Stress Relief

Written by Trena Hudson, M.A.
Yikes Tikes! Director

I decided to switch up this month’s blog entry from the Quality in Early education and care series to talk about something that has become prevalent for me this month, STRESS. This month’s Blog topic was brought on by my increasing number of responsibilities and the seemingly decreasing time in the day to accomplish everything. Currently, I find myself, similar to other parents; trying to juggle many things such as work, school, parenting, moving and other day-to-day challenges. Even with Easter this past Sunday, there was some added stress from my family’s Easter celebration: there was cooking that needed to be done for about 30 people, eggs that needed to be prepared and hidden for about 10 kids, entertainment for everyone and then the clean up afterward.

With all of the needs that are constantly vying for our attention, there is no wonder how stress can build for parents and educators…….and consequently for our little ones. So this blog entry is dedicated to any parent or educator that has every felt stressed, overwhelmed, or possibly at their wits ends. Our jobs are challenging, but learning to stay calm, cool and collective will help us to enjoy the moments, learn from challenges and keep us sane.

One technique that sometimes works for me is to schedule a part of my day, (for me this actually means literally adding it to my calendar) where I practice “Relaxation Breathing” or in my own terms a little mommy “Time out”. During this time I find a spot where I can sit comfortably as possible (if you can find a spot to lay down and do this then definitely lay down) and then I proceed to do the following:

  1. Close my eyes
  2. Slowly roll my neck in a circle motion: once in a clockwise direction and then once in the opposite direction.
  3. Begin to inhale slowly and let the lower region of my body relax as I take in as much air as possible.
  4. Exhale slowly through my nose
  5. Begin to inhale slowly and this time I let the upper region of my body relax as I take in as much air as possible.
  6. Again I exhale slowly through my nose.
  7. Inhale slowly again, this time I let my mind relax.
  8. Again I exhale slowly through my nose
  9. Finally, I inhale slowly and let my whole body, mind, and spirit relax.
  10. I exhale slowly through my nose
  11. Open eyes slowly

Some other techniques that I have used are:

  1. Listening to calming music sometimes helps me to regain focus. Other times I can put on my favorite dance tune and shimmy some stress away.
  2. Stretching is also a good way to relax built up tension in the muscles.
  3. Laughter is probably my favorite stress relieving technique. There’s nothing like full body laughter to help ease tensions and help the body to relax.

All of these techniques can and should be taught to children. Parents and early educators should be aware that any change, positive or negative, can create stress for children. As parents and early educators, it is our responsibility to equip children with tools for stress management and to also model appropriate coping techniques.

A fun way to get a child to practice breathing deeply is to let them lie flat on the floor with a small stuffed animal on their belly. Instruct them to breathe in and watch the stuffed animal take a slow journey up, and down as he or she breathes out.

Another way to get children to practice relaxation breathing is through the magic of bubbles.  People of all ages love bubbles, but young children are especially fascinated with bubbles. Dip a wand into a bubble solution and show your child how to take in a deep breath and slooooooowly blow out.

When we slow down out breathing, we fool our bodies into thinking we are relaxing.  Breathing to relax takes thought and practice. Remember that relaxation techniques are skills. As with any skill, your ability to relax improves with practice. Be patient with yourself. Don’t let your effort to practice relaxation techniques become yet another stressor.

The Benefits of Relaxation Techniques

 (from The Mayo Clinic)

When faced with numerous responsibilities and tasks or the demands of an illness, relaxation techniques may take a back seat in your life. But that means you might miss out on the health benefits of relaxation.

Practicing relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms by:

  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Reducing activity of stress hormones
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration and mood
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

To get the most benefit, use relaxation techniques along with other positive coping methods, such as thinking positively, finding humor, problem-solving, managing time, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reaching out to supportive family and friends.

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