Inhale Exhale Family Edition Issue 2

A Healthy Brain

Stress?

  • A state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.?
  • Something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety?
  • Physical force or pressure 

Children and teens experience stress and anxiety differently than adults. The way each person looks at the world and their problems are based on a myriad of views: parents, teachers, friends and social media. Their core identities are emerging and the world is becoming a much scarier space than their earlier carefree days. They are trying to figure out who they are in the world and separate themselves from their parents.

As parents and caregivers, we feel the need to lessen kids’ stress by offering solutions and advice. We want to minimize their angst by telling them not to worry. What they want to hear instead is that you get it. You understand what they are going through, or at least you want to try. Acknowledging what is happening for them requires being in their world with them. When we try to minimize their stress, we teach them to stuff it, ignore it, or that it’s not okay to have it.

Let’s look at how the brain processes information:

The Hippocampus is the region that regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory.

The Amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions It is known as the fight or flight mechanism and is where memories of events and emotions are stored. Temper Tantrums are formed here when something doesn’t go the way we want it to go. You do not want the amygdala to run the show.

The Pre-Frontal Cortex is the CEO of your actions also known as the grown-up brain… It plays an important role in problem-solving, planning, impulse control, reasoning, as well as controlling emotions, and behavior.

Let’s Do An Exercise

Imagine your STRESS on a scale of 1-10

1=CALM

3=UNEASY

5=AGITATED

7=OVERWHELMED

10=PANIC

What is the situation that has you stressed?

What is your interpretation of the situation?

What are you making the situation mean?

Your response to events as stressful or not is made up from one of these areas of the brain. We create stories about what’s going on to match our past experiences and it’s in those stories that the stress lives. Your stress response lives in those stories or interpretations of the event, not in the event itself.

Thoughts are things and thoughts can be changed. Stress in life is inevitable. It’s our reaction to the stress that causes the spiral of anxiety.

So get control of your stress by bringing yourself into the present. Focus on your body, allowing yourself to let go of the thoughts that are causing increased anxiety. Watch those numbers on your stress scale go down!

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