All Articles Tagged "stress"
My cousin recently died at the age of 45. He passed just shy of his 46th birthday and nearly lived long enough to have scheduled heart surgery that could have likely saved his life. I was stunned, depressed and confused after he went back to the essence.
How did this happen? Why wasn’t I able to help? Where did we go wrong?, I questioned.
After his passing, I continue to battle with something that I wrestle with in life. Frankly, Black man and fathers die younger than everybody else in the United States. (Native American men are the single exception.)
My father died in his 40’s and before he died, several of his friends died in their 30’s and 40’s. They left a trail of tears, widows, children and lifelong mourning. I’d later realize that this was a tragic norm for people of color, specifically African Americans. Our men die young. Period.
So, I did some research to back up my views on this.
Ravages Of Racism
It’s a proven fact that racism, or even perceived racism, gradually and viciously wears down its victims. Men are not exclusively succumbing to racism, but we now know that it is a quiet killer. Lisa Wade, PhD, wrote a story on the dire effects of racism and proclaimed: “Directly and indirectly, racism kills.” A study by PLOS One backs this up stating that a, “unique constellation of environmental stressors and psychosocial challenges experienced by Blacks” accelerates “declines in health and generates racial disparities.”
Most people don’t know the “mere” feeling of of red and blue lights in the rearview as a Black man. I have to tell you it is terror. However, that’s the tail end of it all. From a very young age, I realized that we were in a constant, never-ending war of attrition with racism. And it wears you down until it kills you overtly or through one of its agents. In fact, areas which more readily use the n-word account for an “8.2 percent increase in mortality among Blacks,” says Dr. Wade, citing the severity of racism in those areas.
One of racism’s mightiest agents is stress. Stress is something people generally deal with, but for Black fathers, I feel it’s exacerbated. It leads to other things. Studies say too much stress results in emotional strain, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and depression Let me speak from the heart, I have experienced every one of these symptoms, but fortunately have made overt steps to reduce the stress of fatherhood, running a company and other factors like negative relationships. Don’t even get me started on the trauma of seeing murdered Black men shared on social media – over and over and over and over again. Pure stress.
Health And Cash Rule Everything Around Me
Health and money are absolutely linked in how long you live. Somehow, wage disparities along racial lines still exists even though the practice was made illegal when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Fact is, socioeconomics are a major factor in differences between the death rates between Black and White fathers. So, when you have all of the issues created by the stress and the racism, we typically deal with it differently than others. They go to a therapist. We go to the liquor store. We have a fundamental mistrust of doctors, rooted in history. They don’t mind the flu shot. Clearly these are not absolutes, but you know much of this to be true. Obamacare was helpful to some, but it still costs money to have.
Then there are other factors. Men, especially Black men, are less inclined to seek medical attention when they are sick or unwell. This was the case for my father. He simply waited too late and dismissed my mother’s words for him to go to the doctor. Typically men engage in jobs or other activities that can result in early death. Men do some stupid things, but a lot of us also work very hard. We tend to drink too much, smoke more, fight more, have accidents more, eat poorly and go to jail more. For Black men, jail is a big one, because we know that we are disproportionately targeted, jailed and consumed by the injustice systems here in America. The movie “The 13th” is perfectly timed to articulate this travesty of justice.
There are some things we cannot avoid. Dad bods are all the rage, but they also ensure that we typically die before others. A few of my dad’s friends died from obesity. Others, suffered from heart attacks. The bigger the body, the more it takes to keep it alive. When I was working 18-20 hour days, I ballooned in weight and literally hated myself. However, after I smartened up, I focused on my health – for myself and my daughter. My father, who also wrestled with his weight, was a bigger man than I am. I always kept his issues and challenges in the frontal lobe of my brain so that I don’t repeat his mistakes. In that way, he continues to guide me. My cousin – I found later – faced many issues – diabetes, heart issues and obesity. If I’m honest, I figured some of this would be an issue later down the line, but I assumed things would work out. I assumed wrong.
