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Mindfulness techniques to help your kids reduce their school anxiety

Susan Verde is an award-winning children’s book author, elementary educator with a Master’s in Reading Remediation and a RCYT and RYT200 certified yoga instructor. She is also a certified mindfulness teacher for the littlest ones through...

Help your kids manage their anxiety with these mindfulness techniques

For many kids school can be incredibly stressful, especially when they have to come back after a long break and jump back into the fray of studying and exams. To help kids lower their anxiety and return to calm, try these three easy techniques.

More: How mindful meditation teaches children to manage their emotions

Ha Kriya breathing:

You might think that quiet calm breathing would be the best way to bring focus inward. And yes, that is wonderful. But this breathing exercise can be even more powerful. It helps kids express their nervous energy while grounding and empowering them. It’s a great way to release anxiety and find your inner power anytime a child needs to feel strong on the inside.

To do it: Stand with slightly bent knees a bit more than hip width apart in what can be called a “horse stance.” Bring both arms straight out in front of you with open palms. Breath deeply in through the nose and as on the exhale let out a loud "HA!" while pulling arms into the sides making fists, then shoot arms back out in front and repeat. This can be done about eight times with arms extended in front of the body and then repeated with arms overhead. Counts can go from eight out and eight up to four, up to two and then stop.

Let the feelings of this practice settle in for a few moments. Ask kids how they feel. You can read a deeper explanation and video demonstration on my blog.

Mindfulness meditation:

Having children do a mindfulness meditation practice can bring them from a nervous state in which their sympathetic nervous system is activated to one that’s calmer, activating their parasympathetic nervous system, and the parts of their brain needed for things like test-taking. Paying careful attention to what they are feeling in the body and the emotions associated with test-taking anxiety without judgement will help make this transformation and let those sensations and emotions pass.

To do it: Sit comfortably with eyes closed, breathing in and out through the nose. Bring the attention to the breath – not manipulating, just noticing. Ask the children to focus their attention on the inhale and the exhale, and when their minds wander, tell them to notice the feelings that arise without judgement. Ask them to “label” or name the feelings as they pop up. For example, if they start to worry about an impending exam have them say to themselves “nervous” and then let that thought go bringing their attention back to their breath. By naming feelings without judgement, stress levels decrease and bringing attention back to breath helps with focus and calm. Do this for a few minutes as you see fit for your particular group of kids.

Be sure to again let them sit with the effects of this practice before jumping right into a test. It helps to remind them that even during high-stress moments like an exam, they can reconnect to their breath anytime to alleviate stress.

More: Adult coloring books are teaching me mindfulness in a busy world

A bit of yoga:

Getting the blood flowing and doing some brain balancing yoga before a nervous moment can also help not only with focus, but also a sense of strength in body and mind.

To do it: Beginning on hands and knees, raise and reach out with opposite arm and leg then switching sides can activate and balance both sides of the brain while providing a bit of a stretch and some fun. Practicing a tree pose that requires balance and focus on one unmoving spot will translate to the skills needed for concentration. The warrior poses can boost confidence by building strength and stability.

Doing a group pose with hands held or arms interlocked can also create a sense of community and support. Knowing you are all in it together can alleviate stress. Try sitting in a circle, knees bent and big toes touching. Place palms under the ankles and lift the feet into the air. Grab the hands of those on either side and you are in group flower pose. See if doing this pose as a group helps with balance.

Try one (or all!) of these three techniques to find your way back to calm and collected.

Originally published on BlogHer

More: How yoga and meditation helped me discover who I am

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