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3 Fast Stress Relievers for Kids

You know when your kid is stressed: The sleep problems. The hair twirling. The general spaciness. The signs are hard to miss. "It's something we're seeing a lot more of in children -- even young ones -- than we did ten or fifteen years ago," says Paul J. Donahue, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Scarsdale, NY. The reason for all that anxiety? A lot of it, says Donahue, is due to the same stuff that overwhelms us: "Kids can have bad days at school just like we have lousy days at the office. And, like adults, there's a real tendency for children these days to be harried and overscheduled. They're going nonstop, without much time to themselves." You can bring a little bit more happy-go-lucky into your child's life with these simple, research-proven tips.

Blow bubbles. Sure, it's fun! "But in order to blow good bubbles, you have to be patient and use slow, controlled breaths -- otherwise, they'll pop," says Jane Blackwell, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Salt Lake City. "Breathing this way, with long inhales and exhales, has a real physiological effect on the body. It slows heart rate and lowers both blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol."

Get close. Even something as simple as a warm touch (like holding hands or snuggling for a few minutes) has a direct and immediate countereffect on anxiety.

Turn on some tunes. "Some kids really love to escape into music," says Donahue. And there are reams of research about music's miraculous ability to reduce stress, boost feelings of well-being -- and even lessen physical pain. And if your kid likes to dance along, so much the better, says Donahue. "Exercise is a wonderful way for children to get their ya-yas out and decompress."