it. However, for others, the thought of suicide might begin to seem like a real alternative to a problem or situation that appears hopeless.

Situations that might contribute to a feeling of hopelessness include:

  • Break-ups

  • Family problems

  • Sexual, physical or mental abuse

  • Drug or alcohol addiction

  • Mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression

  • The death of a loved one

  • School or work problems

  • Unemployment or being unemployed for a long time

  • Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere

  • Any problem that seems hopeless

Is deliberate self-harm the same as wanting to end your life?

Wanting to end your life is not necessarily the same as deliberate self-harm. Deliberate self-harm, such as cutting or burning oneself, is often a tactic used to cope with difficult or painful feelings. However, most people who engage in deliberate self-harm don’t wish to die.

What to do if you want to end your life

Everyone goes through tough times and feels hopeless every now and then. It is possible to get through these times by creating your own “tool-kit” of strategies to cope with these feelings.

Here are some suggestions to help you cope:

  • Postpone any decision to end your life. While it may feel like you have to act now, try to postpone your decision. Keep a list of things you can do to distract yourself. This might include watching a DVD or going to the movies, playing a game, calling a friend, chatting online, exercising, reading a book, or listening to music. Take these actions when your negative feelings start to surface. Many people report that by postponing a decision to die, they found that their lives changed. They were able to get the support they needed and could move on to a better, happier place.

  • Tell someone. Although it might seem like a bigger challenge than ending your life, it is important to reach out to others who might help you find alternative ways to solve a problem and realize what’s important to you. You can talk to a family member, friend, counselor, teacher, religious leader, or anyone that you feel comfortable with. If that person doesn’t believe you or doesn’t want to listen, keep trying until someone else does. Sometimes, people don’t react well at first because they don’t know how to react. Although it might be hard, this isn’t your fault. Don’t give up! If you are having difficulty talking about what you’re going through, you can start with sentences like “Right now, I’m feeling…”; “I think it started when…”; “I’ve been feeling this for a while…”; or ”Lately school/work has been…”

  • Visit a Drop-In Center. Youth Era has several Drop centers for youth to find peer support, build leadership skills, meet new people, and achieve their goals. Click here to find a Drop near you.

  • Call a crisis helpline. If you’re having difficulty talking to people you know about how you’re feeling, call a crisis line: Lines for Life Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or their Youthline (1-877-968-8491) are both anonymous, free 24-hour helplines. They also offer texting and online chat options if speaking on the phone is too uncomfortable or you’re otherwise unable to do so.

  • Write down your feelings. Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal can be a great way of understanding how you’re reacting to a particular situation. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to the problems you’re facing.

  • Use art as therapy. “Vent art” is a way to let out your feelings in a constructive way. This may include drawing, painting, sculpting, digital art, poetry, writing stories or songs, and dancing. Whatever creative outlet you gravitate towards can be a way to distract your mind from the incessant suicidal thoughts.

  • Set small goals. Sometimes people set goals that are almost unachievable, and then they feel worse when they can’t reach those goals. Try to set goals that are achievable for you, even if they’re on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis. And remember to reward yourself for reaching these goals, too!

  • Exercise and eat well. Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help when you are feeling down. Biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you feel and how you think about yourself and the world around you. Exercise helps stimulate hormones like endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life. If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start with something small a couple of times each week. A 15-minute walk or a few laps in a pool can be a good place to start.

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: Try not to use drugs or alcohol in the hopes that they will make you feel better. The high you get from drugs and alcohol is usually temporary, and the after effects often make the problems worse.

  • Talk to a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional: Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who have special training in mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia and suicide. Clinical psychologists and mental health counselors have a similar training, but don’t administer medication like psychiatrists can. You might be able to find a psychiatrist or psychologist through your medical doctor, your local community health center, or local psychiatry and psychology associations.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com