I have been teaching relaxation and meditation to young people in response to an ever-increasing problem of anxiety and stress among our youngsters. In the UK, this now affects many university and senior school children, however children as young as 5 are also showing signs of anxiety. In some school health questionnaires, the biggest fear which many teenagers report is that they will develop mental health problems.
The latest statistics from the UK charity Young Minds show the extent of the increase in mental health problems and depression in the UK:
- One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts
- ChildLine (UK) held 34,517 counselling sessions in 2013/14 with children who talked about suicide – a 116% increase since 2010/11
- Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, particularly since the mid 1980’s
- The number of children and young people who have presented to Accident &Emergency with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009. (8,358 in 10/11; 17,278 in 13/14)
- 55% of children who have been bullied later developed depression as adults
There are many possible factors involved in these statistics such as increases in exams and exam stress; substance abuse; peer pressure; bullying; and changes in family life and, perhaps more recently, an increased feeling of instability as countries and continents tumble into more uncertainty. An interesting study by the UK Nuffield Foundation outlines the dramatic increase in mental health problems in adolescents in the past 30 years and explains the key social trends which can affect young people’s wellbeing.
However, it seems unlikely that all the children and young people with symptoms of anxiety are exposed of these problems (which it could be argued are no worse than what children experienced in the world wars). Pinpointing the exact cause of anxiety in younger children can be difficult and some people are questioning whether, in a substantial number of cases, it relates to the fact that many of them, especially in the developed world, are no longer allowed to take even small risks. In the UK, this is the case as we live in time where children are often under constant supervision and where a culture of risk assessment exists, even for the most mundane outing or event. School activities have been curbed and playgrounds lie unused if no adult supervision is available. In addition, many children are being ‘overparented’ by so-called ‘helicopter parents’. This might be a response to fears for their child’s safety fuelled by 24 hour media horror stories, despite statistics which show that there is no greater danger nowadays than in the past.
Whilst a certain amount of child supervision is necessary and prudent, perhaps we have reached a stage where too much ‘wrapping in cotton wool’ is having a seriously bad effect on many children?
Kids need to learn how to set their own boundaries and to develop a healthy sense of self-preservation but how can they do so if they’re never allowed to stretch their wings, even a little? Maybe such a constant drip feed of suggestions that their environment/the world is not a safe place is causing a subconscious increase in anxiety? This is certainly the view of some psychologists as Zoe Reyes explains in a ‘World of Psychology’ article .
I can’t help contrasting the UK approach with places like Finland where orienteering is taught through clubs and schools to children as young as eight. Children are given training, a map, and a compass and left to find their way through forests and countryside, without adult supervision. This might be a bit mind-blowing for many parents but it is a truly confidence-building sport which has produced people like nine-times world champion Minna Kauppi. She started the sport when she was only eight years old and became world champion by the age of 24. Now aged 34, she faces the new challenge of being a parent, having given birth to her first child last month.
So, how can overprotective parents change their approach? The first step is to recognise that they are being overprotective and then, perhaps, to join their children in more adventurous play such as can be found in places such as ‘The Land’ . This is an experimental playground in North Wales which lets children (and adults) experience he boundaries of ‘truly free’ play the idea of a ‘junk playground’ was pioneered in Denmark in 1943 by landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen after he witnessed children playing on bombsites. For those who are ready and willing to let their children off the leash completely and to go it alone, a similar scheme has also been started in New York City. Called ‘play:groundNYC’, no parents are allowed and children are encouraged to get dirty, to use tools and to let their imaginations run wild. It reminds me of my own childhood in the 60s and 70s where we could run wild and get up to all sorts of mischief!
And what about those children who have already developed anxiety and stress? This is where relaxation and meditation/contemplation fit in. These tools can be a great approach for children and there are numerous studies which support the use of relaxation, meditation and visualisation. Many of these studies can be accessed online but one woman, Dr Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is heading this field. She has found that meditation not only reduces stress but it changes the brain in a positive way. The findings are fascinating and they show that the brain does not have to decline inevitably as we grow older!
In addition to these positive effects, relaxation and meditation can also help children and adults with their focus, confidence and self-esteem as they learn skills which draw on their inner resources. This has certainly been the case with the children (and adults!) who are using the system I teach which is called Heartfulness. It’s free and open to all, and you are welcome to check it out at http://en.heartfulness.org.