We Are Weaker Than We Think…
In Sunday’s sermon, a female pastor at my church said, “Warriors are weak.” I found the statement profound, but it made me think. We Black fathers often wear titles like “Superman,” “King,” or whatever cloak of invincibility we choose to adopt. Our Black men have been under siege here in America and continue to be. It’s not a competition so we recognize thoroughly that our women have been too. Men just die sooner. In my opinion, it is largely because women recognize their weaknesses whereas men believe the myth they are not weak at all. So women address their body’s health readily, read wellness magazines and they gather to talk about them, even if it’s to vent. Men don’t talk to each other about anything but hip-hop, sports, women, racism, some politics and a bunch of there stuff that generally amounts to very little. We always stress over money. Honestly, I have some close friends and I would call it a “Black Male Support Group” of sorts. If we could only scale it to the rest of Black America.
A lot of men are strong, but often ignore other forms of strength like endurance. They often lack mental might to weather the storms that the body struggles with. There is some good news on this front. National suicide trends are on the rise, but with Black men it is on the decline. While the suicide rate may be shrinking, we may be killing ourselves in other ways. All the aforementioned reasons, which include environmental factors, disease, and violence, are additional causes for early death in Black fathers.
Lastly, some Black men just tap out. They give up, dying before their time.
When it comes to stress, you can’t always control where it comes from, or even how much of it is in store for you today. And since there’s no way to get it out of your life for good, why not turn it into something positive?
It’s not as hard as it sounds. As it turns out, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can actually benefit your health, boost your brain power, and help motivate you to move out of an uncomfortable situation.
Allow stress to be a motivator in all aspects of your life, and you might even be a little bit grateful to see it come your way. And that’s a good thing because it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Here are 14 ways to turn stress into motivation.
I had another panic attack in the shower today. I stood there sobbing as the warm water pounded my skull, staring in horror at the nightmarishly thick wad of hair clutched in my shaking hand.
I’m losing my hair. It’s been happening for a while now. I’d estimate that in the past 2 months I’ve lost 65 percent of my hair, including eyelashes.
It started in early July. I’d brush my hair and within minutes, an amount of hair that usually would’ve taken several weeks to accumulate would be clinging to the brush. Instead of the smattering of hairs that would normally line the drain I would spend most my time in the shower dealing with small clumps of hair coming off in my hands.
Initially, I ignored it. I’ve had long, thick hair for most of my life, so not only do I have hair to spare, but dealing with long hairs strewn about the house or clogging the drain was a regular occurrence.
But this time, it didn’t stop.
I’d randomly run my hands through my hair while at work and small clumps would come away tangled ominously in my fingers. Not a couple strands here and there that you can release into the air by quickly flicking your hand, I’m talking enough hair that I’d have to stand up and find a garbage can. My hair stylist noticed the difference but couldn’t explain the loss so I made a doctor appointment, even though I figured she’d just tell me what I already assumed was the cause after a cursory Internet search: stress.
The stress of divorce.
Stress has been the one constant emotion in my life since January, when my husband and I separated about two months before our son was born. After his birth, the divorce talk got serious and we ended up in a horrible impasse over where we’d raise our kids. I wanted to move back to my home state of Utah where I could find solid employment and be near friends and family, he wanted to stay near his family in Pennsylvania and ride the freelance writing rollercoaster. Attorneys were consulted, battle positions taken, guns locked and loaded.
I spent a good chunk of my time almost completely incapacitated, screaming myself into near unconsciousness when he had the kids, yet barely stumbling through the days when they were with me. In one especially awful episode, I became so horrified by the way my life was coming undone that I couldn’t hide it from my kids and had to call my ex to come get them. I simply could not function as a human being. Ultimately, we managed to talk out our issues, call off the attorneys and behave like calm, rational adults. But there were some black and bleak months during which I wasn’t sleeping or eating, the most nightmarish and dark times in my life, without question.
