5 steps for children and young people to feel good about themselves
Life can be difficult at times in your childhood and teenage years. This is because so much is changing and developing and it happens very quickly. It can feel unpredictable. There can be additional pressures like exams, relationships, bullying, family problems, bereavement and much more which have a significant effect on how you feel.
It can feel like you don’t have any control over what is happening and that no one else understands or cares. Feeling isolated and powerless can be frightening and worrying about it can make you unwell, both physically and mentally. You might find yourself feeling moody, anxious, angry, getting into trouble at home or at school or falling out with friends.
And sometimes, in trying to cope with what’s going on, you may find yourself taking risks such as using alcohol, drugs, or self-harm which bring with them problems all of their own.
However helpless you feel, there are some simple steps you can take that will help you feel better.
Look after your own health
You may think that staying healthy has nothing to you with how you feel emotionally but you’d be mistaken! Staying fit and well gives you the stamina and energy to keep going and work through the difficult times.
- Eat well – Food can have a significant impact on your mood and your energy levels. Don’t skip meals. Eat three meals a day with as much fresh fruit and veg as possible, and drink plenty of water. Swapping sweet, fizzy drinks for water can help to boost your energy levels and look after your teeth!
- Rest & Sleep – Tiredness can lead to low mood and depression. Try to create a regular sleeping pattern and night time routine; don’t watch TV or use your phone/laptop etc. in bed – keep bed for rest; a warm bath before bed can help you to relax; if you have difficulty quietening your mind, try writing down your worries – it can help to stop them going round and around in your head.
- Exercise – Physical activity releases “feel-good” hormones into your system. Try to move around for at least 30 minutes a day – this can be broken up across the day, including things like walking to school or college, getting off the bus a couple of stops early, walking the dog, using the stairs instead of the lift. Playing regular sport can improve your fitness and can help you meet and make new friends.
Share your feelings and your worries. It might feel like talking is pointless if it can’t change anything, or you may not want to “put upon” your friends and family, or you may think they aren’t interested. You will be very surprised to learn how many people you know have experienced similar worries and struggles in their lives.
Talking to a trusted friend, someone who is experiencing something similar, a teacher, a counsellor or sometimes even someone you don’t know very well can have a massive effect on the weight you are carrying. There are also lots phone lines and safe, online chat rooms for support if you feel it’s too difficult to speak to someone you know.
Even if you don’t want to share what’s on your mind, it’s important to spend time with other people no matter how low you feel. Too much time on your own can often make you feel worse.
Believe in Yourself
Constantly having negative feelings about yourself can become damaging to your self-esteem.
Past experiences unsupportive people can sometimes convince you that you are no good and that things will never change, for example, if you have lived in an abusive family environment or you have experienced neglect. If you haven’t had good support and care while growing up it can be really difficult to care for yourself.
Focusing all your thoughts and attention only on negatives gives them more importance in your life than your strengths, talents, interests – all the positive things. Having low self-esteem can deprive you of the confidence to enjoy life and to see any opportunities there are for you to change things.
Top tips to boost your self-esteem
The Young People’s Charity Young Minds (www.youngminds.org.uk) suggests some top tips:
- In order to change your beliefs, you have to understand your negative beliefs. Think about what your weaknesses are when you started to feel like this; can you identify something that has happened that might have caused you to feel like this?
- Once you have identified the negative beliefs, gather evidence to challenge this and write them down so you have a list as evidence when you are feeling down. For example, if you feel you are unattractive, note it down when you receive a compliment from someone that says you look pretty or they like your new haircut.
- Positive thinking exercises – write down the things you like about yourself. Think about your best feature and write it down – I like my eyes, for example. Think about things you have achieved and add them to the list. Think about nice things you have done for other people, skills you have, talents that you or others have noticed and written all these positive things down. This is good to look back on when you are having a bad day or when you are nervous about something such as an exam.
- Friends and family – look at the people you have around you on a regular basis and think about how they make you feel. If you are spending a lot of time with someone who makes you feel rubbish about yourself then spend a bit less time with them and spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Make Time for Yourself
Don’t forget to factor in some regular time just for you. Being able to relax and enjoy what you’re doing “in the moment” is a valuable skill for life.
Hobbies can help you switch off from everyday life for a while, especially things that require concentration like arts, crafts and puzzles. Watching a film or reading a book can help you to temporarily escape from your own life and into another world.
You may find that after some time out, your problems and worries seem more manageable and you are able to see ways through problems that you couldn’t before.
Sharing time with friends can be a great help too. Chatting about things that are unrelated to what’s going on in your life can help take your mind off things for a while.
Exercise is great for escape too. Getting involved in sports like football, rugby or basketball as a participant or a spectator can become quite addictive. There are some activities that are all about mindfulness and relaxation that you could try like yoga or meditation. Your local community centre may run teams and local leagues and a whole range of fitness classes.
Get Some Support
It is really useful to know what support is available to you. Here are some phone numbers and websites that can provide a huge amount of helpful information. Many of them are free from landlines. Don’t forget to clear your browser history when you are finished if you don’t want anyone to know you have been searching for support.
A free helpline for children and young people providing confidential counselling, advice and guidance on the telephone and online
Free phone number (24hrs) 0800 1111
Online 121 Chat www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Chat/Pages/OnlineChat.aspx
General Information www.childline.org.uk
Free, confidential telephone and email helpline. Can help guide you to the right support for your problem. Provides free connections to local or national services, and can text information to your mobile phone.
Free phone number (daily 1pm to 11pm) 0808 808 4994
General information www.getconnected.org.uk
Free (from a landline), confidential information and advice for anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s drug or solvent misuse. The call will not show up on the phone bill.
Free phone number (24hrs) 0800 77 66
Further information www.talktofrank.com
B-EAT youth helpline: Provides information, help and support to anyone affected by eating disorders; how to get help or to help someone you know: www.b-eat.co.uk
TheSite.org: www.TheSite.org is aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds and provides loads of support and information about everything you need to know– sex & relationships, drugs, alcohol, health, money & debt advice, housing, careers & study, as well as discussion boards, apps, real stories and live chat.
Stay Safe Online: www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-and-resources/young-people provides a helpline and a range of films, links, advice and guidance around safe use of the internet.
Think U Know
www.thinkuknow.co.uk provides a wide range of advice and guidance as well as a facility to report online abuse.