Don't Worry, Be Happy
How yoga can help reduce your child’s stress (yes, children get stressed too!). By Gopala Amir Yaffa
Reading time: 5 minutes
Kids have stress in their lives — and not much less than adults do. Try to see the world through their eyes and you will understand. There is a strong connection between our body and our mind; all our mental and emotional tensions express themselves in our body
If we are not happy, if we are worried or anxious, we will feel it after a while in our back, shoulders or neck, in our digestion or as a headache. Being happy and relaxed is the best preventative medicine. But it’s difficult to release tension directly from the mind. If we just tell someone to “just chill” it doesn’t really help, right?
So in yoga we focus on this connection, between the body and the mind; we start from the body, to release the tension, then the mind relaxes too. In truth, it is easier to do it through the body.
Don’t believe me? Try it now! Take the biggest stretch you can and, as you do this, feel the physical tension slipping out of your body. As you continue to do this and as the tension leaves your muscles, can you feel it also being released from your mind? This is why we feel so good when we do yoga. We release physical (and also mental) tension through stretching in poses, through breathing deeply, through playing… and of course also by lying down, being still and letting go.
Stress is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ due to its profound impact on physical and mental health. While stress itself may not directly cause death, it is linked to numerous health conditions and behaviours that can lead to life-threatening consequences. Stress triggers our body's ‘fight or flight’ response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. When consistently elevated, these can lead to various health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and a weakened immune system. Stress can disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate or trigger a range of medical conditions.
People under stress (most of us, and even young ones too), are more likely to engage in unhealthy coping behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor dietary choices, and lack of physical activity. Prolonged stress is also linked to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. These conditions can increase the risk of self-harm and suicide, with frightening statistics on the prevalance of this among people under 18.
That’s why it's essential to recognise the impact of stress on the physical and mental health of our young and to take steps to manage and reduce it.
Children often need guidance on healthy coping strategies. Teaching them how to manage stress through relaxation techniques, time management, and seeking support from trusted adults can be invaluable.
Are you feeling stressed? You can be sure that children and teens around you are too. After all, we are not a different species and this next generation is not sheltered from all of our modern age stressors. So what are we going to do about it? There is a lot we can do to help by teaching the next generation all the healthy coping techniques we wish someone would have taught us.
Strategies for managing stress include regular exercise, seeking support from friends and family, therapy, adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a balanced schedule, fostering healthy relationships, teaching resilience and problem-solving skills — and of course, mindfulness, relaxation techniques…and yoga!