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.
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!
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.
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.
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/