Managing built up stress had become somewhat of a favorite subject for scientists, media and various lifestyle gurus lately. In fact, it is mentioned and referred to so often that the word “stress” itself had come to signify stress overload and health problems related to it as well, which is one of the reasons we tend to relate it solely with its negative physical and psychological outputs.
In order for a parent to tackle problems related to it and teach their children how to do the same, it is necessary for us to understand its inner workings to the best of our ability.
What exactly is stress?
Stress is nothing more than an instinctive reaction of our body to any type of challenge. In other words, stress is an “all hands on deck” sign to all of our internal mechanisms that helps our body to prepare for the challenge we are faced with.
Seeing thoughts and emotions play a big part in the way information and stimuli from the outside world is processed by the human body and, consequently, the brain, it is not that uncommon for those information and stimuli to take a wrong turn somewhere and end up transformed to physical discomfort and anxiety, or worrying almost arbitrarily about just about anything. To put it simply, instead of helping us be more alert, energized and to access all of our physical and mental capacities, stress can have the opposite effect if not handled properly.
The same happens when we are faced with too many unwanted challenges – the body is unable to translate stress into positive action and it simply turns it into negative energy.
Inspect and introspect
Solving your child’s problems in most cases must start with our solving our own, or at least carefully examining how some of our actions or lack thereof affects our kids in everyday life. Amazingly, adults tend to forget how keenly and instinctively kids feel and copy everything we do, right down to the subconscious mechanisms for dealing with challenges we ourselves are most often not aware of. It may be an obvious point, but it is worth repeating that you cannot trick a child unless he or she desperately wants to believe you, and even then you cannot outflank their instinct. Our kids are programmed to read us like an open book and consequently memorize and apply that knowledge to a letter, just as we are programmed to care for them and protect them. They will simply know in their bones if something is not right, even if, on the surface, it seems you have tricked them into believing otherwise.
Where to start
In order to maximize the positive effects of stress and minimize the negative ones, it is best for us to start from the outside, so to speak. Experts agree that healthy nutrition, regular meals, physical activity and overall balanced and orderly lifestyle are the prerequisites for us to be able to handle challenges as smoothly as possible.
This is even more important for our little ones, as their young bodies are going through bigger and more violent chemical and hormonal changes than us adults and their chemical balance is that more easily disturbed.
The other part of the equation is coaching our children to properly reroute the stimuli into positive action, to recognize the right moment for blowing off some steam as it is up to us to provide them with a healthy way to do so.
Excitement vs. Anxiousness
Anxious kids or kids that tend to transform stress into fear, worrying and feeling of great pressure, think differently to other children. Their first reaction is thinking about everything that can go wrong in a certain situation, which, in essence, is worrying by default. In order for us to reverse that trend, we must first teach out kid the difference between thoughts and feelings and how first in most cases leads to the latter.
In order to do so, encourage your child to speak openly about his or hers concerns and to write them down, preferably connecting a particular thought with a corresponding feeling.
Then teach them to rationally examine those causal connections by writing down questions that will help them to determine their internal stress pathways and to build a mechanism for recognizing, singling out and confronting those thoughts before they transform into emotions. Be patient and allow enough time for this process to become a reflex, automatic response to a challenge.
Although right approach to challenges is imperative, there comes a time for us all when we have to relax.
Recognizing that moment and applying the preferred method of stress relief without hesitation is a delicate art that is to be nurtured throughout our whole lives. It is important our pride and joy has a way of blowing off some steam and they will naturally rely on your guidance in that regard, especially while they are in the single-digit years. If we adopt healthy habits in stress relief, our little one will do so, as well.
It would be great if every parent could include yoga, some type of sports activity and meditation in their daily life. Contrary to what most people assume, most children take up meditation effortlessly.
Breathing exercises are also an extremely powerful tool for achieving almost instant relief and you could perform them just about anywhere and anytime. Half an hour of video games is also great for children to blow off some steam, but not more than an hour.
Last, but not least, it is advisable to provide your child with a physical stress-remover appropriate for studying and mental effort in general. Stress balls are a great example, as they provide another way of channeling the energy stress provides us with without having to stop with what we are doing in order to take a breather.
The right approach to handling stressful situations is a crucial tool for overcoming challenges in any area of human endeavor. Stress is a formidable force, but it should not be feared. We should respect it, learn to utilize its good sides and avoid the bad ones as much as possible. The sooner our little ones learn how to handle it, sooner they will be able to harness it, use it to their advantage and to enjoy its numerous benefits.