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One Breath at a Time - Local Experts Give Tips to Help Anxious Kids Cope

Jul 01, 2020 06:24PM ● By Gisele M. Siebold
According to Cindy Beers, owner of Red Head Yoga and author of Mindful Yoga for Teen Anxiety, The Child Mind Institute, in New York City, states children express anxiety outwardly. Parents and other trusted adults can look for the following behaviors as possible indicators of anxiety. Kids may have trouble sleeping or complain about stomach aches or other physical problems. They may become avoidant and clingy around parents or caregivers. They might also have trouble focusing in class or be very fidgety. Anxious kids may have explosive outbursts that make people think they are oppositional, when their fight-or-flight mechanism is triggered.

 

“As a parent, make decisions that are in the best interest of your child. Listen and allow them to talk, then respond,” recommends Beers. “Focus on breathing; when anxiety hits, it’s hard to breathe. Sit with your child, have them put their hands on their tummy and teach them to breathe through their tummy, feeling the breath go in and out.

 

“Meditation, yoga and tapping can be great ways to help, even at young ages,” she says. “One of my favorite guided meditations is called ‘Pictures’. You have children close their eyes, tell them to pick their favorite place and ask questions. What do you see? What colors do you see? Are your friends there? Do you see animals? What kind? Just allowing them to create a place where they can relax can really help diminish anxiety.”

 

Rachel Benbow, licensed CranioSacral therapist and owner of The Roots of Health, concurs, “Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and mindfulness meditation are two highly effective stress and anxiety management methods that I share with my pediatric clients,” she says.

 

“EFT, also known as tapping, is a self-help technique that enables us to process through difficult emotions and situations. With EFT, you tap on various acupuncture points on the head, face and torso while focusing on whatever it is that is bothering you. This process enables the brain to reorganize thought patterns so emotions can be released, and stress and anxiety can reduce or dissipate.

 

“Mindfulness meditation can be used any moment, anywhere and can be as simple as focusing on your breath or pausing to observe (without judgement) your emotions or reactions,” explains Benbow. “I find gratitude meditations to be especially wonderful for refilling the heart when it is overwhelmed with sadness or depression.  Meditation can be done alone, or together as a family.”

 

Ann Fields, founder of Peaceful Poses Kids Yoga, agrees with Beers and Benbow, “When children are faced with anxiety, parents can help by teaching them to take deep breaths. Anxiety causes us to take short, shallow breaths. Deep breathing helps children to be in their parasympathetic system (rest and digest) where they can think clearly and be in a calmer state.

 

“One of my favorite breaths to teach children is Balloon Breath. I like to use a Hoberman sphere as a visual prop to show how deeply we can fill our lungs with an inhale, and then close the sphere as we exhale,” Fields explains. “Another way to do this breath is with our hands on our belly, and as we inhale, we bring our hands out like we are blowing up a big balloon, and then bring them back to our bellies as we exhale. Take three to five deep, slow breaths and then notice how you feel.

 

“I also like to teach Starfish breath,” she says. “Bring your hand out in front of you and open it wide, like a starfish. Then, use your pointer finger on the other hand, trace up your starfish finger with an inhale and go down your starfish finger with an exhale. Make sure you breathe slowly and take five-to-10 starfish breaths. This video link will demonstrate Yoga Flow for Children Who Experience Anxiety.”

 

“Apart from the self-help techniques I share in my office, I also personally find running an excellent method to address stress and anxiety as a family,” shares Benbow. “We, as humans, are designed to run. Running has been a boon for my daughter and me during the Covid-19 pandemic. It enables us to get outside, get fresh air and sunshine, get cardiovascular exercise (which stimulates all sorts of positive shifts in the brain and body), and serves as a bonding time between me and my daughter. Running, likewise, helps our bodies to physically address and redirect the fight/flight energy we experience with stress and anxiety. Best of all, running costs nothing, and you don’t have to go anyplace special to do it—just step out your front door and run.” 

 

Resources

Cindy Beers, 717-571-4610, RedHeadYoga.com;
Rachel Benbow, 717-831-6936, TheRootsOfHealth.com;
Ann Fields, 717-579-7134, PeacefulPosesKidsYoga.com.