It’s rare to find a child, adolescent, or young person who doesn’t suffer from stress these days. So, what can be done about it? Or, more specifically, what quick and effective strategies can you implement when your child is feeling stressed. Below you’ll find 3 different short and direct techniques that with practise, and by practise I mean, yes they will actually have to practise, will help your child to be calmer and think more logically when stressed. And don’t worry; all of these strategies are scientifically validated.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
Also known as calm breathing or belly breathing, this is done by sitting or standing comfortably and breathing in slowly through your nose and even more slowly out through your mouth. Now when your child does breath in, you want them to breathe in so deeply that their diaphragm fills up with air. This means that as they breathe in, their belly should push out. Yep, let it all hang out.
Most of us breathe very shallowly so we end up moving our chests to take breathe in and stop short of filling our diaphragms with air. Bringing awareness to whether you’re breathing shallowly (with your chest) or deeply (engaging the diaphragm) is helped if you put one hand on your chest and one hand just above your belly button. You know you’re breathing correctly when the hand on your belly moves and the hand on your chest doesn’t.
Mindfulness is quite simply an awareness of being in the moment. Mindfulness is derived from ancient meditation practises and is a powerful tool to help bring awareness to your actions and thoughts. It’s also part of various psychotherapeutic interventions that target, amongst other things, anxiety and depression.
The way that I like to introduce mindfulness is to ask people to stay still for a moment and look around, taking in the scenery (usually we’re in my lovely light filled office, but an office is still an office, so it’s still pretty mundane) and focus on how their body is feeling and what they can hear. Then I ask them to tell me 3 things they can see, feel and hear. I then ask them to practise this daily because if you want to do something when you’re stressed its important to be able to do it when calm. It also helps to make it a habit and most importantly, helps to bring them back to the present moment whenever they feel that their thoughts are getting away from them or when feeling overwhelmed with life’s stressors.
3. Get out and about: Do some physical activity
Exercise is usually associated with physical health or weight loss. But we really need to exercise for our mental health as the benefits are enormous. The jury is still out on the amount of exercise or the intensity needed for maximum impact, but even moderate amounts of exercise (such as gentle walking) have been shown to improve mood, there’s evidence to suggest that in people who are predisposed to anxiety and depression, exercise can increase coping, can moderate a persons response to stress, increase feel good chemicals in our brain, and even help to regulate our sleep. Also, it can make us feel that we have achieved something for that day which improves our sense of self-efficacy.
So, go on, pick a something active with your child and get out and about. If you can involve other family members or their friends, well that’s even better because you’re adding a social component to the activity, which will increase the likelihood that you will all go ahead and do the activity in the first place
So there you have it, 3 things you can start to do now to help your child reduce stress.
I really hope that you start to implement these strategies on a regular basis. They really will help!
All the best,