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    July 10, 2024

    Calming Techniques for Youth to Navigate Stress

    Our world can be a crazy place. Even educational institutions, where trusted adults can help monitor environments, unfortunately, are known to be arenas for all sorts of emergency incidents to occasionally occur. There is no school or community center that is completely immune to situations involving bullying, violence, natural disasters, or the potential of someone having a panic attack. The variety of issues to respond to can be a lot for even the most mature young person to handle.

    Preventative Measures for Facing Hardship

    When it comes to handling difficulty, we always encourage people to start managing themselves well before chaotic events ever occur. In regards to students, it is best for the teachers, parents and faculty involved in their lives to teach and model helpful calming techniques that can be incorporated into their routines.

    The idea we are suggesting is that someone who has a habit of engaging in practices that help soothe, calm, and regulate their nervous systems will be more stable and prepared when disruptions occur in life. They may very well experience real shock or tension in many scenarios, but they will not easily lose their footing, so to speak. If they do lose it, they still will also likely be better prepared to later regain a real sense of steadiness and self-control.

    Even everyday stressors, such as financial insecurity or strife in the home, can weigh on the hearts and minds of children. These have the potential to eventually cause breakdowns. Such issues need to be offset through tools and techniques that empower young people to hold onto their peace.

    Maintaining Composure, Come What May

    Below, we offer four life-giving calming techniques you may want to encourage the youth in your setting to practice. We trust that when the going gets tough, students who are using these tools regularly will respond with improved emotional resilience and level-headedness.

    Controlled Breathing: When everything is going awry around us, sometimes the only thing we have control over is ourselves. Teaching young people to control their breathing in particular seriously reinforces this idea. There are a variety of breathing techniques that one can use to improve their well-being, but the most simple methodologies can work wonders. Taking time every day to slow one’s breathing – taking air in through the nose and then giving an elongated release through the mouth – does a lot for the brain and nervous system. Even five minutes of this can empower someone to face the rest of their day with a much clearer head.

    Contemplation: Contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation or centering prayer have been proven to have profound effects on one’s neurology. These activities help increase activity and build thickness in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is involved in providing focused attention, emotional regulation, and self-awareness. Such habits also reduce activity in the amygdala, the brain's threat detection center. This leads to less emotional reactivity and stress. Over time, those who regularly engage in these activities often report feeling more grounded, compassionate, hopeful, and accepting of reality – even in the face of ongoing challenges.

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation helps calm the mind and body through a systematic tensing and relaxing of different muscle groups. This technique brings awareness to areas of tension in the body, shifting focus away from stressful thoughts by drawing attention to physical sensations. Combining bodily relaxation with mental focus on the present moment, this practice elicits a calmer state of being – helping get one out of a flight-or-flight response. Afterward, the practitioner gains a greater awareness of their ability to take steps toward improving their emotional state.

    Gratitude Circles: A fun practice to implement in any classroom or sports team is to get everyone together for a gratitude circle. This is a way to take a break from daily routines and have those involved focus more on expressing what they appreciate about life. Encourage youth to share aloud about the positive things happening in their world. Doing this often can actually train their young minds to start finding things to celebrate throughout their day. Then, when facing stress or conflict, they are better equipped to realize that there are still better things to look forward to in the future. Further, they will be more likely to notice that everything is not always going wrong around them.

    Be Ready for the Worst

    Whether major events or minor challenges, we all face uncomfortable stressors in life. There is no way around that reality. If we can equip our young people to cope with their pain, anxiety, and tensions with healthy coping mechanisms, they are all the more likely to grow into adults who live with a level head on their shoulders. Consider starting with the proven, simple techniques we have recommended, and reach out to us to let us know what other effective tools you might implement as well.

    Also, keep in mind, that STOPit does provide a Crisis Text Line™ through our Anonymous Reporting System platform. This lifeline provides 24/7 high-quality, text-based mental health support and crisis intervention for those who need it most. Users receive immediate access to help, while your organization carries less of a burden to have all the in-house resources necessary to respond to each unique situation. When students need more than everyday practices and routines, our professional, qualified agents are ready and equipped to show up for them.

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