Stress and anxiety are seemingly inescapable.
To-do lists, endless reminders, near-constant interruptions, messages of comparison, incoming images and sounds that stoke emotions of alarm and panic are everywhere - in our hands, in our faces, and in our pockets.
In a world of overly busy adults, it can be easy to forget that children experience stress and anxiety as well.
We can all think back to memories of the first day of school in a new class, finding people to sit with in the cafeteria and questions of fitting in or finding acceptance.
Those might sound like small problems compared to adults' deadlines, bills and pressures.
But for children and teens, issues of fitting in are paramount.
Finding where we fit and forming relationships are primary developmental goals, and our brains utilize chemistry to manipulate our emotions to be sure that these concerns are very important to us.
Now add in challenges of bullying in increasing frequency and severity, potential for violence in schools, and the pervasive culture of stress and hustle that trickles down to our kids in the form of higher and higher expectations and jam-packed calendars of activities.
Tools to cope with stress and anxiety typically sound very simple.
That doesn't mean that they're easy. They require a commitment to making time to practice good self-care.
This is easier when we acknowledge that stress and anxiety, when not addressed appropriately, can lead to more serious mental health issues as well as physical illness, relationship challenges and decreased performance at work and school.
The good news here is that the solutions are really simple.
For parents wanting to help kids with everyday worries and nervousness, here are some simple tips:
- Listen. Give your undivided attention and just listen to their concerns. Remember that children and teens' problems might not sound serious to an adult, but are very important to the youth.
- Breathe. Practice calming breath exercises with your kids. This can be as simple as breathing slowly in and out through your nose (or in through pursed lips, as if drinking in air through an imaginary straw), and using the breath to "fill up your belly" to make sure the breaths are deep. Try breathing in to a count of three, and out to a count of six.
- Predictable routines are grounding. The more structure and reliability in a child's day, (generally speaking) the less anxiety.
Be mindful not to overbook your child's schedule. Rest is a constructive action, and relaxation and play are incredibly important for kids - and adults too.
- Set a good example by practicing good self-care yourself. Let your children see and hear you using positive coping skills.
Melanie Storrusten is the owner and therapist with Align Wellness Solutions in Atlanta. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.alignwellnessatl.com