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Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids

An excerpt from Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids by Jerome Schultz, PhD

At a Glance

      • Not all stress is bad. There’s good stress, too.

      • Ongoing challenges and fears can create stress in kids.

      • Remembering past successes can help your child feel more  confident and in control.


When someone says they’re stressed, it’s usually not a positive thing. But stress isn’t always bad. There’s good stress, too. And it can help kids rise to challenges, resolve problems, and build confidence.


Learn about the difference between good and bad stress, and how each can impact your child.


Types of Stress: Good, Tolerable, and Bad

Nature gave us the ability to spot danger and respond to it. When faced with dangerous situations, our bodies and brains kick into fight-or-flight mode. But we don’t like to stay in that state for long. We like to deal with danger quickly so we can feel safe again.

Our body’s ability to deal with stress helps us do just that. Our stress response system gets our brain and body ready to solve problems and tackle challenges. And when we overcome the problem, our brain “feels good” and remembers our successes.


Good stress happens when we confront a situation we believe we can manage or control. Here’s an example:


A child is coasting down a hill on a bike with just one hand on the handlebars. When she sees a pothole up ahead, she feels stress and instinctively puts her other hand on the bars.


In less than a second, her brain goes in to survival mode. It tells her heart to pump blood to her legs, her vision gets a little better because her pupils open to take in more light, and she’s ready for evasive action. She guides herself around the hole and continues safely down the slope.


In this case, she quickly handled the danger without a problem. It was good stress that helped her meet the challenge, because she believed she could do it.


The brain loves success and will store the memory of this event. The next time this child faces such a dangerous situation, this positive memory will help her deal with it. Good stress makes us stronger, ready to take on new challenges.


Soon, however, she’s faced with a new danger. It suddenly starts raining hard, and big puddles form on the bike path. She grips the handlebars tightly. This time she’s feeling a greater level of stress because the danger has increased and is lasting longer. Still, she believes she’ll make it home safely.


Why is that? She’s been in situations like this before and succeeded. She knows she has the skill to do it again, and that gives her confidence. She’s experiencing tolerable stress. And the next time she faces such a challenge, it’s more likely she’ll be ready for it.


But now, the situation changes again—for the worse. The rain is coming down harder now. Lightning is flashing, she’s having trouble seeing, and she takes a wrong turn.


She’s never ridden in such terrible conditions, so she’s never had the experience of getting through them. She doesn’t feel capable, and she doesn’t feel safe. In fact, she’s overwhelmed by fear.


This is bad stress—and it’s toxic. It happens when we’re in a threatening situation that goes on and on, and we don’t feel like we’re able to get through it.

Bad stress erodes confidence and makes us question our ability. At this point, the girl lets the bike drop in the mud and she runs, as fast as she can, toward her home.

Full Article:


Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids


 BY Jerome Schultz, PhD


Schultz, Jerome. “Good Stress vs. Bad Stress for Kids.” Understood, Understood, 22 Oct. 2020, www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/good-stress-vs-bad-stress-in-kids.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Stress is often seen as a negative emotion, but it is important to realize that stress can also be a good thing that pushes us forward, depending on the kind of stress and what we do with it. Realizing this gives us more control in our own lives. 

Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them

An excerpt from Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them by John Duffy

(CNN)--I started working with Shannon, a high school junior, at the beginning of lockdown. Shannon has asthma, and she's afraid of getting Covid-19 herself. She's also afraid of making a family member or someone else sick. And she fears the pandemic will never be over, that things will never again feel normal.

I also work with Tim, a high school senior. I started therapy with Tim about two years ago. He is a handsome, popular, athletic guy. But he's stressed about being able to afford the upper-middle-class life his parents have given him. He can't picture being successful, and he is painfully anxious about it. Especially during the pandemic, possible failure is on his mind nearly constantly.

Do you remember worrying about your adult life when you were a teenager? Neither do I. Kids just think differently now. Like Shannon and Tim (not their real names), they have this broad scope and range of experience and knowledge, based in large part on what is available to them on screens, and from their friends.


The pandemic has made things so much worse. Many teens I work with deal with a nearly crippling social anxiety, either from a lack of practice after a year with precious little time with friends, or because of overall social insecurity. As a result, they experience the fear of missing out regularly, and they think their friends are enjoying themselves on TikTok and Snapchat, adding to their levels of stress.


Some also feel a sense of desperation, depression and anxiety they have never experienced before, always having considered themselves positive, upbeat people. Several of my clients are now taking medication to balance their moods.

How to Recognize Stress in your Teens

Sometimes, our kids actually tell us they are stressed, which is amazing. If they do, you are lucky. Skip down to the "what parents can do to help" section right now.

