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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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The Healthy Way to Deal With Stress continued...

If your kids see you handle stress with unhealthy habits like stress-eating, they can learn to do the same things. Actions often speak louder than words when it comes to parenting. You have to set healthy examples for them to follow.

First thing's first: Coping with stress in a healthy way doesn't mean completely overriding or suppressing your natural reactions, says stress management expert Susie Mantell, author of the guided meditation audiobook, Your Present:  A Half-Hour of Peace. Instead, manage your reactions and move on.

If you're an "over-reacter," try another way to physically express your emotions besides screaming at people. Go for a run or take a walk with the kids. Or get into the water if you can. "Kicking against the resistance of water is very satisfying," says Mantell.

Physical activity can do more than just help you burn off angry energy. Explain to the kids that exercise triggers the "feel-good" part of the brain. You should feel better and more relaxed when you've spent some time moving.

If you're a “withdrawer” and tend to slide away and hole up, set a timer. Go off and withdraw for 5 or 10 minutes, but when the timer goes off, come back and face the situation. You may want to listen to soothing music or try meditation while you take your sanity break. Just don't take your self-imposed timeout in the kitchen near the junk food or spend it in front of the TV.

“[You could even] give yourself permission to go scream somewhere," Mantell says. "A friend and I did this at the ocean once, on a cloudy day when no one was there. We yelled and screamed into the breakers everything we wanted to say to the people we were angry at. It felt great!"

If you’re a "somatizer" and you feel your stress through headaches, stomachaches, and other physical symptoms, you might benefit from doing a writing exercise that Mantell often suggests. Write a letter to the person who's the biggest source of your stress, or write about the stress to someone you respect: God, the universe, your beloved grandmother. Then turn the paper over and write a letter back to yourself from that person. "You'll be amazed at what a release you feel," she says.

Deal With the Cause of Your Stress

No matter what your stress personality is or what your main stressors are, everyone can benefit from a few key stress-management tools. These are healthy solutions that are perfect to teach your kids, too:

Breathe deep. Remind yourself and the kids that when something stressful happens, stop and take a few deep breaths before you do anything else to react to it. Breathe in slowly for a count of five through your nose. Hold your breath for one beat. Then exhale out your mouth, sighing, if it feels right. Pretend you’re breathing out your bad feelings. Deep breathing can help you and your kids whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed – it can help at school, at home, basically anywhere.


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