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Sugar House Journal

How students can set resolutions to lead more balanced lives

Jan 07, 2019 11h30 ● By Julie Slama

Exercise is recommended for students to lead balanced lives. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This year’s top New Year’s resolutions may be to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get more sleep, find a job and join a club to start a new hobby. 

These resolutions are similar to what school officials say students should look at for setting their goals toward leading balanced lives.

“Research shows that to lead a happy and well-balanced life, little things do matter,” said McKinley Withers, Jordan School District’s health and wellness specialist. “Diet, sleep, exercise — with those three, there can be a significant improvement in students’ lives.”

While that may sound obvious, sometimes students can’t see it, said Canyons School District’s Corner Canyon High School counselor Misty Jolley.

“With tests, papers, assignments, and for seniors, college applications and scholarships, all due at the same time, it’s easier said than done,” she said. “Even increasing just a little sleep and exercise, and eating more healthy than soda and junk food, will help.”

Torilyn Gillett, Canyons School District’s school counseling program specialist, said students can reduce stress in their lives by taking a break.

“By setting goals and exercising daily habits of living a healthy life, students are building protective factors against anxiety,” she said, adding that eight or nine hours of sleep is recommended. “Just as your phone needs to be plugged in to recharge, your brain is the same way. It needs to recuperate.”

Some ways that is possible is through meditation, relaxation, deep breathing or taking a few minutes each day for a mindfulness app will help take away panic and anxiety feelings, she said.

“Even a walk without technology gives good exercise for both the body and the brain,” Gillett said. 

At a recent Granite School District parent liaison meeting sponsored by the Utah Parent Center, mindfulness handouts were distributed, with examples of how to breathe deeply, stretch and relax.

Judy Petersen, Granite School District’s college and career readiness director, said the district works with students to help them lead a well-balanced life.

“We are always focusing on prevention and making every effort to help students develop good coping skills and strategies in the areas of self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management and relationships,” she said. “In K-6 (kindergarten through sixth-grade), social workers do this with growth mindset curriculum and in grades seven through 12, a social emotional skill of the month is delivered through advisory classes, health classes and in other settings.”

At Corner Canyon High, student Luke Warnock started the focus group Stress Less when he realized a friend was struggling with anxiety and depression. 

Stress Less meets twice each month and is open to anyone who wants to attend and learn about coping skills through activities and speakers. In January, he plans to kick off new ideas, whether it be addressing learning to cope through exercise, meditation, music or other ways.

“The goal is to positively impact kids — the more the better,” he said. “Stress is universal and if we learn how to cope, it lessens the burden, and that can be monumental.”

This may be one method students are able to connect with others, something Withers recommends.

“When there is face-to-face interaction, students are able to connect more. There’s a social piece to being well balanced. If they can connect, share a hobby or find some way to interact, even with their family, it will provide more support and comfort,” he said.

Gillett agrees that personal positive relationships are a key. 

“During family dinner time, spend time talking. Put away the device. Be in the present moment, where you are,” she said. “Balance is the key in everything.”

She also suggested giving service to others.

“It’s a way to build a connection to someone or give to a cause and see a bigger picture,” she said, adding that many schools participate in service learning or community service projects. 

Corner Canyon’s Jolley agrees.

 “Volunteering helps to develop character and for college applications, it’s huge. It also gives us a feeling of gratitude and we realize we have things that others don’t. Even a small act is rewarding,” she said. 

Jolley recommends for all high school students, especially seniors, in January — midway through the year — is a good time to refocus.

“Seniors have senioritis and aren’t always focused. They should look at what they want to achieve the end of this school year and where they see their future. It’s a time where they will be opening a new chapter in their lives and they need to prioritize what they’re doing now and what’s next,” she said.

Corner Canyon student body president Warnock agrees.

“I’m not a super stressed person, but with all the activities I do and attend, I realize I need some me time and need to prioritize. I’m a high school student just like everyone else here,” the high school senior said.

Jolley suggests students decide what is important and then set time to accomplish those priorities. 

“Students should look at what’s going to affect them long term and focus on what is important to them — whether it is good grades to get accepted into college or getting the training they need for a career. Organizing will help just to reduce their stress,” she said.

Some students may need to learn to set boundaries, including saying no to things that aren’t as important. They may need to ask for help.

“Having other people help you shows great strength and it can be fun to share the load, not do everything yourself,” Jolley said.

However, other students may need to become more involved in activities that are meaningful to them or even get a part-time job, she added. 

Jolley said that through various high school and community involvement, students are learning essential life-long skills.

“By being involved, we develop leadership skills, work together and are more productive,” she said.

Even so, Jolley said there is a balance of those activities and just “hanging out with friends.”

“With balanced living, it encompasses school, work, activities, volunteering, family and playing — whether it’s being with friends, reading, hiking, biking or doing what you enjoy,” she said. “It’s great to set and work toward goals, and we need to, but we also need to live in the moment and be able to appreciate it.”