By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS
Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Counseling Services, NESCA
During this holiday season, life for most people gets a bit more hectic. Many of us feel more stressed, busy, and overwhelmed with everyday life as well as preparing for the holidays. Our children are stressed as well, as they feel our stress. Older students feel the end of semester stress of papers being due and final exams looming.
A client, who is a college student, called me the other day and said, “I am just so stressed and angry, I couldn’t wait ‘til my appointment. I am angry at nothing and everything. I am being hard on myself and others.” I reflected on these feelings, and we discussed that, at this time of year, many people feel more stress and have a “shorter fuse.” I reminded him that being angry at himself for being angry wasn’t the solution/remedy; that just intensifies the feeling. Instead, we talked about normalizing his feelings, remembering to focus on his breath, and have compassion. When we focus on our breath, we shift our attention away from the thoughts and feelings that make us spiral. This client plays video games, so introducing him to stress management apps/games was a “no brainer.” I reminded him to use the app at least once a day for a few minutes, especially during this holiday season. This practice helps him and can help all of us to establish a new habit of stress reduction to help us remember how to focus on our breath and shift our attention.
Since most adults and children are using technology daily, let’s focus on spending some of that screen time for managing our mental health and stress levels. Experiment with free versions of apps and find one that resonates with you or your children, then practice it every day. Make it a part of your daily routine for at least 5 minutes. Pick the time that works for you. It is something that can even be done as a family. We establish routines for reading at night, let’s establish a routine of stress management at night, whether it’s an app or another method. Prioritize the time; it will make all your lives better! This habit and skill development will ultimately help us develop stress management skills and be able to use them when we are stressed. The development of these skills also helps us feel less stressed in general. Instead of feeling stress during the holidays, let’s feel the joy, love, and gratitude that abounds.
Listed below are a sampling of several stress management apps related to mindfulness, emotional recognition and regulation, and anxiety/depression to help you and/or your children manage the stress of the upcoming holiday season. Hopefully one of them will resonate with you and your children so that you all may experience more resilience and peace when stress does happen.
Headspace (Children through Adult) is a mindfulness/meditation app that helps people reconnect with their breath. Headspace for Kids focuses on five areas: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up.
Calm (Children through Adult) is an app that focuses on mindfulness, yoga, guided meditation, breathing programs, improving focus, calming and relaxing music, and more.
Insight Timer (Children through Adult) is an app that includes lessons/classes, talks, music, and more on a variety of topics, such as mindfulness, stress reduction, achieving better sleep, anxiety, yoga, and other areas.
Super Better (Age 13 through Adult) is an app that uses games to build resilience, change mindset, emotional control, mental flexibility, achieve goals – even with challenges – and helps with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and more.
Mindshift CBT (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on anxiety reduction, including worry, perfectionism, social anxiety, panic, phobias, and more.
Breathe2Relax (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on diaphragmatic breathing and stress reduction.
Smiling Mind (Ages 7 through 18) is part of a broader collection of tools/curriculum that focuses on mental health for children and adults (teachers and parent). It focuses on mindfulness, deep breathing, body scan, gratitude, and more.
Positive Penguins (Ages 4 through 11) is an app that helps children understand how their feelings and thoughts are connected and to develop more positive thinking.
Resilient Family, Happy Child (Ages 4 through Adult) is an app that uses simple mindfulness- based movement to support the development of resilience and self-regulation.
Mightier (Ages 6 through 14) is a biofeedback tool that uses a heart sensor to help children understand their emotions and teaches them calming strategies.
HeartMath (Ages PreK through Adult) is a company that has many tools, games, music, curriculum, books, and more that focu on stress reduction. They have biofeedback apps and desktop computer versions for single users, classes, or multiple clients. They all use a heart sensor. Inner Balance is the app it uses within the program.
DreamyKid (Ages 9 through 18) is an app that uses guided visualizations, meditations, and affirmations related to mindfulness.
WellBeyond Meditation for Kids (Ages 4 through 8) is like DreamyKid but is geared towards younger kids with guided meditations, visualizations, and breathing exercises.
Breathe Think Do Sesame (Ages 2 through 5) is an app that helps children learn deep breathing, problem solving, an emotional vocabulary, positive thinking habits, and more through guided meditations, visualizations, stories, breathing exercises, and more.
Mindful Powers for Kids (Ages 5 through 10) Through play, games, stories, and more, kids learn about emotions, mindfulness, positive thinking, body scanning, and more. It uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a guiding principle of its platform.
About the Author
NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.
Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.
To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert clinicians, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant/service in the referral line.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email email@example.com or call 617-658-9800.
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