Downward Dog

After the Dog Days of Summer

Here we are at the end of summer. My parents tell me that “back in the day,” summer months were filled with frolic, outdoor adventures and low-stress summer jobs. Today’s teens participate in these activities, but summer’s carefree nature is tempered by preparation for the SAT, college applications and constant technological activity.

        Even though the summer months are characterized by relaxation, most teenagers subconsciously increase their stress through use of their phones. When attention is diverted from daily tasks by means of constant social media notifications, a principal stress response hormone called cortisol is released. Fast-forward to the beginning of the school year, and an already tense nervous system is overloaded with a full course load. What are some tools that can be used to maintain balance amidst a hectic schedule?

        Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation. In fact, several studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol. Lower levels of this hormone can result in lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression. Because yoga also incorporates meditation and focused breathing, a person’s mental well-being may also be improved. This is extremely important at the start of the school year when new obstacles predictably occur. Having mental clarity and calmness, increased body awareness and sharpened concentration are essential to tackling a rigorous academic schedule.

            Exercise is also an effective method to cope with stress. The production of endorphins alone from engaging in physical activity is an instant mood-booster. Whether it’s going for a walk after doing some studying or riding a bike around your neighborhood after a long day, exercising can really improve stress levels. Participating in any sport with strategy like soccer, basketball, tennis and many others can also help keep the mind off worries. By requiring explicit focus and control over the body, these games are like meditating in motion.

        Incorporating exercise and/or yoga into a daily routine can help promote a healthy mind-body balance. Maintaining a healthy outlook and keeping a calm perspective on impending stressors and situations that a new school year may bring will hopefully enhance a student’s well-being.

Isabella Dussias is a 16-year-old singer-songwriter/composer from New Jersey. She enjoys writing about issues that are important to today’s youth, and she believes music is an important outlet to connect people and share messages through the creativity of lyric and melody. For more information, visit




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