With spring testing coming up, St. John the Baptist Parish Public School counselors focused in March on ways to help students cope with stress and anxiety.
John L. Ory Communication Arts Magnet School students discussed what stress is and talked about what they are stressing about. Students shared techniques they use to deal with stress and counselor Amanda Bourgeois introduced them to deep breathing.
“We practiced three different visuals to help with deep breathing,” she said. “For example, smell the flower then blow out the candle or imagine there is a cloud in front of your face and you breathe in the cloud through your nose and blow it out of your mouth. After they mastered deep breathing, we moved on to guided imagery. With their eyes closed, I read ‘The Big White House’ which gives detailed images to pick up on different senses. After we were finished, we talked about using these strategies any time they felt stressed, including during testing.”
East St. John Elementary School counselor Jennifer Russell offered the following techniques for children to reduce their stress and relax:
- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is an effective way of slowing down the body's natural response to stress. It slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and provides a feeling of being in control. To do this, simply breathe in deeply. Hold the breath for a moment. Release it slowly. Repeat the deep breathing until you feel relaxed.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
- Face: Ask your child to scrunch up her nose and forehead and then relax her face. Repeat three times.
- Jaws: Ask your child to clench her jaws together tightly like she's a dog hanging on to a bone, and then have her release that imaginary bone and let her jaw go completely loose. Repeat three times.
- Arms and shoulders: Ask your child to stretch her arms out in front of her, and then raise them above her head and stretch as high as she can. Have her drop her arms and let them hang loose. Repeat three times.
- Hands and arms: Ask your child to imagine squeezing an orange as hard as she can with one hand, and then dropping that orange on the floor and letting her arm and hand go limp. Repeat three times, and then switch to the other arm.
- Stomach: Have your child lie on her back and clench her stomach muscles as hard as she can for just a moment. Have her release them and relax. Repeat three times, and then have her do the same technique while standing up.
- Legs and feet: Have your child stand and press her toes against the floor as though she is digging them into sand at the beach. Have her alternately press them and spread them enough to feel it in her legs, and then have her relax. Repeat three times.
- Visualization: Ask your child to imagine a favorite color that makes her feel peaceful and safe. Have her imagine taking in that color with each breath and sending it throughout her entire body as she exhales. Have her continue until she visualizes being filled with her special, relaxing color.
- Listen to Music
- Meditate: While your child sits on her bed at home, or at her desk before class begins, she should place her hands in her lap and close her eyes. The next step is to breathe in and out slowly and evenly. Each breathe in and each breathe out counts as a single count, and she should practice this even breathing for a count of at least 50. As she settles into the meditation, she should focus on listening to her breathing. As she does, she'll begin to feel more calm and focused. When she finishes her count of 50, she should take a very deep breathe, let it out slowly, and then open her eyes.
- Cuddle: Encourage your child to cuddle with a pet or a hug a loved one. The interaction can lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones.
- Toe Tensing: Lie on your back and allow yourself to sense your toes. Use your toe muscles to pull all ten toes back in the direction of your face and hold to the count of 10. Relax your toes and hold to the count of 10.