HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD COPE WITH STRESS AND PSYCHOSOMATIC ILLNESS
Changes in lifestyle and disruptions in the normal routine of people in all age groups can bring about stress. Some of the common causes of a child's stress are:
Recent death of a loved one--parent, grandparent, sibling, friend.
Loss of anything valuable to the child.
Injuries or severe illness.
Parents' divorce or separation.
Recent move to a new home.
Regular conflict between your child and another family member, close friend, or school teacher.
Constant fatigue brought about by inadequate rest, sleep, or recreation.
A certain amount of stress is not always bad. It varies from child to child how much stress one can handle easily. Sometimes, stress can push a child on to greater achievement. But excessive stress can be self-defeating. Too much stress in your child's life can also lead to any of the following disorders:
Mental and emotional upheavals.
Skin eruptions, such as eczema and neurodermatitis.
Digestive system problems, including peptic ulcers, colitis, and irritable colon.
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Endocrine disorders, including overactive thyroid, adrenal- or pituitary-gland overactivity or underactivity, changes in menstrual patterns, impotence and premature ejaculation in males, or orgasmic dysfunction in females.
Lung disorders associated with spasm of the bronchial tubes, such as in asthma.
Pain syndromes, such as chronic or recurrent disabling headaches or back pain.
Many doctors believe that stress has a role in almost any disorder. Practically no one doubts that stress can complicate any illness in your child by preventing normal recovery, prolonging pain, and sustaining disability.
SELF-HELP TIPS FOR COPING
Here are some tips that may help your child reduce stress:
Learn a meditation technique and practice it regularly--daily if possible. There are many methods available. Most of them include "tuning in to" and giving complete attention to a word, sound, sentence, or concept that you silently repeat to yourself. Don't try to banish other thoughts that enter your mind during your period of concen-tration, but don't focus on them enough to stop you from meditating. The purpose of meditation is to empty your mind of all disturbing thoughts for a given period of time to encourage mental relaxation. Mental relaxation, in turn, will help reduce stress.
Take a short period of time away from any stressful situation you encounter during a day. Practice a muscle-tensing and muscle-relaxing technique. Close your eyes. Take a series of deep breaths. Then start with the muscle groups in your face. Consciously tense them and hold the contraction for a few seconds. Then consciously relax them.
Continue through all major muscle groups in the body: neck, shoulders, hands, abdomen, back, and legs. When you become skillful, you can use this technique to produce relaxation quickly any time you need to and in almost any environment.
Adopt an exercise program. If you stay in good physical condition you are less likely to suffer the negative effects of stress, anxiety, or depression.
Avoid taking your problems to bed with you. At the end of the day, spend a few minutes reviewing your entire day's experiences, event by event, as if you're replaying a tape. Release all negative emotions you have harbored (anger, feelings of insecurity, or anxiety). Relish all good energy or emotion (loving thoughts, praise, feeling good about your accomplishments or yourself). Reach a decision about unfinished events, and release mental or muscular tension. Now you're ready for a relaxing and emotionally healing sleep.
We can't separate our children's bodies from their minds or their spirits. Most departures from good health have some connection with these elements.
PSYCHOSOMATIC ILLNESS is a term used to describe an illness in which factors other than physical ones are dominant. They may also play an important part in complications. Such illnesses are real--not imagined, as many people think. The links between mind, spirit, and body may be poorly defined at times, but they are provable by accepted scientific methods.
Although medical researchers are beginning to understand the basic mechanisms, we still have much to learn about pschosomatic illness. One group of researchers believes that mental, emotional or spiritual stress can trigger almost any illness in a child or any person genetically predisposed to that illness. Such illnesses include asthma, cancer, digestive disturbances, heart disease--all these and others are more common in certain families. However, not all members of the same genetic makeup succumb to the same illnesses.
Here are some simple suggestions to help your child improve, prevent, or cope with psychosomatic illness:
Define and resolve all personal conflicts. Define and confront areas of personal conflict in spiritual, emotional, school, occupational, or recreational involvements. If you can't resolve these conflicts alone, seek help from family, friends, or competent counselors.
Be moderate in all your activities.
Seek a balanced life of study, work, intellectual and physical challenges, recreation, friendship and intimacy, reflection, and rest.
Be of good humor whenever possible.
Be a friend to others both inside and outside your family.
Give and receive love.
Keep a positive outlook on life. Considerate, respectful and loving attitudes toward yourself and others are powerful allies.