Teens are stressed these days at levels matching or surpassing that reported by adults, according to the results of a recent survey released by the American Psychological Association (APA). This level of stress has a negative impact on health.
“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” says APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D. “In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health care professionals.”
At Winter Park High School (WPHS), teen girls are getting help learning to cope with high school pressures by participating in a lunch time book club established through Live.Life.Healthy (LLH). LLH is a student-created and run initiative, founded with grant support from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), and focused on encouraging all students to eat healthier, be more active and lead healthier lifestyles
The inaugural Book Club and Healthy Lunch group met regularly for eight weeks to discuss the book “The Girls Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed Up World,” by Christine Fonseca. It focuses on healthy self-esteem and tackles issues facing young women today, including managing stress. After the book discussion, a healthy lunch was provided by LLH and included whole wheat wraps and salads from Tropical Smoothie.
CHILL program interns who support the CHILL counselor at WPHS, led the group in book discussions. (CHILL counselors are mental health professionals based at each of the 12 Winter Park Consortium schools with grant support from WPHF. They are always available to help students and their families cope with mental health issues such as stress.)
According to Shana Sopko, CHILL Student Intern Counselor, the club participants had many discussions surrounding self-care and wellness and what that means for a young woman. “Learning how to be assertive seemed to be a common goal of the girls,” she said. “The young ladies often talked about the added responsibilities of taking care of siblings, holding down jobs, and numerous other church/social/community roles that each of them held.”
“They talked about how taking a few minutes for themselves, telling someone ‘no’, or even asking for help when they were feeling overwhelmed was viewed as selfish or rude within their personal circles,” she added. “The biggest takeaway mentioned by the girls was they realized they were not alone in those feelings, and they felt comfort and empowerment by having the ability to discuss them freely with peers who understood.”
The first book club filled up fast and included 13 girls. It wrapped up a few weeks ago, and the 10 girls on the waiting list will be participating in a second book club to start in the near future. A book club for boys is being considered for next year.
Click here for more on the APA survey on stress.
Click here for information about the CHILL program.