Nearly two thirds of Irish students interviewed as part of an international OECD study earlier this year revealed that they suffered from anxiety even when well prepared for an exam. 46% felt very tense even when studying. In all countries, girls reported greater school work-related anxiety than boys. Teenage girls were also found to have lower life satisfaction than boys with only 29% of teenage girls, internationally, saying they were very satisfied with their lives (compared to 39% of boys).
(Irish Times April 19th 2017).
For me, these statistics are pretty shocking. They show that our teenagers, particularly girls are in need of support to help them find balance in their lives. The fact that the average teen spends so much time on-line (estimated at approx. 2.5 hrs per day during the week) is a huge contributing factor to anxiety levels, feelings of inadequacy and the need to constantly compare themselves to others. Social media addiction seems to be growing rapidly among this group and studies have shown that it leads to low self-esteem and depression. The constant use of devices takes a person out of the present moment – usually to post on-line or share something already experienced. The dopamine rush when posts are liked and shared is very addictive- perpetuating the cycle and resulting in further time spent on-line.
Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, followed closely by Snapchat, according to a new report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. Their study, #StatusofMind, surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24 on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image. Instagram draws young women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” said Matt Keracher, author of the report. Young people who spend more than two hours per day connecting on social networking sites are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress, according to the report.
(CNN May 2017)
Another impact of our society on teens is an inability to switch off, relax and ultimately sleep! Though sleep is absolutely critical during the teen years, this group are the least likely of any age group to get adequate rest. The recommendation for teens is 9 hours sleep yet studies have revealed that this demographic is chronically sleep-deprived.
A study of 1,101 Australian high school students aged between 13 and 16 found poor-quality sleep associated with late-night texting or calling was linked to a decline in mental health, such as depressed moods and declines in self-esteem and coping ability. Researchers examined teenagers’ mobile phone use and their subsequent changes in well-being over four years of high school from 2010 to 2013, and found increasingly unencumbered access led to increases in psycho-social maladjustment. Though the link between late-night phone use and sleep, and between sleep and well-being, had been established in previous research, this was the first study to assess all three together. (theguardian.com May 30 2017)
So what can we do to help our teens and counteract this over-stimulation of their nervous systems? I believe that yoga offers a powerful solution. Our teenagers need tools to allow them to switch off and relax. They need to feel content as they are, rather than aspiring to be like some ‘perfect’ celebrity with millions of followers on social media.
We are therefore setting up a new yoga class for teenage girls. In this class, there will be no competition – no comparison. The focus will be on the body and the breath to establish an internal connection. Students will be taught basic meditation and relaxation techniques that will hopefully form a foundation for the rest of their lives. Our teenagers are our future. Let’s help them be true to themselves, free of suffering, – positive, happy, whole, kind, compassionate members of society who value themselves and everyone else in the community.