If your child tends to be a worrier or anxious, you can help your child cope by creating a “tool kit” filled with activities that calm the mind and the body.
Any good “bubble-blower” will tell you that the art of blowing bubbles is taking deep breaths, which, according to Debra Kowalczyk ,a counselor in Palatine, is an excellent way to reduce anxiety. Deep diaphragmatic breathing lowers the heart rate, expands the lungs and relaxes the body, which in turn calms the mind.
Not only is fun dough (aka: play-dough) a great tactile activity, it can also relieve tension and center the mind. Occupational Therapist Angie Harisiadis, from Arlington Pediatric Therapy often uses fun dough with children who are overwhelmed by too much stimulation. “Fun dough has a grounding effect for many children because it’s an engrossing activity that also encourages the use of multiple senses,” says Harisiadis.
According to Harisiadis, the oral motor work involved when chewing gum can help children remain alert, centered and calm. In order to maximize the effect, Harisiadis recommends chewing large pieces of gum that require deep chewing thus expending more energy.
Jumping rope, along with other forms of exercise such as running, walking or swimming are excellent ways to stave off anxiety as these activities boost “feel-good” endorphins and reduce cortisol which is a hormone secreted when the body feels stressed. Jumping rope can also be meditative, as it requires complete focus, which helps shift the mind away from stressful thoughts and anxieties.
It’s time to bring out your old GI Joes and Darth Vaders because symbolic play is an excellent way to work through anxieties. According to Developmental Therapist Nicolette Komie, this kind of play helps children sort through their fears in a non-threatening environment. For example, a child can “practice” asserting himself by having GI Joe stand up to Darth Vader in a playful situation. Over time, the child will gain confidence and be more willing to translate these skills into real life situations.
Play also helps children develop symbolic solutions that can relieve anxiety such as spraying a pillow with monster spray before bed, or tossing the “bad guys” in jail and then throwing away the key!
How do you work through stress? Share your thoughts below.