Have you or your kids ever tried meditation?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Judith Nelson.
World Mom, Nihad, is a life coach in Alexandria, Egypt at Aurora Beams Life Coaching. Today, she is on the blog helping moms around the world find their inner peace when times get tough through some tips she learned from a recent webinar with life coach, Mary Allen.
Sit back, take a deep breath in, and read…
Hello, World Moms!
“How easy can you find your inner peace in challenging times?”
Do you find that you “lose it” when things get tough? That finding your center is impossible when things don’t go as planned? Maybe the kids are fighting. Or the bills are higher than you expected. Or the world news is getting to you. Or something else is burdening your mind.
Well, get out your pens and paper! I have some questions for you further in the post that I recently learned to help you find the calm when the boat is rocked. I’m your life coach today, and we’ve got this.
In the past, balancing my demanding career as a software engineer with all the other commitments a working woman and mother has, I know very well that finding inner peace in challenging times is not so easy. With a busy schedule at work and at home and with deadlines to meet and projects’ plans to complete inner peace is a very far away destination to reach, especially when we don’t have any tools for support.
Why do we need to find inner peace?
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make inner peace with ourselves.” Dalai Lama
According tho this quote, it’s not only about how we feel inside. Our relationship with the outer world, as well, is affected by how peaceful we are in the inside. So, we need to find our inner peace first to live in peace with all of our surroundings.
I can feel inner peace when I am alone, away from all kinds of noise and distractions as a busy mom, but in challenging times I know very well that finding inner peace is hard for me.
It also depends on the kind of challenges I am facing and working to overcome. I also found that I need to be clear about what inner peace means to me. I simply consider the definition of inner peace, or peace of mind, as the opposite of being stressed or anxious. In very challenging situations, I lose my inner peace, become so stressed and sometimes helpless. There have been times when I found myself yelling at the kids most of the time, and I felt bad about myself after that.
What helped me is gaining clarity and awareness about the situation that I was stressed about. For me, it was the demands of working as a software engineer paired with the demands of raising my children.
Six Questions to Help You Find Inner Peace
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar that was discussing how we can regain our inner peace in challenging times. The facilitator discussed how answering 6 key questions in any challenging situation can bring us closer to inner peace. Do you have your pens out? I’m about to take you through her questions, so jot down your answers!
1. “What is the reality about the situation?”
Naming what exactly is going on in simple statements is the first step to gain clarity.
2. “What am I resisting?”
Stress is definitely due to some kind of internal resistance. It can be resistance of change because of fear of unknown. Change takes us to ambiguous results and the fear of these results creates resistance. It can be resistance of taking action. It will be different for everyone. Do you know what it is for you?
And, “What if I continue resisting?”
Figuring out what you may be continuing to resist and where this resistance will take us is another way to gain clarity.
3. “What can I appreciate?”
Creating a sense of gratitude to help figure out what positive side there is in the challenging situation is key. It may be strengthening our will power, stretching our comfort zone, allowing us to discover more about our capabilities and strengths.
4. “What are my options?”
In any situation we have several options to consider. We may think that we don’t have any choices, but actually, if we think deeply we will find some options. Just knowing we are able to choose makes us feel in control, which brings us closer to feeling peaceful.
5. “What will I consciously choose?”
At the end, it is up to us to consciously choose one of the options we have created for ourselves in this self-survey. It is an option of our own, not suggested or imposed by anybody. This can make you feel more in control. This sense of freedom can also attribute to helping us regain our inner peace.
We’ve gotten there together, but really, you’ve done all the work. Take a deep breath again. Now, how do you feel?
These questions are from the “5 Keys to Inner Peace NOW” checklist built by Mary Allen, America’s Inner Peace Coach. I believe these questions can be very helpful to figure out what is stressing us out and what to do to feel peaceful, even in hard times.
Do you have any other tools or experience with finding your inner peace in challenging times?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Nihad from Alexandria, Egypt. Nihad blogs at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.
Image courtesy of “Middle Aged Woman Doing Meditation” by stockimages, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Our family has gone through some serious upheaval over the past two years. We’re talking big city to small town relocation, major job changes, the birth of our youngest, and the final resignation of my job as I officially became a stay at home mom (SAHM) for an indefinite period to deal with our children’s special needs. Whew! I can feel my stress level rising just thinking about it.
