What is it?

  • Stress is a normal, everyday occurrence. It’s our body’s response to feeling afraid, overworked, overstimulated, threatened or excited. 
  • Little bit of stress can help us feel alert, energized and interested in life.
  • Parenting can be stressful, and most parents feel stressed.
  • When a person has too much stress and doesn’t feel in control over it, they might feel unhappy and lose the ability to perform everyday tasks.
  • Stress can also lead to health problems.

Tips For Relieving Stress in Your Life

Take time to focus on yourself and your own well being

  • 2/3 of parents don’t think their stress affects their children, however tweens and teens report being affected by their parents stress

  • Children model their parents behavior

  • Parents who deal with stress in an unhealthy way are teaching their children to deal with stress in an unhealthy way

Evaluate your lifestyle

How do you respond to stress? Is it healthy or unhealthy?
Getting enough sleep, the recommended amount of exercise and eating healthy are great ways to reduce stress

  • Create a healthy environment
  • Reduce clutter
  • Make your house or work space a clean and relaxing environment
  • Acknowledge your stress and talk about it with family, friends or a professional

Develop a support network
Talk to your children about their stress

Focus on yourself

  • Make time for fun with your family

  • Take a mental vacation- relax your muscles and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and imagine you are someplace you enjoy. Allow yourself 10-15 minutes for this.

  • Listen to music, find a hobby you enjoy doing, and avoid too much caffeine or alcohol

Change one habit at a time

You are more likely to experience success if you change one behavior at a time

Stress in Children

Children experience stress and it’s important for parents to recognize and help them deal with it
High levels of unrelieved stress can interfere with their ability to function normally

We should teach and model healthy coping strategies, but most young children can’t cope with stress on their own very well. 

Parents have the ability to help their children with simple day-to-day tools

Connection: when children have secure relationships with their parents, they know that someone will be there to help them deal with their problems. Strong relationships also help children to trust and listen to the adult who is supporting them.

  • Home environment: Children can handle stress better when they have a healthy, balanced lifestyle with good food, lots of time for physical activity, play and relaxation, and daily routines that make their world feel predictable and safe.
  • Comfort: In order for children to learn to comfort themselves, they first must know what it is like to be comforted. One of the best stress-relieving tools you have is a hug. Regardless of anything else you might say to a stressed child, the comfort of physical contact is one of the best stress relievers available. In fact, research has shown that the positive brain stimulation children get from being touched in early childhood helps build the brain’s pathways that help people cope with stress.

Even if your child is not showing signs of being stressed, it is a good idea to encourage everyday activities that help them feel good about themselves and show them ways to manage and reduce the impact of stress.

  • Make sure they have plenty of unstructured play time
  • A full night’s sleep
  • Vigorous physical activity in another great stress reliever 
  • Limit screen time
  • Allow your children opportunities to make small choices.
    • Example: “Do you want to wear the green or red shirt today?” This helps them feel a sense of control. When people feel they have control over a situation, they respond better to stress
  • Show your children that you love them with words, hugs, kisses. Play and laugh together

Talking about feelings

It is important that children know how to talk about these feelings
Research shows that when people talk about feelings, the thinking part of the brain is stimulated and the “acting out” part of the brain becomes less active

  • Label your own emotions in front of your children
    • Example: It’s really frustrating when I can’t find the car keys
  • If your child seems angry or frustrated, point it out to them and use words that might help them learn to identify the emotions. 
    • Example: I wonder if you might still feel angry about what happened on the playground
  • I guess you felt mad when they wouldn’t let you in the game

Stress Relief Activities

Activity: Deep Breathing 

Background: Deep breathing is a great tool to help take a time out and relax your mind and body. Practice it at any time; work, school, before bed, when you are upset, etc. It is also a great tool to teach to your children as something easy they can do to help them in stressful situations. 

Directions: 

  • Sit comfortably in your chair with both feet on the ground.
  • Relax your arms and hands downward
  • Relax your whole body
  • Close your eyes
  • Focus on your lower belly and imagine a small balloon in that space
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through nostrils, imagining the balloon inflating slowly, hold a few seconds
  • Slowly exhale through the mouth, imagining the balloon getting smaller, blow out of the mouth as if blowing out a candle
  • Take at least 10 more deep breaths like this

Activity: Progressive Relaxation (Deep Muscle Relaxation)

Background: Deep muscle relaxation is another great form of stress relief. It is done by tightening and releasing different muscle groups in their bodies. 

Instructions: For a group of younger children you might want to demonstrate each step for them of identify the different body parts so they understand the instructions. Get into a comfortable position either sitting up or laying down. You may close your eyes and turn off the lights as well.

  • Raise your eyebrows and wrinkle your forehead. Try to touch your hairline with your eyebrows. Hold for 5 seconds… (after 5 seconds) and relax
  • Make a frown. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax
  • Close your eyes and your mouth as wide as you can. Hold for 5 seconds… and relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your face.
  • Stretch your arms out to the side. Pretend you are pushing against an invisible wall with your hands. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Bend your elbows and make a muscle in your upper arm. Hold for 5 second… and relax. Feel the tension leave your arms.
  • Lift your shoulders. Try to make your shoulders touch your ears. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Arch your back away from the back of your chair. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Round your back. Try to push it against the back of your chair. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax. Feel the tension leaving your back.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Tighten your hip and buttock muscles. Hold for 5 seconds… and relax.
  • Tighten your thigh muscles by pressing your legs as close as you can. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Bend your ankles toward your body as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds…and relax.
  • Curl your toes under as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds… and relax. Feel the tension leave your legs.
  • Tighten all the muscles in your whole body. Hold for ten seconds…and relax. Let your entire body be heavy and calm. Sit quietly and enjoy this feeling for a couple of minutes.