Strategies for dealing with mental health issues in the classroom: Part 2

In my previous blog, I discussed the effects of anxiety on our students. We know that stress affects the brain. In the article, 
Effect of Stress on the Brain , the writers suggest,
 “Stress is rooted in basic survival instincts known as the "fight or flight" response, which triggers chemicals in the brain and body designed to help us manage a threatening situation.”
This “fight or flight” response occurs in the Brain Stem. When RONNO and I design our songs, we purposefully create movements to stimulate the Brain Stem, including providing lengthening activities or physical movements to lengthen the muscles and allow the Tendon Guard reflex in the Brain Stem to relax.
For example, in the Do the Dragon song/routine on our Catch a Brain Wave Fitness Fun album, the children participating pretend to be the dragons in the song. They “reach up on those dragon toes and down on those dragon heels.” The reason for these actions is to lengthen the calf muscle that sends messages to the Tendon Guard Reflex to relax when it is stretched.
The article goes on to mention “It is possible to reduce stress and improve brain health with 20 minutes of relaxation a day.”
For all of our albums, we have designed songs with the purpose of relaxation in mind.

For example, in Catch a Brain Wave  (the “The Dolphin Promise” and “I Can Care” songs) and Smart Fitness, Smart Foods (the “Really Good Day” and “Happy To Be Me” songs), we created music-based cool-down routines that have specific Brain Gym® movements incorporated to calm down the brain, reduce cortisol production, increase endorphin activity and reduce stress.
On our Wiggle Jiggle Fitness Fun album, the song “Move to the Zanzibar Zoo” provides a wonderful way for young children to feel relaxed, with the gently flowing music and easy-to-follow, sequentially designed developmental movement patterns employed.  
The instrumental track of “Move to the Zanzibar Zoo” is recorded at 60 BPM. Research strongly suggests that listening to music featuring a tempo of 60 beats per minute produces activity in both hemispheres of the brain. It helps stimulate the limbic system and support positive emotional experiences during learning (Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect, Harper Collins, 1977).

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) states:
“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”

“Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.”

We all know that exercise is considered critical for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Look at the images provided my Dr. Chuck Hilman of the University of Illinois, showing the activity of the brain after walking for 20 minutes..
If we want our kids to experience less stress, we need to get them moving!

The Active Healthy Kids Canadian Report 2012 – 2013, indicates that 93% of 5-11 year olds and 96% of 12-17 year olds in Canada fail to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily, moderate to vigorous physical activity. 

As an elementary teacher, I wasn’t sure how I would fit Brain Gym® and Quality Daily Physical Activity (QDPA) into my program and still get all the other requirements covered. It was then that I decided to combine QDPA and my knowledge of the brain into workouts for children, resulting in the creation of our Catch a Brain Wave Fitness Fun and Smart Fitness, Smart Foods resources. 
“Schools are recognized as places where active lifestyles can best be promoted to school-aged children due to time spent at school.”
(Belanger et al., 2009; Cooper, Page, Foster, & Qahwaji, 2003; Dale, Corbin, & Dale, 2000; Leatherdale & Rynard, 2013; Mallam, Metcalf, Kirkby, Voss, & Wilkin, 2003). 

How better to get kids moving than using fun songs that they WANT to move to! Remember . . .
Stress cannot stick to a moving target!
Until next time,
Liz J-T

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    Featuring "brain-based" physical fitness resources used by the NYC Departments of Education and Health as a part of their cutting-edge Move-to-Improve program.



    10 Best Active Products
    (Institute for Childhood Resources/Dr. Toy)
    100 Best Children's Products
    (Stevanne Auerback, PhD./Dr.Toy)
    Directors' Choice Award
    (Early Childhood News) 


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