Ask yourself: ‘What is stress? How do I handle stress? Do my methods actually work? When did I learn them?’ If you find discomfort in any of these questions, you are not alone. Understanding the answer is quite simple, once we think back to when we learned most of what we know to be the foundation of who we are; our childhood. More specifically, our years spent in school.
Students often report high levels of stress and exposure to trauma that they feel they have no outlet for. There could be several factors all contributing to this; issues at home, struggles with self-esteem, difficulty managing tumultuous adolescent emotions, environmental pressures, etc. No matter what the cause, the result is almost always an overall decrease in motivation and self-worth that translates into lower scholastic engagement, heightened aggression, stunted communication, and an overall loss of power. On the other hand, we have entered an unprecedented age of convenience. The ability to check out and/or overindulge is more available to us now than ever before with social media dictating what success and happiness looks like and fast food becoming an acceptable substitute for a healthy diet. As a society, we have set aside the real work that goes into attaining physical and mental health, in favor of comfort and ease. Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high, with special thanks to our desire to avoid the unavoidable struggles in life, and shortcuts that come in the form of prescription medications. And on the physical end of the spectrum, obesity has become somewhat of an epidemic. PE programs and school lunches have already proven widely ineffective against this as they are now.
Living on the cusp of the millennial and Gen Z generations, ’97-’98 babies like me can remember the feeling of 2008 changing the world forever. The sudden appearance of smartphones and skyrocketing pressure of social media introduced a way of dealing with growing up and experiencing stress that our schools couldn’t learn to keep up with fast enough. I joined Feel Free 2 Feel Free for my little brother. For the friends I’ve lost to pharmaceutical dependencies and suicides. Feel Free 2 Feel Free is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing mental and physical health tools to our youth, with the long-term goal of bringing balance and wellness to this generation and on to the next. While this may seem far-fetched and perhaps even unattainable, our answer is quite simple: yoga. The heart of the practice is the very balance that we’re looking to bring back to our community. Starting with a reminder to unplug and focus inward, we can learn to conquer these massive issues with many different small solutions, all working in unison to improve upon focus, memory, self-esteem and anxiety. We’ve developed several different programs, with our current primary focus being the youth (including those that could be considered ‘at risk’). Our assemblies are an easy way to help whole schools engage in stress-free fun, while introducing the concept of wellness into further conversations. Our on-site classes bring yoga and meditation to students, combining exercise with deep breathing and meditation techniques that teach students to check in with themselves and with their feelings, both physical and emotional, rather than allowing them to harden them in the way that things like pain and stress often do. We also have workshops and training for parents and staff who are interested in learning how to handle their own stress, as well as the ways in which they can contribute to creating a healthier overall environment for our youth, both at school and at home.
For more information on who we are and what we do, you can visit our website at www.feelfree2feelfree.net. Follow us on Instagram @feelfree2feelfree, or add us on Facebook at ff2ffhealthandwellness for updates on our progress and other events that you can get involved in, including but not limited to our annual Million Man Meditation, free yoga classes in the park, and more.