Just Breathe -- It's the Best Stress Reducer

That’s right, take a moment and breathe. Because we’re going to talk about stress. And stress, well, it really stresses you out. You may get sweaty. Your saliva will dry up. Your heart rate will rocket and so will your blood pressure.

You see stress is really your body’s reaction to fear and apprehension. Anxiety, fear and apprehension are normal. But overdoing the worry throws the nervous system out of balance. It is bad for your mental and physical health.

Rita Schiano, a resilience strategist and coach, sponsored by the Falmouth Academy Peer Ambassadors and Parents Association, led two assemblies in March, one for our students and one for their parents.

She surveyed the kids on their biggest stress and was interested to see that it matched the results of the American Psychological Association’s sampling of thousands of tweens and teens. Family finances are the highest stressor for kids. Time management and attaining perceived expectations easily come in second and third.

“There are a lot of experiences out there that trigger stress in our children,” she said. “Our job as parents is to help them recognize and deal with them confidently, to help them manage strong emotional reactions, to teach them to be resilient.”

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back, have a good attitude, be a good communicator. Because the way we think about things affects how we feel, it’s better to start from a place of positivity. If there is a bedrock of negativity and self-doubt, dealing with challenges and crises is much harder.

“Kids get caught up in if I fail, I’m wrong and not worthy,” said Ms. Schiano. “The best thing you can encourage is to strive for excellence and not perfection. Perfection is an ideal we can’t reach. Excellence is the bar to strive for.”

Everybody fails. Consider learning to walk and read. Even Wheaties was a major fail. It took 36 attempts to make Wheaties right – and that’s after the cereal was invented due to a mistake in another experiment.

“Fear of failure can paralyze us, but kids need to learn to take careful, thoughtful risks. If there is failure it’s important for parents to help their children guide the emotional response. Courage is the cornerstone of character.”

Schiano advises parents to consider a series of questions devised to encourage their children to think differently about bad situations.

            What is the effect of the situation?

            How can I control my negative thoughts?

            What can I do differently?

            How can I change this?

According to Schiano, the reason there is more stress today is due to technology. Everything these days is so immediate and people expect instantaneous responses. In this me-centric world, it seems as if everything needs to be posted everywhere, and if you don’t get a million likes, then you’re worthless.

Wrong! Two of the most important gifts parents can share are how to build a moral compass and how to laugh at yourself. The key is to breathe. There is a difference between reaction and response. You can control your response. Give yourself space to lose the emotion and respond more thoughtfully.


Take Rita Schiano’s resiliency test here.

See her guide on recognizing strength and building resiliency.