Focus, Pay Attention, Sit Still, Listen, Follow Directions…
Just a few phrases youth are bombarded with on a daily basis whether it’s coming from their parents, teachers or other adults in their lives.
Our kids Are Stressed Out – Empowering Youth the find their CALMM
In my years as an educational and behavioral specialist, what I have come to understand is that our youth are stressed out, over-stimulated and often times misunderstood. Our youth are dealing with the following everyday: expectations of school, social pressures, struggles at home and in their community, overstimulation from technology and the busy world around them, and lack of movement throughout the day. Combine all of this along with the differing and complex stages of brain development, and we are more able to see the big picture along with the reasons why our youth are struggling with academics, mental illness, emotional regulation, and social relationships with others.
When children experience chronic stress and are in a constant state of fight/flight in their brains and bodies, their attention, mood, behavior and overall health and well-being can be greatly impacted.
When children are stressed out and in the fight/flight response (the more primitive part of the brain), they can tend to be more impulsive. The cognitive and “thinking” part of the brain shuts down and prepares their bodies to respond to imminent danger, even if the danger is a “perceived threat”. Getting youth to slow down and connect to their breath and bodies can move them away from an anxious state to a more embodied and grounded state.
Taking Mindful Moments or Brain Breaks throughout the day gives youth the opportunity to develop greater self-awareness, resets their nervous system, and supports improved focus and attention.
Out of a need to empower youth with the tools to cope with stress and reduce anxiety, I developed the ©C.A.L.M.M Toolkit and Curriculum. The toolkit supports youth with brain/body connection, self-regulation, body awareness, expressing and releasing difficult emotions and finding their calm.
C – Center
A – Assess How I’m Feeling
L – Let Myself Breathe
M – Move My Body
M – Make Positive Choices
Take a moment to connect to your body. Bring your palms together in front of your chest and feel your fingers and palms pressing together.
Assess How I’m Feeling
Getting youth to connect to the sensations in their bodies helps build self-awareness and brings them into their bodies.
Take a moment to feel the sensations in your body. Do your muscles feel tense? Is your heart beating rapidly? Does your chest feel tight? Do you have a stomachache? What sensations are you feeling in your body? Are you feeling angry, agitated, sad or anxious? How does that feel in your body?
Let Myself Breathe
Deeper, more rhythmic breathing can help bring the nervous system out of the fight/flight response back into a calm and relaxed state. Breathing also gives the “worried brain” something to focus on so the attention moves away from worried thoughts to the breath and body.
- Bring your hands on your belly
- Think of a balloon filling up with air when you breathe in and the air slowly coming out of the balloon when you breathe out.
- Breathe in through the nose– fill up the balloon and feel your belly puff out
- Breathe out through the mouth– slowly let the air out of the balloon and feel your belly button come closer to the spine
- Repeat for 3-5 breaths
Move My Body
Learning is a whole body experience. When we give children the opportunity to move throughout the day, it stimulates the brain, supports whole brain learning and provides opportunity for children who have excess energy to release the energy from the body. Physical poses can also support improved attention and learning as well increased self-confidence and self-esteem. They can also counteract poor posture from sitting all day by opening the front of the body and stretching tight areas as well as increasing core strength, improving balance and developing more flexibility in the body and mind – all areas that impact learning and development!
1. Stand with your feet together or hips-width apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward.
2. Bring elbows and palms together n front of body.
3. Think of your favorite book you like to read!
4. Breathe in through the nose – open your book. Elbows out wide, palms facing forward.
5. Breathe out through the mouth – close your book. Elbows and palms back together.
6. Repeat 3 times.
Make Positive Choices
Encouraging children to practice their C.A.L.M.M Strategies and letting them know that they have the ability to find their calm will empower them with the belief that they are in control of their own their own mood, behavior and choices. Practicing the C.A.L.M.M strategies will support them in making more positive choices.
The next time you find yourself pulling your hair out from frustration when your kids are fidgeting and are unable to attend to your instructions take a moment, allow them to connect, breathe & move and see what happens!
Author Profile: @yogabyshawnee
This post originally appeared on the Breakfast Club Blog on July 5, 2017.