6 examples of self-care practices to help reduce stress for you and your little ones
By Gabby Cushman
The midterms are wrapping up. The holiday season is approaching, bringing interactions with extended family alongside it. Students are feeling the pressure of big homework assignments throughout grade levels. There are stressors to be found everywhere right now, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of it all. That’s why it’s the perfect time to start practicing self-care daily! Engaging in self-care is an excellent way to keep your stress levels down by incorporating activities in your schedule that improve health and mood. Children learning about self-care at a young age heightens their abilities to cope with stressors as they grow up. So, let’s look at six ways you and your little ones can practice self-care.
Learn about mindfulness together
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment and to be aware of our surroundings and actions without judgment. It’s a practice that’s often recommended for stress, various mental health conditions, and overall better well-being. Whenever we get in tune with our five senses or bring awareness to our state of mind, that’s practicing mindfulness. Although this can be challenging self-care activity for some children to grasp, it’s a valuable tool in anyone’s de-stress kit that can be done in various ways. You can be mindful by meditating, doing progressive muscle relaxation, or going on a mindful walk. Try researching these mindfulness methods and attempt them with your little ones!
Get creative with arts and crafts
Expressing your individual creativity is a great way to reduce stress and even turn recurring thoughts into art. There are many artistic activities to try: painting, collaging, creating vision boards, coloring in a coloring book, using old book pages to create blackout poetry, and more. You could dedicate a specific day of the week to arts and crafts that the whole family or classroom can participate in. Consider freestyling your projects or include prompts to follow, such as gratitude, future goals, or what makes you happy. However you do it, encouraging kids to express themselves creatively will help them use art as a coping mechanism for stress as they grow up and encounter stressors more often. Don’t be afraid to break out your own adult coloring book from time to time!
Try practicing yoga
Yoga is a wonderful activity that uses your brain and body. It involves physical posture, breathing techniques, and even mindfulness meditation. There are various types of yoga, all of which boast physical and mental benefits, so you can choose what works best for you. You can sign your family up for an in-person yoga class or practice from home by following YouTube tutorials. Yoga may be for you if you and your little ones benefit from physical activity as self-care. Just be sure to remember that yoga traces back 5,000 years ago from northern India, and is a cultural practice that was simplified when it became popular in the west. The yoga philosophy goes beyond physical exercise and connects the mind, body, and spirit. Research the history of yoga and try to learn from instructors who practice it as part of their culture.
Take a relaxing bath or shower
This is easy to incorporate daily and helps your little ones stay up to date on their hygiene. Taking baths was my favorite relaxation activity that got me through high school and college stress. Not only does it give you time to decompress and slip into a relaxed mindset (which is especially helpful before bed), but it also soothes any sore muscles you may have from going about your day. You can even add things to your bath to enhance the experience, like bath bombs, bubble bath mixture, and essential oils. For kids, bathtime can serve as playtime with fun, waterproof toys. A nice hot shower can serve the same purpose if you don’t have access to a bathtub. Unfortunately, I live somewhere with no bathtub at the moment, but I make my showers enjoyable by playing some of my favorite songs and singing along.
Express gratitude and positive affirmations
Gratitude and positive affirmations are great ways to remind yourself of the good things in your life when you’re overwhelmed by the stressful parts—modeling this technique for children will teach them how to change negative thoughts into more positive ones when needed. You can share gratitude and positive affirmations through talking or writing in a journal. Maybe during a family meal or the start of the school day, have everyone go around and share one thing they’re grateful for. Or, you can ask everyone to share something they love about themselves. If you encourage your learners to journal, it’s a good idea to journal with them, so they are motivated to write consistently. Teaching kids self-love and gratitude improve their mental well-being and can increase their confidence in the long run.
Engage in some of your favorite hobbies
At the end of the day, self-care is taking care of yourself and doing something you enjoy. Making time in your day for a hobby you love can be a great self-care activity, as it’s likely something you’ll want to do anyways! When I’ve had a super stressful day, I love to unwind by listening to my favorite music or playing an engaging narrative video game. It helps me take my mind off stressors and get absorbed into my passions, which are naturally relaxing. Try making a list of your and your children’s hobbies to reference when any of you need to destress. If there are activities you both enjoy, such as board games or watching a particular TV show, make an effort to participate in them together!
Self-care is crucial to social justice work. It helps us recharge so we can tackle the hard work of activism. It's also beneficial to groups who have experienced systemic oppression and spent a lot of their lives fighting for their own rights. Once we realize self-care is an integral part of our everyday functioning, we can improve our distress tolerance in the face of ever-changing stressors.
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