That was May. In early July I noticed the unusual hair loss. I chalked it up to just having a baby, stress, whatever. I managed to avoid really thinking about it for another month, convincing myself that I would stop shedding soon, no big deal. But the hair loss has continued, unabated. What used to be thick hair that regularly broke elastics with its girth can now be pinched limply between my thumb and index finger. I constantly wear it in a messy top knot because I’m afraid of brushing it or washing it and enduring the horror that is watching your own hair come out in clumps in your hands. And my eyelashes suffer the same fate, too. Angry pink patches of bald eyelid scream at me every time I look in the mirror.
After scheduling an appointment with my regular doctor, I turned to Dr. Google and found an article about a thing called Stress Alopecia and its causes:
- A sudden hormone change (usually a drop in hormone levels)
- After the birth of a baby (delivery of the placenta causes the levels of pregnancy hormones to plummet)
- Discontinuing birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- Acute trauma (surgery, physical injury or psychological trauma)
- Severe dieting (inadequate protein and iron intake)
- Underactive or overactive thyroid
- Diseases such as diabetes and lupus
- Medications: These include retinoids, blood pressure medication, anti-depressants, certain birth control pills and even NSAID’s (including Ibuprofen)
- Burns or radiation therapy
I was floored. Birth of baby, hormone change, psychological trauma, inadequate protein. Check, check, check. If I had to self-diagnose myself, I’d guess what I’m dealing with here is, in fact, a nasty case of stress alopecia, but I’m still headed to the doctor next week to confirm. I expect she’ll check my blood for iron levels, maybe check my thyroid and then tell me to manage my stress, exercise, and take some vitamins. Great. Thanks. I’ll stop being stressed right this instant, I’ll get right on that.
Mostly I try not to think about it, because what can I do? Not much. My hair is already gone, so freaking out about it isn’t going to help. Still. I have these moments of sheer terror. Like this morning in the shower, when it just kept coming out in my hands and I wondered (like any self-respecting dude going bald) if I should just shave it off like a bad ass punk rocker and start over. Because when will it stop? Who wants a couple of stringy hairs drizzling down their back like some female version of Donald Trump? Not this chick. No way. I’d rather be bald.
I’m trying to view this whole hair loss thing as a life lesson, a scary reminder of what’s important in the grand scheme of things. Although it’s terrifying to lose a chunk of my femininity, hair loss certainly isn’t on the top 20 or even 50 most important things in my life. I’m navigating a divorce, solo parenting, working a new full-time job, freelance writing, oh, and moving into a new house. All at the same time. Hair loss? Please. I’ve got this.
(Except that’s all bravado. I’m totally freaking out.)
It’s sad to admit, but summer vacation doesn’t last forever. When you think about the fact that you have to send your kids back to school do you feel sad? Frustrated? Stressed out?
We asked our Mommynoire community, “What’s the hardest part about sending your kids back to school?” For our family it’s not waking up early or making lunch every day, it’s having to be on-the-ball organized all the time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! And start nodding your head now, because we got some great responses:
“Having to set an alarm!!!” – Jennifer
“Making lunch and snack. We still can’t even look at turkey sandwiches without going green. Also, for the first time in their short little lives, my kids are sleeping ‘til 9. It’s like winning the lotto every day. Not super interested in the 6:30 wake-ups.” – Pascha
“Getting up early, dealing with homework and hectic sports schedules. I’m totally enjoying the freedom that summer brings to me, and not looking forward to the chaos of fall.” – Melissa
“Getting up early, without a doubt. I love the structure of the school year. I just wish the structure could start around, say, 11am.” – Shawn
“I guess the hardest part would be arranging family movie nights. When the girls have less disposable time they’re more apt to want to play with friends or do other things. It’s different when they don’t have a bed time and can sleep ‘til noon.” – Jon
“I’m dreading fitting the school drop-off into my commute, somehow making it in on time for my morning meetings all while appearing polished and poised. Oh, and packing lunch. Blah.” – Madhuri
“Having everyone out of the house for the bus or work commute by 6:45am. Homework. Sports schedules. There aren’t enough hours in the day with both parents working full time with hellish commutes.” – Kerrin
“The endless, endless calls for volunteers for field trips, in-class help, bake sales, talent shows, book sales, ‘fun’ festivals, etc. I always cave in, say yes, and usually end up resenting how little free time I have and the parents who never contribute…” – Jessica
“Bathing the kids again on a regular basis is not as fun as getting ‘clean’ in a lake. Back to school also brings back-to-back colds and flus to our house. I definitely prefer the break from germs that summer brings.” – Abby
“We’ll be missing lazy summer mornings and lots of pool time with my girl. Have always loved the summer ‘schedule’. Toughest part is saying goodbye to warm fun summer days.” – Maureen
“With D going to a new school and now commuting with Dad, we’re preparing for September like it’s the Normandy invasion.” – Sandy
Not everyone dreads sending the kids back to school, though:
“Going back to school is THE BEST THING. Summer is a pain in my @$$. I love school. My kids love school. My house stays messy in the summer. I want everyone out!” – Rebecca
What’s your least favorite part of school starting? Add yours in the comments!
