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By Susan Parmelee
The Wellness & Prevention Center has been serving students and families for over four years. This year we have made a resolution to help young people and their families reduce their stress and anxiety through choosing a more balanced lifestyle. Therapists who work with the youth and families in our schools have noted an increase in youth anxiety. This rise mirrors a nationwide trend of youth and adults facing symptoms that affect daily lives and may lead to avoiding school and social activities as well as serious health complications, including suicidal thoughts and substance misuse.
How can we, as a community, help our youth learn healthy habits and increase positive approaches to the challenges facing our youth? Perhaps we need to reflect on the overscheduling that seems to have become a prevalent part of our daily lives, as well as the constant barrage of information available at our fingertips.
Young people learn how to deal with difficult situations and stressors by watching adult behavior. How adults solve problems and choose to tackle anger and frustration is a fair predictor of how our children will behave. The following are a few questions we may all want to consider as we approach a new year:
- Do I bring my work home with me and expect others to do the same? Cell phones, tablets and laptops have made it difficult to separate our personal from our professional worlds. Consider a family meeting with the goal of setting time limits on social media and screen use in tandem with increasing face-to-face interactions. Model good listening skills, show your partner and your child that you can give them your full attention and spend more time listening than talking. Try to keep electronic devices away from the dinner table, both at home and when dining out.
- Am I taking good care of my body? Nutrition and exercise are as important to mood and well-being as protecting time away from schoolwork and careers. Healthy eating translates to proper nutrition, not dieting. Reading labels and avoiding overly processed foods is a great way to start with more conscious food choices. In addition to healthy eating, our bodies need daily movement. Exercise boosts the activity of serotonin receptors, which increases happiness. Choose activities you are likely to stick with, exercise with a friend and vary routines.
- Do I allow time to explore my passions? Most of us can name the passions of our children, but do we take time to explore our own interests? Some of us are lucky enough to combine our passions and careers, for others it is important to head out and surf several times a week to feel grounded and capable of achieving in other parts of our lives. Young people need our guidance in taking time to do what they love, just for the joy it brings, sometimes without the pressure of a performance or with an elite team.
An important part of reducing stress and the related increases in clinical anxiety is to keep our lives in balance and to avoid the need for perfection in every aspect of what we do. Helping our young people to achieve balance may require that we examine our own expectations for our children’s ability to achieve in school, social life and outside activities. As we ring in the New Year, the Wellness & Prevention Center plans to provide more information that helps youth and families balance their lives.
Do you want to learn more and get tips and links? Follow us on Facebook at @wellnessandpreventioncenterSCHS and sign up for or educational emails on our website at www.wpc-oc.org. Want to help our organization? Attend our Wellness & Prevention Coalition meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. at 189 Avenida La Cuesta. Want more information? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at email@example.com.