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Stress and Anxiety in Kids
Teenagers experience more stress than adults, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). Teens reported a stress level of 5.8 on a 10-point scale during the school year and 4.6 during the summer. They also reported feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and sad because of that stress.
Another APA survey showed that young children also experience anxiety and stress. About one-fifth of kids ages 8 to 17 said they worry a lot, even though only 3% of parents thought their children had extreme stress levels.
When people are stressed, the stress hormone in the body called cortisol increases. This increase in cortisol can lead to feelings of anxiety that can become overwhelming and constant. It can also cause depression, digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, weight gain, heart disease, and even memory loss.
Meditation can help reduce the amount of stress and anxiety children feel. Through meditation, kids learn how to make their bodies relax. This counteracts the effects of the stress hormone and enables them to feel healthier and happier.
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Meditation for Children: How It Works
Meditation can be an effective tool for kids to lower cortisol levels. The practice is starting to catch on. Meditation among children ages 4 to 17 increased significantly in recent years, rising from 0.6% in 2012 to 5.4% in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..
Meditation works by teaching you how to refocus your mind to take attention away from the things that worry you. Regular meditation can help kids learn how to calm themselves down and make them less likely to feel anxiety.
Most meditation practices start with breathing. Closing your eyes and focusing on breathing naturally calms your body. It also teaches kids that they can control their feelings and thoughts.
Encouraging meditation for childhood anxiety is also a good way to teach kids to breathe properly. Many of us take shallow breaths all day long. To breathe properly, your belly should expand outward when you inhale and sink in and down when you exhale. Young children can learn these practices through games that involve counting and using hand motions.
Introducing kids to meditation can help them learn to calm themselves, redirect anxious thoughts, and reduce stress. If you’re concerned about your child’s anxiety, contact the Behavioral Science Division of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh or call 412-692-5325.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.