During the last year anxiety and depression, levels have reached an all-time high for teenagers. Now one in three teenagers deals with anxiety. This significant figure is due to the Covid-19 lockdown that has caused schools to close, social interaction to stop, and days to become unstructured. Schools and counselors around the country have been dealing with this issue all year; trying to find ways to ensure students’ mental health is okay while also adhering to the CDC regulations has been tough. After talking with my own school counselor about mental health precautions our school is taking, it was made clear to me all the zoom programming the school was created to foster some sort of connection. The school has had info sessions for parents to help their children, school sports have become available, and the counselor is always available to talk to students. While these all help students who are at higher risk stay engaged and connected to the community, there is still a lot of stress each high school student is facing right now between getting homework done, and trying not to get the virus. I think high school students would benefit from a self-guided meditation practice that could be done anonymously but would help give students time to be mindful, grateful, and relax. Studies have shown that meditational breathing is a great way to reduce stress and center our minds on our senses as opposed to our thoughts. This practice of mindfulness is linked to having greater overall wellbeing, body awareness, and emotional awareness which builds resilience overall.
What We Know About Teen Anxiety:
Anxiety levels among teenagers have been skyrocketing within the last few to a point of concern for many doctors and psychologists. Studies have shown that in the year 2000 28% of students dealt with anxiety, however that figure rose to 41% of teens in 2016. In a study done this year, parents were asked if they had noticed their teen’s mental health worsen during the pandemic, 46% responded yes. Anxiety rates have risen because teens feel a greater pressure to become overly involved in school, social life, and extracurricular. Social media has also increased stress because it means people can continue to be in contact with you after school- wethers it’s bullying or seeing the perfect aspects of other people’s lives. The pandemic has caused forced isolation, no school schedule, and no activities, which is dangerous for teens who are at high risk.
My solution for maintaining the mental health of teens, and helping them destress is mindfulness practices. This will give them a space to work through their stress and learn how to deal with it in other situations. There is a lot of research that suggests mindfulness meditation practices are both relaxing and build mental resilience. Mindfulness practices give people a space to slow down, be present in the moment, and confront any emotions that come up. This gives participants a space to deal with any negative emotions in a guided way that gives them the tools to destress or work through the emotion. The techniques that participants learn in mindfulness practices can then be applied when negative emotions come up in other areas of life, building overall emotional resilience.
Self Guided Meditation:
- Perform this practice outside if possible
- Research shows that people who spend more time in nature have decreased depression and increased nervous system function. The fresh air is also very relaxing.
- Start off by gaining control of your breath by breathing in four counts, holding it for four counts, and breathing out for four counts.
- Body scan: focus on one part of the body at a time, starting with the head and moving down to your toes. Notice if you hold any tension in that area, why might that be, try to release the tension, do you feel a difference?
- Strong emotions tend to affect our bodies physically like a knotted stomach or difficulty breathing. This practice increases body awareness by noticing where we hold tension and what emotion is causing it.
Future Goals For Decreasing Anxiety in Teens:
Practicing mindfulness has great physiological and mental benefits that help us learn how to manage stress and other negative emotions. This practice is crucial for teens right now that are struggling with increased stress and an inability to deal with it. I think a positive next step is to have schools integrate mindfulness practice into the school day. The practice could be first thing in the morning and last for only about 5 minutes, but I think this would be a great way for students to start their school day. There is always a lot of stress going into school, so having this practice before classes start would be a good way to center students’ minds, destress, and prepare for learning.
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Thank you for reading about my project! I hope this inspires you to practice mindfulness in the future. I would love to hear your thoughts and constructive feedback about my project!