This blog post was originally published on The Safeguarding Company website >> https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/helping-children-and-young-people-manage-stress/
HELPING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE MANAGE STRESS
In this blog, we discuss tools and strategies to empower children and young people to manage their own stress levels.
Each year more and more children and young people are experiencing the negative signs of stress, burn out and anxiety. In a survey conducted by the Children’s Commissioner in 2020, it was found that there are many factors that contribute to a child’s stress levels including exam pressure, bullying, anxieties over the lockdowns and school closures, family problems and relationship issues.
While a small amount of stress can be good and motivate us to achieve our goals, too much stress can negatively impact our mood, well-being and relationships. People who go through long periods of stress can experience burnout, a feeling of complete physical and emotional exhaustion. We need to have steps in place to manage stress levels before we get to the point of burn out and in turn, we want to equip children and young people with the tools to manage their own stress and anxiety levels.
HELPFUL TIPS TO MANAGE STRESS FROM A – Z
A – animals
Sometimes the company of our favourite fluffy friends can be more soothing than the company of other people. Take some time to play with your family pet, take the dog for a walk or cuddle your cat. If you do not have a pet, try watching some animal videos on YouTube.
B – bath
Having a relaxing bath or taking a nice hot shower is a great way to de-stress as it is an easy way to feel refreshed. If you have a bath, try using a bath bomb or some bubble bath liquid to make the experience nice and relaxing.
C – create
Get your mind off the things that are making you feel stressed and do something creative. Get out some paints, do some colouring or some writing. Other creative outlooks include scrapbooking’s, sewing, knitting and even baking. Don’t focus on the end result, just focus on how that creativity makes you feel.
D – dance
An easy way to express ourselves is through movement or dance. Put on some of your favourite music and get your body moving. You may have dance classes you go to, or you could watch a dance video online, or just move in a way that feels freeing and natural to you.
E - exercise
Endorphins are amazing for helping us to feel less stressed. This doesn’t mean that you need to do a form of exercise that you do not like. Go for a walk, play a game of football or tag with some friends. Pick a form of exercise you enjoy and get your body moving.
F – food
Ensure you are eating nutritious foods at regular intervals that are not high in sugar or processed. Sometimes when we are stressed or tired, we want quick energy from sugar. However, this can often cause a sugar crash leaving you feeling more exhausted than you were before. Try eating a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or a sandwich. Another thing we tend to do when we are stressed is forget to eat, so make sure to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day.
G – goals
Sometimes when we are overwhelmed and have a lot of things on our plates it can be hard to focus on what thing we should do first. Make a 'to-do' list and set a series of goals. Once you achieve a goal congratulate yourself and watch as your 'to-do' list gets shorter and shorter. Often the visual representation of crossing an item off a list can help relax and de-stress us.
H – hug
Often when we are stressed, we can take comfort in physical contact. Hugs can release endorphins so give a member of your family or a trusted friend a hug. Other options are hugging a family pet or even a favourite toy or snuggling down in a cosy blanket. Anything that helps you feel comfortable and comforted.
I – imagine
Sometimes it can be nice to escape into our heads and just daydream. Try relaxing and thinking about things that do not stress you out, imagine different fun scenarios, places you want to visit, games you want to play, or questions you would ask your hero if you ever met them. Give yourself room to breathe, relax and daydream.
J – journaling
Keep a journey where you can write down how you are feeling and reflect on why you are feeling this way. If you do not like to write you could also draw to express how you are feeling. This journey could then be something you share with others or it could be something private just for you to explore your feelings and release some stress.
K – kindness
Sometimes when we are feeling stressed and anxious a small act of kindness can make us feel better. You could offer to help your parents with something around the house like cooking or cleaning or spend some time with your siblings or friends doing an activity they enjoy but you may not often participate in.
L – laughter
Do something that brings you joy and laughter; maybe watch a funny video on YouTube or a favourite comedy skit. Laughter helps to release endorphins which are key to countering the negative feelings that stress and anxiety cause us to feel.
M – music
Listen to whatever genre of music that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if other people do not enjoy your music, or you have different tastes in music to your friends and family. Play the music you like and let yourself enjoy the music, maybe you want to dance along or even learn the lyrics. Don’t worry or care about the way you look when you are dancing or the way you sound when you are singing. Just relax and enjoy yourself.
N – nature
We tend to spend a lot of time indoors. Get yourself outside and go for a walk. Breath in the fresh air and let yourself enjoy the nature around you. Maybe you are close to a park or some gardens and can look at the flowers blooming and keep an eye out for birds or butterflies. This is a fantastic activity to do alone, with someone else's company or even with the family dog.
O - openness
Be open if you are stressed and need support. Often when we are struggling with stress or anxiety those around us can offer us the best support. However, if they do not know we are struggling they cannot offer aid. Be open with people you trust and build a support network of people around you who can help when you are not feeling the best.
P – positive thinking
When we are feeling stressed, or anxious it can be easy to allow a lot of negative thoughts to invade our mind. Instead, try to visualise things that make you happy or can look forward to in the future to take your mind off how you are currently feeling.
Q - quiet time
There is always a lot going on in our day to day lives from school pressures to exams and work. We are also always surrounded by noise and often chaos. Take some time for yourself when you can be still and quiet to focus on how you are feeling.
R – reading
With our phones constantly in hand, televisions at home, laptops, computers, tablets and much more we are constantly surrounded by different screens for different uses. Sometimes we forget that reading is a fantastic way to de-stress and relax. It can be so easy to lose yourself in a good book; from a nostalgic childhood book to those books you have been wanting to read but have been struggling to find time for.
S – sleep
Sleep is vital for our bodies and minds to get the much-needed rest they deserve. However, some people do find it hard to shut off when they are ready to sleep. Try to have an hour away from any screens before you go to sleep. This will help relax your mind so when you sleep it is a nice deep sleep in which you get plenty of rest.
T – talk
It is easy to not want to burden other people with our feelings if we are feeling stressed or negative. Sometimes we tend to keep these negative thoughts and feelings buttoned up. Take time to talk to people, it doesn’t need to be about how you are currently feeling or anything in particular, just talk and connect with someone.
U – unplug
As mentioned before, technology and screens are very prominent in our day to day lives. Make sure you take the time to unplug from technology and do something else. Chat to a friend, work on a project like a drawing or a puzzle, get some exercise by going for a walk or meeting some friends for a game of football.
V - volunteer
Supporting a cause close to your heart can be really fulfilling. Maybe you are passionate about animals and want to offer to walk a neighbour’s dog or volunteer at a local shelter. Doing something for an important cause can help us to feel good.
W – water
When we don’t drink enough water throughout the day, we can get dehydrated which can cause headaches and make it hard for us to focus. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day to stay at the top of your game.
X – detoX from social media
While social media can be a fantastic way to connect with people it can also be damaging if we are not in a good place mentally. It can be very easy to compare our lives with the curated online lives of the people we follow. Spend less time on social media and instead focus on yourself, things you enjoy and connecting with people in your life.
Y – yoga
Yoga and stretching are fantastic ways to help relax our bodies. Sometimes when we sit for too long our muscles can get stiff and sore. Some yoga or stretching can help us to physically de-stress and make us more mindful as we pay attention to how each part of our body feels.
Z – zen
Meditation is a great way to quiet a busy mind. Try sitting or lying down and closing your eyes. Focus on breathing nice and evenly and deeply through your nose and out through your mouth to help your body and mind relax. There are a lot of mediation classes and videos available if you want more guidance.