Growing Courageous Kids

(& Parents!)

The Stretching Zone: Limbering up for Change

on December 5, 2008

How important is it to help our children learn skills to manage change in their lives?

What signs do you see in your own children, or those you work with, that illustrate their systems are overtaxed and needing relief?

Some people don’t stretch when they work out. I’m not sure why this would be a habit, because our muscles need stretched, or lengthened. Especially with all the sitting we do at work and the time spent on the computer! This type of lengthening helps the body in many ways, and it needs to be done right. If you don’t ease your muscles into it, deepening the stretch with slow breaths you run the chance of hurting yourself.

It is the same with change. We don’t have complete (or any?) control of life so at times change pounces on us with claws bared. This can hurt, especially if we haven’t built up our inner resiliency, and our outer support systems. (We will discuss those issues later on) What we are going to explore in this article is change that is a choice–Change for growth.

Watch for the Signs:

When I start having very active and blood-pressure raising dreams at night, I know I am in the stretching zone. I wake up irritable and stressed from my crazy dreams wanting to avoid most challenging inter-personal interactions for that day. In other words: I want to burrow, avoid, ignore. Can you think of when similar feelings are triggered in your life? What do you do to cope with them and move beyond the desire to escape? (Take a moment to consider your coping mechanisms. I suggest writing them down!)

Because I truly do not want to be enslaved to these paralyzing feelings I allow myself some space and time to identify the underlying fear that instigates the yuckiness. We can’t facilitate change in ourselves if we don’t take time to stop and listen, to breathe and notice. Instead, we just keep running frantically on the hamster wheel, getting more and more fatigued and uptight (think tight m

Here’s a typical example:

First, I think I will stay in bed all day! Once I acknowledge that my appointments won’t allow for that, I go to plan B:

DRAG myself somewhere else.

I change my environment for a fresh perspective.

In this example, I mentally “moved” by reading thought provoking writing. This distracted and broke my train of thought wanting to sink me into oblivion. Then, I physically moved. I went to the gym, sweated A LOT, while listening to a CD of a call about people acknowledging their fears in moving forward in a new endeavor. This allowed me to remember I’m not alone. This is very common. Other people struggle just as I do! During my cardio I let my mind roam to search for my current fear so it wouldn’t be able to hide in the dark caverns of my dreams anymore. Once it surfaced, I prayed a little while I stretched my body. It was then that I remembered I am in the stretching zone.

Why am I in the stretching zone? Constantly, I throw change and challenge in my path to reach my vision. Sometimes, I am brave and remember to breathe deeply. Other times I panic and start to flounder. My survival reflexes kick in and I can’t think straight–literally, our bodies tighten up. (For more on this see “tendon guard reflex” references on Many times our kids don’t have the luxury of choosing change and challenge; rather, it is foisted on them by adults. Imagine, or remember if you can, the kind of threat that can be to maintaining a calm homeostasis!

Be Gentle:

The stretching zone is a place that needs gentle consistency. I can’t forget where I am just because my courage quotient is high for a particular week!

I need consistent action.

Eventually, I slip and fear gets a grip again. It is a constant struggle between pushing through the fear onto a new level, finding a new equilibrium, feeling balanced and courageous, to then repeating the process all over again. This is the stretching zone. It is a place for growth and change, at times exhilarating at others paralyzing or mystifying.

Keep that in mind when dealing with your kids. What seems like a small deal to us, can be a huge challenge to them and they haven’t yet developed the skills, resources or coping strategies to make change a smoother transition. Be gentle with your kids, too.


We need to remember where we ARE (The Stretching Zone) and where we are GOING (our big vision/dream), so we stay on path.

  • Be gentle and deepen the stretch slowly with each deep exhalation.
  • Be consistent so that your muscles get used to lengthening and begin to crave it.
  • Be aware so that you can release the fear and have a limber life, fluid as you live out your dream.

RX while in stretching zone

1. Notice & Acknowledge

2. Change environment

3. Change perspective

4. Distract

5. MOVE!!!!

6. Encourage new perspective

7. Anchor: Pray/meditate

Think About It:  What are some creative ways you help your kids work through the stretching zone? Share you ideas in the comments section!

copyright Michelle Hess 2009


Dave Saunders comments on stress and PNS:

As you may know the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are always functioning. Sometimes the activity of one is more pronounced than the other and other times vice versa. Sympathetic nervous system function is more pronounced, and cortisol levels increase, when a person experiences a survival response to a stimulus. Most people experience survival responses to situations such as accidents, attack, loss of balance and falling, etc. It is believed by some that a person can develop a survival response reaction to activities or situations that others might not consider threatening because of association of trauma, real or perceived, by that person with that situation or activity.

I started out to write that part of the intention of the Lengthening Activities and of the Energy Exercises, three of the Energy Exercises are in PACE, sipping water, Brain Buttons, and Hook-ups, is for them to be relaxation activities helping the person doing them to move out of survival reaction thus theoretically increasing parasympathetic nervous system response and reducing cortisol levels. After writing the first paragraph of this response, and having some experience with the elderly and persons experiencing movement challenges, I realize how important sense of balance can also be to relaxing survival response and enhancing parasympathetic nervous system activity. If some of the Midline Movements from the Brain Gym activities, such as Cross Crawl which is in PACE, help a person with this then they could be helpful also.

A great Resource available on Brain Gym site:

Smart-Moves2Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford Revised

Smart Moves is a popular, readable book which explores the nature of intelligence and how the body/mind processes sensation, emotion, and thought. It emphasizes the power of Brain Gym to enhance learning for everyone, and the role of movement in reducing stress.

Item #56278……………..$16.95


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: