Weekly Wellness: Take a Break – The Importance of Resilience

Nick Bednarz, Wellness Center Intern

We’ve all heard the jokes and claims from older people about our generation being “soft” or weak, but could there be some truth to this? Throughout the nation, counseling centers are reporting increases in the number of students using their services. Yet, they say many students are coming in with minor problems they could normally solve on their own, or with help from friends. To many, the issue seems to be a lack of resilience.

Research estimates the prevalence of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder among teens and young adults has grown to be 5-10 times what it was in the 1950s. The suicide rate has been growing as well. What could have changed in just one lifetime to weaken our resiliency so much?

Many theorists point to schooling, and how parents raise their kids. The American Psychological Association conducted a study a few years ago where they found that the most anxious people in America are teenagers. A whopping 83% of them cited schooling as the source of their anxiety.

Data suggests that since the 1950s, kids in the United States are being given less and less freedom to play on their own. Parents are becoming overly-controlling and protective. They think it is dangerous to let their kids out of their sight. As a result, children are not being given the chance to interact with each other on their own and learn responsibility and problem-solving. In other words, they are not allowed to grow up. When children play on their own, they are free to fail, learn from their mistakes, and try new things.

While play and creativity have lessened at home, they’ve been replaced with a new emphasis on testing in schools. Children are constantly engaged in adult-directed activities and subject to evaluation. They are always being judged, which creates a fear of failing. Teachers paint success in school as critical to kids’ futures, only adding to the pressure they feel.

Regardless of these implications, school is not going anywhere. It is a necessary evil, so what can we do? Luckily, resilience is not something we are born with. Resilience is built over time through our experiences, and it can be eroded from them as well.

One of the most important things we can do for our resiliency is just to take a step back and breathe. Odds are, whatever is stressing us out is not a matter of life or death. Seeing the bigger picture, that what you are feeling is only temporary, can do wonders to calm you down. The way we think has a huge impact on our resiliency.

Literally taking a step out can also be beneficial. Rather than pushing through everything until you burnout, give yourself some time to recover. Taking a mental break has proven advantages to learning and solving problems. Give yourself time to play and do something you enjoy, especially if it involves other people. Sometimes help from a professional counselor is necessary for what is plaguing our mind, but there are other things we can do.

Go outside. Take a break. It’s important.