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yoga and anxiety

Soothing Anxiety with Mindfulness and Yoga

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to help your child with anxiety using mindfulness tools.

Everyone knows the feeling – your heart pounds, your stomach flips, and you start getting sweaty.  No one enjoys the feelings of anxiety and it’s even harder to watch your child struggle with them.  But with the right perspective, experiencing anxiety can be an opportunity to meet and rise above a challenge.  Yoga and mindfulness are powerful stress relievers.  Here is a process I enjoy using during anxious moments.

Honor the Anxiety

Like all feelings, anxiety serves an important purpose.  It can alert us to when things are dangerous,Soothing Anxiety With Mindfulness And Yoga when we are pushing past our limits, or if something just doesn’t “feel right”.  Therefore, it’s important to honor your child’s feelings of anxiety as useful information and only then assist her in soothing its unpleasant effects.  Ask your child what she is anxious about and why she is anxious about it.  Get down to the root fear that your child is experiencing.  For example, if your child is nervous to go to school, perhaps she is worried about sitting alone at lunchtime.  She is anxious about sitting alone because she is afraid she won’t have friends. She is worried about not having friends because she is afraid she is unlikable.

Address the “unlikable” part.  Ask her if she really feels that is a true, intrinsic quality she possesses.  Then bolster her self-esteem with some examples of how she is likable: she had lots of friends last year or get along great with her cousins or the neighbor next door is always asking her to play.  Give her as many reasons to feel confident as possible.  Encourage her to think of her own examples.  Then, bring it all home.  What friend-making strategies have worked for her before?  How can she implement those strategies in this situation?

Finally, have your child either draw a picture or write (or both) about her root fear.  Ask her how she feels about her artwork.  Does it represent who she really is?  Next, have her draw or write about the opposite, positive quality and then reflect on it with her.  What would it look like to embody this quality?  How would it feel?  It is very powerful for parents to do this exercise thinking of their own fears, with their child.  This will help the child to realize that anxiety is a normal feeling that we all have to work through.  Post your child’s positive quality artwork where she will see it everyday, such as the bathroom mirror or next to her bed.  Teaching your child to be mindful through difficult emotions is one of the most empowering gifts you can give her.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Now that you have confronted and questioned the anxiety and its root fear, work on releasing the tension that has built up in the body.  Start with five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Now shift so that you are breathing in and out through only the nose.  See if you can lengthen the exhalation by a few seconds, without strain.  Continue for five to ten breaths.  Have your child imagine negative thoughts and the anxiety leaving her body as she exhales and calm feelings and positive thoughts filling her body as she inhales.

With older children, you can also introduce a technique called alternate nostril breathing.  Alternate nostril breathing may balance the “fight or flight” part of the brain with the “rest and digest” part.  It is also a very soothing practice.  To practice alternate nostril breathing, inhale and then gently plug the right nostril and breathe out the left.  Inhale through the left nostril.  Switch, so that the left nostril is plugged and the right is unplugged.  Exhale through the right nostril and then inhale.  Switch nostrils, exhaling through the left, and so on.  The pattern is exhale, inhale, switch.  This can be practiced for upwards of ten minutes, though just a minute or two of alternate nostril breathing can relax the body.  Make sure that throughout the practice, the breath is smooth and slow and your child is not straining.  If this is too difficult, return to the simple deep breathing, as above.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

10 Simple Calm Down Strategies For Teens

 

Adolescence is a time of major development marked by significant changes.  One change that is often recognized during adolescence is an increase in emotionality.  Some teens can be negative, moody, and difficult to communicate with.  Furthermore, hormonal changes during this period of life can lead individuals to experience strong and sometimes unpredictable changes in affect.

