Stress Test is a simple method I use to demonstrate how we typically respond to stress. This technique can be used in conjunction with mindful breathing to help children identify stress responses in their body and learn how to take control of those responses in a mindful and beneficial manner.
It’s not as easy as it sounds; daily practice is highly recommended to develop self-awareness and create new and healthy habits. Think of Stress Test as boot camp training for the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system. I’ve included both written instructions and a demo video in this week’s post, follow along and try it yourself.
Lisa Roberts xoxo
Adapted from Teach Your Child Meditation by Lisa Roberts (Sterling 2018)
What is Stress Test and how does it help?
In moments of stress or anxiety a very typical response is to hold the breath and/or tense up the body, usually without realizing it. Stress Test demonstrates your natural stress responses in action, and by simply becoming aware of your stress-response habits you will be empowered to take control, consciously relax your body and be the boss of your breath anytime that stress tries to take over. Who’s the boss? You are!
You will need: (Any one of the following)
• Soft rubber or fabric stress ball
• Wad of balled up tissue paper
• A pair of balled up socks
• Play dough
Hold your prop of choice in one hand and squeeze it as tight as you can for ten seconds. Make sure you squeeze really, really tight for the whole ten seconds!
Let go and relax.
Did you notice anything in your body while squeezing the prop?
Did you tense up your other hands as well? Your shoulders? Other areas of your body? And, what happened to your breath? Did you notice if you held your breath?
Let’s try it again, only this time consciously breathe slowly and deeply as you squeeze your prop for 10 seconds.
Scan your body and consciously relax any areas, other than your fist squeezing the prop, that feel tense.
Can you squeeze the prop as tightly as possible while breathing deeply and consciously relaxing the rest of your body? It takes a little effort, but it is possible.
Did this feel different to your earlier attempt?
Practice this a few times a day, eventually, it will become a habit for you to immediately recognize when your body is in stress response, and you’ll know exactly what to do to make yourself feel better and in control.
No props? No problem! Ball up your fist and squeeze it as tight as you can for a count of ten. What happens to the rest of your body when you do this?
Mindful Mini #6 Stress Test