Harness that Stress
Stress impacts everything we do. We carry the effects of stress physically, and it makes it difficult for us to be present in the moment. When you have children in your life that can impact all of your interactions with them. Young children, especially, require reflective, attuned connections with their adults. Without this focused attention, they can suffer from lowered self esteem and confidence, and it can even effect early brain development. Children need attuned connection in a consistent way.
Add to this some facts and statistics.
- Twenty to twenty -five percent of children will experience mental health disorders in their childhood.
- Early childhood (0-36 months) is a major window of prevention for larger problems.
- Stress or other emotional challenges can affect a baby in utero and those affects continue into childhood and beyond.
So, what do you do if you, or your child, are experiencing stress?
The good news is that by learning your own stress management, you will also be modeling for your child, who will grow up with these techniques as part of their normal routine. I often recommend meditation. It is helpful for so many reasons. Meditation can help you to quiet the noise that your head can create and focus your thoughts more effectively. It serves the purpose of slowing you down and, in the process, helps with the physiological manifestations of stress. Often, just by slowing down, we can begin to feel less frenetic and more contained. People can feel very wary of meditation, thinking that it is a very rigid and unforgiving practice. They also assume it’s a weird or religious practice involving chanting in a foreign language and wearing patchouli oil. Whether or not you like patchouli, meditation is a practice that can help you to focus your thoughts on the present moment, and develop a habit of not worrying about what may happen in the future, or what has already happened, neither of which you have any control over. I encourage you to start with just a few minutes and something simple like counting your breaths, taking a physical inventory, or listening to a mantra or guided meditation.
If you do have a meditation practice already, I think it’s wonderful to meditate while holding baby. Your little one will benefit from your heart-rate and breathing slowing down and becoming more restorative.
You can start to teach this to small children by teaching them to breath into their bellies. Belly breathing encourages fuller, deeper breaths, and a slowing down that is important for stress relief.
Additionally, stress is alleviated when we move our bodies and when we laugh. So, when things are really heated, turn up the music and dance it out, or practice your knock-knock jokes.
Stress is hard on us as adults. But our children feel our stress as their own and then that stress can become a more entrenched problem for them over time. It’s important to notice your own response and behaviors and help to create new habits for your whole family.