Did you know that the American Psychological Association (APA) regarded stress in America as a national mental health crisis?

According to the APA, the COVID-19 pandemic accounted for a significant source of stress for Americans. The mental and physical wellbeing of America’s youth is even more cause for concern as The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Further, Gen Z teens (ages 13-17) and Gen Z adults (ages 18-23) are reporting elevated stress and symptoms of depression.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health issues that young people are facing. Up to 1 in 5 kids aged 3-17 are reported to have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder prior to covid. There was a 36% increase in adolescents considering suicide from 2009 to 2019. The pandemic has only aggravated the already increasing numbers of youth dealing with mental illness. Although all kids were affected by the disruption of in-person schooling and extracurriculars or lack of social opportunities, populations that were already vulnerable suffered the most, such as LGBTQ+ youth, low-income families, racial and ethnic minorities, adolescents with disabilities, etc.

For adults, the pandemic has changed life as we once knew it. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) have stated that COVID-19 is the source of a significant source of stress in their lives. 49% reported that their behavior changed as a result, with 21% experiencing an increase in bodily tension, 20% “snapping” or facing an increase in sudden anger, 20% seeing unexpected mood swings, or 17% yelling at a loved one. The political response to the pandemic has had an overwhelming negative response to Americans as well–  71% state that this is the lowest point in our nation that they’ve experienced that they can remember. This disproportionately affects low-income Americans and people of color who have struggled finding access to work, housing, and resources.

Although stress is a normal physical and physiological reaction, it can manifest in various ways and have a profound impact on our minds and bodies.

Some turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with everyday stressors. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of substance use increased for youth and adults. Reports indicate that 7.74% of U.S. adults and 4.08% of youth had a substance use disorder in the past year. While alcohol is used as a coping mechanism, in the long run its consumption exacerbates anxiety and depression.

 

How We Do Our Part

Welcome to The Breathing Room. A monthly series by Three and a Half Acres Yoga, sharing tips on yoga, mental and physical health, startling facts about trauma, managing the effects of trauma, and how you can make a difference.

This month we are focusing on stress management through mindful breathing. As Dry January comes to a close, we encourage the continuation of such healthy practices to better manage stress and to cultivate grounding alternatives for wherever you might be in your journey.

 

What is Mindful Breathing

Mindfulness is the ability to observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations calmly and objectively. Mindful breathing helps us identify discomfort and enables the management of physical and emotional distress.

Mindful breathing is a form of meditation that can reduce anxiety, treat symptoms of depression, promote relaxation, sharpen memory, and even improve heart health.

Creating a mindfulness practice calms our sympathetic nervous system, allowing for harmonious self-regulation.

Through this practice, we:

  1. Develop a capacity to observe things as they are and;
  2. Become better equipped to respond rather than react.

Creating space for mindfulness and self-care can drastically decrease stress, improve clarity and focus, and have magnificent healing properties. Breathwork, meditation, and mindfulness practices expand our capacity for joy, tranquility, and patience.

 

Mindful Breathing with Nikki (Charan Kavita Kaur) Walker

We’ve recruited the help of Nikki (Charan Kavita Kaur) Walker, an alum of our Trauma-informed Yoga Teacher Training Program and a member of our newly established Junior Board of Directors. Nikki walks us through a mindful breathing exercise to help you start off 2022 with techniques to better manage stress.


 


THREE AND A HALF ACRES YOGA is a nonprofit, trauma-informed yoga collective based out of New York City, bringing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness programs to underserved communities and vulnerable populations.

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