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About The Author

Grandmaster Michael Bogdanski, 8th Dan, is Chief Instructor at Quest Martial Arts in Putnam, Connecticut. He has been training over 50 years and is also an expert on child development with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in School Counseling.

De-stress your kids (and yourself)

If you haven't felt any stress during this pandemic then you must be superhuman. This time in our lives will be recorded as one of the most emotionally draining ever. The shift of our culture, the change in our daily routines, and social isolation all contribute to the stress families are feeling. We may not be able to totally remove stress but we surely can take steps to reduce it. Here are a few suggestions.

Step 1 - Healthy eating. Your body is your temple. You have all heard this mantra about food. Imagine you owned a million-dollar racehorse. You probably wouldn't feed it candy and cookies all day. Fruit and vegetables are definitely the prescriptions for fueling the body for energy and clarity. Prime your body for good health and immunity from disease by eating fresh fruits and veggies.

Step 2 - Exercise. Your kids don't need the Marine Corp workout but they need to move. Climbing trees, throwing a ball, walking through the woods are all great spring activities. Since we are closed at our martial arts school we have been doing classes on zoom. Parents are quite happy their kids have this regular routine of exercise and healthy interaction.

Step 3 - Reduce electronics. Being social creatures we have turned more to Facebook and Instagram to get our social fix and see what is going on in the world. It's natural to keep up with your friends and relatives but please don't overdo it. If you or your kids spend too much time on Facebook there is a tool built into the app that can help you limit your time. Go to the settings page on either app and select either "Your Time on Facebook" or "Your Activity on Instagram". At the top is a dashboard showing average time spent on the app you are using. Underneath is the option to set up a daily reminder that will send an alert when you have reached the time limit you have allowed yourself.

Step 4 - Talk about it. In these circumstances, kids can easily pick up on the climate of fear through the media or conversations in your household. Information is knowledge and it is best to talk about the pandemic in age-appropriate language to reassure your children they are staying safe. In our martial arts program, we teach students how to deal with stress in a self-defense confrontation. The first step is to address fear. We use the acronym F.E.A.R. - false expectations appearing real. Kids need to realize that their life is mostly not at risk.

Step 5 - Take a breath. When we get anxious we change the way we breathe. Quest martial arts classes begin and end with an exercise that teaches us to focus, maintain inner calm and develop mental clarity by taking slow deep breaths. The breathing is done by breathing slowly in through our nose and out through our mouth. Breathing techniques and methods are directly related to reducing or increasing stress.

Step 6 - Sleep. A tired child is easily frustrated by simple, daily tasks. Here is a basic rule of thumb: 6 to 12-year-olds need 9 to 12 hours/day and 13 to 18-year-olds need 8 to 10 hours/day. Dear parents, you know how irritable you can be if you are sleep deprived. Adults that are sleep deprived exhibit the same symptoms as people that have had several alcoholic drinks.

Step 7 - Sharpen the saw. This is a concept from the book, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. Two people are chopping wood. One worker takes a break every hour while the other works furiously at the task. At the end of the day, the person who took the break had a substantially greater pile. The worker who had less wood asked his friend, "How in the world did you end up with more wood cut than me?" he asked curiously. His friend responded, "You didn't notice that every time I stopped to rest I sharpened my saw."Take a break and just do something that makes you happy"!

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