More likely, they won't. In my experience, kids are rarely forthcoming about these things, assuming parents either won't get it or may limit their freedom to keep an eye on them at home in a misguided attempt to help.

Sometimes, our kids actually tell us they are stressed, which is amazing. If they do, you are lucky. Skip down to the "what parents can do to help" section right now.

More likely, they won't. In my experience, kids are rarely forthcoming about these things, assuming parents either won't get it or may limit their freedom to keep an eye on them at home in a misguided attempt to help.

I encourage parents to look for any marked change in their child's mood or behavior due to anxiety and worry. Stressed kids can present as irritable, avoidant, even withdrawn. And/or their stress might manifest in physical symptoms, including fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, stomach issues and difficulty sleeping.

They may also regulate their emotions more poorly, become short-tempered, angry and overly emotional. Your formerly compliant child may now seem suddenly rude, talking back, yelling and disrupting the household. Before doling out discipline or a consequence, sit with her, talk, and listen, about not only her levels of stress, but her emotional life overall.

If it's stress, get to what's causing it. I find parents are often wrong about why their kids feel stressed. Parents might think, for instance, that their kids are worried about their grades when they actually are concerned about being left out socially.

Know that what's stressing you out about your kid is likely different than what's burdening them. So, hear her out. Be curious. But give your child space and time to process. Set your judgment and ego aside, and really listen, acknowledge, and don't overreact.


Sometimes just listening and acknowledging can solve the problem. But if not, talk about what you might be able to do together to help.


What Parents can do to Help

Guide your child to calm her mind and problem-solve. A moment of meditation or a few deep breaths can bring quick relief to your stressed child. And once she is calm, break down the stressor into digestible chunks.

Maybe he can reach out to his teacher for an extension on a project. Or she can text an apology to her friend for slighting her. Often it's just a matter of looking at the stressful situation in a different way. Thoughtful problem-solving under stress is an invaluable lifelong skill.
And finally, model healthy coping. Don't forget you are an enormous influence on your child. Kids are forever paying attention to the way you manage your stress.

Full Article:


Teen Stress has been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. Here’s How to Help Them


 BY John Duffy


Duffy, Analysis by John. “Teen Stress Has Been Heightened by a Year of Pandemic. How to Help.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 May 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/05/04/health/how-to-help-teen-stress-wellness/index.html?utm_source=fbCNN&utm_term=link&utm_content=2021-05-04T18%3A01%3A18&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR1se7Cv4O2Nptva1-6fVl4-XCmlWY2mBjO-uVECO92d8M2adiUk0fCuQVY.

Director of Strategic Communications

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

this article touched on the types of stress and anxiety teenagers may be facing during the pandemic. I found it really compelling because as parents, we often focus on the behavior in our children, instead of first considering the cause.

How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge

An excerpt from How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge by Mellissa O'Brien

There have been five main ways that mindfulness has helped me and the family during this time. I’d like to share these in case these may be helpful to those out there who find themselves in a similarly difficult time. May these bring peace and presence into the darkest of days.

Present-Moment Attention

This was the strongest predictor of increased positive emotions in the students who were more aware in the present moment indicated that they felt happier and better overall. Why might this be? When you allow your attention to wander it shifts to things like anticipation of future events or regrets about the past.

When you notice your mind wandering, try focusing on your breath or something in your current surroundings.

1. The Breath Hug

The 3-breath hug has been the most beautiful way to ground ourselves and reconnect with each other and our moment-to-moment experience. Kristen Race shared this simple practice on Day 23 of The Mindfulness Summit as a practice for mindful parenting, but we’re finding it invaluable right now to bond as a family.

When one of us (or all of us) becomes very distressed, we have been coming together for a 3-breath hug. Imagine this situation – we had a very emotional family meeting with a doctor (telling us that Gary will never be the same due to massive brain damage) which ended with another family member in the room having a seizure and another one nearly passing out. We then had alarms going off and nurses rushing in to help. Very stressful, very difficult. We gathered outside the room right after that meeting, put our arms around each other and had a 3-breath hug to ground ourselves and give each other love and support. What a gift!

The kids especially love it when they’re stressed and it’s a way that the adults can wrap them up in love and support in the middle of it all.

2. A Mindful Mantra 'This Too'

When life presents us with the unpleasant and the unwanted there is a strong tendency of the mind to resist what is happening. Resistance to pain, though, just creates more suffering. It’s futile. So here we are in this extremely stressful situation. A loved one in bed fighting for his life, probably not going to make it out of that bed alive. That’s very unpleasant. Feelings of fear, grief and loss naturally arise, and if I let them come and go without suppression, that is healthy and natural.

