RELEASING STRESS: From left, Elizabeth Souffrant,
Tamieka Banks-Tillma and Bianca Prato participate
in a stress-relieving activity.
“HOW MANY OF YOU have been burdened with stress over the past year?” asked Rana Chudnofsky, director of the Benson-Henry’s Education Initiative, of a group of 25 local high school students gathered at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH on Aug. 8. Every hand in the room went up.
The students had come to talk about their experiences using relaxation response techniques that Benson-Henry taught them as part of a four-week year-long section of an after-school program provided by the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement’s Youth Scholars Program.
The event kicked off with a pizza party and then went right to the heart of the matter: stress and how to combat it. The teens were each handed a yellow balloon and told to write something on it that had caused them stress. On one, a girl wrote “tests.” On another, a boy wrote “bullying.” When everyone completed their task, Chudnofsky told the teens to toss their balloons in the air and keep them floating. “How many of you feel like this every day, just trying to keep it together, balancing up in the air?” she asked.
That’s where the relaxation techniques come into play. Benson-Henry staff have taught the teens ways to calm their minds and control their emotions. The students wrote essays about what they had learned and talked as a group about how it had helped.
“In the days leading up to the SATs, I couldn’t sleep because I was so stressed,” said Nathalie Garcia of The Kennedy Academy in Boston. “But then I used the relaxation technique to think positively and to relax every muscle one at a time, and I was able to go to bed at 10 o’clock that night and sleep.”
“I play soccer, and I’m the goalie,” said Darlene Chavarria of East Boston High School. “Before a game when I’m stressed, I imagine myself making an amazing save … visualizing it. Then my stress level comes down.”
With school starting again soon, these tools will help prepare the teens as they go into a new year. And that’s the goal of both Benson-Henry and the Youth Scholars Program.
For more information about this program at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, contact Marilyn Wilcher, founder and developer, at 617-643-6035. For more information on the MGH Youth Scholars Program, contact Christy Egun at 617-724-2950.