Tag Archives: Stress

De-Stress Dinner

Tips for dealing with stress

Jan. 20th our Thrive! Dinner used food, fellowship and fun to explore ways in which we can deal with stress.  We started by making nachos.  The young participants had fun spreading the ingredients and getting creative.  As the nachos cooked, adult colouring pages were made available.  Colouring has a wonderful calming effect, enabling us to focus on something other than what might be overwhelming us in the moment.

Cellphone scavenger hunt

After dinner, participant were challenged to use their phones to take as many photos of nature as they could find.  Given how cold it was, they were very creative taking photos of calendar pictures, photos in books, each other, flowers throughout the hall, poinsettias and holly from the Christmas play, a “Maple Leaf” (i.e. from a hockey jersey), hair (it was rainbow coloured) and even a (Swedish) berry.  Some braved the cold and snapped some lovely photos of dusk around the church.  Hundreds of photos were snapped in 15 minutes!

Nature can have a wonderful calming effect.  Even if it is too cold to go outside, we can watch through a window or close our eyes and imagine our favourite places.  Beaches, gardens, mountains, clouds floating through the sky, sunset and sunrise, meandering streams, Northern lights and more can quiet and inspire awakening our senses to something beyond the pressures of school and work.

COOKIES

There is something fun about gathering in a kitchen.  It can be the hub of a home.  Working together, we prepared dozens of cookies for the oven and we shared stories, continuing our conversations about nature and our favourite places.

As the cookies baked, a small jar with water and glitter was shaken.  The glitter swirled reminding us of how chaotic our thoughts can be when we are overwhelmed with so much to do.  Allowing the jar to sit and be quiet for a minute reminds us that we too can be calmed with stillness.

With that ideal in mind we discussed mindful eating.  What are the 5 senses?  How can we use those senses to explore the cookies, hot from the oven?  Will we feel their warmth on our hands?  What do they smell like?  What do they sound like as we break them apart?  Can we see the ooey gooey goodness of the chocolate?  What do they taste like?  We took our time with the first cookie but then started to gobble them up!

Deep Breathing

When we are overwhelmed it can be very calming to stop and take deep breaths.  Beginning in our stomachs, moving to our ribs into our chests we gulped in the air.  To test our ability to breathe deeply we tried to blow up balloons with one breath.  It is not as easy as you think.  But after several tries, everyone had at least a small balloon.

Getting quiet

Settling down for a moment.  Participants were invited to get comfortable and close their eyes.  Counting backwards from 10 to 1, they were encouraged to focus only on their breathing and counting.  Every time a different thought came into their heads they were challenged to take a small bead and mark the distraction before beginning again.

It can be difficult to relax and let go of the whirling thoughts of the day.  Practicing in this way gives us permission to allow distractions to float away like bubbles that pop and free us from the stress that these might bring.

Ha!

Coming back together into a circle we played a simple game.  One person begins by saying “ha”, each successive person adds a “ha” without actually laughing.  If laughter happens, we start again.

Laughter, as they say, really is the best medicine.  In fact, laughter yoga has become a source of mind, body and spiritual health.  We can fake laughter for a time, but then it becomes genuine, releasing wonderful feel-good chemicals throughout our body.

We spent some time talking about what makes us laugh.  And accepted that a good cry can also be cleansing.  In the process we shared stories from the silly to the wondrous.

Coming to a close

As we finished the evening, all participants were given an exam survival kit.  Click here to see what it contained and why.  Prayer was offered for all those in stressful situations – those struggling with health issues, work-related and family-related stress and for students who are dealing with the pressures of school, projects and exams.  Armed with resources, we hope that all will benefit from the lessons of this time together.

What about you?

What tricks do you use to deal with stress?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Failure

What is it?

At its core, failure is a lack of success.  Whether we like it or not, it happens to everyone.  Most toddlers fall down before learning to walk.  Few pre-schoolers learn to tie their shoes on the first try.  Not everyone has legible printing from the first time they pick up a pencil.  We all struggle to stay in the lines when colouring from time to time.

The challenge…

Unfortunately, in a highly competitive world, failure is often treated with distain.  We tend to hide our failures because we tend to link our value to our successes.  The more success we have, the more we feel accomplished.  Admitting failure, might rob our sense of self-worth.

Reclaiming failure as opportunity to learn

Still, we shouldn’t be afraid of failure.  When we fail, we have an opportunity to learn.  We might learn something about ourselves – including that perhaps there are things we are not so good at.  We might develop persistence – a willingness to try, try again.  Or we might simply learn that it is OK to let go and move on, we don’t have to be perfect at everything.

Everyone fails.  It took Edison some 10,000 attempts to create a lightbulb.  “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was rejected 12 times and J.K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job”.  Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, dropped out of college after 6 months because of the financial strain on his family.  To fail is to be human.  As a result, failure is on the curriculum at Smith College as highlighted here.

Helping children accept failure

There is comfort in numbers.  When we are honest about our struggles especially with the next generation, they can then recognise that failure is not an end but can be an opportunity.  What is really important in life?  Will a single test, project, attempt at a sport or messy picture really destroy a person’s future?  What can be said when we look back on the past in regards to those moments that really made a difference?