I live for a good coloring book. And as we’ve discussed around these parts, you should invest in one since adult coloring books help alleviate stress. If you’re still on the lookout and just so happen to be a hopeless romantic, I have the perfect option for you: Modern Lovers: The Relationship Goals Coloring Book.
Brought to you by Belly Kids, the book pays homage to some of the celebrity couples people can’t seem to get enough of. The curator of the coloring book, Michael Coley, told Mashable that the artists behind each of the illustrations wanted to create “a picture of love gone right.”
“We’ve come together to create something fun, cute, a little bit dorky but immensely positive and warming.”
The book includes the likes of Bey and Jay (drawn by Elena Boils), Kim and Kanye, and though she’s never claimed him publicly, Rihanna and Drake. Fictional couples even get some love, including Mulder and Scully from The X-Files and Jon Snow and Ygritte from Game of Thrones.
With the right set of colored pencils, a pencil sharpener on deck, and a glass of wine, this coloring book seems like it will give you quite a bit of entertainment — and of course, all the relationship goals. It can be yours for just $9.
When you’re just trying to hurry up and get clean, as many of us are often trying to do with our busy schedules, hopping in and out of the shower is the way to go. But every now and then it pays to slow down, take the time and relax in the tub.
Had a tough workout or worked your muscles in ways you didn’t foresee before choosing to be active during the day? Time in the tub can help with that.
Have a hard time getting to bed and need more than a glass of milk or some ZzzQuil? That’s right, the tub can aid you in obtaining a good night’s rest.
Irritated with the way things went at work and need to decompress? Run yourself some water and get to soaking.
Caught a cold unexpectedly and need help clearing your nasal passage? Let the steam of a good bath clear things out.
There are countless benefits to finding time for a bath occasionally, including boosted brain power, improved gastrointestinal health and cleansing of the skin. But to make it a must in your weekly schedule, you need more than a tub and hot water. Check out five products that will make your bath all the more fabulous instead of a sad scene out of a Rihanna video that leaves you with shriveled digits.
Filled with patchouli essential oil, Nubian Heritage’s new bath bombs are great for calming down the senses while stimulating them at the same time. Also mixed with Buriti oil, which is high in beta-carotene, vitamin E and C, the bombs can also help with collagen production and hydrate your skin. Drop them in the water and watch them fizz to perfection. The toning and uplifting accompanying body souffle ($11.99) is also a rich product that smells amazing while polishing up the skin.
After a day full of the rough and tumble, your muscles and joints may have an attitude with you. Soothe, hydrate and heal them with this amazing soak. The scent will relax you and the mineral-rich Dead Sea salts will give you the relief and spa experience at home — for much less.
Lush’s Milky Bath – $7.95
It may look a little crazy (it’s supposed to resemble a milk bottle), but it’s quite relaxing. For those looking for something they can actually have soak into their skin, this milky bath soap is a blend of cocoa butter, skimmed milk and olive oil. It’s sure to make your skin feel like butter while soothing you with a bevy of bubbles and a lovely orange scent.