But if I begin to get into mental resistance patterns like ‘why is this happening to me?’ or ‘it’s not fair’ or ‘this shouldn’t be happening’ or ‘I want this to stop/ change/ go my way’ then I start fighting with reality. I start fighting with the present moment – and that, I know, is completely futile and just creates more layers of suffering. I will also lose touch with myself and the present moment if I get into resistance.

But the tendency to resist is strong when there is a lot of unpleasantness. That’s why I have been using my mantra that I always use in difficult times ‘This too.’

‘This too’ is my abbreviation for saying ‘I accept unconditionally the unfolding of this present moment in whatever form it takes – this too is allowed and accepted.’

‘This too’ reminds me to soften my resistance. It reminds me to stay grounded in presence (as best I can) and connects me to background of ease and peace even in the middle of this pain. I often repeat it mentally, sometimes out loud.

3. One Conscious Breath

We spoke at the summit, about the power of just taking a few deep, slow, conscious breaths – especially when you’re stressed. Breathing just a couple of breaths this way whenever we have felt overwhelmed has been so soothing for us all.

I’ve also been using my time in the ICU waiting room to do these mini-breath meditations, taking this time to step out of the mind and reconnect with my body and being-ness. It’s so simple, but has been profoundly nourishing.

I might just close my eyes and take one long slow breath, or maybe ten, if I have a minute free. One conscious breath brings me back to my self – reminds me that the world is still turning, birds are still singing and the sun is still shining through the window. There is more to this moment than just the pain, it’s all alive and it’s a miracle.

4. Creativity to Connect

As I mentioned, there is a lot of waiting around so we were looking for ways to be mindful while we waited. It’s all too easy to become caught up in the stressful energy of the ICU ward and all too easy for the mind to start running ‘what if’ scenarios while you wait.

At the summit, Danny Penman spoke about mindfulness and creativity and we also did a DMC (Daily Mindfulness Challenge) of colouring in. It was a fun and grounded practice and one we’ve brought into the waiting room. We’ve got a whole bunch of mindful colouring in books and so we have all been engrossed in mindful coloring in between visiting Gary by his bedside. Check out some of our creations! We ended up with a lovely board of pictures to put by his bedside.

5. Keep Up a Daily Practice and do Things that Nourish You

It’s common that we tend to abandon our daily practice on the darkest of days – when we’re sick, tired or stressed – but that’s exactly when we need it the most. I’ve found my daily meditation an incredible gift during this time. It’s been a time of cultivating self-compassion and gentleness. It’s been a way of opening up to the wholeness of life and reconnecting to what really matters.

We’ve also made sure that we are doing things that nourish us like eating well, going for swims in the ocean and getting some exercise. This is a way of self-nourishing at a time when I think many of us feel like drowning our sorrows in junk food, booze and unhealthy habits. It’s an act of kindness to ourselves in a time of uncertainty and pain. Also, reach out to get support from your loved ones. You don’t have to do it alone.

If you’ve faced your own challenges and can share some tips with us, please do in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.

I hope this blog post may help anyone going through similar challenges to what we face right now. The main thing is to just take it all one step and one breath at a time.

Full Article:


How to Use Mindfulness in Times of Crisis and Challenge


 BY MELLIssa O'BRIEN


O'Brien, Mellissaon May. “How To Use Mindfulness In Times Of Crisis and Challenge.” Mrs. Mindfulness, 3 Apr. 2019, mrsmindfulness.com/how-to-use-mindfulness-in-times-of-crisis-challenge/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

When facing times of crisis, it is easy to succumb to those serious emotions. It can be so overwhelming that it leaves you feeling powerless. Personally, I believe that having these steps to turn to can help you regain control in a time where you have none. 

Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers

An excerpt from Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers by Jill Manly

Improve Your Sleep

If I had a poor night’s sleep before a teaching day, I knew I was headed for trouble. I’d slap a smile on my face, chug a coffee, and try my best to lead the class. Yet, my patience was always thinner, my smile strained. Worst of all, my students would see right through me.

Teaching requires peak energy levels and patience. Yet, it’s easy for teachers to lose sleep. They often lie awake, ruminating over a child who has been bullied or reviewing how to lead a lesson more effectively.

Reduce Your Stress

Teaching is one of the most stressful professions, no question. An analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research revealed that “one in five teachers (20 percent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 percent of similar professionals.” Even more, The American Federation of Teachers found that “78% of teachers reported feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”

The antidote? Mindfulness. A Harvard study compared the stress levels of people who went on vacation with those who began a meditation practice. While both groups initially showed improvements in stress, the meditators still showed improvements 10 months later while the vacationers’ stress levels had returned to baseline. Remember that mindcation idea? Well, it turns out that using mindfulness to take a mindcation has longer lasting effects on stress than an actual vacation.

