When it comes to stress, there are two important nervous systems working together in our bodies. One is called the sympathetic nervous system, which people remember as the “fight or flight” response. This is how the nervous system that would activate if we were to see a bear while hiking. We would immediately jump into survival mode – racing heart, sweaty palms, on high alert, and ready to run or fight to stay safe. The other nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest,” which regulates things like our heart rate and digestion. The sympathetic nervous system is like the gas pedal, whereas the parasympathetic is like the brakes. One increases energy for stress and exertion. The other conserves energy and signals relaxation.
Sometimes our brain tricks us to think we need to activate the sympathetic nervous system like when we’re late and stuck in traffic, or when technology breaks. Our heart might race, our breathing might increase and the body might become tense. But we are not actually in danger. There is no bear. So we need our toolbox of meditation, mindfulness, and breathing to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and train the brain to calm down.
Take a seat, grab a cushion, and practice some quiet meditation with your child.
Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Take a body scan noticing the parts of your body that feel tight or parts that feel loose. Notice what might be bothering you in your body or where you feel good! Start with your feet and make your way to your head. How do your feet feel today? Check-in with your legs, your dips, and your belly. How does your chest feel, your arms, your beck, and your shoulders? What about your head? What about your thoughts?
Optional: This is a great place to then go back to the feet and practice progressive muscle relaxation by flexing or tightening the muscles, holding, and then releasing.
Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Take a few deep breaths to get comfortable. Then engage in your regular breathing. Think of a word or phrase that you might need. Then repeat that word in your head or out loud. Mantra examples:
- I am strong.
- I am calm.
- I see beauty in everything.
- I have the courage to be myself.
- Whatever I do, I give my best.
- Problems are challenges to better me.
- I can get through this.
- I am enough.
Optional: You can add a sensory connection by touching each finger to your thumb as you say each word.
Safe Space Visualization
You can do this one in one of two ways. You can allow the mind to choose a safe space or you can provide the space for your kids.
Directions (Safe Space, Your Choice): Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Take a few deep breaths to get comfortable. Now I want you to visualize your favorite place! This can be a place inside or outside. It can be a place you’ve been or a place you want to go. I want you to describe in your mind where you are. What does it look like? What colors do you see? Is someone with you or are you alone? Are there animals? Plants? Objects? What do you hear? What do you smell? What does it feel like to be in this place? Are you calm or excited? Energized or tired? (You can continue with more descriptive questions to extend the meditation). Now slowly start to notice your breath again. Take a deep breath and let it go. Now slowly start to awaken the body and notice how you might feel differently.
Imagine you are in a spaceship. What does it look like? What’s it made out of? Who is with you? Where are you going? What are you wearing? You are about to take off…3…2…1. You start soaring through the air making your way past the atmosphere into space. What do you see? How do you feel? (You can then ask the same questions above)
Imagine you are on the beach. It’s your favorite beach! You are laying on your back, feeling the warm sun on your body. You can feel the cool air tickling your skin. Can you hear the sounds of the waves? Maybe you hear the seagulls? What do you smell? How does the sand feel between your hands? (You can then ask the same questions above)
Imagine you are in a secret garden! This is YOUR garden and for no one else but you. Visualize your garden. What does the door look like to enter the garden? What color is the door? What is the material? Is it wood or metal or something else? Now open the door. What do you see? What is inside your garden? Are there plants? Are there objects? Are there flowers and trees? Are there animals? What colors do you see? Sounds? Smells? (You can then ask the same questions above)