Speaking of products that can really soak into the skin, there’s nothing like a good scrub to help even out your rough edges and polish your surface. Leave your body glowing with this particular sugar scrub, which smells delicious thanks to pomegranate oil, cranberry seeds and Shea butter.
Down to splurge every now and then? Invest in almond oil. L’Occitane’s Almond Smoothing and Beautifying Supple Skin Oil is the perfect product for moisturizing the skin after soaking in water. It absorbs in no time and is rich thanks to almond oil, omega-3 and 6 and camelina oil.
It’s 4:37 a.m. on a Saturday morning and you’re sitting on the toilet, trying to pee. It’s your third attempt in 60 minutes and try as you might, nothing’s coming out. Your bladder feels tight like a balloon filled with water, but somehow your body’s not getting the memo because it just won’t release. Jumping jacks, dancing, nothing has worked so far. Panic is setting in. What if I can’t pee? you ask yourself for the gazillonth time.
Two hours later, you’re lying down on a bed in the emergency room at the hospital. “Your bladder is full,” says the doctor, “This is the only way we can help you pee.” He inserts a catheter into your vagina and your body drifts off into euphoria. Finally. By evening you’re home and peeing has resumed to normal.
Five days later, you’re back at the hospital. This time, peeing doesn’t resume and this catheter becomes your constant companion for the next week. Ever go to the park with your kid with a catheter strapped to your leg? You see specialists, but no one can help. Apparently, it’s one of those fluke things that can happen like running into an elephant on the highway. At one point, you decide to find your own answer and it becomes crystal clear. The problem is stress.
Yes, debilitating stress.
Your mom, love her with all your heart, knows stress like she knows her own name. Growing up, there were times when she couldn’t breathe. Times when she, a single mom, was taking care of you and your brother, and going to school full time, walking 45 minutes there and back each day, once in the morning and back again at night. At one point, soars started forming on her scalp, and thick liquid would ooze down her neck. Doctors tried to help, giving her ointments and shampoos, but nothing worked. Finally, it became clear to her too. Stress was eating her alive.
In your case, the answer didn’t come until you did something that should have been done a long time ago, and that was move. Move your body, as in exercise, because the truth is you’d stopped exercising after your second child. The second was move location. You were living in a city that you despised like cockroaches scrambling on a counter when you turn on the light. Everyday was a constant reminder of how much you hated your life. It’s no wonder your body turned on you. How could it function under such circumstances? Once you moved to a city you liked peeing became as natural as water flowing down a stream. Does water ever have an issue flowing down a stream? For your mom, relief came when she decided to settle down, and that meant literally reminding herself to breathe.
So knowing that stress can be ruthless in its ability to cripple us, what are some things we can do to combat it?
You pose the question to Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Isaiah B. Pickens, and he says that first it’s important to notice signs that indicate that we are becoming stressed. “If activities and people that you used to enjoy irritate or anger you, this is a sign of both stress and possibly depression. Constantly feeling a cloud over your head (or in your head) that makes you say more often than not, “I don’t feel like myself,” is usually a sign that stress is becoming overwhelming.” He further adds that the stigma around mental health issues and the push to create super-moms can make many reluctant to admit these difficulties.
When it comes to doing something about it, he advises practicing daily check-ins. “Sometimes our days can move so quickly taking care of children and dealing with our work/home related duties, that we forget to do an inventory for what is stressing us out and how much it is stressing us out. Taking a moment in the morning to meditate or pray, journaling in the evening, or simply having quiets breaks during the day can go a long way to increase our awareness of stressors.”
It’s true because another factor that helped kick your stalled bladder in motion was that you started writing again. Before that, five years went by and you could barely write your name. Perhaps stress is just another name for mess; the messier, the stressier. But somehow knowing that you were able to pull yourself out of it gives you hope. Especially, even now when it starts creeping up on you masked as excess weight or even pimples that make you look like you’re going through puberty all over again. At the end of the day, there’s always hope.
Coping with stress is no easy task but somehow we all seem to get through the rough patches that are pretty much inevitable in life — some of us better than others. But when stress reaches an unmanageable level and becomes chronic, we become vulnerable to its damaging consequences, such as health problems and loss of productivity.
