Kids can teach us a lot about managing our stress. Very young children have the natural ability to find ways to achieve balance or equilibrium in their lives. If they feel too overwhelmed, they find a way to move back their natural base line and reduce anxiety.
The following are some ways that kids de-stress:
Kids draw, color, or use clay to express themselves and to achieve a state of calmness. Clay is pressed, smashed, and rolled which can help ease tension. Coloring and drawing use repetitive motion, which is very calming.
Adults can find relief in using art as an outlet to either express feelings or to ease anxiety through manipulating materials to achieve a kinesthetic release (using your body to create sensations that promote a feeling of calmness such as, kneading dough/ clay and scribbling).
Kids love music. They love to listen to it, sing along, dance to it (regardless of where they are and who is watching), and bang out tunes of their own (have you ever noticed how kids love drums?).
Music can help us move outside of our thoughts by focusing on the sound being produced or heard. When instruments are played, the body is used in a rhythmic way, which can be very soothing.
Have you ever noticed how kids love splashing around? They love playing in the water- swimming, taking baths, splashing in puddles, and playing in the kitchen sink. The sound of water is very calming, even to very small infants. Simply put, water feels good.
Adults can benefit from water by enjoying baths, showers, or swimming when stressed. If possible venture out to the ocean, lake, or river to enjoy the sound of water in nature. Alternatively, listen to one of the many produced recordings of water sound in nature.
Kids move, move, move! They jump, run, tumble, dance, and exert energy and release tension in the process.
The repetitive motion of exercise can help refocus our minds, provide muscle relaxation, and reduce stress.
Getting Needs Met
Children are biologically driven to be experts at getting their needs met by caretakers.
By asking for what you need, you can get more of the support you need to help alleviate stress.
Playing with Blocks and Puzzles
Kids decompress by focusing on detailed tasks that require coordination and fine motor skills.
This type of focus can be found in adult hobbies or activities such as: beading, fishing, sewing, and completing puzzles, to name a few.
Children often require time to nap, to read, or to engage in other quiet activities.
We lead such busy lives that slowing down can create balance. Taking a nap, a walk, reading, meditating, and enjoying nature can help reduce tension. In particular, activities that focus on being present with thoughts and feelings can improve emotional awareness. Sometimes we are so busy we have no time to think or feel.
Kids reach out to cuddle and hug when they feel upset or uncertain. They want to be close to the people with whom they feel secure.
As adults, we can also seek out comfort from loved ones when feeling anxious or stressed. A hormone called oxytocin is released when close physical contact occurs and has natural relaxation and connection properties (it is the same hormone released when we fall in love when mothers breastfeed, and when infants bond to their parents).
Living in the Moment
Kids rarely think about the past or worry about the future. They are centered in the here and now and are truly present.
As adults, we cannot ignore our pasts or fail to think about our future, but we can try not to get overwhelmed by it. Enjoying the moment and our loved ones is a powerful way to de-stress.
Kids, especially very young ones, do not hide their emotions. Their emotions are openly displayed and released.
While adults often display emotions differently than children, we could all benefit greatly from being aware of our feelings, discussing them, and releasing upsetting emotions.
Enjoying sensory experiences and the outdoors
Kids get a lot of pleasure from playing in the sand, walking in the grass, examining ladybugs, smelling flowers, and feeling the breeze run through their hair.
We can find great relaxation in being present with nature and aware of our sensory experiences.
Kids are goofy. They like to be silly, to be tickled, and to laugh! They look for the humor in life.
A good dose of laughter can really help alleviate stress and foster connection.
We can learn a lot from how kids naturally manage stress. While not all kids manage stress the same way, many children have the inherent ability to focus on being present, to release stress, and to seek out connection during difficult times. So next time you feel stressed, play like a kid and enjoy the moment.