Our family embraces change with the best of them, and we tend to take many things in stride. Dealing with two children with complex needs is just something we do. Homeschooling to support serious academic needs? Done. Countless medical appointments and therapist visits? You got it. An active and healthy life style? It’s even better, now that we’re relocated to a small town surrounded by forest and farmland.
The kids are happy, my husband’s happy, and I’m happy. So what’s the freak out about?
*gulp* I’m turning forty. Like really soon. (more…)
A little over four years ago, I stood up in a church, surrounded by the warm glow of friends and family, and promised to love one man for the rest of my life. In sickness and health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad. My husband and I knew, when we got married, that we would last the distance. We had been together for a long time, borne two children together, and endured a lot of hardship. We had survived the deaths of both of our fathers, my postpartum depression which lasted for almost two years, and my son’s autism diagnosis. I had lost a job, and we had been on the brink of financial crisis. A lot of things had happened. Big, stressful, life-changing things.
Fourteen years into our relationship and four years into our marriage, we have recently been wading through something that many people would see as a disaster: the loss of the industrial unit that my husband worked out of for fifteen years, as well as the charity youth recording studio that it housed. We had a little less than a month to move fifteen years’ worth of product, materials, tools and equipment out of the unit, with no place to move it to. We had to turn our home upside down, empty our garage and beg for favours from friends who might have a bit of storage space to spare.
We had to strip the studio bare – the studio that we put thousands of dollars and tons of love and care into – and we had to see it empty of everything but memories.
Through the heat of July, we moved load upon load of stuff. There has been heavy lifting and carrying, rearranging, decluttering and a great deal of stress and anxiety. While all of this has been going on, I have been keeping my fledgling freelance business alive – helping my husband during the day, working through the night and grabbing catnaps on the couch from time to time. For a month, I abandoned my running, ignored my friends and forgot about things I’d said I would do. My two boys spent countless hours working with us, packing boxes, carrying things into the house, helping us find space where we thought there was none.
It has been physically gruelling, mind-blowingly stressful and absolutely fantastic. It is fantastic because we have an opportunity to rebuild our charity youth studio into something bigger and better than it was before. It is fantastic because my husband gets to recreate his business, drawing from its strengths and learning from the challenges it has faced in the past. It is fantastic because we have had offers of help from friends when we’ve most needed it: someone lent us a pickup truck when our van broke down, someone else has taken on the task of putting together a crowdfunding campaign for the youth studio, and many people showed up to do heavy lifting with us.
Most of all, it is fantastic because we – my husband, my sons and myself – have experienced what it truly means to be a family. Where others might have turned against one another, we have come together as one strong, cohesive unit.
It has been an absolute joy for us all to be there for each other, working together and learning from each other’s strengths. Yes, there has been some snapping and irritation, because we are, after all, human. But there has also been a lot of laughter and fun, and most of all, respect.
To say that my kids have been amazing through all of this doesn’t do it justice. My younger son has demonstrated maturity and empathy well beyond his years, as he has tirelessly helped and constantly shown concern for the wellbeing of those around him. My older son – my autism boy for whom change is so challenging – has been immensely brave through the routine changes and the drastic alterations to the space he lives in. I am so proud of them both that I could cry.
We have emerged from the worst of the craziness. The taking apart and moving out is done, and now we can start the exciting process of rebuilding. I can resume a more humane schedule, my exhausted husband can take a break and catch his breath, and my kids can play. And we can all look at each other and smile, overflowing with happiness, because we have each other. My husband and I know that we will always be there for each other, in good times and bad. And that makes us rich in a way that money never could.
Have you and your family had to deal with adversity? How did you and your kids cope with it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Running for Autism. Photo credit to the author.
Christmas and autism are two things that don’t always go well together, because Christmas involves so many of the things that are anathema to people with autism: flashing lights, loud noises, crowds, changes to routine, the displacement of household furniture to make way for the tree. Since autism elbowed its way into my house, Christmas has been a mixture of stress and tentative enjoyment.
