Our counselor, Mary, shares below about some very practical steps for overcoming stress, that she has learned in her time working with children and young adults:
It is nearly impossible to live in our world today and not experience anxiety or stress at some point in the week. For some, this is an experience we live with daily. Yet it might come as a surprise that children can also experience persistent feelings of anxiousness or stress. We may wonder, “What would a child have to worry about?” The fact is that they are living in the same world and environments that we are as adults, and are very intuitive- picking up on our stress and anxiety. I have been in different roles in various settings, working with children for the past nine years and, sadly, I have noticed that each year the anxiety among children seems to increase.
As adults, we are getting more and more educated on how a tool called “mindfulness” can help reduce our feelings of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is, simply, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Research is overflowing with information on the positive effects of this practice. We have learned that practicing mindfulness not only has an effect on not only our mental and emotional health, but also on our physical health. Teaching our children how to practice mindfulness can have life long effects. Summer time, for example, can provide an opportunity to begin practicing this concept, as the normal school year buzz and business has slowed down a bit. If children can learn, and get in the habit of practicing mindfulness in slower seasons, they can hopefully apply the same practice when the stress of the school year picks back up. Fall will be here before we know it!
Below are three simple activities for children to practice mindfulness. There are many more available online. Parents, remember that your children are watching and imitating you. Modeling is a very powerful and important tool. Take the opportunity to practice these activities alongside your children. It will teach them while also improving the health of your own body, heart, and mind!
1. Ocean Deep Breathing
Have your child sit or lie down.
Have them take a long deep breath through their nose and blow out as if they are blowing through a straw.
Comment that their slow steady breathing can sound like beach waves, flowing up and down off a shore.
Continue this breathing for 2-3 minutes.
2. Feeling Exercise
Build a stress ball out of balloons, filling it with rice or sand.
Once it is built, have them squeeze the ball and just notice what it feels like to have it in their hand.
Have them squeeze and describe the feeling to you.
3. Five Senses Activity
Go outside and engage in an activity such as going on a walk, swinging, sitting on the grass, sitting in a swimming pool, etc.
Call out one of the five senses at a time (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound).
Have them close their eyes and focus on one sense at a time, noticing everything that they can until you call out the next sense.
We are so grateful to God for continuing to bring wonderfully qualified counselors to our practice, and are excited to introduce the author of this article and new clinician to our team: Mary Dominguez!
Mary graduated from Denver Seminary recently in May 2017 with a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her internship was spent at Denver Christian School. While at Denver Christian, she worked with children from kindergarten to high school age. She also incorporated some of her teaching background and taught psycho-education classroom lessons in all grade levels.