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Helping Families and Youth Communicate When Stress Gets in the Way

Picture1In advocacy situations, stress and fear can interfere with effective communication. Here are some tips to share with families and youth:

  1. Recognize Stress. Tune into your body: Are you “forgetting” to breathe?
  2. Are your muscles tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your stomach upset? Do you feel dizzy or disoriented?
  3. Take a moment. You can decide to continue a conversation or postpone it.
  4. Come to your senses. One way to relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.  Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose. Try clenching and relaxing muscles. Imagine a soothing image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so find things that calm YOU.
  5. Look for humor. Humor can be a great way to relieve stress, when used appropriately. Lighten the mood by sharing a joke or amusing story. Avoid sarcasm  – it is an angry humor that is likely to set communication back a few steps, not move it forward.
  6. Meet in the middle. Is there a middle ground or starting point on which you can agree? Getting SOME agreement reduces the stress levels for everyone involved and provides a foundation for the next conversation.

Step Away. It might be best to take a quick break and move away from the situation. Take a quick walk, or find a place to close your eyes for a few minutes. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can help.

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