School has started up, schedules are filling up and the stress levels are rising in both adults and kids. Adults being stressed out- par for the course, but since when have our kids been so stressed? Since we started increasing the demands, decreasing the fun and the healthy “Play” and since we started to expect kids to act like adults. The academic, social and athletic pressures are ridiculously high and we fail to help kids gain the tools for their toolbox of life to deal with the stress these increased pressures bring. Instead, as a nation, we take opportunities to move our bodies out of the day, make youth sports so competitive and judgmental that the average kid shies away from play because the fun is not there, and we load on the work and academic expectations, become so “college” focused, that there is no time to be a kid and play! More and more kids are being treated for anxiety and depression than when I was a kid. We have taken the brain stimulating, stress managing things like creativity, exercise, social interactions, communication, and time to take a deep breath and do nothing away.
In a great book by John Medina called Brain Rules:12 Principles for Surviving and thriving at work, home and school.(2008), he states the following are keys to wellbeing and brain health:
1) EXERCISE: it boosts brain power
2) SURVIVAL: the human brain has evolved
3) WIRING: every brain is wired differently
4) ATTENTION; we don’t pay attention to boring things
5) SHORT-TERM MEMORY: Repeat to remember
6) LONG-TERM MEMORY: Remember to repeat
7) SLEEP: Sleep well, think well
8) STRESS: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
9) SENSORY INTEGRATION: Stimulate more of the senses
10) VISION: it trumps all other senses
11) GENDER: Male and Female Brains are different
12) EXPLORATION: We are powerful and natural explorers
What does this mean? Learn by doing, exploring, experiencing life. We need routine and repetition to create healthy habits as well as reminders to pay attention to our body, our brains, and our environment. Our societal norm of plugging in to smart phones, TV, computers, social media has removed us from creativity, sensory integration (by overstimulation) and our brains are influenced by marketing and playing on our senses. That is why we eat so much chemical, preservative, fat and sugar laden foods… it is easy, accessible and we are brainwashed by advertising to want it. But this is all hijacking our health and wellbeing. The processed foods affect our hormones which affect our brain function and our sleep and these all fuel our stress.
So, connect by disconnecting, creating a routine of family meals, snack time and connect face to face. Through the process of preparing a meal, you slow down and can connect. Get everyone involved in the process from food selection to preparation and clean up. Annie Doulton, in her book Organic Family Cookbook (2011) comments that “In our fast paced lives- we have somehow lost the concept that eating is not just about actual food- it is about the connection, the time spent enjoying every bite, laughing, talking, sharing. Our families need this time together”. Studies have shown that when children are fed better they learn better. Check out www.Feingold.org.
Real, whole minimally processed foods help give our brain and body the fuel it needs to perform through a busy day. The foods we eat and time we eat affect our sleep and our alertness. Too many refined carbs can create drowsiness and eating too close to bed stimulates the body and leads to restless sleep. So- Plan your meals, plan the time you eat as a family. Time crunched? Use a crock pot or a store bought rotisserie chicken to save time. A healthy, home cooked meal can take less than 10 minutes to prepare if planned ahead and your pantry is stocked for quick meals. (I can help you with my cooking workshops… busy family of 4 active kids- 90% home cooked meals!).
What are the signs of stress in our kids? The signs can be a variety of or all of the following: moodiness, irritability, sadness, withdrawal, sleep problems, head aches and stomach aches.
A few tips to help you and your child feel calm and controlled in a Chaotic world:
– Teach/model healthy eating habits. Have healthy fruits, veggies and whole grains on hand. Eat Three regular meals and 1-2 snacks at regular intervals to prevent blood sugar drops. Eat UNPLUGGED.
-Practice Mindfulness- awareness of self in the present moment. How your body and mind respond to the environment. Label feelings, thoughts and body responses without judgement. Take slow, deep, full breaths to slow down the body and mind.
-Communicate- open communications is key to healthy relationships, so keep the lines open without judgment.
-Create Meal and Homework routine and plan your time so you do not scramble to “fit it all in”.
-Allow and engage in true creative PLAY- unstructured, non-competitive, belly laughing, confidence building fun.
– Check in with your self- listen to your body and inner voice. Feel tired? Take a break. Feel stressed? Take some deep breaths, go for a walk, do some woodchoppers!
– Manage your own stress so it doesn’t compound and affect your kids stress levels and well being.
Feel overwhelmed? I am here to help. Call me or email me if you need support. I am here for you!