Between making that deadline for work, running household errands, and simply trying to keep up with family and friends, life can be stressful. Add in the news of the world and it can feel downright overwhelming.
The good news is that you’re not the only one who feels this way. In fact, a survey from January 2017 showed that one in three Americans experienced increased levels of stress over the past year. The not so good news? It’s not just grownups who are feeling on edge. According to reports, up to one in five children and teens experiences anxiety, panic, or another closely related feeling.
Part of this could be that kids take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives (and if we’re stressed, they notice and think they should probably be stressed, too!). But part of it undoubtedly has to do with the fact that the world is an uncertain place, and as much as we may try to guard our children from the news, it’s both impossible and impractical to protect them entirely from many of the difficult, confusing, and sometimes simply upsetting conversations and events happening around us. And as older children start to learn more, it’s only natural for them to feel confused or stressed. We live in very complicated times!
So, what can we do about all this anxiety and stress? While we can’t snap our fingers and complete your weekly to-do list, let alone bring peace and understanding to the world, we can offer up some solid strategies for finding calm amidst what can feel like chaos. Consider this your go-to toolkit for when things seem a little out of control. The tips work for both kids and adults, so consider modeling them for younger kids and/or practicing them as a family when it makes sense. An extra dose of quality time can be calming for everyone, right?
1. Get going
Whether you lace up your sneaks to hit the track, try out dance aerobics, or test out your moves on the soccer pitch, physical exercise helps your body release endorphins, which help counteract stress. Plus, working out with a family member or a friend has been shown to make your bond a little stronger. Sweating it out never sounded so sweet.
2. Practice deep breathing or meditation
Taking deep breaths tells your brain it’s time to slow down and relax, while meditation has shown to help your brain release serotonin, a chemical messenger that helps elevate your mood and keep anxiety at bay. The best thing about these techniques is that they can be done absolutely anywhere, require zero equipment, and start helping immediately.
3. Revisit your favorite book or movie
Reading a book you already know the ending to, or watching a movie or TV show that you can almost quote line-for-line might seem like a waste of time to some, but experts say it has real benefits when it comes to destressing. In fact, the predictability of the storyline and plot progression can bring us to a place of peace and calm. Anybody up for a Friends marathon or a few episodes of Sponge Bob?
4. Double down on healthy habits
Stress snacking is a real thing, as is losing sleep when things seem a little chaotic. The issue with that is that although yummy treats may make you feel better in the moment, all the sugar, salt, and empty calories in junk food can leave you feeling even more jittery—and a lack of sleep can lead to increased feelings of worry, doubt, and irritation. So instead of literally feeding the problem, help make it better by focusing on nutritious, real foods at meal times and by making sure to keep bedtimes regular and on the early-side when possible.
5. Head for the hills
Nobody knows exactly why, but spending time outside has been linked to increased happiness—and when young people spend more time in nature, they get better at handling stressful situations. Plus, natural scents like pine, jasmine, lilacs, and roses have been proven to increase relaxation. Go ahead and snap a sunset selfie to capture the moment, then revisit it whenever you need a tiny reminder of how calm and centered you can feel.
6. Express yourself
There’s a reason why coloring books are having such a moment! Studies have shown that 45 minutes of creative activity—like crafting, drawing, or collaging—can reduce stress hormones in your body. Not feeling super artsy? Journaling or creative writing can have the same effect.
7. Talk it out
Putting feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress into words—and sharing how you feel with someone you can trust like a family member, friend, community leader, or counselor—is a healthy and important practice when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Afterall, when negative feelings get bottled up, they tend to only get worse. Chances are, you’ll discover that those close to you are also dealing with some kind of stress in their lives, too. At any rate, knowing you have someone on your side who understands how you feel can make the world feel like a much more friendly place.
Of course, if you or your daughter are dealing with ongoing or major anxiety, depression, or generally upset feelings, there are people in your community who can help. Not sure who to turn to? Reach out to your girl’s school counselor for local resources.