Children Coping with Stress

By Yolande Kielstra

ESR: Supercharged and its Superpowers

School is around the corner, are you excited?   Your kids may be… OR… maybe they are not! The school social setting may be looking a little different this year in light of COVID-19; your child’s school may be implementing social distancing protocols which vary across the country from region to region, which could cause your child difficulty and stress with the ‘new’ learning environment. The idea of a ‘normal’ routine could be quite different this year, so how do we help support our children in navigating the new challenges?

American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak advises “Remain sensitive to your children’s moods and behaviour and any changes that take place. Certain children tend to internalize their thoughts and feelings, while others act out their anxieties. If you see visible changes in your child, encourage them to express their concerns so you can clarify and provide appropriate information and reassurance. Your child knowing that you are sensitive to their concerns, willing to discuss them and are available to them both physically and emotionally, goes a long way in decreasing anxieties and negative thinking.”

Let’s take a little trip to the brain to see how our own and our children’s bodies respond to stress.  The stress response can be triggered by mental, emotional, physical, and biochemical factors both externally and internally. The ‘stress’ input is first activated in the hypothalamus, then hormone signals (CRH) are sent to the pituitary which releases hormones signals (ACTH) to the adrenals to release cortisol into the bloodstream, which is called the HPA Axis. The stress information is sent to both the amygdala and frontal cortex (‘thinking’ brain); the response time from the amygdala is faster, which is why we can go into a fight/flight/freeze response and then realize that nothing threatening is happening because the information from the pre-frontal cortex was finally processed and deemed safe. The amygdala filters emotional and mental inputs which can high-jack the HPA axis into responding at higher alert than necessary. Helping the body respond differently to these triggers and respond with the frontal cortex or ‘thinking’ brain allows the event, thought, or emotion to be processed properly.

What can we do?

BioEnergetic Wellness uses a technique called Emotional Stress Release (ESR) points in many of its different disciplines to help respond to stress. These points are on the forehead one inch above the eyes; they can be held lightly several different ways: two fingers from each hand, a thumb and two fingers from the same hand, or even by putting the whole hand across the forehead which is usually a common response when we are stressed (the body is so intelligent!).

Emotional Stress Release points were originally part of Dr. Terrence Bennet’s Neuro-Vascular Point set. In the 1930s, Dr. Terence Bennett found that holding points on the skull had a positive effect on the corresponding organs, this was observed through countless hours recording the body’s reaction to touching the various points and seeing how the body responded through x-ray fluoroscopy. It was discovered that these points sent an electrical pulse to a specific organ which in turn increased circulation and oxygen to the corresponding organs. The ESR points specifically help to bring blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain instead of the brain stem; thereby increasing focus, attention, and restoring calm.

ESR points are also related to the Stomach and Bladder meridians in Touch for Health; common emotions of the Stomach meridian are contentment and harmony and the Bladder meridian are anxiety and fear; this is why it is so common for children to complain of an upset stomach or have no appetite when they are anxious or upset. ESR is helpful even if the child does not know what is bothering them, they can focus on where they are feeling it in their body, which helps build self-awareness. They can rate the feeling or the day’s events on a scale of 1—10; allow them to describe what they are feeling in their body through the five senses: hot or cold, painful (sharp, dull, achy), location in the body, colour(s), what do they hear and/or smell. While holding the ESR points the child can replay the day’s events, while we as parents and caregivers can ask open-ended questions, unearthing any hidden assumptions, asking for both sides of the story, and encouraging any insights. Don’t be afraid of ‘dead air’, ESR works just as well while the brain is processing the thoughts and emotions. There have been many times where I have held my child’s ESR points with tears rolling down her face while she had no idea of what was bothering her.

Ready to supercharge ESR?

Yes, please!! The stressful situation – event, emotion, and/or thought – is tagged and compared to past responses by the brain and coded as a threat or not. We commonly use our visual field to access those memories, this is why we may look up to the right to access a memory or information from the past. We can have an energetic blockage in the visual field from those memories, which we can help release using eye rotations and Lazy Eights (or the infinity sign Ꝏ) while holding the ESR points (we trace an imaginary circle with our eye to both the right and left and/or Lazy Eights).

STEPS for ESR:

  1. Rate the stress/upset or day’s events from 1-10
  2. Hold the forehead points (frontal eminence), 1 inch above the eyes
  3. Discuss the day, bring awareness to where the body is holding the stress, describe it through the 5 senses, use open-ended questions, and problem solve any unresolved conflicts.
  4. Use eye rotations and/or lazy eights (infinite sign Ꝏ) while holding ESR

Want to know the superpowers of ESR?

Since ESR helps bring blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain it helps calm down our fight-flight response as mentioned in the HPA axis, by reducing this response, the body has the ability to stay in and use the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The parasympathetic system allows us to breakdown, process, and use the food and nutrients that we take in, it helps us breathe deeply – oxygenating our cells, heal by cell restoration and regeneration, it lowers cortisol levels which affects the stress response of every organ and cell in our body, and allows for better sleep. The parasympathetic response is integral to healthy gut function which regulates our immune response, hormone production, and neurotransmitter production.

Remember Mamas and Papas that your self-care is just as important as your child’s! The flight attendant always asks you to put on your oxygen mask first in an emergency during a flight before caring for anyone else. Your ability to support your child or children is greatly enhanced by your own self-care, so remember and use the ESR technique for yourself, as you too have been affected by the changes in your workplace, social network, community, and home!

References:

https://www.aaets.org/helping-children-cope-emotionally-with-coronavirus

https://www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/2014/5/31/what-is-the-hpa-axis

http://www.touchforhealtharchive.com/Journals/NEWSLETTERS/TFH0181.pdf (pg.5)

Yolande Kielstra is a single mom of five, BioEnergetic Wellness facilitator, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition facilitator, Wellness Inventory and Breakthrough Life coach, and a CanBeWell board member. She is the owner-operator of Foundational Wellness and a recreational gymnastic coach in Southern Alberta.

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