Kids and teens today are moving too fast, and their busy-ness and constant distractions with technologies leaves them feeling disconnected, restless, and stressed. I coach girls in my retreats, camps, and school programs to learn how to slow down, get quiet, and go inward. This is crucial in order for girls to figure out who they are and what they really need.
The following are ways that girls can get calm and work on their 'inner resumes'.
1. Breath work: When you can focus all of your attention on your breathing, everything else gets pushed aside and you are in your body and in this moment. I have girls count to five as they breathe in, hold the breath a few seconds, and then slowly breathe out as they count backwards to zero.
2. Focus on your senses: On my retreats, I'll have the girls go outside, close their eyes, and then sit quietly for 10 minutes and just take in all the sounds around them. Or I'll have them stare for minutes at a time at some aspect of nature: laying down and looking up at clouds, tree branches against the sky, flowers, or stars at night. Focusing on one sense like this is a powerful way of being mindful and in the moment, which is very calming.
3. Writing: This is one of my favorite habits for girls to adopt. This can look like journaling your feelings and thoughts, writing short stories or poetry, or writing songs. It's a great way to quiet yourself and check in with your emotions and thinking, as well as a healthy way to express your innermost feelings and desires.
4. Art: Some girls sketch, paint, doodle, or sculpt in order to slow themselves down. We have often done mandalas at camp, which is drawing inside a circle as a way to tap into your self-conscious. I know girls who make friendship bracelets, knit, and jewelry for friends with rubber bands. Again, it's a valuable way to shut out the world and go inward.
5. Music: Listening to music or playing an instrument is quieting. Writing songs and singing also fit under this category. Nature sound tapes are also meditative for many kids.
6. Physical activities: Practices like yoga and tai chi have been used to self-quiet and relax for thousands of years. Having girls do progressive muscle relaxation exercises works as well. Many runners describe getting into a trance or zone when they run distances.
7. Guided imagery: Doing visualization is also a great de-stressor and a means to get focused and calm. At our camps, we will take a long hike through the woods, down to a lake or creek, and stop along the way to quietly observe some aspect of nature. Once back, we will guide the girls to recall the trip, remembering what they saw and heard all along the way. This then becomes a memory they can go back to whenever they want to relax their minds and focus on something positive and calming during the school year.
8. Pets: Sitting down and talking with their pets, real and stuffed, quickly calms many kids and teens. Their dog listens without interrupting them, and their love is unconditional.
9. Nature: Research has shown that time in nature is very grounding, and a good place to get quiet. I encourage girls to find safe spots outdoors where they can go to decompress. This can look like climbing trees, sitting beside a creek or lake or ocean, or walking through the woods. Quiet moments at our camps where we pause to watch a sunset over the lake, or stargaze in a field at night have become popular rituals that our campers love and look forward to each summer they return.
10. Mindfulness: I encourage girls to become more mindful, as in doing one thing at a time with your full, one-pointed attention. Multi-tasking is stressful, but mindfulness is relaxing and centering.
We need to guide kids to balance out the relentless noise and distractions of their everyday lives with times of quiet solitude where they can reflect, soul-search, daydream, and gather themselves. Learning to connect with your inner voice, wisdom, and knowing can only come during periods of peace and quiet.
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Tim Jordan, MD is a leading expert on parenting girls from 2 - 20 years of age. He is a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, international speaker, author, media and school consultant and a regular contributor on GalTime.com.