Summer seems to be a slow time for worries. More sleep; more play; more hanging out with mom and dad. Why not use this time to give your child a leg-up on worry-fighting for the fall?
Relaxation exercises are a natural fit for summer, and there is convincing evidence they carry year-round benefits, moving chronic worriers from an ongoing state of fight-or-flight to a quieter, more balanced nervous system.
Start by adding time for relaxation into your child’s day. Teach a specific relaxation exercise, or experiment with a few to see which your child likes best. Then have your child practice daily. Make it comfortable and fun: sit in front of a fan, have a cool drink, turn off electronics, be together, relax.
The key is to do this often (once or twice a day), as frequent practice stimulates the relaxation response (www.relaxationresponse.org/howto.htm) while providing your child with an additional tool if worries come knocking in the fall.
- Sit comfortably with eyes closed.
- Focus on breathing slow and easy, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Silently repeat a calm but meaningful word with each exhale (determine this in advance with your child, linking the word to a calm place or peaceful activity; words like flow, peace, smile, safe, breeze work well).
- Remain focused on breaths moving in and out, letting go of all other thoughts (it helps for children to picture a color or a relaxing scene rather than trying to make their minds go blank).
- If thoughts wander, gently shift them back to breathing.
- Continue for 10 minutes.
- Muscle Relaxation
- Sit or lie comfortably with eyes closed.
- Tighten all muscles simultaneously (children sometimes benefit from wrapping their arms and legs around a large pillow to squeeze).
- Relax, letting all tightness/tension go; silently say relax as you do this.
- Let your whole body sink into the chair or onto the floor.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth (x3).
- Repeat steps 2 – 5 for a total of 10 minutes.
For additional ideas about relaxation exercises, check out Lori Lite’s wonderful material at stressfreekids.com