The anxious child and an antidote to stress

An Antidote to Being Stressed  Out

Kids who are too anxious to go to school.

Kids who worry that they will get sick.

Kids who anticipate that something bad will happen to them.

Kids who feel like they never measure up.

We all experience stress in its many forms. Sonia Lupien at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress has created an acronym for what makes life stressful: NUTS

Novelty:  something you have not experienced before.

Unpredictability:  something you had no way of knowing would occur.

Threat to the ego:  your safety or competence as a person is called into question.

Sense of control:  you feel you have little or no control over the situation.

What are some simple techniques that we can teach kids (and use ourselves) to control our reactions to stress of all kinds, improve our state of mind and develop stress resilience? In a Model Health Show podcast, Shawn Stevenson interviews Dr. Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and tenured professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and learns two no cost simple strategies to improve our state of mind and reduce overall stress. Here they are (you won’t believe how simple they are):

  • Early in the day spend some time outside. I told you that you wouldn’t believe how simple these are. It only takes about 10-60 minutes of sunlight to reset our circadian rhythms and improve our mood. Photons, or light energy, is captured by neurons, nerve cells in the back of the eye, and that signal is then sent to the master clock in the brain, which sits right above the roof of your mouth. That master clock sends out signals, chemical and electrical signals to all the cells of your body. All the cells of your body have a 24-hour clock, which is timed to the rotation of the earth every 24 hours. So that basic behavior of going outside each morning, and doing that for 10 to 60 minutes will fundamentally shift your well-being, as it times your cortisol to the correct early part of the day. It also tends to ensure that the cortisol bump won’t happen later, so it can offset the symptoms of depression.
  • Practice Psychological Sighs. In sleep, whenever we have a build-up of what’s called carbon dioxide in our body, which is a stress, we’re actually triggered to breathe and we do a double inhale, followed by a long exhale. This is called a Psychological Sigh and it turns out that you can do Physiological Sighs deliberately in waking too. It is a double inhale through the nose, followed by a very long exhale. Now, the second inhale is just a tiny one, you can barely sneak in any air. That little, tiny inhale, though, is important because our lungs are not just two big bags of air, they have little, tiny sacs called alveoli of the lungs.  And when we get stressed, those alveoli of the lungs collapse like empty balloons. That second inhale re-inflates them so that when we exhale, we exhale all our carbon dioxide. And a lot of the stress responses are due to too much carbon dioxide. So, to make this very simple, if you’re feeling too stressed do a double inhale through the nose followed by a long exhale, and chances are just two or three times will immediately bring you back down to a very calm baseline.

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