In the U.S. alone, stress affects more than 100 million Americans, which equates to nearly a third of the population. The leading sources of stress stem from money, followed by work, family and relationships. But there’s good news: Stress has had a general trending downward in the U.S., with average levels decreasing since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association.
Recently, WalletHub conducted a study to identify the cities where Americans cope with stress better than others. Using 50 cities across 27 key metrics and a data set ranging from average work hours to debt load to divorce and suicide rates, the findings are intriguing:
- Greensboro, N.C., has the lowest commuter stress index, 1.11, which is nearly 1.5 times lower than in Los Angeles, the city with the highest, 1.62.
- Fresno, Calif., has the most psychologists per 100,000 residents, 80.1, which is about 22 times more than in Baton Rouge, La., the city with the fewest, 3.7.
- Fremont, Calif., has the lowest divorce rate, 12.24 percent, which is about three times lower than in Cleveland, the city with the highest, 41.29 percent.
Below is a breakdown of the 10 most and least stressed cities. See how your city ranks.
Most Stressed Cities:
- Detroit, MI
- Mobile, AL
- Birmingham, AL
- Memphis, TN
- Cleveland, OH
- Shreveport, LA
- Columbus, GA
- New Orleans, LA
- Newark, NJ
- Montgomery, AL
Least Stressed Cities:
- San Diego, CA
- Sioux Falls, SD
- Overland Park, KS
- Plano, TX
- San Francisco, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Madison, WI
- Honolulu, HI
- Irvine, CA
- Fremont, CA
After President Obama’s PR perfect town hall meeting about race in America last Thursday, I was desperate to plan some distracting (and slightly drunken) weekend fun. In case you don’t have Twitter, woke friends or you’re living in the same land of delusion as Taylor Swift, the news cycle has been far more depressing than it’s been in a long time, especially for Black folks. In recent weeks, I’ve buried myself in the details of back-to-back shooting deaths of Black men and attacks on police officers without taking a real mental break. As a writer, it’s difficult to succeed without being in the know 24/7, but the rage and confusion I felt after watching President Obama and town hall goers gloss over the issue of policing in this country meant a mental vacation was mandatory for my sanity.
On any given day, with a few disparities based on socioeconomic status, African Americans are more likely to feel a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness when compared to White people. Then, imagine those same people constantly digesting the message that Blacks are disposable through the media every day. The mental pressure of both racism and feeling unsafe in your own environment causes higher-than-normal cortisol levels, which can lead to physical reactions like a weakened immune system and heart disease. It can even result in behavioral changes like overeating, heavy drinking and uncontrollable anger. And who wants to lose themselves because the world’s messed up? Nah.
The self-care you’d exercise to deal with everyday stress, like disconnecting from your work email and making a spa appointment, still applies in times of societal crisis. As the world seemingly unravels, find blocks of time to log off social media, hang out with friends (with your phone off) and create new, positive memories. Read something empowering like Sula by Toni Morrison and go to a boxing class (or just get active in general) to release built up anxiety. Or, take a boat ride around the Potomac River with friends like I did this past weekend. Just do anything to relax your mind and help reduce the negative effects of constant stress, and practice these coping methods often.
If you feel it’s selfish to ignore what’s happening in the world for 48 hours, you’re right. Petty people will assume things like the #KimExposedTaylorParty steal black folks’ attention away from “real issues,” but what they fail to realize is that many of us are begging for the mental relief that comes with celebrity clapbacks.
Truthfully, we all deserve some carefree moments. A few laughs with friends (and Twitter fam) far removed from the black hole of injustice is a welcomed psychological vacation. And we don’t owe anyone an apology for taking care of ourselves. Black death is traumatizing, and with the Trumps still trying to buy the White House, things aren’t necessarily looking optimistic out here. So, get your jokes off, ignore trolls and take care of yourself. I mean, you can’t help others unless you help yourself first, right?
