Take a Cue from Kids: Stress Relief Ideas for Adults - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Take a Cue from Kids: Stress Relief Ideas for Adults

Coloring isn’t just for kids any more.

Take a look at the local book store, your dentists’ waiting room and the grocery checkout lane and you’ll find coloring books featuring mandalas, tropical rain forests, intricate gardens and city scapes. Coloring books for astronaut wannabes, motorcycle enthusiasts, even coloring books for lawyers.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” says Nancy Haarman-Habrel, LCSW, LMFT, a clinical therapist with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Union Grove. “Coloring is such fun and allows adults to express their creativity. But I think the reason behind the explosion in adult coloring books is because coloring can induce a calming, almost meditative state. It’s a great stress buster.”

Play Nourishes Our Bodies & Brains

Acting like a kid isn’t just good for the soul. Play also nourishes our bodies, our brains and even our relationships. But most adults are so busy juggling work and family commitments, we don’t make time for play. In fact, Haarman-Habrel notes, we don’t believe we should play.

“Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we accept this societal message that grownups should not be playful. Adults must be serious,” she says. “That is an incredible disservice to human beings. We lose that ability to have fun and enjoy life with a simple, child-like joy.”

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Research reveals that play is essential for children. Play helps develop motor skills and physical strength. It fosters intellectual, emotional and social development. Through play, children exercise imagination and creativity. They learn to cope with their feelings. And they just blow off excess energy.

“Play is how we are designed to learn and we are all life-long learners,” Haarman-Habrel says. “Adults reap the same benefits from play as children.”

Haarman-Habrel points to tech companies that are famous for their culture of playfulness amidst demanding work and long hours. These companies know that employees who have fun together are more productive, innovative and adaptive. Teams bond more closely and they are more creative problem solvers.

Laughter is Potent Medicine

  • Play helps alleviate the stress and anxiety that often accompany adult responsibilities, Haarman-Habrel notes. In turn, we reduce our risk for stress-related disorders, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.
  • Play also stimulates brain function and helps reduce memory loss – especially important as we age.
  • Having fun is also the grease that keeps relationships lively and durable. When you have fun together, you build resilience to get you through the inevitable rough spots in a relationship.

Tips for Adding More Fun to Your Life

It’s never too late to inject more fun into your life. Haarman-Habrel shares this advice:

  • Start small and simple. Forget about perfection. Give yourself permission to play. Leave the censor behind.
  • Make a playdate with yourself. Set aside regular time in your schedule for purely pleasurable activities.
  • Turn off the TV, computer and mobile devices and do something outside your normal routine.
  • Be flexible and patient with yourself. Try something new. If you don’t like it, try something else.
  • Take up a new hobby or renew one you enjoyed in the past. Pick up the guitar, take up woodworking, learn how to paint. Check your library, craft stores, sports outfitter, garden center and building supply stores for free classes.
  • Engage with kids in their activities instead of just supervising them. Zip down the slide, fly a kite and engage neighborhood families in a game of kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  • Find activities that foster social connections. Find a walking buddy, enroll in cooking classes, join a hiking or biking group or start a weekly card night.
  • Be a role model for your children. Teach them that playfulness is as essential as air and water no matter what your age.
  • Look at the world with childlike wonder.

If you’re struggling with stress, depression or anxiety and these tips don’t help, it’s important to reach out for help. Learn more about our Mental Health & Addiction Care experts and programs.

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Take a Cue from Kids: Stress Relief Ideas for Adults