What is one of the most common things people do with their emotions? Bottle them up! “Just get on with it”, “Be strong”, “Other people have it worse”. Sound familiar? It needs to stop, here’s how.

In the counselling room we commonly hear that young people haven’t felt able to open up before. They have pushed aside what is happening for them because they don’t think people will understand, but now it feels too much. There’s only so much room in there after all, even less if they have had traumatic experiences. Issues such as abuse, neglect, bereavement, illness, parental separation and other significant events, can reduce a young person’s tolerance for managing difficulties. Then the anger, anxiety or low mood appear and it’s all too overwhelming.

Counselling works because people feel safe, heard and accepted. We make it normal to talk about thoughts, feelings and experiences and start to unravel what has been held inside. We find ways to express feelings through creative and play therapy. But there are other ways young people can get things out of their mind:

Being creative
You don’t have to be an artist, but representing feelings through drawing, clay or other methods can help where words are difficult. Create a feelings board, use words and pictures from magazines. Create a story board using different characters to tell your story. Puppets and figures can also help young people to express themselves.

Writing in a journal
Writing things down can be very powerful. This can be in a blank book or a published journal, written or on a computer, shared with others or kept private. However it is done, it allows young people to process what is on their mind. They can reflect on what has worked well for them that day, what hasn’t felt good and what they can do to make some changes. Identifying feelings that have come up for them can reduce their intensity and power.

It could be family, friends, someone at school, college, university or a support organisation. Parents often worry that they don’t know what’s happening with their child but if they can at least start somewhere then it gives them confidence to be more open. As with counselling, if we normalise talking about feelings then it gets easier. To talk confidentially, online or by phone, they could go to:
7 Cups of Tea

Apps and Websites
In a world of technology, there are some positive uses. Apps and websites can be used to help manage thoughts and feelings. Some suggestions are:
Insight Timer – talks and mediations to help with confidence, stress, anxiety, resilience, focus and sleep amongst many other topics.
Emoodji – an app to help track your mood and share how you are feeling
Memotional – a website with creative ways to express and reflect on feelings =
Childline Toolbox – games, creative expression tools, online journal and a calm zone with activities to help with anxiety or when feeling overwhelmed

If you are concerned about a young person struggling in silence, share these ideas, start an honest conversation, share your experience and give them the permission to talk.