Just like adults, children can, from time to time be susceptible to anxiety and stress. When this happens learning, behaviour and general wellbeing and happiness can all suffer. It’s a pretty hideous thought when all we want is for our children to be carefree and happy, after all, the childhood years should be the best, right?
We do our best to protect children from all the worries that life can throw at us, nonetheless, it is inevitable that we can’t shield them completely. There are many, well documented strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety, mindfulness being one of the favoured with its suggested benefits of decreasing anxiety and stress whilst preserving grey matter, improving sleep quality and concentration.
Ultimately we need to equip children with strategies that they can deploy themselves – when dealing stress and anxiety. Over the years, I’ve researched and tried and tested many, some more successful than others but all have had an impact and here are the ones I’ve found to be the best.
My top 6 stress busting strategies:
1. Share and smile.
As a result of trying to protect our children, we can unconsciously hide the fact that as adults, we can suffer stress and anxiety, by not talking about such things. This can create a stigma and give the impression that everyone has to be happy all of the time. Children need to know that it’s ok not to feel ok. It’s important to explain to children that we all have bad days. A problem shared can be a problem halved and we need to encourage children to talk about the issues they are having and how that makes them feel. Many a solution can be found when having a good chat! Also, if in doubt, smile, even if you don’t feel like it……it releases feel good hormones!
2. Calming strategy and be in the moment
When we are faced with a stressful situation or suffering with anxiety, our bodies go into the self-protect flight and fight mode releasing adrenalin into the body. This, in turn increases both heart rate and breathing and can affect our ability to think rationally and at worst, initiate a state of panic. We need to override this and the best way is by defaulting to a calming strategy that works. Breathing really slowly in and out 10 times, taking a virtual tour of our favourite place and identifying every feature we see there or counting forwards or backwards from a given number are all great ways of slowing the body’s responses to adrenalin and bringing us back to the present moment and an increased state of calm.
3. Good Distractions
When we are dealing with stressful situations or anxiety, seek out good distractions. This will differ for each individual but some examples may include: immersing ourselves in great book, film or game or getting outdoors – basically anything that helps you relax is great.
4. Talk about stress - verbalise & visualise
Teach the science behind it. Knowing the scientific reasons for what causes the physical, mental and emotional changes in our bodies when we experience stress and anxiety demystifies the process and takes away the fear.
5. Recognise triggers
Chat together about what can stir and trigger the feelings we get when we are stressed or anxious. The more we can identify what makes us feel that way, the more we can do to avoid those situations and if they are unavoidable put a plan in place to deal with them.
6. Role model
As adults we need to practise what we preach. If we want children to use these strategies and encourage others to use them, we need to lead the way. The more children see trusted adults use these techniques the more they will follow suit.
By Jennie Adams on Thursday 1st June 2017