Fredericksburg Parent

September 2019

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www.FredericksburgParent.NET 13 www.FredericksburgParent.NET 13 School performance and relationships may begin to deteriorate, with older kids susceptible to turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. BUT THERE ARE HEALTHIER WAYS TO HANDLE TENSION THROUGH MINDFULNESS OR MEDITATION AND YOGA. "Many people think of yoga as flexibility and fancy poses, but the practice is so much more," shares Anne Kemp, owner of Dragonfly Yoga Studio. "At Dragonfly, we incorporate time in every class to focus on breathing. Some of our classes will incorporate different breathing techniques which can help lower your heart rate, blood pressure and ultimately your stress level." Yoga is considered a spiritual practice designed for health and relaxation and includes controlled breathing, meditation and gentle body postures. Emerging research on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, a practice in which an individual focuses on the present moment while calmly recognizing his or her feelings, thoughts and body sensations, is hopeful. "It may also help to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. There are some studies that suggest mindfulness improves attention, memory and academic achievement, and may help to decrease anxiety and depression. It is important to note that most studies on mindfulness are conducted on adult populations, although preliminary studies on children and adolescents are promising," says Jerome. There are various forms of yoga and meditation with various classes, books, videos and phone apps making it easy for incorporation into daily life. "Meditation practices can range from guided meditations, scripted meditations, yoga nidra, visualization exercises and opportunities for personal reflection," says Kemp. "A class can be helpful for learning and it is also nice to have someone guide you but breathing and meditation can be easily done at home. There are many apps out there for breathing and meditation. Two I like are The Breathing App, which is a free app, and Headspace, which is a great introduction to meditation." Other recommended tools are the phone apps Stop, Breathe and Think and Calm, as well as the website Sometimes as little as five minutes of meditation a day can help settle the mind and calm the spirit. "It is better to meditate a little bit than not at all," says Angela Pitts, a professor of Classics with the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion at the University of Mary Washington. "It is really helpful to have the guidance of someone who is knowledgeable and who has experience. That said, a simple practice of closing one's eyes, turning attention inward, and growing in awareness of the rising and falling away of the breath can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which, in turn, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety." "Research suggests that mindfulness and meditation may cause positive changes to parts of the brain that can help to regulate stress, such as the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex," Jerome says. MEDITATION DOESN'T HAVE TO BE JUST ABOUT SITTING IN SILENCE. "Coloring or making other art or play music can be forms of meditation for creative kids," says Allegretti. Mindful eating, going for a walk or exercising, or simply talking through problems can also help. Parents should be supportive as possible as their children and teens work through their emotions. Allegretti suggests families plan screen-free time throughout the day to reconnect, like during meal time. "Interact with your kids, ask them about their day, what worries them, what makes them happy," she suggests. "Ask them what is bothering them and ask follow up questions. Don't assume you know what is going on in their heads." Don't be afraid to get help from a therapist either if necessary. It's also important to set an example for your kids when it comes to handling your own stress. "As parents, if we want to teach our children to be mindfully present in their lives, we have to do the same," Jerome says. "We can spend less time on our phones, and more time being fully present in the moment with our children."

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