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Stress Less: Eat, Play, Sleep

Eat healthy foods. Be active every day. Get the right amount of sleep. These 3 daily habits are good for your health — and they’re good for your mental health too. 

They help you be in a happier mood. And they help you cope better with stress.

When you give your body good food, a good workout, and good sleep every day, you’ll feel alert, rested, strong, and full of energy.

These 3 habits work best together. Here’s how to make them part of your day:


Eating right helps you feel awake, in a better mood, and ready to learn at school. When you can, choose a fruit or a veggie as a snack and at meals. 

How to enjoy this habit:

List your favorites. Think about the fruits and veggies you like. If you want, write a list. Can you name a fruit or veggie for every color in the rainbow? Ask your parent to have some of your favorites for you to eat. 

Mix it up. What are the different ways you enjoy your favorites? Cooked, raw? Sliced, whole, peeled? As a hummus dipper? In a wrap? As a pizza topping? In a salad? In a sandwich? As a side? Alone or with something else? Add this to your list. 

Try something new. Try an old favorite in a new way. Invent a recipe. When you can, try new fruits or veggies you’ve never tasted. You might discover a new favorite!

Savor the flavor (“Mmmmmm!”). When you’re eating, take your time. Enjoy how each food looks, smells, feels, and tastes. Notice the shape and color. Is the skin smooth or bumpy? Do you have to peel it? Does it have skin you can eat? Does it crunch or squish? Is it juicy, chewy, or soft? What does it feel like in your hand? In your mouth? In your tummy (yummy!).


Being active helps you use the energy you get from the good foods you eat. When you are active during the day, your body will be ready to rest when it’s time to sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of active play or exercise every day. Do quiet play or slow yoga before bedtime to help you wind down and get ready for sleep.

How to enjoy this habit:

Feel yourself smile. When you exercise, run fast, or play hard, your brain releases hormones that make you feel happy. Sometimes, you can’t help but smile! You might feel like jumping for joy. Has this ever happened to you?

Know that your body (and brain) are loving it. When you play and exercise, you build strong muscles and bones. All your organs get fresh oxygen — this includes your brain. Being active helps you be more alert and focused in class. Do you notice this?

Have fun. Do what you like to do. Play a sport, play a game, play tag, run around, dance, jump rope, climb, or ride a bike or a board. Throw or kick a ball, skate, tumble. Laugh and have fun. Play alone or play with others. Play with friends, siblings, your dog, or your parent. Playing is a chance to bond and make friends. What’s your favorite thing to play?

Play quietly to relax. Do quiet play or slow yoga before bedtime to help you wind down for sleep. Quiet play is a chance to relax and feel calm. Do quiet activities you enjoy. Read, draw, play a game, listen to soothing music, snuggle with a pet or a parent. This gets you ready for a good night’s sleep. What are your favorite ways to play quietly before sleep?


Sleep is the time for you to rest. If you were active during the day and played quietly to wind down, your body and mind are ready for sleep. Be sure to get the right amount. Most kids need between 9–12 hours of sleep each night.   

How to enjoy this habit:

Have a bedtime and stick with it. To figure out the right bedtime for you, start with your wake-up time. Then count backwards about 10 or 11 hours. Ask a parent to help you do the math.

Here’s an example: Let's say you need to wake up at 7 a.m. If you go to sleep at 8 p.m., that’s 11 hours of sleep. If you go to sleep at 9 p.m., that’s 10 hours. If you go to sleep at 10 p.m., that’s only 9 hours. What’s the best bedtime for you? Leave time for quiet play before bedtime.

Give your body and brain time to refresh. While you sleep, your body does things to help your muscles, bones, organs, and immune system stay strong and healthy. Your brain is busy too. It sorts through things you learned and thought about today. It organizes and stores your new learnings and memories.

If there’s something on your mind, your brain tries to come up with ways to solve problems while you sleep. That might explain why some people say things seem easier to deal with after a good night’s sleep. Have you ever heard that?

If you don’t get enough sleep, you might wake up feeling grumpy, moody, tired, or sad. During the day, you might get upset easily, feel hyper, feel stressed over small things, or have trouble paying attention. Does this ever happen to you?

Try mindful breathing at bedtime to get restful sleep. Try it like this: Find a comfy spot and snuggle in. Get quiet and still. If you want, put your hand on your belly or on your chest. Take 4 nice, easy breaths, one by one. With each breath, feel your belly move up and down.

If you want, say words in your mind that relax you.For example, as you breathe in, you could say to yourself, “peaceful” or “calm,” “cozy,” “snuggle,” or “feel the love.” Take 4 more breaths. Count the breaths on your fingers if you want. What’s a word or phrase you might like to use to feel relaxed and ready for restful sleep?

Wake up happy. Think of a wake-up word or phrase that can help you get the day off to a good start. You could write it on a sticky note where you see it when you wake up. It’s a little note to yourself. Maybe it says, “Good morning, sunshine!” Or “Hey, wake up sleepy head!” Or “I’m ready to make it a great day.”

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date Reviewed: Mar 23, 2023

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