Children are masters of the carefree, and this is what they teach us about busting stress…
Children, particularly the young ones, are perhaps the happiest and most carefree beings that you would ever come across. They spread their light all around – one can’t help but smile along a laughing kid and empathize with a teary-eyed one. Not surprisingly, children are masters at adapting and handling stress; they come out of most situations emotionally unscathed. However, in today’s rather hectic world, even children are facing stress – and a lot of it could be a natural reaction to seeing stressed parents and family members. However, before we can make our children stress free, we need to be stress free ourselves. And how do we do that? By learning from the experts – our children!
What kids teach us about being stress free
To combat stress, let’s go back and learn what we knew as children – simple stress management skills that we’ve unlearned as adults, in a bid to grow up. Mostly we know this, but we don’t practice what we so often preach…
- Smile, for no reason: If you see children in a park, playing with sand, drawing a lopsided dragon or just eating their favorite ice cream, you’ll notice something that we as adults don’t do anymore – they smile. Children smile 400-500 times in a day, for no reason whatsoever. As adults, we tend to frown more. Research has shown that smiling, even if you force yourself into it, can help you manage your stress levels far more effectively than keeping a neutral expression, or heaven forbid, a frown. So, grin and bear it.
- Run like the wind: As adults, we tend to run in a controlled way – very aware and conscious of how others may perceive or look at us. Children run from the heart; the way they want, when they want and they run with flapping arms and floppy feet. The thing is running is a natural stress buster – because of many reasons, such as a runner’s high, some ‘me’ time and a clear head.
- Be in the moment: Children live in the moment. Ever seen a child doing something? Be it playing or reading a book, they are completely immersed in the moment, unmindful of what’s happening around them. For them, everything is here and now. Adults need to learn this art of just being in the present moment. For us, everything is about tomorrow or sadly, sometimes about our not-so-great past. Just being in the moment where you are now, concentrating on what you are doing, and feeling, is actually a great stress management technique.
- Have a good bawl: Children know the secret; crying is cathartic. It relieves those pent-up feelings of frustration, sadness, grief or helplessness. Have you noticed how quickly children start to smile immediately after a good cry? Crying simply provides you an outlet and once those negative feelings have flown out as tears, you do start to feel better almost immediately. Scientifically speaking, crying actually lets out the chemicals in our body that are related to stress, such as the stress hormone cortisol – thus crying is a proven stress buster.
- Don’t procrastinate: Research has proven that people who procrastinate and put off things tend to have higher stress levels. This is another thing to learn from kids – much like they live in the present moment, everything they need or want has to happen now, this very instant. Kids don’t procrastinate anything they like to do (though they too put off doing chores and homework). If you want to do something, do it now – this has surprising benefits in reducing your stress levels.
- Move constantly: Kids cannot sit still for too long – which is why road trips with tiny tots make for a haranguing drive. Kids like to move and they keep moving till they drop off to sleep. They’ve got it right. Any kind of physical activity has long been hailed as a stress buster – other than making you fitter and healthier, being active takes your mind off your problems, thus reducing stress. Putter about at home, finish pending projects, go for a walk or just play with kids and the dog – a busy day will help you keep your stress levels under control.
- Work with your hands: Children are tactile creatures – they love to touch things and make things with their hands. This is perhaps why their favorite toys are usually the make-and-build variety. Research has also indicated that doing something physically creative with your hands is likely to reduce your stress levels and give you a sense of achievement. So go ahead and paint, sketch, model or create – try using your motor skills to achieve balance and happiness in your lives.
- Loll in the grass: Literally, we mean. Children do that all the time, flop down on the grass, lay in the dirt, hang from trees – being around greenery is stress busting and relaxing. Try and emulate the kids and listen to the bird songs; watch the butterflies flutter and the insects march on by or simply watch the clouds float by. You won’t believe the calming effect that Mother Nature has on you. You can even get into a gardening project with your kids for a fun and stress-free family time.
- Take a break in la-la land: When children feel stressed, they tend to go into their own imaginative world. Call it a form of escapism, but when faced with impossible situations, kids often find impossible solutions. Imagination is a great stress reliever we all have at hand, it’s just that children are experts at using their imagination to their advantage. So can we, if we keep an open mind and let the positive imagery filter through. The brain mostly cannot distinguish between what you are experiencing and what you are imagining. If you imagine a happy situation, your brain can be tricked into releasing the happy hormones (endorphins), flushing the stress hormone (cortisol) away, and thus resulting in a happier, if sneakier, you.
- Forgive, and forget: Finally, notice how quickly the little darlings forgive and forget. Children don’t carry grudges – an apology, a handshake, a hug or even a sweet bribe can quickly make them chuck their anger and turn into smiles. And once forgiven, the offense is quickly forgotten too. We need to learn this from kids – forgiveness is one big stress buster. Forgiving someone has actual health benefits like reduction in blood pressure, a boost to the immunity, and a decrease in anxiety and depression levels. Carrying a grudge hasn’t helped you any, so try the forgiveness route instead.
The thing about stress is that it will always be there and you cannot really eliminate it from your life. What you can do is manage and balance the stress in your life so that no negativity filters through to you or your family…
Do you have any special stress-busting tips? Or did you learn something new from your children on how to maintain life’s fragile balance? Do write in to us in the comments section below…