July 30, 2007

Modeling Stress Management

The word stress brings to mind negative feelings of being overwhelmed and overloaded.

Too much stress can cause exhaustion and impede our judgment. However, it’s important to recognize that stress can be good. Stress provides a rush of adrenalin that gets us through life’s challenges. Stress itself is not the problem. The way the body responds to stress is the problem.

When we react to stress we’re making a choice. We respond without considering every possible way of handling the situation. By preparing for stress and considering your options, you model for your children appropriate stress management.

There is no single right way to cope with stress. Some people seek out more information about their problem such as during a medical crisis; others avoid it. Some people need to take action, like exercising; others seek comfort. Still others need to be distracted or ignore the situation. No two people respond to stress in the same way so remember to respect your child if she isn’t affected by a stressor in the same way you are. Her reaction reflects her limited life experiences.

One of my own ways of responding to stress is through deep breathing. It’s recommend by author and physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Relaxing Breath

“4-7-8 Breath”

1. Slowly breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.

2. Hold the breath for a count of 7.

3. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale make a soft “whoosh” sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

4. Repeat three more times.

I have found this to be very useful and it’s something I always have with me. I use it whenever something upsetting happens – before I react. I also find it useful to help me fall asleep.

One mother practiced this deep breathing and whenever she started to snap at her children her young daughter would say, “Mom, remember to breath!”

Children learn how to cope with stress from watching adults handle their problems. Are you satisfied with the way you respond to stress? What stress management skills would you like your child to learn from you?

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