By David Dunbar
Local senior citizens and eighth grade Bellingham High School students – about two dozen in all -- gathered last month to talk about stress.
Specifically, the subject was “Managing Holiday Stress”, but it broadened to include all kinds of stress including how to define it and ways of dealing with it.
“It’s a continuation of our intergenerational initiative at the high school,” explains Carlos Manuel Costa of the BHS Wellness Department. “Students have indicated that they learned from the seniors and have realized that they have common ground when it comes to identifying healthy lifestyles.”
Carlos Manuel Costa of the BHS Wellness Department talks to the group of old and young offering ideas about how to identify and deal with stress.
Costa moderated the stress conference and arranged the attendees at tables where students and seniors could speak together. He began by asking about powers of observation. “How many sides on a pencil?” A student answered correctly. “Whose face is on a dime?” A senior answered correctly. Then, a few more questions and answers. (What color is the top stripe on the American flag?)
“And what did you learn?” he asked the group. Student Vrushin Shah offered that he learned that an elder at his table “drives a golf cart around in her garden.”
Observing what causes stress came next and responses included: “Christmas shopping.” “Peer pressure.” “Money.” “Decorating for the holidays.” “Dealing with people,” who student Lucas Lahousse noted, “don’t always get along.”
What can be done about these, and other, stressors? Solutions came from the young and the old: “Talk with people.” “Go to the beach.” “Learn how to let go.” “Take a walk.” “Nap.” “Listen to music.”
Costa handed out a four-page flyer. Page one was about techniques to relieve stress including deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. Page two was about ways to reduce or prevent stress including physical activity, time management, and talking about it. The other two pages offered positive ways to cope with stress including Relax, Refocus, Recharge, Reconnect, and Mindfulness (there was space next to each for attendees to fill in their own thoughts).
After the meeting, Costa said, “I think the most important thing was the exchange of ideas between generations… realizing that they are not that different, disconnected. The kids will be able to use these ideas.”
Over the past year, “exchanges have been in the form of motivational letters and poems, yoga activities, and even a domino tournament conducted by the students,” says Costa.
“The experience by both young and old has been very positive,” Costa continues, “and the feedback indicates that everyone has gained a great deal from the interaction.”
The topic of Managing Holiday Stress is “very much in line with the curriculum of the health education classes at Bellingham High School which focuses primarily on social-emotional health.”