14 Healthy Ways to Relax for Kids

Play a Happy Video in Your Head

Just thinking about something nice can help you deal with stress. When you're calm, your heart slows down and you react better if you get upset. Practice even when you feel fine: Picture someone you love and imagine that person talking to you. Or imagine a place where you feel relaxed. Practice re-playing that "video" in your head. When you get upset -- stop, and play it again.

Bang a Drum!

Playing music can help let out your stress -- whether you're playing the piano, blowing into an oboe, or strumming a guitar. Try banging a drum, which releases stress. If you don't have a musical instrument to play, make a drum out of a wastepaper basket or pot. Grab some big spoons, then keep rhythm with your favorite song.

Breathe Deep, Then Do It Again!

Ever see someone sitting criss-cross-applesauce and saying "OM" over and over? That's meditating, and it can help you relax. You don't have to sit cross-legged to meditate -- just breathe deep. Try this for 10 minutes: Pretend your stomach is a balloon, and slowly fill it up as you breathe. Or pretend you're inhaling a rainbow. Repeat a happy word as you breathe out.

Use Your Arms and Legs

Pretend you're a doll or action figure whose arms and legs can pop off, taking stress with them. That's kind of like "progressive relaxation," where you focus on parts of your body and relax your muscles to get rid of stress. Try it: Start with your left hand and tense it -- then relax it. Do that three times with each hand, each arm, and then each leg. It works great if you can't get to sleep, too.

Laugh It Off

Who doesn't like to LOL? Scientists have shown that laughing can lower stress or even help keep you from getting sick. So figure out a way to start laughing. At lunch with your friends, see who can tell the funniest joke. If you're watching TV, pick a funny show instead of a serious or scary one. Or after dinner, ask your parents to tell funny stories from when they were kids.

Talk To a Friend -- or Your Dog

Talking about stress can make your problems seem smaller. You'd be surprised: Your best friend, your mom, even the bus driver -- they've all probably gone through something like what you're feeling now. If you don't feel like talking to a person, talk to your pet. Scientists have shown that people with pets have less stress. Cats and dogs make great listeners!

Belt Out a Song

When you sing, you breathe deep -- plus the music is fun. Just ask kids in the choir. Scientists in England found that students felt less stress after they joined their school's singing group. But you don't have to join the glee club. Sing along with your favorite song or belt out some tunes in the shower. The shower walls can actually make your voice sound louder and stronger.

Smell Something Good

Scents like lavender, rosemary, and sandalwood don't just smell good -- they can actually lower your body's stress hormones. You can find these scents in lotions and bath products. You may be able to find dried rosemary in your pantry. Or try growing your own rosemary or lavender plant for a natural, stress-busting air freshener.

Take a Break from Video Games

Video games are fun, but they don't help you relax. They make your mind work in ways that are stressful. You shouldn't spend more than two hours a day in front of computers, TVs, or phones. Instead, find something else you like to do: draw, read, play with LEGOs, or take pictures. These kinds of activities help your mind relax, which helps your body feel better, too.

Be a Yoga Cat

Yoga is a fun way to exercise, and it can get rid of stress, too. Some poses look like animals -- like "cat" and "cow." Get on all fours and arch your back like a cat, then down like a cow. Or try "volcano," where you squat, then stand up fast, yelling out something you don't like ("Homework!"). Look for yoga videos or DVDs for kids at your library, or take a class at your community center.

Hang Out Outside

Scientists have shown that being outside is good for your emotions. Even being able to see nature from your window helps. So get outside more. Walk to school, or just walk with your parents a couple of blocks to and from the car. After school, head to the park or playground. Look for cool-looking leaves, skip stones in a pond, or lie back and look for shapes in the clouds.

Dance It Out

Any kind of exercise can help you feel better when you're stressed out. But dancing packs a double boost. You'll be moving, and music can make you feel better, too. If you don't want to take a dance class, find some of your favorite music at home and turn it up. (Make your parents a deal: you'll close the bedroom door.) Then have fun jumping and dancing to work up a sweat.

Think About What Went Right Today

When you're feeling stressed, it's OK to take time to be by yourself. After school, find a quiet spot -- but don't turn on the computer or a game. Just hang out and think about your day. Focus on what went right, no matter how small: Maybe you told a joke and everyone laughed, or you had fun in art class. Make a list of those good things, then look at it again tomorrow and add to it.