It’s the start of a new Year – 2021.
Having experienced a year such as 2020, filled with changes, global pandemic, uncertainty and fear, online and home-schooling (a brand new experience for some school teachers, parents and children) – 2021 can present you and your family with raised Anxiety levels – not only among children, but also among parents and Educators.
Anxiety is part of our survival instinct. When we’re faced with a threatening situation, our brains and bodies respond by kicking into survival mode. Our adrenaline starts pumping and our fight and flight response takes over, helping us get ready to escape the danger.
How common is Anxiety Australian Children?
According to the Young Minds Matter study, anxiety is the second most common mental health disorders in Australia, experienced by 6.9% of young people. This is one in three children and the youngest are four years of age!
Adolescents 12-17 years are almost three times more likely than children 4-11 years to experience anxiety. Teenage girls, in particular, have high levels of distress.
Young Minds Matter Survey Findings:
How can Yoga and Mindfulness help?
It’s normal for children to show signs of anxiety, worries and fears sometimes. In most cases, anxiety in children and fears in childhood come and go and don’t last long. However, research has shown that Yoga and Mindfulness can support your children and help combat Anxiety at school and at home.
Studies have shown that Yoga improves symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety. Anxiety can hinder a child’s ability to focus and learn therefore it is important to address it at an early age in young students – whether at school or at home.
Preparation is key to dealing with situations where there are lots of unknowns. The more things feel familiar and controlled, the more your child or young person can relax and feel confident about what’s happening. In all our Programs at YOGAZEIT (which translates into Yoga Time) we provide a platform for young people to check in with themselves. To identify how they’re feeling and how certain situations are feeling. We describe, draw or move to explain what stress, frustration, anxiety and also happiness and excitement feels like.
We then give kids an opportunity to foster this experience and support this with breathing and movement tools . In short, kids learn to become self aware (How am I feeling right now) which helps them then to self-regulate (e.g. taking a breath or a stretch) resulting in a becoming who and how they WANT TO FEEL (e.g. calm instead of anxious, in control instead of outraged).
Benefits of Yoga for Children
Practically any type of exercise can reduce anxiety. Yoga, however, seems like a particularly good option for helping anxiety in children. At least one study shows that yoga behavioural therapy works as well as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Yoga for anxious children gives them opportunities to:
- Build self-esteem and confidence by improving their skills
- Practice in a safe, non-judgmental environment
- Feel like members of a community
- Learn how to control their breathing
- Practice calming visualisation techniques
- Learn that movement can combat feelings of anxiety
The benefits build slowly after weeks and months of practice. That creates a challenge for anxious children who may get bored or discouraged easily. Yoga for kids has to make exercise, breathing and visualisation fun. If it seems like a chore, children may not want to participate for long.
Movement can play a crucial role in addressing the symptoms of anxiety. Yoga’s methodical approach to breathing and moving makes it an excellent option for anxious children to learn strong coping skills. Yoga may not eliminate an anxiety disorder, but it has helped many people learn how to live with uncomfortable feelings instead of panicking.
Here are our favourite 3 Yoga Tools to help you transition back into the school year:
Squeeze and Release Relaxation:
- You can help children experience the physical changes that happen when their bodies are tense and relaxed. Lie down together on your backs and make a sour face holding it and then releasing quickly on command.
- Tighten the fingers and arms and relax in the same way, on command.
- Do the same thing with the legs and feet.
- Finally, breathe in deeply and tighten the whole body from head to toe and hold.
- Relax and breathe out all the air in your lungs
- Talk to the child about what it felt like.
This fantastic breathing exercise will help support calm and stress-relief. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part) and helps you feel more relaxed. A nice activity to support body-mind connection, empowering kinaesthetic learners.
How to do it:
- Stretch your left hand out so that you’ve got space in between your fingers, just like a star.
- Hold up your index finger from your right hand.
- Breathe in: guide your index finger along your thumb upwards towards the tip. Pause briefly at the top.
- Breathe out: Guide your finger down the other side of the thumb, just like a boat riding the waves.
- Pause briefly.
- Breathe in: keep moving your finger up your left index finger…
- Breathe out: Move it down the other side … and so on.
- Repeat on the other hand.
There’s a nice video with Annabel explaining it
Mindful Movement/Yoga: Calming body shapes, such as
- Rock Pose
- Legs up the Wall
Want to learn more?
Subscribe to our Newsletter and make sure to get your FREE Yoga and Mindfulness tools sent to your inbox each month. Or sign up to one of our trainings and learn how to empower young people with tools for life. Subscribe here:
Yogazeit Classes for KIDS and TEENS
Every Year we offer a variety of Yoga Programs (free or by donation) to help young people with evidence-based yoga and mindfulness tools. Check out our upcoming classes here: https://www.yogazeit.com.au/classes/kids-and-teens/
We also offer classes at school and Early Learning Centres – regular, weekly visits to your school, as well as training and Professional Development for School Staff.
Where to get help
If you’d like to find out more, or talk to someone, here are some organisations that can help:
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25)
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Call Parentline in your state or territory for counselling and support for parents and carers
- eheadspace to chat online
- SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness and their carers) — call 1800 18 7263
- ReachOut.com (youth mental health service) — visit the website for info or use the online forum
- Samaritans Youthline WA 1800 198 313
- Youth Beyond Blue www.youthbeyondblue.com 1300 224 636
You can also ask your family doctor for advice or consult a psychologist if you would like more information or mental health resources for children.