Mindfulness Mania

The reduction of stress through controlled thought

Alyssa Hart, Opinions Editor

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A deep breath of oil diffused air, the spin of a fidget spinner, and a quick read of a motivational quote. Mindfulness practices surround the Rochester High School environment, even if it is in the most subtle ways. 

The past few years, Rochester has been taking the initiative in making mindfulness a part of everyday life for its students.

 “As we grow together within the Rochester Community, we have recognized the need for, and importance of, mental and emotional wellness.  As a result, the community has rallied together to make this a priority within the educational system,” health teacher Mrs. Oppat said.  

By definition, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

 In everyday life, this is both practical and beneficial in many ways. 

Stress is all around Rochester students. From that upcoming test and finishing up (or starting) that essay, to dealing with drama within a friend group, it’s nearly unavoidable. 

“I am currently taking 4 AP courses,” junior Dana William said.  “As a student, the workload and tests we have over the material makes me stressed because it’s hard to be efficient in everything since it’s all going so fast.”

William is just one of many Rochester Students under such immense pressure and stress. Mrs. Oppat recognizes similar overwhelmed feelings within her students on a daily basis. 

Stress can be intensified by a combination of things within a person’s life–such as lack of sleep, heavy loads of homework, unhealthy eating habits, social pressures, overscheduling, and many other sources, Mrs. Oppat said.  

Although stress is clearly a pressing issue within the lives of many students, according to the Organization of Mindfulness Schools, 16.87 percent of students have no coping mechanism when it comes to stress, with another 10.79 percent resorting to unhealthy options such as drugs and alcohol. 

This issue in coping with stress was recognized by the Rochester District, and there have been many implications for  the community. One being the creation of the Health and Wellness Committee here at Rochester. 

“The emphasis in mindfulness is a result of a need for students/staff/parents to approach their way of thinking to a more effective and calm process,” said chair member of the committee, Jennifer Hart.

Additionally, this initiative has been brought into the classroom environment here in the Rochester District. For example, the American Sign Language teacher, Ms. Lowry, incorporates a five minute meditation period into her curriculum. This experience is greatly appreciated by many of her students, including freshman Kayla Mow. 

“I always look forward to this part of my day, because I think it is a great way to unwind and relax,” Mow said. 

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways, with some tactics being more efficient for certain people. One practice could work wonders for one person, and be completely inefficient for another. The main mindfulness practices include but are not limited to: taking control of one’s thoughts and emotions, looking at the bigger picture, practicing kindness towards others, and training oneself to remain calm in stressful situations. 

One popular method of mindfulness is the rehearsal of calming breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 technique. This practice entails a 4 second inhale through the nose, a 7 second hold, followed by an 8 second release. This method is reported to reduce stress symptoms and help maintain a better focus on emotions.  

“Some more conventional methods of stress relief more commonly used by students is exercise, healthy eating, rest/sleep, therapy, self-love and awareness,” Mrs. Oppat said.  

The practice of mindfulness has many beneficial effects on those who practice it. “The benefits of mindfulness can help us obtain longer attention spans, decrease stress, increase awareness, elevate brain function and much more,” Mrs. Oppat said. 

In a recent study through the Organization of Mindfulness School, teachers took their students through a stress-reduction program. At the end of the study, 89 percent of the teachers saw improved emotion regulation,  83 percent saw better focus within their students, 76 percent saw more compassion and 79 percent saw improved engagement. 

On a personal level, the incorporation of mindfulness results in improved attention span as well as better emotion regulation skills. These effects can then be applied within a school setting; as students will have improved performance on attention based skills and be better able to deal with stressful situations. 

Additionally, a less stressful environment can be built within the Rochester Community. This can be accomplished by reinforcing the insecurities of other students and creating a supportive environment. The ideal setting would be “Loving, accepting and judgement free,” Mrs. Oppat said. 

Overall, healthy coping mechanisms can be efficiently applied in a way that can help reduce stress in students. These mindfulness tactics can have vast positive effects on student health in addition to creating a more supportive and accepting school environment.