This year, our festive season was a little unusual. Both me and my husband were sick for most of December, and for the first time, the four of us were going to be celebrating Christmas all by ourselves. No friends, no extended family, no in-laws. Just us. I wasn’t too sure how everything would work out. The combination of autism, illness and no guests made me think that the whole Christmas thing would be a wash.
To my surprise, we ended up having the most chilled-out, magical Christmas we’ve had in a long time. When I stopped to think about why this was, I realized that what I had seen as obstacles had in fact been opportunities to do things differently – and the differences worked.
Here are some of the things that made Christmas great, in no particular order.
1. We didn’t do the Santa picture. The Santa picture is kind of a family tradition. Once a year, the kids get all dressed up in fancy outfits, and we go to the mall or some other place where Santa pictures are being taken. It’s usually a terrible ordeal that involves lots of crowds and waiting. This year, with both my husband and I being sick, Santa pictures just didn’t feature on our list of priorities, and so our family was spared an entire day of angst. We still plan to honour the family tradition and get our Santa picture, but it will be just us and a friend dressed in a Santa suit. No crowds. No lineups. No overpriced prints. No stress.
2. We didn’t stress about the shopping. In spite of my annual promises to myself, I am a last-minute Christmas shopper. This year I was filled with good intentions to get my shopping done at least two weeks before Christmas, but being sick put a spanner into that particular plan. The fact that I was stuck doing my Christmas shopping the weekend before Christmas did result in some stress, but I decided to just not care. I braved some shopping crowds, but I did not commit to getting everything for everybody. I got what I could and bought the rest from Amazon. I didn’t mind that the gifts I ordered probably wouldn’t arrive before Christmas, although in the end they did. In future years, online shopping will feature more prominently in my pre-Christmas preparations.
3. I let the kids help with the decorating. And by that I mean that I really let them help. Usually I hover anxiously around the Christmas tree micromanaging the proceedings and worrying that the tree will be knocked down. This year, I put the tinsel and lights on the tree and perched the angel on top, and then I left the rest to the kids. James hung the decorations on the tree while George put lights up around the living room. James wanted tinsel in his bedroom; George wanted lights in his. I didn’t trail behind them making sure everything was done to my liking. I left them alone to do it to their liking.
4. We totally got into the whole Santa thing. I mean, in prior years, we’ve talked about the nice list, and Santa leaving gifts under the tree, and that’s pretty much been that. This year, we really got into it. On Christmas Eve, James and I kept the NORAD site open so we could track Santa’s progress around the globe, and at bedtime, James meticulously arranged milk and treats for Santa and his reindeer. Once the kids were asleep, I managed to arrange the gifts under the tree without being busted. I even left the empty plate and milk glass on the tray for James to discover in the morning. George didn’t really get into the Santa thing, but it was a touch of magic for James.
5. There were no expectations surrounding Christmas dinner. In previous years, Christmas dinner has been a delicious but stressy affair with the four of us, my mother-law, and my brother-in-law and his family. There’s been a well-meaning but misguided expectation for the kids to get all dressed up for dinner and to sit quietly at the table for the duration of the meal. I’ve invariably spent most of these meals getting children to sit down, cajoling them to eat what’s on their plate and keeping their fingers away from other people’s plates. By the end of dinner, I have been exhausted and the kids have been wound up beyond belief. This year, it was just us. I cooked the fancy Christmas dinner and decorated the table, but the kids were allowed to wear their comfy clothes and be themselves, and the usual air of formality wasn’t there. Everyone was visibly more relaxed, and although I was still exhausted after dinner, it was a contented kind of exhaustion.
6. We didn’t try to schedule what was going to happen when. Christmas is busier for us than it is for most people, largely because of the time I decided to pop out a baby on Christmas Day. Most years, I have a stipulation that we will celebrate Christmas in the morning, and give over the afternoon to James’s birthday. That, of course, puts a lot of pressure on us to get all the Christmas stuff done before noon, and with my husband and I not feeling well, we just didn’t have the energy to rush things. So things just happened when they happened, and that worked out fine. We had a leisurely Christmas, and James enjoyed opening his birthday presents and blowing out his candles. The two celebrations kind of melted into each other, and it was perfect.
I think the biggest lesson I learned this year is that I should just chill out and go with the flow, and enjoy whatever moments end up happening.
How do your kids like the holiday season? How much planning do you do?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Running For Autism. Photo credit to the author.