Wouldn’t it be great if we could filter out all the negativity in our daughters’ lives? If we could act like a sieve that captures all the bad stuff and lets all the good flow through. If only that could be reality…
Unfortunately, we can’t shield our children from negativity, and that means they’ll have to deal with their share of stress. It’s inevitable. What we can do is teach them how to cope with stress in a healthy way.
The importance of dealing with stress
If you’ve ever had a panic attack or known someone who has, you know how stress can cause an extreme reaction in the body. When it builds up over time, stress can cause even more symptoms including:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty concentrating
And there’s another drawback to stress that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. When you’re dealing with all the symptoms of stress, you’re not equipped to make the best decisions.
When teenagers have trouble dealing with stress, they may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. These substances seem to provide temporary relief, but they will inevitably make her problems worse in the long run. Not only will she end up without proper coping mechanisms, but she may leave her teenage years with a substance abuse problem.
Even though stress is a common nuisance that affects everyone, it can truly ruin a person’s life if they don’t have the proper coping mechanisms.
How to teach your daughter healthy coping mechanisms
Start talking to your daughter about stress at a young age. We may not realize it as adults, but stress affects people of all ages. Babies may feel a sense of stress when they’re separated from their parents. Toddlers feel stress when they can’t communicate their needs. It’s really never too early to start talking about how to cope with these feelings.
Of course, your conversations should remain age appropriate. When your daughter is very young, talk about taking a few deep breaths when she feels angry or frustrated. As she gets older, this is something you build upon to create stronger coping mechanisms.
Breathing exercises are effective for a few reasons. First, you’re taking the focus away from the problem when you concentrate on your breaths. Next, Slow and intentional breathing has a calming effect on the body. Regardless of whether you’re stressed at the moment, you can slow down your heart rate with breathing exercises.
How to invoke the relaxation response
The relaxation response is a technique that was developed in the 70s by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School. There are six ways to invoke the relaxation response:
- Focus on your breath
Take a series of long, deep breaths and focus on the air flowing in and out of your body.
- Scan your body
As you focus on your breaths, focus on relieving tension from one area of your body at a time. Continue until you have relaxed the entire body. This technique helps with the mind-body connection.
- Use guided imagery
Go to your happy place in your mind. Think of soothing places or experiences to help relax your mind and body.
- Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation combines breathing exercises with a sense of awareness. To practice, sit in a quiet space and focus on your breaths without controlling them. Attempt to clear your mind by letting thoughts drift from your mind. Instead of trying to will them away, avoid following any wandering thoughts.
- Practice yoga, tai chi and qigong
These techniques combine movement, breathing and mindfulness. To start your practice, find a yoga studio or look for a video-based program you can do from home.
- Repeat prayers
This can be religious, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose a short verse that is meaningful to you and repeat it while focusing on your breaths.
While we can’t shield our children from experiencing life, we can give them to the tools they’ll need to handle anything that comes their way.