STRESS – It’s a part of life.  Men have it.  Women have it.  Teens and little children have it.  When it is constant, toxic stress can have long-term debilitating effects on health.  Managing our own stress is an important life lesson for our children. 

The 24-hour news cycle on TV and the internet is full of stories about natural disasters, war, crime, and terrorism.  I must admit I am a bit of a news junkie, but it must be taken in tolerable doses.  When the news of the day elevates your stress level, turn it off.  And be sure to limit what your children are exposed to.  They may not appear to be listening to what is on TV or the radio, but they are hearing if only subliminally.  Images of people in distress can be really disturbing to children.

A special report on Everyday Health, The United States of Stress 2019, notes that finances are the number one stressor in all age groups.  Other stressors noted in the report are care-giving, social isolation, and teen culture based on social media that isolates generationally.  We all deal with day-to-day problems such as traffic, arguing with a co-worker or family member, rushing to appointments, and standing in line. Layer in coping with illness, job loss, or caring for a loved one and stress can take a toll on our mental and physical health.

According to Sarah Gantz of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a recent report by Moody’s Analytics and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association draws the conclusion that the 2009 economic recession had a negative effect on millennials’ health.  The report shows that adults in this age group have higher rates of physical ailments such as high cholesterol and hypertension as well as depression when compared with Generation X.  Mark Zandi, an economist for Moody’s, points to student loan debt and difficulty finding work along with watching parents lose jobs and homes made them vulnerable to psychological problems and substance abuse.

While we can’t control the outside factors that cause stress, we can affect our mind and body response to them.  Meditation is a proven stress reliever, yet only 9 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the Everyday Health report said they use it as a coping tool.  Mindfulness meditation is simply being fully present.  Kate Hanley, author of “A Year of Daily Calm” says that everyday activities give opportunities to practice mindfulness.  She suggests that even washing the dishes can be a calming activity when we stay focused on the activity at hand, the warmth of the water and the look of the bubbles instead of rushing to get back to your TV show.  In Camp Fire programs we teach children how to manage negative emotions through deep breathing techniques and learning to express their feelings to achieve a calm state of mind.

The holidays can be a time of stress but focusing on time spent with loved ones rather than creating the perfect Thanksgiving table or finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list.  A spirit of gratitude is a way to reduce stress and turn your focus to the goodness in life.  Teaching children an attitude of gratitude by asking them to name three good things at bedtime each night and modeling appreciation of nature and beauty will help them develop a lifelong habit.  And don’t forget to PLAY.  Play and laughter are tremendous physical and mental stress relievers for children and adults.