9/22/10

New Beginnings: Stress & Relaxation

A few of my students are beginning this academic year in new settings. Two are freshmen in college, one nearby and one quite far away. Two students are beginning middle school. And my own son began this year at a new school. The transition is stressful and can be downright frightening.

The middle school day is divided into periods. Students move from classroom to classroom, encountering a different teacher for each subject. Peers shuffle in the hallways, reconfiguring into distinct groups for each class. Time is limited to 5 minutes or less between classes during which padlocks on lockers must be opened, books retrieved, and quick friendly greetings exchanged if one is lucky enough to see friends passing by in the hall. Lunch is rushed and squeezed into a range of time slots so that it may be brunch one day and a mid-afternoon snack on another. When does one get to the bathroom!? And middle school means homework in several subjects to keep track of, including short and long term projects, quizzes and tests, and worksheets of various degrees of difficulty.

College takes all these changes and magnifies them. Now classes are in different buildings scheduled across days and include term papers and exams covering months of material. Peers may include students from other cities, other states, maybe even other countries. Living away from home requires multiple attempts at an independent healthy lifestyle: eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, managing time and making safe choices.

It’s all very exciting!

The adjustment process takes trial and error, success and failure, elation and pain, hard work, self-confidence and faith. I suppose there are lots of ways to approach dramatic changes such as these. Relaxation techniques may be helpful for some people. I mention this because a mom recently asked me if relaxation techniques would help her child’s speech. And so, I took a look around for some quick and easy suggestions.

There are different kinds of relaxation techniques that all seem to have the same general goal – to consciously and deliberately find a feeling relaxation to replace feelings of stress. Relaxation techniques take only 10 minutes or so and, with practice, can help us to relax almost any time we need to “calm down”, focus, think more clearly, and behave more carefully. Stuttering is not caused by stress, but, stuttering can be affected by stress. It can be easier to focus on speech and communication when we are more relaxed.

Here is a video of the famous Dr. Herbert Benson talking about the relaxation response.
http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7392433 .

Here is a website that also describes the relaxation response. http://www.mgh.harvard.edu/bhi/basics/eliciting_rr.aspx.

A surf through YouTube revealed a few videos I happen to like….

Here is a simple video that describes how watching clouds can lead to a feeling of relaxation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-ygq1W681A&feature=related

Here is a video of rain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgG4vDfcJek&feature=related

I liked this children’s meditation, even for middle schoolers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RmwNr5dSTg&feature=related

Here’s one that takes you through progressive relaxation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFwCKKa--18

I make it a point to stop for about 15 minutes every day and just sit. When I’m lucky, I sit outside. Sometimes I write down the to-do list that perpetually crowds my thoughts. Released from this burden, I begin to hear the subtle sounds around me and then notice the more substantive ideas lurking between my ears. Back and forth I go: notice the rustle of leaves, eliminate a task I don’t reeeally need to do, feel the sun, re-prioritize projects, notice my breath, remember to write a friend, and relax into the important over the urgent.

I wish for my students to have faith in themselves and to act in new ways that will keep them to be healthy, safe, and successful.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.