As stress invades the minds, physical health, and behavior of students worldwide, they are seeking ways to cope. Meditation is one possible solution, as it can not only relieve stress, but also equip students with a strategy to prevent additional stress in the future.
According to apa.org, today’s teens experience even more stress than adults. Academics, extra curricular activities, standardized test preparation, and college applications weigh heavily on the teenage mind. On a 10 point scale, teens reported feeling a stress level of 5.8, while adults reported feeling a stress level of 5.1, on average.
High levels of stress contribute to the deterioration of healthy habits such as adequate sleep, exercise, and consumption of healthy foods. Stress also contributes to the development of health complications later in life, according to apa.org.
Sources of stress differ depending on the environment of the student. In schools with students from a lower socio-economic status, additional stress may come from a lack of physical safety, and the condition of their home lives. Gangs, drugs, and the absence of parents may also be worries on some students’ minds, according to theatlantic.com.
According to aacap.org, some daily techniques for stress reduction include exercise, sleeping at least 8 hours at night, breaking large tasks into smaller and more manageable mini tasks, and taking breaks from stressful situations. Listening to music, spending time with pets, going for walks, or even talking to a friend are some ways to de-stress.
Few teenagers actually use these stress reducing strategies, according to apa.org. Nearly half of teens in the United States report that they do not do enough to manage their stress. Over one in ten teens report that they never make time for stress management.
According to uhs.berkeley.edu, meditation is another quick, easy, and inexpensive way to manage daily stress. A study conducted by the Journal of American College Health shows that meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, but also supports forgiveness among college students, according to tandfonline.com. The students studied showed more empathy towards each other, likely coinciding with the healing practice of meditation.
Upper School Science Teacher and former yoga instructor Dr. Kristina Gremski realizes the value of both transcendental and mindfulness meditation. In transcendental meditation, which is derived from Hindu traditions, meditators can close their eyes and then simply repeat a mantra over and over again. If their mind starts to wander, they can gently redirect their mind back to the mantra.
Mindfulness meditation comes from the Buddhist tradition and has gained a lot of popularity in the US in recent years. To perform mindfulness meditation, meditators must find a quiet space, cross their legs, sit up straight, place their hands gently on their knees, close their eyes, and listen to their breath. Even when attention wanders, meditators must bring it back to the breath and tension will release, according to mindful.org.
“One can practice meditation by becoming aware and in the moment while doing regular household chores. You can meditate by simply focusing your mind on the task and the present moment,” Dr. Gremski said.
-Christina Weiler, Staff Writer