Keep calm and meditate

Summer is the perfect time to learn how to relieve school year stress

Imagine a vast ocean with turbulent waves on the surface. The waves are choppy and unpredictable, at times even overpowering. Daily hassles, demands and stressors can feel much like a turbulent ocean.

Now imagine sinking deeper into the ocean floor, beneath the waves, where all is still.

We spend much of our time and energy focusing on the waves and the challenges they bring. A deeper awareness, or dive into the bottom of the ocean, brings clarity and calm.

A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that during the school year, teens experience stress levels higher than those reported by adults.

Equally alarming is that while teens experience a lot of stress — one-third felt overwhelmed, depressed or sad — they were not concerned about the impact stress can have on physical and mental well-being.

The APA survey illuminates the need to teach coping strategies to teens. As a parent, one of our biggest roles is modeling healthy behaviors, which should include our own stress management and coping techniques. When your teen sees the way you respond to stress, he or she will learn from you.

How about trying meditation?

Imagine the ocean metaphor again. Practicing meditation helps to calm the mind so that we are able to dive deeper and take our focus away from the turbulence on the surface.

While it may sound intimidating, time-consuming or “trendy,” your teen (and you!) can reap remarkable benefits from meditation, including lower stress levels, lower risk for chronic diseases and improved productivity.

Meditation helps to slow down our minds and relax us in the midst of our busy, often overstimulating world. Meditation in schools has been shown to increase concentration among students, improve behavior and attendance, and even raise grades.

Improved productivity, concentration, stress relief — yes, please! How do I get started?

It’s simple. The first step is to recognize that meditation is not a religion or a philosophy, nor is there one way to do it. Some common forms of meditation are transcendental meditation, breath meditation, color meditation and mindfulness meditation.

Let’s start with the one of the simplest: breath meditation. Try this exercise together with your teen:

Take a few minutes in a quiet space to sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes to help reach a more peaceful state. Notice your inhales and exhales, and become aware of the sensations surrounding your breathing. If thoughts or worries arise, refocus on your breath.

A few minutes of this practice each day, leading up to 15 to 20 minutes a day, can have a significant positive impact on how you feel, think and interact with the world.

Summertime is a great time for teens to explore stress management techniques. Once school starts, they will have developed a new way to cope with the demands of academics, extracurricular activities and whatever “waves” the school year — and beyond — may bring.

Want more tools for meditating? Try these portable meditation exercises or free guided meditation podcasts.

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