At The Price Group we are seeing a definite rise in the number of students with severe anxiety. May Peach presented at our national IECA conference in the spring on what has changed for middle schoolers in the last decade. One of the major changes is that we load our students up with high school courses, more homework and in general, harder academics. School becomes more about a student’s ability and competitiveness than the student’s academic effort. However, we believe that developmentally, many students in middle school, high school and college need a certain amount of activities that lower stress along with unstructured time during the day. Research shows that students from middle income families are more stressed than lower or higher income families. We believe this is true because these parents tend to over schedule and overload their children with structured activities. Parents keep thinking ahead– what will my student put as extracurricular(s) on his/her college application? At The Price Group, we believe less is more! Letting a child pick only one or two things that she enjoys as activities and spending time in “play” is so important.
Think about when you as a parent are overwhelmed and anxious. Are you able to focus and do your best at those times? What do you do to help reduce anxiety? A student came to see us this week and taught us a breathing technique to reduce stress called 4-7-8: first, release your breath, then breath in for 4, hold for 7, release for 8. Her parents and I all began to practice in the meeting. And we all smiled as we became more relaxed and focused! Anytime we focus on our bodies and our breathing, we tend to release tension in the body.
Jeremy Nunnelley, a therapist with Pacific Quest wilderness program, explains how our students often feel pressure when they try the tactic of avoidance when stressed– which actually causes more stress and creates a very negative cycle of more stress. He says, “Anxiety is an increasingly common problem for adolescents and young adults. The worry and fear associated with anxiety disorders can result in self-doubt, irritability, difficulty focusing, and feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks. In addition to these primary symptoms, other issues can worsen and be made more resistant to treatment through anxious avoidance. An avoidant person never learns that they can tolerate distress and confront their fears. A person’s faulty beliefs about situations are not challenged by new experiences when that person continues to avoid. When students develop more confidence and find themselves capable of facing their fears, anxiety can begin to decrease.” As a society, we all seem to need more quiet time for meditation, yoga, and relaxation. Any way we can help our overly anxious students learn to relax and have rest time is a good thing!