alleviate stress

Preparing for Summer: Youth-Friendly Activities

By: Danielle White, Executive Administrative Assistant, National Safe Place Network

As the school year draws to a close, it’s time to find opportunities for keeping youth engaged during the summer months. As we all know, relaxation can be fun, but it’s only a matter of time before boredom kicks in. Chase away the mid-summer boredom blues with some of the activities listed below and be sure to let us know how much fun you have!

Make your own ice cream: Beat the heat with homemade ice cream—no fancy machines required! Find out how here: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/cooking-activities-recipes/make-your-own-ice-cream

Create a variety of flavors in under 30 minutes and then add toppings for homemade sundaes. If that sounds like too much exertion in the heat of summer, try popsicles instead (http://www.myrecipes.com/kids/healthy-kids/homemade-popsicles).

Explore local activities: Find community partners to sponsor zoo or museum trips or get tickets to the local fair. Check out your community’s free festivals and other summer activities (but be sure to provide adequate supervision)!

Grill out: Who doesn’t love a cookout?! The possibilities are endless—burgers, hot dogs, brats, grilled veggies, and more! Don’t forget the ice cream and s’mores for dessert! Bonus points if you have a campfire and live music.

Competitions: Bring out the competitive side of your young people. Field days, mini Olympics, basketball/volleyball/badminton games, Top Chef style competitions, and more will keep the youth in your program active and engaged. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone!

Arts & crafts: Tie-dye, chalk, paper mache, balloon animals, painting, drawing, and so much more! There are crafts for every interest and skill level. Give your group a theme or just let them do their own thing. More ideas here: http://www.babble.com/home/10-awesome-summer-craft-projects-for-kids-teens/.

Fireworks: Fireworks are an iconic summer activity. Grab some discounted fireworks for the Fourth of July and go to town! Just be sure to discuss firework safety before the fun begins (http://www.fireworkssafety.org/safety-tips/).

Game night: Game night is fun for everyone. Board games, card games, video games, and more make for an easy and entertaining night! Snacks are a must.

Learning is fun: Help fight summer brain drain by engaging in educational activities. There are plenty of science experiments that can be done with household objects (http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/HomeExpts/HOMEEXPTS.HTML). Games like Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit, and others will teach new information in a fun environment. If your community has a zoo or other animal-related activities, those can be great learning events. Be creative and remember that learning is fun!

Book club: Keep young minds active during the summer months with a book club. Not everyone wants to spend their time off reading, so keep it fun with movie tie-ins like the Divergent or Hunger Games series or The Fault in Our Stars. There are plenty of movie adaptations being made all the time, so take advantage of them and watch the movies as part of the discussion.

Movie night: Get tickets to a movie theater or a drive in. If those aren’t an option, host your own! Bonus points for using a projector and having an outdoor movie night. Don’t forget the snacks!

Cook together: Choose a theme for the week and learn how to make different parts of the meal each night. At the end of the week, have a feast! For Mexican week, each night could be homemade tortillas, tacos or taco salad, enchiladas, nachos, homemade salsa and guacamole, and dessert. Make each part of the meal on a different night and watch it come together!

Garden: Plant flowers and/or vegetables. Let youth have a say in what is planted and encourage them to tend to the garden regularly. If you grow vegetables, be sure to use them in the kitchen.

Go swimming: Find a local pool to donate swim time and lifeguards for a pool party. Be sure to bring snacks, drinks, sunscreen, and good music. Water parks with diving boards, slides, and wave pools kick the party up a notch! This is also a good time to go over basic water safety (http://www2.redcross.org/services/hss/tips/healthtips/safetywater.html#general).

Whatever you do to beat the heat, have fun, stay safe, and let us know how it turns out! We love to hear about all the fun that NSPN agencies have.

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Alleviating Stress

By: Lindsey Collier, MSSW Student Intern with RHYTTAC

Quiz time!

I know you are probably thinking, “What can one more quiz tell me about myself? Haven’t I already learned everything I could possibly need to know about myself from Facebook?” I’m confident you already know what breed of dog you are, what your Smurf name is, and what your spirit animal is…but indulge me and take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you ever feel like your plate is so full you just can’t possibly take on one more task, answer one more phone call or email, or deal with one more crisis?
  2. Have you lost sleep, changed your eating habits, or noticed a difference in your interactions with colleagues, family, or friends? Have they noticed a difference in you?
  3. Is your hair falling out?
  4. Are you always tired and maybe even a little irritable?
  5. Can a vegetarian eat an animal cracker?

Just kidding about the last question…however, it is an important question to ponder.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be stressed. I have never met you, but I would venture to guess that if you are reading this, you will answer yes to at least some of these questions at some point in your life. As with much of life, the real questions is how you respond.

So, what do you do? First, you should figure out just how stressed you are. There are many different types of stress. The two most common forms you will encounter are acute stress and chronic stress. For more information on other types, like burnout, vicarious traumatization, and toxic stress (hint: toxic stress isn’t something adults experience), please click the following link where you will find tip sheets with more detailed information on stress in its various forms: http://www.rhyttac.net/resources/search?field_resource_type_tid=All&field_tags_tid=&title=stress.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress – How do you know what you are dealing with?

Acute stress is a brief stress response that doesn’t persist over time. For example, your heart rate and respiration increases in response to an impending car accident. Chronic stress is a longer-term stress response that can become so ingrained that a person may not realize their symptoms are related to a stress response. For example, a person loses interest in social activities and exhibits depressive symptoms as a result of their work as an elementary school teacher in a severely under resourced inner-city school where nearly all children are living in poverty and many have witnessed community, gang-related violence.

Basically, if you feel like you are living Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for a day or two, then you are probably dealing with acute stress. On the other hand, if you feel like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad describes your entire life and has for the last several weeks, months, or years, then you are probably dealing with chronic stress.

Now that you know what kind of stress you are dealing with, what do you do about it?

Acute stress will typically resolve on its own once the stressful experience is over and your mind and body have a chance to return to baseline.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, may require action to mitigate. It could be as simple as taking a few days off work to recharge, or as drastic as making a job or career change. Perhaps you have taken on too many responsibilities and need to prioritize what matters most. Depending on the nature of the original stressor, some type of therapy may be in order. The bottom line is that chronic stress is, by definition, chronic and will not go away without some action on your part.

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, do yourself a favor and do one thing this month to alleviate at least some of the stress in your life. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, reconnect with a friend over coffee or dinner, take a weekend getaway, try making sleep a priority. Treat yourself to some quality time with your significant other…or, if you are like me and don’t have a significant other, some quality time with a good book. I can also highly recommend changing your phone wallpaper or computer background to pictures of cute puppies. You can’t not smile if you are looking at cute puppies! If your stress level is chronic, have courage to make significant changes in your job or career. Consult trusted family and friends and seek professional counseling, if necessary.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to sign up for NSPN Communications at: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_173370%20.