When we ask our children to simply try their best and accept that there are areas in which they may struggle, we free our children to explore who they are, to be who they are.  This may mean that we discover our children don’t have the same abilities as we do.  This may mean they pursue areas that feel foreign to us.  This is OK.  As long as they know they are loved and supported, they will have the courage and strength to accept failure as a stepping stone to real success.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Anxiety

What is it?

Anxiety word cloud on a white background.

Anxiety is an umbrella term for intense, troubling feelings that can overwhelm someone at any time.  These feelings can be based in worry of what might happen in the future or fear in reaction to current events.  When these feelings become persistent or chronic, anxiety moves into the realm of a disorder that may require treatment.

How is anxiety experienced?

Among the most researched forms of anxiety is the presence of phobias – which are defined as a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.  We’ve seen phobias depicted in movies and television shows.  This has helped to normalise the extreme reactions some people have to spiders, clowns, heights, enclosed spaces, germs and more.  Whether as part of a drama or a comedy, we have become familiar with the emotional and physical reactions including extreme fear, racing heartbeats, shortness of breath, nausea and numbing that we now accept are characteristic of a panic attack.  For who have anxiety disorders these reactions can be debilitating, affecting the ways in which they engage with the world.

For children and youth, Kid’s Help Phone’s provides a simple breakdown of signs and symptoms of anxiety along with ways to cope with panic and anxiety here .

What can be done?

Research into anxiety disorders is growing as we gain more and more understanding of the importance of mental wellbeing.  As a result, through counselling, techniques can be learned to develop an awareness of anxiety and panic and thus take steps to minimise their impact on life.

Mindfulness

When someone begins to feel their body tighten, breath quicken and heart start to race, they are challenged to stop and look around.  Name 5 things they can see; five things they can smell; five things they can touch; five things they can hear and five things they can taste.  By focusing on their senses it becomes possible to reorient their awareness to practical things around them rather than the source of their anxiety.  This article highlights other mindfulness activities that can help reduce anxiety.

Distraction

If possible, when anxiety is felt, removing oneself from the situation – going for a walk, calling someone on the phone, going to a safe space can all be helpful ways of settling down and refocusing.

Breathing

Sometimes it simply helps to stop, sit quietly and breathe.  Counting as you breathe in and out, helps to relax the body before it completely tenses up into a full blown panic attack.

What can families do?

Anxiety happens in people of all ages.  As with everything else, it is important for us to know our loved ones and be open to recognising when symptoms become persistent and chronic.  It is vital to accept that it is not only OK but healthy to ask for help.  Indeed, accessing the right help can make a big difference in the extent to which anxiety becomes something manageable.

Local resources to assist children and teen struggling with anxiety disorders are available through the Regional Children’s Centre, Teen Health and Maryvale.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Stress

What is it?

According to this article in helpguide.org: Stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.  When we sense danger – real or imagined – our body automatically responds with a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.  It is this reaction that pumps us with energy and helps us focus.  This response can actually help save us when faced with real danger, giving us the strength to fight back, the endurance to get away, and the focus to make the right choice.

Stress is what allows us to take on challenges in appropriate ways: Pushing us to put aside distractions and study; sharpening our concentration when we are under pressure to succeed; keeping us on our toes when we are performing.  Stress can be a healthy thing.

When should we be worried?

Unfortunately, our stress response does not have the capacity to determine whether its invocation is due to emotion or a physical life-or-death situation.  As a result, we can get stressed about relationships, work, school, conversations, impending assessments, what happened yesterday, what could happen tomorrow and so on.  The more we feel stress, the more our stress response kicks into gear and thus creates the possibility for long term health consequences including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart disease and more.

Looking for signs of stress overload?

How do we know when stress is veering into overload?  Unfortunately, it is hard for us to recognise this ourselves as it tends to creep up on us and feel normal.  Meanwhile, others might see changes and recognise that we seem more moody, agitated, overwhelmed, isolated or depressed than usual.  We may also show difficulties concentrating, memory problems, excessive worrying and negative thoughts.  As stress increases we become more susceptible to illness and we may even start to withdraw, procrastinate or use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate.

What about children and youth?

Stress is felt regardless of age.  If young people feel an increased sense of having to meet demands, are confronted with difficult situations or feel overwhelmed by their ‘to do’ lists, they too can develop stress overload.  It is important to know our children, to keep the lines of communication open and be prepared to recognise signs that children and youth may be overcome by stress.  Check out these articles for more information on stress in children and youth.

What can we do?

Some stress is natural.  Learning how to manage stress in our lives is important to maintain balance and physical and mental health.  Some common approaches include:

  • Connecting to others – a good laugh and an embrace daily is said to be good for the body, mind and spirit.
  • Learning to relax – put things into perspective and intentionally choose to not “sweat the small stuff”.
  • Play – opportunities to let loose and have fun can be healthy for all members of the family.
  • Practice healthy routines – proper nutrition and sufficient sleep can help create balance in life.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual.