Scannelli column — Stress and anxiety … and raising community awareness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2019

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Have you ever quipped, “Oh, to be a kid again”? We say this because we might remember childhood as carefree, fearless, playful and joyful. Not sure today how many children and adolescents would describe life this way. Life is different for kids today. Our schools repeatedly cite anxiety as a top issue for kids and teens. Access to 24/7 social media is often named as a contributor to youth anxiety, but there are many other factors, including news events.

You understand. If you watch and read the news, it is difficult not to feel at least a wee bit anxious. There is some pretty terrible and tragic stuff happening — everywhere. Add life’s bumps and hurdles at home, school, work or relationships, and we all risk becoming a knotted up bundle of wire — wound tight, inflexible, and even a conductor of stress for those around us.

Barbara Saulpaugh of CareNet Counseling recently cited research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that 25.1% of today’s youth aged 13-18 are struggling with anxiety and depression. My guess is the study may be a few years old and the percentage now could be higher. It is time to learn more and how to help untangle the knots.

With the support of several organizations including the Clemmons Community Foundation, the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons-Lewisville, River Oaks Church, and the Jerry Long YMCA, CareNet Counseling will be offering two events around the documentary film called “Angst.” The events include a free movie night for youth, parents, and other interested adults on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m. at River Oaks Church and a lunch-and-learn on Monday, Sept. 9, at the Jerry Long YMCA. A panel of subject matter experts will debrief the documentary film and offer tips and techniques for recognizing and reducing stress and anxiety. The lunch-and-learn at the Jerry Long YMCA is designed for youth leaders, parents, and others who want to know more.

Small spoiler alert — let me share an example of a tip Barbara mentioned. If a child is experiencing highly anxious behaviors (like a panic attack), give them an ice cube to hold. The cold cube prompts a mindfulness on the cube, distracting from the anxiety trigger. Like this “cool” idea? There’s more to learn for those who attend the events.

It is easy to watch and read the news and feel helpless and overwhelmed by tragedies and public frustrations. The issues can seem too big to tackle. But we can all be part of helping de-stress our own environments by better understanding some of the causes, precursors and symptoms of anxiety and by learning ways to support and help our youth, ourselves, and each other. After all, we all would love to hear our young people also someday quip “Oh, to be a kid again.”     

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.