What to Do when You're Sad—Advice from a Second Grader

Could you use a buddy bench?Could you use a buddy bench?Earlier this month, a second grader in Pennsylvania convinced his school to install a Buddy Bench on the playground. It's a cheerfully decorated, designated place for children to sit when they are lonely or upset and need companionship. Taking a seat on the Buddy Bench is a way for kids to say they would like some support, and a way for other children to provide that camaraderie.

What about us adults? Wouldn't it be great if we could learn to openly ask for help when we feel unhappy and alone?

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Stephanie is going on a Caribbean cruise this month. So, she went to the store to stock up on swimsuits, sundresses, shorts, and other things that she doesn't usually wear in the winter in Connecticut. She brought an armful of clothes into the fitting room, peeled off her pants, top, sweater, socks and boots, and looked up to see herself in the mirror in a bikini. Eeeeeeekkkk!!! Unaccustomed to coming in from the snow and seeing herself practically naked in fluorescent lights, Stephanie had a body image meltdown. She left the store empty-handed with plans to spend her vacation wearing caftans.

Becky worked really hard on a project for work. She proudly gave her presentation to a room full of co-workers, who responded enthusiastically. Afterward, her boss called her in for a review, and she walked through the door expecting accolades and maybe a promotion. Instead, her boss criticized every aspect of the presentation and said that Becky is not ready to take on such projects without supervision. Stunned and demoralized, Becky hid in the bathroom and cried.

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Michelle, who usually sticks to the treadmill and works out alone, decided to try a Zumba class at the gym. She loves the music and would like to meet some new people, so why not? As the hour progressed, she found herself feeling uncoordinated and uncomfortable. Michelle looked around the room, and it seemed that she had found the one class in town full of women 20 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, and with years of dance experience. They also all seemed to have been friends since kindergarten, and not particularly interested in meeting someone new. At the end of class, Michelle left the gym feeling old and fat and awkward, and very unlikely to stray from the treadmill again.

Now, imagine if we had Buddy Benches for grownups.

If there was one in the fitting room, Stephanie could have taken a break from the fluorescent lights, gotten some supportive positive feedback from fellow shoppers, and returned to her shopping task with more confidence. Instead of retreating to the bathroom, Becky could have sat on a Buddy Bench in her office, indicating to colleagues that she could use some company. Though she would still be disappointed by her boss's comments, she could feel less alone as they empathized with her experience. Since Michelle is undoubtedly not the only person to have her self-esteem shaken by a new Zumba class, she would have lots of company on a Buddy Bench at the gym. She might even meet some of the new friends she is hoping to find.

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Since you probably don't have a special seat with a rainbow on the back, you may need to actually tell your friends or family when you need them. You can call them from the fitting room, walk into their office, or text from the gym. Wherever you are, if you start to feel bad about yourself, or bad about life in general, you can implement the Buddy Bench concept. It's important to work on building your own internal happiness and confidence, but it's also important to let yourself reach out to the people around you. You would want to be there for them, and they want to be there for you.

- by Heather Quinlan

Visit Heather Quinlan's newly launched BluebirdPages.com for more expert advice and information to help you feel better in your life, in your relationships and in your own skin.