Do you feel like most of the kids at your school are stressed out?
With mounting academic pressure and increasing competition for college admissions, high schools across the country are starting to take note of their students rising anxiety levels. According to a recent mental health survey, nearly 10 percent of young people ages 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder, yet only 18 percent of those struggling with anxiety are receiving mental health care. To meet the demand for support and resources for struggling students, many schools are bringing in new programs that promote healthy habits, well-being and effective stress management.
More and more schools are thinking outside the box for creative solutions to their students’ overwhelming workloads and 24/7 digital lives.
Here are eight awesome, inspiring ways that teachers and administrators are helping teens unplug and recharge during the school day, from yoga classes to Reiki sessions to “dog therapy.”
In Smithtown, New York, gym class isn’t an occasion for dread: Instead, it’s an opportunity to de-stress. Student William Eng says that his high school offers students four different physical education options: Team or Lifetime Sports, Project Adventure, Personal Fitness and Yoga.
2) Puppy Love
Pets can be a highly effective form of stress relief, and high schools are now catching on to the benefits of canine therapy for overworked students. At Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, Illinois, the school counseling team includes Junie, an 18-month-old Golden Retriever that acts as a “therapy dog” to comfort and soothe the student body.
3) Transcendental Meditation
A 2011 UCLA study found that due to stress, the emotional health levels of students entering their freshman year of college were at the lowest they’ve been in 25 years. Transcendental Meditation — a form of meditation that involves repeated a mantra for 15-20 minutes per day with the eyes closed — has been shown to decrease psychological stress in students, and many high schools are now getting on the TM bandwagon. Schools in San Francisco have experienced significant benefits from introducing a Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program.
4) Nap Time
Need a little boost to make it through your afternoon classes? A short power nap might be a better answer then reaching for a candy bar or that second coffee. Schools like Lakeside High School in Georgia are helping students boost their energy and cognitive functioning by 30-minute study halls and optional nap times.
5) Mindfulness Training
U.S. Congressman TIm Ryan has expressed his support for including mindfulness programs in public school curriculums. Some schools are beginning to teach students mindfulness through the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program, which focuses on emotional resilience programs that can help improve academic performance.
6) Wellness Rooms
Last year, an old language lab at Belfast Area High School in Maine was converted into a Wellness Room for the entire school community — teachers, students and administrators — to enjoy. Local alternative health care practitioners offer short massage sessions, Reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic care and more to ease stress.
To recognize the de-stressing value of relaxation, social time and play, some schools are instituting 20-minute breaks (recess, anyone?) to give their students more down time between classes. At Chanhassen High School in Minnesota, students are able to enjoy these daily breaks, as well as homework-free nights scattered throughout the year to help take the pressure off of potentially overwhelming workloads.
8) Self-Esteem Conferences
Struggling with self-esteem and body image issues in high school can add significantly to academic pressures and social stresses. Some schools are providing students with coping resources through classes and conferences on healthy self-esteem and body image. At Union County High School in New Jersey, female students are invited to attend a day of confidence-boosting activities as a part of “Happy, Healthy & Whole: A Conference to Empower Young Women.” And at British Columbia’s G.W. Graham Secondary School, a student-led initiative is inviting young women to celebrate natural beauty by going without hair products and makeup for one week.