Ahhh, summer vacation: a relaxing break from all of the hustle and bustle of the school year, right? Not so much, say most families. These days summer vacation seems to consist of less vacation and more activities designed to keep us busy and on-the-go at all times. But what are the effects of the never-ending packed schedule for both parents and children? Stress!
Michele Kambolis, renowned child and family therapist, speaker, and author of “Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety” has seen a significant rise in young patients with severe anxiety and points out that parents are also more stressed than their peers. In the article below, she points to five simple ways parents can help their children actually unwind and recharge this summer, relieving them of anxiety-triggers and positioning them for their best, happiest, most successful school year yet.
Now is the time to tackle anxiety issues, before they develop into something deeper and more difficult to treat – and summer break is the perfect time to start.
With school doors closed for summer, parents are left wondering just how to make the most of this precious time. While some pack in sports camps and even summer tutoring, others question whether there should be any plan at all. You’ll easily find experts on both sides of the debate. There simply are no hard and fast rules when it comes to finding that summer balance, but finding ways to unwind and recharge top everyone’s list.
1. Leran about mindfulness
A life practice of mindful attention and reflection is hands-down the most powerful tool we have to cultivate a family ecosystem of well-being. It also helps kids relax. When we connect through active, open attention on the present and live mindfully, as a non-judgmental observer, we can access the separation, patience and expansive state of being that supports heart-centered parenting. It is the antidote to anxiety. All it requires is sitting and quieting the mind (which is much easier said than done!). Persuading children to sit in contemplation for any period of time can be a challenge. Here is one trick that might help. Invite kids to sit on an imaginary train. Tell them to close their eyes and turn their internal spotlight on the scenery going by. Notice that the scenery is full of images and thoughts about caring for others. Ask them to do a body scan and notice where in their body they sense feelings of love and kindness.
2. Get your hands dirty aka play
With overscheduling and over-focusing on technology, many children have lost the essential, brain-supporting work of play – and play is indeed their work. They are calling on us to show up from a playful, non-anxious and conscious state of being. There is joy in play; where there is joy, anxiety cannot exist. So get down and speak their native language, where toys are your words and play is your palette. If that’s too hard to authentically pull off, try de-stressing together with animal yoga, building a worry wall with sticky notes, or playing a board game.
3. Move to relax
Getting busy with our bodies is one of the most powerful buffers from the harmful impact of stress. Summer is a natural time to get a move on. The surge in feel-good neurochemicals not only boosts our immune system, it helps us to feel less stressed overall. Add the great outdoors to the mix and you will have doubled down on the benefits. Studies show we’re happier and more relaxed when we’re in natural environments than when we are indoors.
4. Find a furry friend
This is summer happiness homework most children will easily buy into: spend some time with a pet. One study by Dognition, an organization founded by Duke University researcher and cognitive scientist Brian Hare, found pet ownership to be strongly connected to increased well-being. Researchers found that the act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure and increases dopamine, prolactin and oxytocin, all hormones associated with happiness and bonding, as well as beta-endorphins, which are associated with relaxation and pain relief. Snuggling a furry friend causes a pleasure surge on a par with finding money, eating chocolate and looking at pictures of smiling babies.
5. Discover down time
Unstructured down time is one of the greatest gifts (and challenges) we can offer our kids over the summer. It’s when they discover new passions, talents and learn to structure and regulate themselves. Their imagination flourishes and relaxation comes naturally as they find their authentic voice, un-imposed by adult expectations and agendas. It’s a time when children can be in control, relax and maybe even uncover their dreams.
Summer can and should be a time of meaningful, mindful activity, and of repose and reflection. Finding that balance is the key to a summer that is not only restorative for both kids and parents, but provides long-lasting benefits into the new school year and beyond.
Michele Kambolis (MA) is a registered Child and Family Therapist and Parent Educator and a Registered Clinical Counselor dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues. Kambolis writes a popular weekly parenting advice column, “Parent Traps” for The Vancouver Sun and Postmedia Network chain of newspapers. She is also the author of Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety. Her website is michelekambolis.com