ROCHESTER — When asked how a new school year tends to affect his
stress level, Eric Whitney promptly rolled his eyes.
“Oh wow, it’s way higher. All the homework, essays and AP classes —
and, I play football,” said Eric, 16, who attends St. Lawrence Parish
in Greece and is a junior-to-be at Greece Olympia High School.
To find better ways of balancing his activities while maintaining
peace of mind, Eric attended a workshop on stress led by Kathy
Dennis-Anderson, who owns a professional success-training business. The
workshop took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Rochester
Aug. 10 during the Diocesan Youth Convention.
Dennis-Anderson began the one-hour session by telling teens that
awareness of stress is vital in learning to fend it off. She instructed
participants to close their eyes, then imagine themselves slowly
climbing onto a rooftop and walking to the edge. Among the reactions
reported by teens were goose bumps, a churning stomach and clenched
fists. Dennis-Anderson pointed out that many of these same feelings can
be triggered in normal, everyday circumstances — and yet, many times
we’re not fully conscious of these stress signals.
“If we are under constant stress and we’re not aware, we can’t do
anything about it,” she said.
She later issued a 20-question survey designed to gauge individuals’
stress levels. Among the questions: Do I try to complete as much as
possible in the least amount of time? Am I in the habit of doing more
than one thing at a time? Do I miss most of my deadlines at school? Do
I feel vaguely guilty if I relax or do nothing during leisure time? Do
I always have to win at games in order to enjoy myself? Do I talk
quickly and finish other people’s sentences? Do my friends and
relatives consider me to be a driven person? Do I speed through yellow
lights? Do I constantly seek the respect and admiration of others? Do I
frequently get angry or irritable?
Dennis-Anderson said scores reflecting extremely low stress levels
aren’t necessary good; people in this category may be underachievers
and “need to light a fire under themselves.” However, the consensus
among Aug. 10 workshop attendees was that high stress is the greater
Dennis-Anderson acknowledged that stressful activities and
situations are often inevitable, but that they can be offset by
engaging in relaxing activities. “God is all about balance. He doesn’t
want us stressed, he gives us free will to make choices,” she said,
suggesting that teens take time out for listening to music, playing and
laughing. She also emphasized that quiet prayer and reflection should
be a major priority: “The biggest way to fend off stress is through
Jesus, and that takes centering.”
Eric reported that despite his many activities, his “stress-test”
score was relatively low. He attributes this to taking frequent jogs to
ease stress, and also maintaining good awareness. “You’ve got to
realize that you’ve got to take time for yourself, but not forget your
responsibilities,” he said.
Dan DeBoover, 18, said he also maintains a mild stress level. Dan,
who staffed Dennis-Anderson’s workshop as a Diocesan Youth Committee
representative, noted that one good approach is to be realistic about
the time available to complete daily goals, such as homework.
“There’s only so much time in one day,” said Dan, from St.
Theresa/St. Mary parishes in Stanley and Rushville. “If I run out of
time, then there’s nothing else I could have done.”