• Coping with Teen Stressors

    There are a variety of coping styles that people use when dealing with stressors. The three most effective styles in dealing with stress are confrontive coping, supportant coping and optimistic coping. The three least effective coping styles in dealing with stress are evasive coping, self-reliant coping, and fatalistic coping.
  • Most Effective vs. Least Effective

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    While talking on her cell phone, Sara accidentally backed her mother’s brand-new car into a light pole when pulling out of the restaurant parking lot. She is now faced with what to do about this.

    Most effective coping style is confrontive coping, which is confronting the problem head on or directly dealing with the problem.  For instance, Sara could call or text her mother to tell her what happened.  She could also tell her mother about it when she gets home.  Of course, if she is afraid to face her mother alone, she could ask a trusted friend or family member to be with her when she breaks the news.

    Least effective coping style is evasive coping, which is avoiding / running from the problem.  For instance, instead of facing her mother, Sara may take the car to a friend’s house and avoid going home for the weekend, which not only prolongs the problem, but could make things worse.  

    Katie began cutting herself when she was 12 years old. When her mother discovered this, she took her to see a psychologist who diagnosed her with major depression. She began therapy and was prescribed an antidepressant medication.

    However, two years later, Katie began feeling numb and stopped taking her antidepressant medication without telling her parents or doctor. She then began cutting herself and tried to stop on her own, but continued to be tempted daily to do it again. She didn’t know how to tell her parents or doctor about it and just wanted to run away to show them how she was feeling.

    Most effective coping style is supportant coping, which is asking for help. Katie had already been seeing the school nurse for some headaches she had been having at school. This would have been a good time to tell the nurse about how she was feeling numb and stopped taking her medication. The nurse could have helped her talk to her mom about the problem before things became worse.

    Least effective coping style is self-reliant coping, which is trying to “fix” the problem yourself. Katie thought the medication wasn’t helping her so she quit taking the antidepressant. After she quit taking the medication, she began cutting herself and tried to stop on her own. However, she continued to be tempted to cut herself and began feeling more depressed, as well as having thoughts of wanting to die. Her depression was getting worse.

    Tony, 16, and two of his friends decided to go squirrel hunting one Saturday afternoon. Tony’s friend, Matt, was directly behind him when he saw a squirrel running up a tree. Matt took a quick shot at it and ended up shooting Tony in the right side of his skull and ear. Tony had massive bleeding from the ear and head. His friends rushed him to the hospital where he was immediately taken to surgery. Tony needed multiple skin grafts to reconstruct the ear and was in a lot of pain. He ended up with permanent hearing loss and a continued loud ringing in the affected ear.

    The most effective coping style is optimistic coping, which is:

    Looking at the bright side – Tony realized he could have been killed or brain damaged if he had moved his head or body to the right when his friend pulled the trigger.

    Using a sense of humor (not sarcasm) – Although Tony was in a lot of pain, he joked about it. When asked by others what had happened, he replied, “Oh, my friend thought we were ear hunting.” Humor does help people feel better by causing endorphins to be released into the bloodstream. These are the body’s natural painkillers, which are also released during exercise.

    Thinking positively(or being hopeful) – For example, although Tony didn’t like the loud ringing in his ear, he was hopeful that he could find ways to adjust. For instance, he discovered the ringing wasn’t as noticeable at bedtime when he had the radio on. Another way to be positive is to have an attitude of gratitude. Tony was actually thankful to be alive with no brain damage, which aided in his recovery.

    The least effective coping style is fatalistic coping, which is:

    Pessimistic / negative thinking – For instance, Tony could be resentful about his hearing loss and constantly complain about the loud ringing. He could also think that his life has been ruined because of his impairment. Your body is negatively affected by each negative thought you have. It is important to challenge negative thinking or add supportive statements. 

    Thinking there’s no way out, feeling hopeless – For example, Tony could have thought that he can’t live the rest of his life with this hearing impairment and, as a result, end up with suicidal behaviors. However, although you may not be able to get out, around or over a situation, you can always get through it. Often this may be with the help of other people.

  • Positive vs. Negative Coping

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    • Talking to parents or friends
    • Exercise / sports
    • Yoga / meditation
    • Reading
    • Problem solving
    • Thinking positive / being optimistic / using humor
    • Listening to music
    • Hobbies / recreation
    • Journal / writing
    • Hanging out with friends
    • Praying / religious activities
    • Social support / asking for help
    • Getting enough sleep - Download Sleep Tips
    • Smoking cigarettes
    • Isolation / social withdrawal
    • Avoiding problems
    • Eating comfort foods
    • Yelling or lashing out at others
    • Physical fights
    • Using drugs
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Thrill-seeking (putting yourself at risk or in danger to get a “high” or thrill)
    • Binging / purging / restricting calories / eating disorders
    • Physical self-abuse / mutilation (Behaviors can include burning, cutting, piercing with sharp objects or hitting self.)
    • Self-criticism
    • Wishful thinking (Energy is spent on wishing yourself out of the problem instead of thinking of ways to solve or respond to it.)
    • Blaming others  
    • Resignation
  • Other Styles of Coping

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    Palliative coping is doing things to feel better. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of feeling better:

    Healthy Ways

    Eating a balanced diet

    It’s important to eat at least three meals a day and to get enough protein in your diet, such as eating meat and dairy products. If you’re a vegan you have to eat a lot of soy, beans and nuts to get enough protein. One essential protein is tryptophan, which is needed to make serotonin (an important brain chemical).

    Keeping blood sugars level

    Eat complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (e.g. whole grain bread). Also, avoid a lot of concentrated sweets for snacks, such as candy. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables.


    Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, which gives you a natural high and can ward off depression.  You need one hour of aerobic exercise a day.  The more physically active you are, the more conditioned your body is to handle stress.


    Relaxation exercises

    Practice relation exercises such as deep-breathing. Visit these websites for more examples:

    Unhealthy Ways

    Using illegal drugs, such as marijuana

    Drinking alcohol

    Smoking cigarettes

    Engaging in excessive and/or dangerous risk-taking

    For example, driving above the speed limit and self-harm behaviors

    Emotive coping is letting off steam. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of letting off steam.

    Healthy Ways


    emotional tears have stress hormones, so it’s a good way to let off steam or stress


    For example, push ups, jumping jacks, running and taking brisk walks

    Writing out your angry feelings

    This is better than lashing out at people


    Talk out your feelings with a friend instead of yelling or lashing out at people

    Punching a pillow or a punching bag

    Yelling into a pillow

    Doing work that involves physical activity

    • Taking a throw rug outside and shaking the dust out of it
    • Stomping on aluminum cans that are being recycled

    Unhealthy Ways

    Physical fights or hitting others

    Try “talking it out” instead of “acting it out”

    Screaming and yelling at someone

    • Instead, try talking in a calm tone of voice by taking a deep breath and letting it out while coaching yourself to stay calm,
    • Writing angry feelings down on paper and then tearing it up and throwing it away,
    • Or venting to a trusted friend

    Road rage

    Self-destructive behaviors

    For example, punching the wall with your fist and cutting

  • Confrontive and Supportant Coping

    With support, one teen is able to face her parents' divorce and be more optimistic about her future.

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