Secret to Handling Stress

8:24 pmin Articles Jan Cloninger

We all knstressow that being a parent is one of the toughest and most important jobs we do. Yet, we also know that there are times when the demands and responsibilities of parenting can feel overwhelming and add to our already stressful lives.

Society is rapidly changing; complex and often heart-breaking world events are beamed into our consciousness on a regular basis; economic uncertainty is at the greatest level in decades; global and educational competition is intensifying; and even though technology is supposed to assist us in managing our lives, there just seems to be more and more to do with less time to do it in. If as adults we’re struggling to keep up, can you imagine the stress our children are experiencing?

While much of what we witness happening in the world around us is out of our control, the good news is that we do have the power to lessen the stress we experience and carry with us on a daily basis. And, we can teach our children to do the same.

For well over a decade I have been teaching a stress management class that offers two key points: 1) is that stress is often caused not so much by the circumstances we are in, but rather about what we tell ourselves about the circumstances we are in; and, 2) that we have the power to control all the negative thoughts and chatter that often dominate our mind using deep breathing and/or meditation techniques.

Perpetual stress is extremely harmful to our physical and emotional well-being. Over time, our stress response can become hardwired to the point that the smallest change, inconvenience, or interaction can cause our stress levels to shoot through the roof. However, scientific studies show that the brain has the ability to change, develop and even rewire itself – no matter what our age and stage of development and meditation is a highly effective tool in creating that change.

The next time you feel your stress levels rising:

  • Take a deep breath and then continue breathing as slowly and as deeply as you possibly can.
  • Set a timer or alarm for one minute or longer if you can.
  • Focus your mind on your breathing or think about a place that makes you happy.
  • Let go of the worry, fear, etc. while you are focusing (you can always start up again after the alarm goes off!).
  • Notice the difference in how you’re feeling and see how long you can keep that change going.
  • When you feel your stress levels rising again – repeat the above as often as you can.

As you learn deep breathing and meditation techniques and see how well they work for you, you can easily teach your child to manage his/her stress the same way. For young children you can quietly talk them through a visit to a happy place. For older children, you can practice with them and see how it changes the quality of your conversation or problem solving afterward.

Establish a regular practice and you’ll be amazed at the changes you will see in a very short time.

Questions to consider:

  • On a scale from 1-10, what is your stress level on an average day?
  • What is the stress level of your child(ren)?
  • Do you know what causes your child(ren) to feel stressed?
  • What other ways can you and your child(ren) reduce stress on a regular basis?
  • What can you do this month to lower the stress levels in your family?

Conversation starters:

  • Sometimes I feel stressed when I’m driving in traffic or have to do something I don’t feel like doing.  Are there things in life that make you feel stressed?
  • This has been a very full week.  I think we need to schedule a little time this weekend to relax and decompress as a family.
  • I see you’re feeling frustrated/angry/stressed.  Let’s take a few seconds and take some deep breaths, then we can talk about it what you’re experiencing.


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