The power of CJEA to help with stress and anxiety in teenagers
by Margaret Smith
I have 4 children in their older teenage years and 3 of them are away at college this fall. The pressures of college coursework, making new friends and adjusting to a new and different social scene during the time of Covid-19 has been especially hard. My twins are freshmen at the University of Notre Dame and adjusting to college life was exciting and scary at the same time, as it always is for new college students. However in 2020 new college students across the country are also dealing with strict rules, possible quarantine, masks – which make it hard when meeting and trying to remember new friends – and the worry of getting in trouble or getting sick with Covid-19.
My 18-year-old daughter has called and texted me a few times with worries and the feeling of anxiety or feelings she describes as “feeling empty.” Talking through her worries has helped and so has encouraging her to scribble her stress away. One of the most popular Creative Journal Expressive Arts activities developed Dr. Lucia Capacchione is scribbling or drawing your stress away. This activity is like yoga for your brain and emotions. Using a colorful marker in each hand, you scribble lines with your dominant hand, then scribble with the other hand (your non-dominant hand). Then using both hands together at the same time, scribble lines and let your hands run free over your paper. In this simple easy-to-do practice, you will be engaging both sides of your brain. Drawing is a form of mindful meditation and this practice will calm you. It has been a wonderful way for my daughter to de-stress and relieve the anxiety she has been feeling.
Another exercise that has been helpful for all my children is the practice of drawing a mandala – a circle with pie shaped sections. I asked my kids to fill in the pie shaped sections with all the things that support them – people, places, things. This practice is a wonderful reminder for them that in times of stress and anxiety they can look at their mandala and be reminded of the many areas of their life they can turn to for support. Whether it’s a sibling or friend, petting the dog, taking a walk to sit under their favorite tree, or doing the form of exercise that makes them feel better. We all have many support systems in our life and sometimes the act of reminding ourselves with a mandala picture can be incredibly helpful.
CJEA Candidate for Certification
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