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Meditation program helping stressed kids

August 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Whether it is grades, peer pressure or problems at home, many high school students are under a lot of stress. Kids learn a lot in classes, but one local cardiologist believes learning to handle stress early in life can be the key to a healthy successful life. They may not recognize it now, but students at St. Mary's Academy are getting an important life lesson: how to deal with stress.

"You can teach kids affective coping skills so they can stop stress in its tracks," said cardiologist Dr. John M. Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy believes stress starts eating away at heart health in the teen years.

"When you are stressed you feel a knot in your stomach, you have a dry mouth, a jittery pulse. That is your invitation to participate in this conversation to stop stress in its tracks," said Dr. Kennedy.

He created a 10 minute guided imagery and meditation program that teaches students how to calm themselves and focus.

"This technique is really simple to remember, it's called BREATHE.

Doctors say stress impacts the heart directly and indirectly. Over time, the constant release of stress hormones can damage cardiac tissues. And people who are stressed out often adopt unhealthy habits like smoking, not exercising and eating junk food.

"The hard part for kids is when we get stressed we tend to cope with our stress in maladaptive ways like doing drugs and alcohol," said Dr. Kennedy.

Most importantly, students learn to recognize when stress is affecting their bodies.

Junior Alexis Wright says she's also learned a quick way to deal with unexpected pressures.

"I rub my ears and that helps. It's telling my body to calm down," said Wright.

Principal Yvonne McNeal believes stress management can help students with test-taking, public speaking and dealing with home life.

Wright says it's been a valuable tool.

"I feel calmer. I don't walk around being angry anymore," said Wright.

After Dr. Kennedy finishes his lecture, kids can continue to learn more about his BREATHE technique through the books he leaves in the library, through audio programs and a website that kids can access.


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