Build resilience in kids through yoga

6 Ways to Manage Stress and Build Resilience for Kids

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April is Stress Awareness Month. Let’s face it: stress is unavoidable and necessary. Appropriate amounts of stress boost performance, but too much of it can be harmful. Stressors can include any pressure we encounter on a moment-to-moment basis.

When the body senses a threat (or stressor), it goes on high alert. Once the threat passes, the body quickly recovers. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But with ongoing or too many stressors, your body may stay in a constant state of high alert, leading to mental and physical health problems.

When stress becomes chronic, the body cannot return to normal functioning. Chronic stress can be linked to depression and anxiety. Stress affects women and men differently. It affects children and teens differently. It’s also individual because some people are more resilient than others.

Yoga offers an opportunity for us to practice playing with stress. When we do that on the mat, we build resilience off the mat — in life. Here’s how:

1. Recognize and name stress. Yoga helps you tune into sensations. Stress is a sensation felt in the body. It can include difficulty concentrating, headaches, a quick heartbeat, cold hands, tight muscles, a nervous stomach, clenched teeth, fidgeting, irritability or withdrawing. Recognize your stress responses and name them. I feel… Then, take action with deep breathing, stretching, walking, writing, or taking a break to focus on reducing tension and inducing relaxation.

2. You time every day. Yoga helps you take care of you. Prioritize your care with your other responsibilities. Pay attention to exercise, eating healthy foods, and sleep. Yoga and meditation are very beneficial when feeling stressed. Also, notice “good things” each day or do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music, which can shift your attention from negative to positive.

3. Simplify routines. Yoga sequencing creates predictability. Block time and plan meals, morning, after school and bedtime routines. Prioritize tasks and create structures because daily frameworks allow you to account for and manage everyday stressors with more flexibility. Change can be hard — even if it helps as one mom tried “low-demand parenting” to add harmony to her household.

4. People matter. Yoga creates a caring community. Keep in touch with family, friends and groups for support. Having or being a person to talk with can be reassuring and calming. Venting and problem solving each have a place. Some of us simply need to be heard while others prefer solutions. Know who you are talking to and what they are good at…listening or fixing.

5. See multiple perspectives. Yoga inspires empathy. Changing the way we think about and respond to stress is called“reframing.” Sitting in traffic or around the house becomes an opportunity to enjoy music, podcasts or observe scenery. Reduce anger from rude or aggressive behavior by imagining what might be happening in that person’s life. Keeping situations in perspective boosts resilience. Look for the silver lining in all situations.

6. Seek help with problems. Yoga motivates self-advocacy. Seek appropriate care if stress is harming your relationships or ability to work. Talk to a health professional if stress is affecting your well-being, you feel you cannot manage the stress you’re experiencing, or stress has caused you to engage in or increase substance use. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Lifeline chat is a service available to everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, if you need help locating a mental health provider, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a site that can assist you.

Recognizing your body signals to stress responses and learning to respond to those signals in new ways can help build the emotional, intellectual and physical strength that comprise resilience, which can help you tackle future stressors. When you do this, your kids learn to do this too. We’ll show you how.


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