People once routinely brushed off bullying as a normal part of childhood that built character. Now we know with certainty that it actually tears people down in devastating ways.
The longterm risks of bullying, however, don't have to shape the rest of your life.
While the research on protecting yourself from those effects is still limited, there are some important steps you can take to boost your resiliency and improve your coping skills.
Studies have shown a connection between being bullied and doing worse in school, abusing alcohol, and experiencing mental health problems.
New research published this week in Pediatrics, for example, showed that more frequent bullying experiences in the fifth grade were associated with symptoms of depression in the seventh grade, which was related to a higher chance of using alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes in the 10th grade.
A separate Psychological Science study indicated that both bullies and victims were at higher risk for feeling more stress and had fewer skills for managing stress as adults.
"It is possible to cultivate a positive self-concept and strong self-esteem even if you're being bullied or treated poorly by other people," said Valerie Earnshaw, lead author of the Pediatrics study and assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Delaware.
Here are six strategies that can help diminish the negative influence bullying has on your emotional and physical health:
1. Get help from a supportive adult.
Research shows that young people who have strong relationships with adults are more resilient.
A trusted adult, says Earnshaw, can help you deal with bullying by discussing coping techniques, developing a plan for responding to harassment, identifying everyday social skills that can build their confidence, and offering respect and support.
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