Increase Your Focus

Teaching demands a high level of focus while multitasking. You might find yourself simultaneously teaching a math lesson, soothing an overwhelmed student, and redirecting off-task students. Data from busyteacher.org estimates that “teachers make about 1,500 educational decisions a day or about four decisions per minute based on 6 hours of instruction.”

Unfortunately, multitasking diminishes one’s ability to focus. Research shows that “productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.”

Teachers, all is not lost. Multitasking comes with the job, but you can practice mindfulness to increase your focus. Mindfulness meditation training improves executive attention and cognitive flexibility.

Maintain Healthier Relationships

While teachers love supporting their students, it’s easy to feel drained. Imagine you’re comforting the fifth child who has come to you in tears that day. Before you know it, you feel overwhelmed and impatient. The well of compassion you started your day with dwindles with each new upset.

Lucky for you, mindfulness increases one’s emotional-regulation skills. When you can regulate your own emotions, you can better support the emotions of others. Even more, mindfulness promotes forgiveness during conflicts due to a decrease in rumination and an increase in perspective-taking.

Gain Strong Communication Skills

Effective teacher communication plays a critical role in the wellness of teachers, students, and parents.


Teachers, here’s how you can bring mindfulness into your conversations:


- Be fully present

- Listen actively

- Slow down to process what’s said

- Reflect – what feelings exist behind the person’s words? What emotions come up for you as the listener?

- Ponder how to thoughtfully respond, rather than impulsively react

Practice the mindfulness skill of nonjudgmental acceptance to be responsive to students instead of reactive. This helps you focus on how someone is, instead of how you want or expect them to be.


You might expect your students to be perfectly respectful and focused on your lesson. The reality? Not so much. Often, negative emotions arise when something or someone does not meet our expectations. We judge the situation and therefore make it worse for ourselves.


By practicing nonjudgmental acceptance, we take the emotional reaction out of the situation. We simply notice what is and thoughtfully choose our response.


Increase Your Productivity

Does this sound familiar? You spend your recess breaks scarfing down a snack, fleeing to the bathroom, or talking with a student. You spend lunch prepping materials for the upcoming science lesson. You cram the overflow of work into breaks, evenings, and weekends. I felt this way, too. Let me tell you, it wasn’t sustainable. When I discovered mindfulness, I learned how to increase my productivity by working smarter, not harder.

A study on mindfulness intervention and workplace productivity showed that mindfulness produced “greater reductions in burnout and perceived stress, improvements in well-being, and increases in team and organizational climate and personal performance.”

Achieve Greater Happiness

Teachers support their students through all of life’s challenges; they are often the first-responders to students’ pain. While being there for children is a true privilege, it can take a toll on teachers’ happiness. Research shows that “educators and other school-based staff can experience the stress of compassion fatigue and/or vicarious traumatization.”

Enhance Your Memory

Teachers, you are experts in the subjects you teach. You want your memory to be in tip-top shape, right?

Mindfulness meditation can boost one’s memory. It also enhances episodic memory, or memory of a previous experience. Mindfulness training increases attention on a moment-to-moment basis, so people practicing mindfulness experience greater task engagement which makes experiences more memorable. Mindfulness training can even decrease mind-wandering and improve GRE test scores.

Boost Your Immunity

Every teacher knows the threat of germs well. Now, add on to that a global pandemic. Yikes.

Fortunately, a study proved that “a short program in mindfulness meditation produces significant effects on immune function.”

Wear a mask? Check. Meditate? Check!

Optimize Your Brain

A teacher’s brain not only houses in-depth knowledge, but it responds to frequent emotional stressors. How do you keep your brain in peak condition to master these demands? Mindfulness, of course.

One study had individuals facing high levels of stress participate in 8 weeks of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. MRI scans showed a decrease in gray matter density within the right amygdala of participants (the part of the brain associated with fear).

Another study found that meditators had thicker prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain associated with decision-making, situational awareness, and focus.

Full Article:


Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers


 BY JILL MANLY


Manly, Jill. “Top 10 Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers.” JabuMind, 24 Mar. 2021, jabumind.com/top-10-benefits-of-mindfulness-for-teachers/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

With this week being Teacher Appreciation Week, we have been reminded of all of the hard work that teachers do. With an occupation that requires you to give up so much of yourself to help others, it is important to take time for self care and self reflection.  

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