Stress and Anxiety Are on the Rise

Stress and anxiety seem to be on the rise, especially for students. In 2014, the American Psychological Association reported that our nation’s teens are more stressed than adults during the school year, an indication that unhealthy behaviors connected to stress may start early. In a second study two years later, Coping with Change, not only did the same difference between age groups persist, but raw stress levels in both groups also increased. Recent results from statewide SurveyWorks data, based on surveys of more than 85,000 Rhode Island students in grades 3-12, demonstrated that this same troubling trend is prevalent in Rhode Island’s youth.

While stress and anxiety are a part of everyone’s life from time to time, it is becoming apparent that worry about grades, insecurities and social pressures, and various home- and school-based factors can elicit toxic stress in kids that interferes with their ability to learn — especially if they are not taught effective coping strategies. On Oct. 10, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner facilitated a SurveyWorks forum titled Social Emotional Learning: A Panel Discussion. The Commissioner reminded the group that life will be stressful and learning might be too. But with an integrated approach to social and emotional learning, we can empower students to have healthy tools for responding in the face of this adversity. He closed the evening by saying, “It’s not just athletics where you can be in the zone. Schools can do this too.”

Educators and groups such as CASEL have long understood the importance of social-emotional development in preparing children for lifelong success. Critical SEL skills include the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for other people, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Increasingly parents, the media and other groups across Rhode Island have also begun to recognize the value of cultivating SEL in our next generation of leaders.

Center For Resilience strives to empower Rhode Islanders of all ages – including students ­ – with the ability to get back up when they are knocked down by a wave of stress. Our school-based program, ResilientKids, helps students to cultivate confidence, balance and compassion for themselves and others, as well as learn mindfulness techniques such as breathing, meditation and visualization to help them cope with stress and anxiety.

Though this was once referred to as a ‘soft skill’, stress management is now being highlighted as a necessary part of a well-rounded education program. Center For Resilience understands that the involvement of the community in developing social and emotional skills, including teachers, parents and other community members – is critical to student success across the state. When we collectively help each other respond constructively to life’s challenges, our individual qualities of strength, confidence, perseverance and resilience begin to emerge. Though implementing a school-wide SEL program is a challenging task, collective involvement can amplify how we benefit our youth and our future.

Come learn about resilience in the classroom, community and workplace and hear stories from some of Rhode Island’s most inspiring students at the #WeAreResilient event on Oct. 27. Register for this inspiring event here.