Are the Walls Closing In? Consider Joining Us: May 22nd at 1PM

When the Walls Are Closing In: A Game-Changing Workshop for Stressed Teens and Tweens

Prior to COVID-19’s emergence, teens and tweens were already articulating an increase in stress. Suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes increased by 47% from 2008 to 2017—three years before our current hybrid world of distance learning and increased dependence on technology. Almost 80% of American high school or college students reported “educational disruptions due to COVID-19.” A full 80% of these students admitted to suffering from increased stress due to these disruptions.

In the past decade of teaching English to adolescents, I feel and see the concerning statistics firsthand. I do not need to study statistics to know that our teenagers stress levels are increasing. In the past month alone, students have reached out to inform me that they are:

  • lacking motivation
  • depressed
  • anxious
  • “shutting down”

At least twice a week, I will receive emails late at night, apologizing for how they feel, asking if they could have an extension on an assignment, requesting to meet during Office Hours regarding a personal problem that’s weighing on them. A couple have reached out to share their thoughts of suicide with me. 

The statistics, however, help to confirm what I’m witnessing firsthand:

  • 70% of teens in the US have named depression or anxiety as a major problem among their peers
  • 75% of high school students and 50% of middle school students described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed by schoolwork.”
  • Teen stress is perceived as higher than their adult counterparts: On a ten-point scale, where normal values for adults are 3.8, American teens rated their stress rate at an average score of 5.8

Something must change. Our teens are hungry for a change. This Saturday, May 22nd, Gena Davis, a certified yoga and meditation teacher and I will be offering a 1-hour workshop for adolescents to experience a powerful opportunity to shift their perspective through writing, yoga, and meditation. The workshop is designed to empower and increase a sense of inner peace that students can take with them.

The title of the course is inspired by a 6th grader who recently expressed to me, “I just feel like the walls are closing in.” A heartfelt thank you to this brave student. Because of you, our workshop was born.

While the workshop is geared to teens and tweens, if you are looking for a shift in perspective, I encourage you to attend the event this Saturday, May 22nd. Click on the link below for details, and I hope to see you there!

https://tinyurl.com/4innerpeace

Source: http://www.guide2research.com/research/student-stress-statistics

A Dish for the Soul: Empathy

Dr. Pearcey, a Cognitive Psychologist at the Institute for Spirituality and Health, offers humanity a powerful tool for cultivating empathy.

The world feels more divisive than ever. Whether it’s how to handle COVID-19, the environment, the economy and everything in between, there’s a great deal of polarizing opinions. Yet there’s a fine but distinctive line between having an opinion and holding a grudge against someone for possessing an opposing, alternate viewpoint.

Our newly instated President Biden is palpably aware of the charged air. He asks us to put aside our differences, “uniting to fight the foes we face.” (Source: Vox).

We—a small but powerful pronoun. We are all together; humanity is interconnected in this mysterious life. We affect each other on levels great and small.

The charged air, the divisiveness and polarized opinions with metaphorical haunches raised (and sometimes literal, as we witnessed on January 6th at the Capitol), is fear-based reaction. Underneath the anger and violence is fear and pain. The lashing out is a manifestation of untended to psychological wounds.

Enter Dr. Jeremiah Pearcey, a Cognitive Psychologist at the Institute for Spirituality and Health (www.spiritualityandhealth.org) who offers “education and guidance…helping people reduce stress.” The other week, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Pearcey offered a mindfulness meditation to explore the historical moments leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, cultivating a greater understanding and compassion for others and ourselves. The title of the Zoom event: “A Day of Embrace and Peace.”

The idea of embracing the historical moments leading up to King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” of finding peace in the face of tension seems like an unlikely pairing. Yet the wise Dr. Pearcey’s guided meditation is just what the world needs now.

After several cleansing breaths and a reminder to get comfortable, attendees of the conference, myself included, were guided by Dr. Pearcey’s soothing voice to journey with him. We were asked to imagine ourselves in 1619 as Africans suddenly separated from our families, not understanding the language of our captors, chained together on a boat. Our journey continued to a plantation in 1800, where any courage to leave our “owners” was often extinguished by the site of other African Americans strung up on trees—a visual reminder of the dire risk for our freedom. We were even brought to the recent past, our last breaths labored, as George Floyd’s was, letting our capture know, with the little we had left of life, “I can’t breathe.”

Dr. Pearcey’s meditative guidance offered us a powerful tool for cultivating empathy and one that we can use in our daily lives. The prefix EM literally means in and PATHY means feeling. Under Dr. Pearcey’s steady and compassionate guidance, we were able to experience empathy for our ancestors and the victims of systemic racism today.

Did anxiety surface during the meditation? Anger? Hopelessness? Yes, to it all. Yet the mediation allowed a safe space to observe without judgement, to feel without attaching ourselves to the unpleasant emotions.

It is okay to feel uncomfortable in this life. When we practice self-compassion, we are more apt to feel compassion for others. Unity is a by-product of acknowledging our differences and cultivating empathy. When one of us suffers, we are all suffering; when we acknowledge our discomfort, our anxiety, our anger, or our hurt from a place of compassion, true healing can begin—for ourselves and, by extension, the world around us.