We could really use some stress hacks right now.
COVID, campaign season and the upcoming holidays have created unprecedented stress. It’s an understatement to say we’ve experienced a lot of change, uncertainty and loss.
Children learn how to respond to stress as they grow and develop. Many stressful events that an adult can manage will cause stress in a child. As a result, even small changes can impact a child’s feelings of safety and security. It’s important to know that they will pick up on how you’re feeling and learn from the way you manage your stress.
Signs of Stress in Kids
There are signs of stress in our kids that we can watch for, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these include:
- Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits
- New or recurrent bedwetting
- Sleep disturbances
- Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
- Other physical symptoms with no physical illness
Emotional or behavioral symptoms
- Anxiety, worry
- Not able to relax
- New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
- Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight
- Anger, crying, whining
- Not able to control emotions
- Aggressive or stubborn behavior
- Going back to behaviors present at a younger age
- Doesn’t want to participate in family or school activities
If your child shows symptoms that concern you and is unwilling to talk, you may want to consult with your pediatrician, a therapist or other mental health specialist.
Here are 5 Stress Hacks for You and Your Kids
- Get Outside. Time in fresh air, open spaces, in nature is a great stress reliever. Add some movement and you get double benefit – mentally, emotionally and physically. While outside, pause and listen.
- What can you hear that is nearby? Far away?
- What is the loudest sound? The quietest sound? Your favorite sound?
- Can you walk (or other movement) without making a sound?
- Breathe. See if you can slow down to 6 breaths per minute. Close your eyes, inhale slowly through your nose, exhale slowly through your mouth. If your child is stressed, put them against your body and breathe slowly. Connection Zoo® includes calming cards with fun animal breathing practices.
- Listen to Music. Target your favorite music with beats between 40 and 60 beats/min. If the spirit moves you, dance and sing! More about a stress-relieving way to sing here.
- Eat Healthy and Get Enough Sleep. Choose beans, carrots, whole grains, nuts – foods higher in fiber. Get creative and see if you can find ways to hide them in other foods for kids (or adults) that don’t like these. And, limit sugar…try to eat it in moderation. Stick to consistent bedtime and wake times, and limit screen time before bed.
- Meditate. I recommend Insight Timer for both kid and adult meditations! Be sure to check out the great sleep meditations and the courses they offer.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for managing stress.
Experiment to find what works best for you and your kids. Your presence, role modeling, and coaching will build your stress management practice and help your kiddos build skills to manage their stress in healthy ways, now and as adults.
Feel Well. Be Well. Do Well.