MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on September 18th, 2017, 0 Comments

Simple Exercises That Can Calm School Stress

By now summer vacation is a fading memory. And as school ramps up, so does the level of household stress. Especially if there’s a teen living in your house.

In fact, when 1,000 teens across the nation were asked recently about their level of stress, only 13% reported feeling stressed out in the summer. But more than a quarter (27%) of the teens reported feeling “extreme stress” during the school year.

Almost a third of the surveyed teens reported feeling overwhelmed (31%) and depressed or sad (30%) as a result of stress. What’s more, over a third (34%) of the teens said they expected their stress to increase during the coming school year – with big workloads, balancing all their activities, and having to be “perfect” for colleges frequently mentioned as the major stressors.¹

Clearly, too much stress takes a toll on teens. Compared to their peers who are under less stress, teens under lots of stress are twice as likely to turn to unhealthy methods – like drinking, getting drunk, or using illegal drugs – to relieve their uncomfortable, anxious feelings.

It’s not hard to see why some parents set out on a mission to eliminate all the stress in their kids’ lives. But truth be told, this is mission impossible. Stress is a part of doing almost anything of significance. And even if we could get rid of all their stress, it would not be good for our kids. Because up to a point, stress is a good thing.

The body’s stress response is nature’s way of getting us pumped-up and giving us an edge when we’re in danger. And an appropriate amount of stress helps our kids thrive in more daily situations as well. Picture it motivating a student to study for an upcoming test. Or bringing focus to a basketball player at the free-throw line. Or energizing a dancer when it’s time to go on stage and perform.

So instead of trying to eliminate all of our kids’ stressors, it’s wiser to help them learn to recognize when their stress level is getting out of hand and encourage them to develop healthy ways to cope. And multiple well-designed studies indicate that practicing mindfulness exercises is one of those ways.

Those who practice mindfulness learn to focus their attention on what is happening in the moment instead of focusing on nagging worries that they’ve given too much power. These exercises have been shown to ease stress and anxiety and foster calmness and concentration in people of all ages.²

Try This
To get a sense of how mindfulness works, you can try these simple, one-minute exercises.³ Notice the benefits you get from this tiny investment of your time. Then share them with your kids. And remember, as with other types of strength training, it’ll take some practice to get the full benefit.

One Minute of Mindfulness
Start by checking in with your body. Beginning with the top of your head and moving toward your toes, notice how your body feels right now. See if there are any places where you are carrying tightness or tenseness. Check out your scalp, eyes, mouth, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, hands, belly, legs, and toes.

Next take a deep breath. As you slowly inhale, see if you can breathe into the areas where you feel any tension. As you exhale, release any tenseness your body is holding. Let your whole body relax. Repeat inhaling and exhaling two more times.

Now end with a smile. Notice the positive feeling of letting go with a pleasant, relaxing moment.

Balloon Breathing
Breathe in slowly through your nose. As you breathe in, imagine that your lungs are a balloon slowly filling with air. Keep breathing in until your lungs are like a completely full balloon.

Then with your lungs full, pause for a moment before breathing out slowly. As you gradually let the air out of your lungs, imagine your balloon getting smaller and smaller until it is completely deflated.

Repeat breathing in and breathing out like this three times. Then notice how you feel.

Sources and Resources
1. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/02/teen-stress.aspx
2. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
3. http://drugfree.org/parent-blog/school-stress-3-mindful-practices-calm-focused-happy-teens/



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