Reflections on the Anti-Stress Workshop

High school can be a stressful time in a young person’s life. At Hakfar Hayarok, students of the Eastern Mediterranean International School (EMIS) balance everyday teenage challenges while being away from home and surrounded by a very new environment. The Charney Center hoped to address the students’ needs by organizing an Anti-Stress Workshop dedicated to teaching students how to face the challenges that inevitably arise in daily life.

On February 26th, Professor Danny Hamiel, Director of the Educational Intervention Unit of the Cohen Harris Resilience Center and the Head of the Cognitive-Behavioral Unit at the Tel Aviv Community Mental Health Center, delivered a lecture to the students on stress management. He touched on several important themes and key tools to leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. For example, he urged the students to redefine how they understand the meaning of ‘control.’ One cannot control the uncontrollable in life, Dr. Hamiel reminded the students. Therefore, to truly be in control of one’s life, one should reimagine the definition of control as the retention of the power of choice. For example, choosing when to take a break from studying in order to listen to music, spend time with friends, and rest and recharge, even though doing so might cause anxiety about possible failure in one’s studies, is a healthy way to assert one’s freedom of choice and remain in control over one’s own life.

With a helpful diagram, Dr. Hamiel illustrated the point that a healthy, mid-level of stress is ideal. Too little stress, Dr. Hamiel argued, leads to boredom, fatigue, and laziness; too much stress, on the other hand, leads to panic, anger, and anxiety. The optimal level of stress lies somewhere in between, and is entirely subjective. A medium, balanced level of stress keeps us motivated, empowers us, and allows us to achieve our goals without burning ourselves out. Achieving this optimal level of stress is a process which requires that we exercise our freedom of choice.

After the lecture, psychologists from the Cohen-Harris Resilience Center divided the students into groups and engaged them in personal discussions about the causes of stress in their lives, and how they try to manage it. For most students, the schoolwork is overwhelming. For many, being away from family, friends, and their home environments is a source of stress. When the psychologists asked the students to pinpoint specific ways they manage their stress, every student had a different answer, unique to their personal experiences. Some liked listening to music, others preferred sleeping or hanging out with friends. Some enjoyed taking walks around the beautiful Kfar Hayarok campus or Skyping with friends and family from back home. To conclude, the group engaged in mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises, helpful for maintaining self-awareness, concentration, and self-control, and for reducing stress and anxiety. Through these discussions, the relevance of stress management came to life as a highly personal issue for every individual in the room.

Overall, the lecture and student discussions gave students the opportunity to air out their personal concerns in a supportive space, and learn from professional psychologists about the best ways to manage the stresses of daily life.

Stress Graph