The Power of Relaxation Skills for Teens
Learning relaxation skills can help teens avoid dangerous behaviors. [Sponsored]
Today’s teens suffer more from anxiety and stress than any American generation before them. And that stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse and self-harming. Learning relaxation skills can help teens avoid these dangerous behaviors.
Scientists are bringing new research to the forefront regarding natural and holistic relaxation techniques, and therapists and healthcare professionals are offering young people these effective alternatives to medication.
Yoga is emerging as a powerful evidence-based relaxation skill. Researchers theorize that the mindful movement and breathing done in yoga activates the relaxation response, moving us out of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and into the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) system. Yoga practice also increases levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter in the brain that helps relax the mind.
Along with the postures done in yoga, the conscious, controlled breathing also plays a role in moving us into the parasympathetic nervous system. Teens can effectively use a deep breathing exercise to relax before tests, calm down when they’re feeling upset or stressed, and get to sleep more easily. “Space in the breath creates space in the mind for quiet and concentration,” says Nicole Renée Matthews, Director of Yoga at Newport Academy.
The practice of meditation is another mindfulness-based technique that helps decrease anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact, one study showed that meditation is more effective than a vacation for improving mental health and increasing relaxation.
Music can be an effective tool for relaxation as well. Scientists have found that rhythm has a significant impact on the nervous system. Simply listening to music has a measurable positive effect on the psychobiological system. “Every cell in our body operates under the organizing principle of rhythm, and they’re all functioning in concert,” says Tim Ringgold, Music Therapist at Newport Academy. Research done with depressed adolescents showed that sound therapy shifted their brain activity and levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”). Other studies show that music therapy reduces frustration, anger, and aggression.
A growing body of research validates that time spent outdoors in nature can serve as a powerful relaxation technique for teens. In studies on nature immersion, researchers found that forest environments, as compared to cities, produced lower cortisol, slower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, and more activity in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Finally, mental imagery and visualization are powerful tools for dissolving physical and mental tension. When teenagers practice positive visualization, they learn how to regulate their emotions and relieve stress—making it one of the most effective relaxation skills for teens.
“Visualization bypasses our logical (or illogical) mind by tapping into a global sense of ourselves and our emotions. It allows us to remember emotions, or to promote a positive emotional state connected to certain contexts,” says Dr. Michel Mennesson, MD, psychiatrist at Newport Academy.
These natural and effective options can be transformative for teenagers, increasing their stress resilience and well-being. If they’re able to develop a set of coping skills to reach for during difficult moments, teens will be better able to navigate the turbulence of adolescence and the challenges of today’s complicated world.