Naperville campaign teaching mindfulness to 'stressed-out students'
A community with a pattern of "a lot of stressed-out students" is striking back this spring with resources designed to help teens quell the pressure of a season of standardized and high-stakes testing.
KidsMatter and the Collaborative Youth Team in Naperville are running a Mindfulness Matters campaign this month to teach the mental strategy of focusing on the here and now as a way for teens to relieve stress.
Motivated by the fact that Collaborative Youth Team member Linden Oaks Behavioral Health sees a spike in adolescents seeking treatment in March and April, the campaign aims to provide resources and exercises so teens can put mindfulness into play in their lives, said Kamala Martinez, KidsMatter executive director.
The campaign will introduce the philosophy through weekly messages sent by email, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook that include videos, suggestions, apps and books, each emphasizing a different stress-relieving strategy.
The campaign began March 4 with tips on tranquillity, described as "the quality or state of being calm."
The first email admitted tranquillity can be "hard to obtain in a busy world full of distractions and stress" but listed several tips to work toward it. Among them: practicing acceptance and understanding, learning to turn down commitments to prioritize me-time, noticing simple things, lighting a candle and focusing on the senses, and trying not to use anger as a solution.
The campaign blast linked to Google Play pages for details about apps called Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds, Tranquil Mindfulness and Calm -- Meditate, Sleep, Relax, as well as to an Amazon page about the book "The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself."
And in the first video posted to launch the campaign, Naperville leaders and everyday people defined what mindfulness means and how they achieve it.
Mayor Steve Chirico says mindfulness is "really being in that moment and paying attention to who you're with." An elementary student says she practices mindfulness by "making sure that everybody is safe and kind."
The video shows what Amit Thaker, director of marketing and business development for Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, means when he says mindfulness is universal.
"Everyone can benefit from mindfulness," Thaker said.
And there's no wrong time to put it into practice, he said.
So while Linden Oaks is in the midst of one of its yearly increases in adolescents receiving mental health treatment -- which occur each March and April as well as September and October -- he said the timing of this effort to promote mindfulness is not as important as the fact the concept is being discussed.
"Mindfulness can help both students and teachers reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus," Thaker said. "I don't think there is a time that mindfulness is the wrong thing."
Linden Oaks sees more teens in the spring and fall because of academic and social pressures in teens' lives at those times, Thaker said. Through a range of services including inpatient hospitalization, outpatient programs, therapist visits and support groups, Thaker said, Linden Oaks helps teens address mental needs and build skills to manage future stressors.
The idea of being intentional is the second Mindfulness Matters topic, emphasized in messages sent Monday, March, 11. Topics the next two Mondays include presence and sensory experience. To wrap up the campaign, Martinez said KidsMatter is hosting a Day of Community Mindfulness featuring a "technology-free dinner" April 8 at Lou Malnati's in downtown Naperville, 131 W. Jefferson Ave.
She said the event from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. will include live music in the evening and members of organizations within the Collaborative Youth Team sharing mindfulness tips and resources.
The idea, she said, will be to put a month of learning how to be mindful into action, tossing all smartphones and personal technology into a basket at the center of each table and pausing to live off the grid.
"Just be present," she said, "and talk to the folks you came to have dinner with."