Kids Have Stress, Too!

crying boy

By Callie Sanders, Courier & Press, January 19, 2016 –

Stress is a normal part of our everyday lives. It can sometimes be a very good thing such as when it motivates a person to try harder at work or school or encourages someone to be more alert.

But when does stress become too much?

Physical symptoms are usually a key indicator that stress levels are maxed out. Some common symptoms are headaches, elevated blood pressure, insomnia and stomach issues.

When the human body is screaming, “I’m stressed out,” what can be done to change that? Stress management skills are vital tools no matter what age. It’s good to introduce these techniques early. Let’s face it, kids are stressed too.

Below are some tips I use as a school social worker to help students de-stress:

Take a mental vacation. In this exercise, students are asked to close their eyes and visualize a place in their mind that would combat stress and negative thoughts. This place can be real or make believe. Students are encouraged to write the place down and then draw it. This teaches students to be mindful and gives them the ability to detach from negativity and use mental visuals to regain a calm state.

Just breathe. Deep breathing exercises help lower heart rate and muscle tension. To breathe deeply, begin by putting your hand on your abdomen. I ask students to visualize their belly as a balloon. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly (balloon) expands. Hold the breath and exhale slowly through your mouth as the balloon deflates. Repeat several times. Blowing bubbles is also a great way to practice deep breathing exercises.

Say cheese. I have a sign on my door that reads, “You had the courage to stay, now go give a smile away.” Smiling is a win-win mechanism. We smile when we are relaxed and happy. Smiling at someone else can help them feel relaxed and happy too. Everyone wins.

Write it out. I use an activity called “Control vs. Non Control,” where students are asked to draw a large donut or tire on a piece of paper (one small circle inside a larger circle). In the small circle, they are asked to list stressors they may be able to change/control. In the larger circle, they list stressors that can’t be changed. I ask them to focus on the small circle of stressors, changing what they can. They can then practice letting go or coping with the stressors in the larger circle that can’t be controlled.

Be a fighter. Feeling like a victim can increase feelings of stress and helplessness. I teach students how to be proactive, using a water bottle as a visual analogy. When water is shaken up in the bottle (no matter how many times it is shaken), it doesn’t explode. Being proactive is just like that. When life is at its toughest, I ask them to remember the water bottle and use techniques that will keep them from exploding.

No matter what life stage we’re in, we all deal with some form of stress. Take control before it turns into distress.

I encourage you to use the tips provided. Just breathe. Keep fighting. Give a smile away in the process. It’s a win-win situation!