Due to these changes in the emotional lives of adolescents, it becomes increasingly important to help your teenagers learn to appropriately cope with discomfort.  In today’s blog, I write about strategies that teenagers can employ to help themselves calm down when feeling upset.  Feeling upset can come from a variety of stressors (and teens have lots of them!).  Different individuals respond to stress in different ways.  The strategies listed here are intended to be starting points for you and your teenage son or daughter to consider.  It’s important to remember that what works well on one occasion may not be as effective the next time.  As teens continue to develop and mature, they acquire a better sense of how to take control of various emotional states.  As humans, while we can’t always change the way we feel, we can consider our typical responses to stress and engage in strategies that can help us cope with uncomfortable emotions.

10 calm-down strategies for teens:

  1. Talk it out- Unlike younger children who are still learning to use language effectively in a variety10 Calm Down Strategies for Teens of situations, teenagers have increased cognitive and language skills that help them think about their situations and explore potential solutions. If your teenager is upset, it may be helpful to give him/her the opportunity to talk it out.  This can include identifying the problem, discussing why it’s a problem, potential solutions, and other thoughts/feelings/reactions to the current situation.
  2. Draw – Drawing is a form of expression. Sometimes when individuals get very upset, talking (as suggested above) can be challenging.  Instead, it may help some teens to draw a picture of something they enjoy, or to express on paper how they are feeling at the moment.  Some research has suggested that coloring shapes (such as mandalas) can have calming effects on people.
  3. Write – Writing is yet another form of expression. Teenagers can write about whatever they’d like.  This can serve as a distraction as well as an outlet.  It may be helpful for some individuals to keep an ongoing journal or diary and write about their day to day experiences.
  4. Read – If you’re a reader, then you know that reading can be a soothing or calming activity. Some teens, on the other hand, may hate to read.  Remember, there are many things that one can read: books, magazines, comic books, graphic novels, books on tape, etc.
  5. Music – This is one of my personal favorites. The experience of music can touch the emotional side of many individuals.  Teenagers can chose to listen to a song that describes how they feel.  Or perhaps they can listen to calming, instrumental music while lying down.  Playing an instrument can serve as a great feel-better activity as well!
  6. Exercise – Regular exercise is good for us for many reasons, including mental health. This suggestion, however, speaks to exercising as a form of directing angry or upset energy.
  7. Focus on the positives– For example, make a list of things to be grateful for, or of kind acts you noticed today. During times of stress, our outlook is often clouded which makes it easy to only focus on the negatives.
  8. Change up the setting- Don’t get stuck in a rut. This suggestion is a follow-up from number 6.  It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of negative.  So, when needing to calm down, move to a different room, change the TV/music in the room, adjust the lighting, etc.
  9. Take a step back from the situation – Reflect on what is really making you mad. Often times our minds can become clouded with the many stressors of life.  It’s common for one to displace their anger/frustration on someone close to them.  (for example- A sixteen year old got in trouble at school and upon arriving at home “goes-off” on his younger brother for accidentally bumping into him.  This sixteen year old isn’t really upset at his brother, he’s upset at getting in trouble earlier in the day.)
  10. Say what you need (in a respectful yet assertive way) – Teenagers are continuing to build their self-advocacy skills. Advocating for one’s self includes speaking up when necessary and being able to appropriately request what one needs.

Lastly, parents reading this blog are urged to take a close look at your own calm-down strategies and habits.  Be sure to model how to stay in control of yourself even in the face of frustration or upset.  Do you have more ideas on ways for teenagers to calm themselves?  Please share below!


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

10 Simple Ways to Show Gratitude

It’s been proven that the act of showing gratitude can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.  The power of showing thanks lies in changing your internal focus from one of negativity (where you focus on the things you DON’T have) to one of positivity (where you focus on the things you DO have).  However, expressing appreciation for the things in your life is often easier said than done, especially on a bad day.  Read on for 10 simple ways to incorporate more gratitude into your day-to-day life.

10 Simple Ways to Be Thankful:

  1. Keep a journal.  At the end of the day, record five things for which you’re grateful in your journal.  Take time to look back periodically at what you’ve written to note the recurring themes. Read more