Most adults associate childhood with carefree-living and having no worries. As parents, we have lived through the challenges of childhood, and we know the outcome of most daily situations, but as a child, everything is new. They do not know the outcome. From going to a doctor’s office, to overhearing a dispute between their parents, these issues seem minor to an adult, but can be intense in the eyes of a child. As hard as we try we cannot keep them from these feelings. They are going to encounter stress. Teaching them to use positive stress correctly and lowering the side effects of negative stress is a life skill that will give your child an advantage for the rest of their life.
Teaching our children how to cope with stress properly is a life skill sometimes overlooked by parents. We are so focused on giving them as many experiences as we can, we forget to slow down to listen to their feelings. In fact, as parents, we have become so accustomed to rushing from place to place ourselves, we need to practice stress coping techniques as well. Our children are little sponges, and our example is the best way to teach them. When parents are not coping properly with daily negative stressors, our children are learning what not to do.
The term “stress” is thrown around so much, many people don’t understand what stress is and what it is not. In fact, most adults have different ideas about what “stress” actually means. I break stress down into two categories, positive stress and negative stress.
When is stress positive?
Stress encourages us to achieve greatness. It pushes us forward to accomplish our goals. It is necessary to create the right inspiration that lights a fire within us. Another way stress is needed in our daily lives is when we encounter situations and adrenaline is needed to get through a moment. Our bodies’ natural response to danger is “fight or flight” which brings about heightened alertness, higher levels of perception, and quick decision-making skills that can mean the difference between life and death.
How can we teach our children to use positive stress to their advantage?
The answer is so simple, yet most people don’t take the time to teach their children. The answer is goal setting. It is a valuable tool a parent can give their child. It allows a child to make their own decisions as to what they want to achieve, gives them something to strive for, and creates a sense of pride once the goal is achieved. Most people with specific goals are the ones who are happiest in life because they are working towards a grand result.
Stress Release Reminders journal technique is the easiest way to teach children about daily goal setting. Each page is designed to insert a daily goal, a daily affirmation, and just a few highlights from the day. It takes less than 5 minutes and is a powerful tool because children can go back and easily read their past accomplishments. Also, it gives a parent the quality moments we long to have with our children. Asking them, what do they want to achieve today, and how did it make them happy, are two questions a parent should know about their child. It gives the parent an insight into exactly what the child will want to do with their day. Most parents discuss the goals in the morning and write them down at night just before bed. This is a great way to finish your day and the children are more eager to share because they are prolonging their bedtime.
I know what you are thinking, “Who has time for journaling?” This brings me to another great stress management tool, which is time management. Teaching our children to slow down and prioritize what is most important will keep them on track with their goals.
When is stress negative?
The two biggest factors of negative stress are worrying about the future and dwelling on the past. These are the most damaging of stress and I call it useless mind chatter. It is an internal stress that many people live with daily and has become their way of thinking. In fact people even become addicted to this kind of hurried, tense, lifestyle.
For children, internal stress can be terrifying mostly because children’s imagination is their only outcome in scary new experiences. They have no idea what will happen next on the simplest of situations. They are going to have fears and worries. It is part of life. However, we can teach them the skills to over power future fears and let go of past events and quiet the mind chatter before it becomes an unhealthy habit.
What can we do to teach our children how to quiet the negative internal stress?
Teaching children at a young age to silence the useless mind chatter and focus on the present moment will give them a foundation for a healthier, happier lifestyle. Like any bad habit the sooner you bring awareness to it, the easier it is to overcome.
Awareness is the most important factor to silence internal stress. Taking quiet moments to examine your thoughts will help with awareness. I place Stress Release Reminder decals throughout my day to remind me to quiet the negative chatter of dwelling on the past and fearing the future.
With children, this process is much easier, because bad habits have not yet been formed. It is all about communication.
- Remind yourself to initiate conversations using Stress Release Reminder decals.
- Then ask them “Have you had any concerns today that may have made you anxious, excited, sad, or scared?”
- Then teach them how to make a Plan of Action
- Ask, “Can they change the concern to make it better?” If yes, help set goals to resolve the concern. If not, then let it go and replace the thought with a positive alternative.
This process will give a parent a wonderful view into their child’s outlook on life. Making a plan of action is a great complement to a night-time routine of goal setting journaling.
If you’re like millions of Americans, you woke up on January 1st and vowed to turn over a new leaf – run three miles a day, lose a pound a week, cut out sugar, save $200 a week, whatever. You actually imagined a better you and felt a sense of excitement to start your “new you” journey. But then, come late January or early February, 3 miles a day turned into 1 mile a week, you stopped being able to resist those M&M’s on your co-workers desk. In other words, you slipped back into your old habits.
Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you the brutal honest truth. Summer is coming whether you get yourself in shape or not and it’s time to revive those resolutions. There was a reason you set those goals and if you dig deep and remember your “why”, you will be able to focus on the bigger goal in the face of your immediate desires. Before you start down the path of reviving your resolution, it is important to remember why you set that goal in the first place. On tough days, it is your “why” that will get you through. Think about the things you will be able to do that you can’t do at this unhealthy weight and visualize what it will feel like to do it. For example, if your goal is to have more energy to play with your kids, visualize what it will feel like to chase them up a hill, picture yourself laughing and enjoying those moments. Willpower is a skill you can strengthen through visualization. When the urges to scarf down a handful of M&M’s© strikes, you will be able to conjure up those images to help keep you on track.
Every goal must be treated like a road trip. In order to achieve that goal, you must map out your path to success by outlining the steps that will help you achieve your objective just as you would chart the route to your destination. Whether you are trying to lose pounds or run a 10K, identify the actions that will get you there like packing healthy snacks or scheduling regular workouts.
Last fall, I became a promoter of the Body By Vi 90 Day Challenge. I set a goal to lose 15 lbs. and ended up surpassing my goal by one pound for a total weight loss of 16 lbs. After struggling with my weight for the past fifteen years, this was a major accomplishment for me. Of course, exercise and the right nutrition were a huge part of the weight loss, but here are a few more strategies that helped me finally win at losing.
- Know that you deserve to be healthy and happy. Everything starts with your own belief system and if you don’t believe that your health is a priority, you won’t be able to develop the behaviors you need to accomplish your goal.
- Post photos on your fridge of yourself at your desired weight or a bathing suit you have your eye on. This will serve as a friendly reminder when temptation sets in. If you don’t have a photo of yourself that you like, post a photo of a role model or the body you would like to achieve, but make sure it is reasonable and not some super twig Victoria’s Secret model. That is just going to frustrate you.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Accept the busy stressed person you are and find a program that fits into your lifestyle. Weight Watchers© works but all that point counting does NOT work for me. After I accepted that and started on a program that fits into my lifestyle, I was finally able to stick to the program for longer than 2 weeks.
- Set small incremental goals and celebrate each milestone. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym every day to lose weight. Real life doesn’t allow for that and if your goals are too big, you are more likely to blow them off altogether. 30 lbs. is a lot to bite off and can feel overwhelming. Start with a goal of 10 lbs. Reward yourself when you reach that goal and then set a new goal. The same is true of exercise. If you are not active but have vowed to get fit, start by fitting a 10-minute walk into your day and then try to build up each week.
- Rethink your environment. When your surroundings stay the same, so do your ingrained habits. You can’t keep junk food in your house and expect your willpower to hold up every time. New habits take time to develop. Don’t expect drastic changes to take place in a week. You have to commit to being in it for the long haul.
- Start your day with a protein smoothie. Research has shown that starting your day with a protein shake can boost your metabolism by up to 35%. It also stabilizes blood sugar, which will reduce cravings and hunger pangs later in the day and therefore keep you from overeating. Load it up with fruits and greens for even more fiber and nutrients.
- Envision how you will achieve your goal. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools for achieving a goal and is even used by Olympic athletes. Picture yourself eating healthier foods, imagine yourself feeling healthier, how it will feel to be able to fit more comfortably into your jeans. Anticipate obstacles like feeling too tired to hit the gym and then imagine how you’ll overcome them
- Ask for what you want. I have become the person who asks the chef to hold the cheese, to cook my meal without butter or bring the dressing on the side. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself when dining out. It’s OK to splurge a little now and then, but make up for it the next day by working out a little longer.
- Get your family on board for support. My family knows that I am much more enjoyable to be around when I have gotten my workout in and it always gets scheduled into our plans.
- Figure out what centers you. My life is filled with activity. I am constantly on the go. But there is a thrill I get from figuring out how to fit it all in each day and when I don’t, I just strive to do better the next day. I find it essential to make time to stay healthy and fit or I am no good to my family. I’ve pledged to make my workout just as important as everything else. It’s a commitment to me, a pledge to myself that I know I can not compromise or it disrupts everything else.
Exercise boosts the production of endorphins and serotonin and enhances the body’s ability to absorb these feel-good chemicals, which is why you will often finish a workout with a sense of bliss. But perhaps of greater importance is that it leads to overall mindfulness of living a healthy life. And if all that weren’t enough, exercise keeps me in balance and I do it because I love the way it makes me feel.