By Amy Williams, October 1, 2018

Whether it’s health care, finances, social media, personal safety, or the future of the country, Americans face stress from a variety of sources. For parents, stress is alarming on many fronts, but especially when we consider our children. It’s no secret that our sons and daughters copy our behaviors, even our less than ideal ways of managing stress. If we fail to teach our kids appropriate coping skills for stress, we are setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy behaviors. Fortunately, we can promote appropriate habits and skills in our children by modeling stress-relief activities when we are together as a family.

Here are some stress-relief activities that families can try together.

Get moving

A great stress-relief activity for families to do together is to exercise. Physical activity has been found to reduce fatigue, improve alertness, enhance concentration, and benefit our cognitive functions. This is important and helpful when our energy has been depleted by stress. Challenge your family to go for a walk, throw around a frisbee, ride bikes, or shoot some hoops together to sweat away stress from the day.

Have a laugh

There is a lot of truth to the adage that “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter releases endorphins, stimulates your organs, and releases tension in the body. As a family, watch funny movies or a silly cartoon, tell jokes, share hilarious stories, and make each other laugh and release tension.

Take a time out

In the heat of the moment, stress can affect our families in some surprising ways. Far too often, in the moment when we experience stress, we lose our cool, say harsh words, break down in tears, or completely shut down all forms of communication. In these situations, sometimes it’s best for everyone to step back and seek some time away from the stressor. When feeling stressed, give yourself permission to find something else to do for 20 minutes to gain your composure or practice techniques to feel less overwhelmed. This technique is beneficial for kids, too.

Break bread together

Make it a priority to sit down regularly and eat dinner together as a family. According to research at Columbia University, children who ate dinner with their families had lower chances of abusing drugs or alcohol and did better in school than those who didn’t. Mom’s meatloaf probably isn’t responsible for this effect, but being with caring people and talking about our day-to-day lives just might be. Eating dinner together creates the perfect opportunity to begin discussions, allows kids a chance to vent, and gives us plenty of opportunities to reassure our kids that everything will be alright.

Practice counting techniques

We can teach youth how to calmly count to regain their composure by modeling this technique when we are stressed. A few seconds spent finding our center can help us handle stress and avoid bad reactions to the stressor. Pick any random number, say 61, and slowly count up to or backwards from this number. You can challenge kids to count by twos or threes to help shift their mental focus onto the counting and stop stress in its tracks.

See a little green

Researchers have found a direct correlation between people’s stress levels and the amount of green space in their surrounding areas. It turns out when there is less green space, a person is more likely to experience stress. We can use this knowledge to fit in a little extra family time and head to the backyard, local park, or recreation area for a picnic, hike, or just an afternoon of exploring and appreciating the natural world around us.

Find social support

Stress-relief can come in many forms, but when we are expressing moments of great stress venting or leaning on someone can be a great help. Encourage family members to call a friend or reach out by sending a text or email. Sharing concerns and feelings with another person can help relieve stress. Just make sure the person you share your concerns with is someone you can trust and will understand your concerns. This might be a family member, close friend, or healthcare professional.

Craft up some fun!

Tap into your inner artist and paint, color, or sculpt away stress. Not sure where to start? Purchase an adult coloring book, buy finger paints, or register for a canvas painting class. Is someone in your family an artist? Have them teach the family their craft. Take a few minutes to relax your mind and create something in the process.

 

What stress-relief activities does your family enjoy together?


Additional Resources

  • Looking for more tips on managing stress? Sign up for our new webinars focusing on teen stress and workplace stress! Register today and watch at your convenience.
  • Worried your stress could be something more? Take our Depression and Bipolar Test to see if your symptoms need more attention.
  • Read how Lisa managed stress and depression through her faith and family support.