Zen Den

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BE ACTIVE. Turn your devices off and get outside with your kids – whatever the weather. Exercise reduces the natural chemicals that build up during stress, and releases endorphins into the bloodstream creating a sense of wellbeing. Just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day, preferably outdoors with grass and trees, will make an incredible difference to wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that the denser the tree population, the greater the stress reducing effect! 3Idea: Take a winter forest walk. 

VISUALISE. Just thinking about something nice can help you de-stress. When you’re calm, your heart slows down and you react better if you do get upset. Doing this also improves concentration, listening and memory skills. It improves your mental and emotional health, you sleep deeper and it also helps develop your imagination and creativity. Idea:  Imagine yourself being calm, happy and confident or go to your favourite place in your mind.

MASSAGE. Massaging each other can help lower stress levels and relieve tiredness, it can also help relax muscles and calm the nerves. It promotes better social contact, respect and communication. It also improves circulation and stimulates the lymphatic system. Idea: Take turns at bedtime to massage each other’s feet or back. 

TALK / LISTEN MORE. Whenever you get a few minutes to talk – it could be in the car between school pick-ups or walking to school – discuss five things that you are grateful for. Idea: At bedtime, listen to relaxation CDs or MP3s. This will de-stress the mind and will help you sleep better. 

BE MINDFUL. Mindfulness is the latest buzz word. Everyone is talking about how being mindful can not only help reduce stress, but improve happiness. Being mindful is being aware of the present moment. Being aware of our body and our breathing. When we are mindful, we can really enjoy life and not get carried away by phones, TV, work and worries. Idea: Have a daily mindfulness minute each day.

How to do a quick mindfulness session: Just gently close your eyes. Take in a deep breath and breathe out slowly and steadily. Become aware of your body and areas of tension. Gently let go, relax and release. Breathe in… Breathe out. Notice the sounds in the room. Notice the sounds outside the room. Become aware of the movement and sounds inside your body. Notice your mind. Allow it to become still and settle.

LAUGH AND SMILE. Watch some comedy together as a family. Scientists have shown that laughing can lower stress, or even help keep you from becoming ill, so figure out a way to start laughing. At breakfast time see who can tell the funniest joke. If you’re watching TV, pick a funny show instead of something serious. Tell your kids some funny stories from when you were a child. Idea:  Watch some hilarious family movies together. 

SMELL. Scents like lavender, rosemary, and sandalwood don’t just smell good, they can actually lower your body’s stress hormones. Light some scented candles, use an oil burner or use a diffuser to create a calm and relaxed home environment. Idea: Why not make your own fragrant pinecone basket?

AFFIRM. Affirmations are positive words we say to ourselves to help build our confidence and self-assurance. It is usually hard for adults to say nice things about ourselves and this is exactly why it’s important to teach children to do this from a young age. Idea: Get the kids to make everyone in your family handmade affirmation cards.

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Sinead specialises in teaching relaxation and stress-reducing techniques to kids aged two to 18. Being a mum of two young children, she was disturbed by the statistics that one in 10 children suffer a mental illness, and wanted to do something proactive to help these children, as well ensure that all children are given the skills to manage their emotions and feelings. Using mindfulness, breathing, affirmation and massage techniques, Relax Kids uses a 7-step fun programme which teaches positive self-image, self-esteem and inner-calm. 

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