American teens: stressed, depressed, and anxious
In 2013, teens reported greater levels of stress than adults in the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America™ survey1. On the whole they felt “that their stress level during the school year far exceeds what they believe to be healthy,” affecting both health and academic performance. Concurrently, The Economist2 highlighted data released by the Health Care Cost Institute on insurance claims for children from 2009 to 2012, showing a “surge in spending on drugs to treat the central nervous system, such as drugs to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression.”
This will be no surprise to most adults who work with teens on a regular basis, witnessing the increased pressure placed on young people through academic workload, achievement expectations, overloaded schedules, and insufficient sleep. The build-up of unresolved stress can lead to greater mental health issues, most prominently anxiety and depression.
Video: Yoga & Stress in High School
It can be difficult, for teens and adults alike, to see the stressors building up and recognize the impact on physical and mental health until symptoms are presenting themselves. At this point, teens may feel helpless to control their lives and help themselves. It is up to the adults who work with teens—schools in particular—to promote ways of managing stress and maintaining balance, both to help teens who are suffering and to keep those who aren’t healthy.
How yoga can help
The regular practice of yoga, with its deep and complete relaxation and tension release, is an excellent way for teens to alleviate stress and thereby keep symptoms of depression and anxiety at bay.
A preliminary study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 2012 found that practicing Kripalu yoga in school (during high school PE class) may give “preventive benefits in psychosocial well-being.” [Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: a preliminary randomized controlled trial.]3 “Teens who did not do yoga during their PE classes scored higher for mood problems or anxiety, while those who did do yoga scored lower on these tests, or their scores remained the same from the beginning of the study period…In addition, the teens who didn’t do yoga reported more negative emotions during the study period, while the teens who did do yoga reported fewer negative emotions.” [Yoga Could Help Teens Ward Off Anxiety, Study Shows – Huffington Post]4.
Yoga’s time-honored exercises can help develop and improve:
• Energy level
• Body awareness
Yoga in schools
The need for yoga in schools has never been greater, particularly for middle and high school students who are under the greatest pressure. By providing solutions for managing stress, we can allow today’s teens to take control of their mental and physical health.
Yoga offers the ongoing stress management needed while promoting healthy practices, with a huge range of additional benefits. We must encourage schools to take up this offering, and steer our teens—especially those most in need—toward this healthful solution to stress, depression, and anxiety.
Fusion Academy & Learning Center, a unique private school offering one-to-one education in a network of campuses across the country, promotes the practice of yoga for all its students as well as middle and high school students throughout the community. Classes are offered in a nurturing atmosphere in which students can relax, recharge, and have fun.Learn more about yoga at Fusion
1. Stress in America™ survey
2. The Economist
3. Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: a preliminary randomized controlled trial.
4. Yoga Could Help Teens Ward Off Anxiety, Study Shows – Huffington Post