Dr Dow is from the UK and has over 15 years’ experience of working in mental health services in the National Health Service. The recent session she ran was very positive and offered the girls a chance to share some of their concerns with an external expert who could offer clear advice.
We asked Dr Dow to share some of the strategies that were discussed in the session with us, for the wider community to benefit from…
"Adolescence is a time of change, learning and emotional development and it is very common for both girls and boys to occasionally struggle with their feelings about themselves, the world and their future.
Feelings are complex and often hard to understand and manage. It can be helpful to find ways of describing the physical feeling, identifying the correct words for each emotion – is this fear, sadness, anger, shame? and then sharing these feelings with others.
Taking time to unpick the complexity of your emotions is one of the most helpful ways of understanding and managing them effectively. This session used a framework that encouraged the girls to tease out what they were feeling, what they were thinking and then what they were doing as a result of these connections. Identifying what then triggers this cycle is a step towards good wellbeing. For example if you look in the mirror every morning (trigger) and think that “I am ugly” (thought) you might feel sad (feeling) and then you don’t want to go to school (behaviour). This is a cognitive behavioural approach and there is good research evidence that working through difficulties in this way can help.
The coping strategies we looked at included good relaxation and distraction techniques – I’m sure the girls were amused by the “walking on the beach” imagery, but it’s really helpful. Mood diaries are a practical way of identifying feelings and thoughts and making the connections. Rating feelings on a 0-10 scale can also help when identifying patterns. The topic of self-harm (cutting, drinking too much & drugs) was discussed frankly and the girls were encouraged to identify what was happening for them so that they could avoid engaging in these behaviours.
Being nice to yourself is a key issue – self -esteem is an important aspect of day to day life and again the girls were encouraged to start a positive qualities list. Parents, friends and everyone can help here by listing clear examples of the positives “You are really organised because you always manage your school work” etc. Because when you do feel rubbish you tend to focus on the negatives.
Finally we spoke about being assertive and sharing feelings. Being confident enough to say no requires good self-esteem and some key communication tricks – be clear, say “I feel”, don’t apologise and repeat your request.
There is a great deal of help available for anyone who is worried about feelings or emotional health. Talking is the best place to start and then health services, internet resources, phone apps as well as professional counsellors and psychologists.
It is also good to know that most good answers and strategies are generated by adolescents themselves."
- Dr Becci Dow, Clinical Psychologist
Below are a few resources on this topic that Dr Dow has recommended:
www.lifelineshanghai.com (021 62798990)
Don't panic self help - Coventry Warwickshire nhs
Cbt tools for kids - Veronica cregg
Starving the anxiety gremlin, Kate Collins-Donnelly (isbn 1849053413)
Helping children to build self esteem, Deborah Plummer (isbn 1843104881)