Stress Relief: Staying Mindful of Mindfulness
October 24, 2018
“This school year has started off awful. It hit me like a truck. The easiest ways I turn to in order to relieve stress are just sleeping and eating. It’s a temporary fix, but sometimes, I just don’t know what else to do,” says Sara Matvey ’20.
”Project after project has piled up. I feel like I have no time to do anything. I’m just constantly under stress,” explains Blen Mulugeta ’20. “I feel like I don’t even have time to figure out how to relieve the stress.”
“Between school and sports, I’m extremely stressed all the time. It’s hard for me to handle it, so I find myself turning to watching The Office. When I truly feel the need to, I talk to my parents and friends about it. Our daily stress is something we all bond over,” Kelley Scott ‘20 states.
Though the school year has just begun, the general consensus is that it can be summed up into one word: stress. From tackling school work, college searches, sports, and extra-curriculars to jobs, a social life, and the various other pressures of being an adolescent in today’s society, the stress is almost palpable. Stress is a constant in all of our lives, yet very little of us know how to handle it in healthy ways, or even where to start. Meditation and mindfulness are words we often hear in our seminars and advisee meetings, but do these stress relief practices really work? I sat down with school guidance counselor, Ms. Gerwin, to talk about mindfulness, healthy ways to manage stress, and the consequential moment of relaxation.
There has been a rise in meditation and mindfulness in our culture today. Why do you think people have turned to these methods?
Ms. Gerwin: Meditation practices are new in a way, but very ancient. Most cultures and practices have some form of quietness and stillness. We are so inundated with information and our busy schedules all the time in a way we’ve never experienced before, so these moments of stillness are more important than ever.
How beneficial are meditation and mindfulness activities?
Ms. Gerwin: They’re enormously beneficial. Lots of studies show that meditation and mindfulness can be just as effective as medicine. Ten minutes of mindfulness for ten days can have positive effects on your energy level and overall well-being.
It’s so easy to turn to unhealthy habits when we’re stressed, from over or under eating to not sleep or over sleeping. How can we work towards moving away from these habits?
Ms. Gerwin: The first step is self compassion. It’s crucial to be gentle with yourself. You can be a mentor or a coach to yourself and gradually replace certain behaviors with other ones. This is not something that’s going to happen overnight. Being good to yourself and surrounding yourself with people who have the same goal of working towards healthy coping mechanisms are two of the most important things that can be done for your mental well-being.
What do you suggest students with such busy schedules do to devote some of their time to relaxation?
Ms. Gerwin: Get outside! The book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv talks about how children are going outside less and less for unstructured time. Spending time away from screens, going outside, and spending intentional time each day doing a little bit of nothing or something unproductive, like reading a book for pleasure or taking a nap, can even make you more productive overall.
There was a recent parent seminar on ways parents could help their kids manage stress. What have you been telling parents on how to support their kids in this way?
Ms. Gerwin: I’ve been talking about the effects of nature and helping kids get outside to reduce stress. Parents should create home environments that are less pressure and deadline focused. Using mindfulness and self compassion is something that parents should model for their kids. They should practice stress reduction in healthy manners if they want their kids to practice them as well.
On Tuesday, October 23, there will be a “brain break” during Magic Time, where students will go to a brief assembly on the benefits of designated time for relaxation, then have twenty minutes of total non-productiveness- free of screens and homework- to color, take a nap, or do whatever they please. There will be more of these “brain breaks” throughout the school year.
“After a week of constantly thinking, it’s nice to slow things down and not think. I am excited about having more of an opportunity to meditate at school. I think it’d be beneficial to all of us,” Sara Matvey ’20 says.
For more information on how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine, visit https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-use-meditation-for-teen-stress-and-anxiety/