Walking into Lindsay 131 on Friday, November 6, felt like stepping into a vintage Jazzercise video. Dressed in matching legwarmers and headbands, several Living in Community (LINC) leaders choreographed an aerobics workout for their peers as pop music blared from the speakers. Just upstairs in the Bogle Library, students stretched out on the floor for a seven-minute power nap, while others learned to make a balanced snack of yogurt, grains, and fresh fruit – all ingredients found daily in the dining hall – in a neighboring classroom. These student-designed and led workshops were part of a health and wellness fair created for the Fall Term LINC Day centered on wellbeing.
“It’s so important that we have these student-led days,” says LINC leader, Fifth Former Jackie Shen-Yi. “We understand what the entire school is going through. We choose to be here for the academic and athletic challenges. Because it is us telling each other this is how we can make it better, they listen.”
In a survey of their peers, the LINC leaders discovered what they already knew to be true: academic performance and pressure cause stress. The American Psychological Association has found that the average stress level of a high school student is higher than that of an adult. Homework, grades, and college acceptances top the list of stressors. Through a combination of research, interactive demonstrations, and remarks from a visiting expert who spoke about adolescent brain development, LINC leaders worked together to educate themselves and the School community on the best ways to support a healthy lifestyle. The day focused on five points that affect wellness: stress, exercise, substance use, sleep, and nutrition.
"Life is so busy here, we forget to prioritize our well-being," remarks LINC leader, Fifth Former Zoe Dienes. "We wanted to give the student body some time to slow down."
Student LINC leaders, after gathering ideas from the community, work together to generate ideas for LINC Days. Each term the School sets aside a day to focus on issues and matters of concerns to students. With the focus on health and wellness, the LINC leaders worked with the community to examine ways to alleviate stress in the School community. The LINC leaders purposely chose this as the Fall Term program so students would have the tools to help themselves throughout the year, explains Shen-Yi. Learning to take the time for something as simple as a seven-minute nap, as one of the workshops demonstrated, can have huge benefits. The same is true of other small adjustments, such as eating breakfast or fitting in bursts of exercise, can help fuel and energize the mind. “A huge part of what we are trying to teach is that sacrificing seven minutes now will benefit you more than you would think,” says Shen-Yi.
The afternoon speaker, Dr. David Gleason, a clinical psychologist and author of At What Cost? Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools, provided insights into the progression of the adolescent mind. “Some pressure and stress isn’t just good, it’s necessary for us to perform well,” explained Gleason, a former member of the School faculty. “If the pressure keeps going though, then you risk a drop off in your performance.” His presentation proved to be a popular choice. The students had so many questions following his talk that he needed to limit his number of responses. Vice Rector for School Life Dr. Theresa Ferns heard more than one student remark, “Best LINC Day speaker ever.”
"It's simple," says Ferns of the response. "He understood these kids and helped them understand themselves from a developmental perspective. Having an outsider come in and validate their experiences is why I think they were so invested."