Dear Teenagers, Here’s How to Protect Your Emotional Well-Being

Guidance for teenagers on staying steady in the turmoil of the pandemic.


By Lisa Damour

Following my most recent column offering adults a 2020 back-to-school list for teens’ emotional well-being, several teenage commenters asked that I address them in the same way that I address their parents: “as intelligent people who have the tools to support themselves and their loved ones through this trying time.”

Dear teenagers, you are right. And I’m so glad you asked. Here’s my guidance on what you can do to keep yourself steady in the turmoil of the pandemic.

Make the Most of Your Emotional Superpowers

Teenagers experience feelings more intensely than adults do, both negative and positive ones. While this amplifies the psychological discomfort you’re certainly experiencing right now, it also means that you get more out of pleasures and delights. These days the only bright spots many of us are finding are small ones, and for a lot of adults, these don’t feel very satisfying. But for you, small comforts and joys are more comforting and joyful than they are for adults. So, when your mood needs a lift, make the most of this emotional superpower.

What makes this power work for you will be highly personal. You might enjoy video games, pumpkin spice treats, cuddling your pet, being in nature, listening to music, going for a run or doing something else altogether. The adults in your life might not quite grasp how happy it makes you to watch your favorite movie for the umpteenth time. That’s OK. Just know what gives you a boost right now and enjoy it fully.

Trust Your Feelings

When you are worried, sad, stressed, frustrated or anything else, trust that you are almost certainly having the “right” feeling. I say this because you have been raised in a culture that is unnecessarily fearful of unpleasant emotions and which may have given you the impression that emotional distress invariably signals fragile mental health. This is not true. In upsetting times, feeling upset proves, if anything, that your emotions are working exactly as they should. You are in touch with reality — a painful one though it is — and attuned to your circumstances.

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