Opinion | Mindfulness needs to become a main part of ETHS culture


Illustration by Kupu Sumi

COVID-19- has brought its fair share of struggles to the table. Two major and conspicuous challenges many of us share, more or less thanks to COVID-19-19, are anxiety and depression. 

Due to the isolation that came with COVID-19 as well as remote learning, my mental health completely plummeted. I was concealed in my house and in my room, each and every day. I had absolutely no motivation to get out of bed, to change out of my pajamas, to even eat. It was more than hard. I was facing a battle, and that battle was me. 

Now that we’ve been attending school in person and have been forced to leave our rooms, things have instantaneously gotten better for many of us. But, as much as I’m hoping we do not have another lockdown or isolation, we’ve all learned that anything can happen, and I’m preparing for a worst case scenario. 

Recently, I’ve been introduced to something many know as “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. This is quite literally what I needed a few months ago. 

With my anxiety at an all-time high and my loneliness at its peak, I began to take care of myself and my needs less and less. The most basic activities became harder as the isolated days went on. 

Currently, mindfulness at ETHS seems to be acknowledged as a practical and overall useful solution to stress, anxiety, and so much more. I know some of my own teachers who attempt to implement some sort of mindfulness and meditation in their block periods, but in all honesty it’s simply not serving its purpose. Considering teachers only have so much time with their students and can only do so much in their classrooms, we need more here at ETHS as an entire school. 

ETHS needs to implement mindfulness either a few times every week, or once every school day within classes. Learning how to be present physically and mentally, learn effective breathing techniques, journaling, and simply understanding how to forgive others as well as yourself are all subjects that could be taught when practicing mindfulness. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical wellbeing and for these two things to not be seen equally is detrimental to students. It’s time to realize this. 

Teacher and baseball coach, Frank Consiglio, gives his piece on mindfulness in schools. 

“It’s another strategy that I could implement and use in my classroom to increase retention, increase engagement, activity, and it gives us a strategy that students could use for a lifetime”, Consiglio says. 

I’m in complete agreement. Throughout e-learning, which I classify as the ultimate isolation for us all, especially as students, I hardly practiced any mindfulness or mindfulness meditation. Negativity was stuck to my body, I allowed my grades to slip away, and this just escalated my anxiety. 

Studies led by researchers at John Hopkins found that in only eight weeks of meditation training, it was just as effective as medication used for treating depression, anxiety and overall pain. If I had been more educated on such benefits of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, and I didn’t just learn about these certain coping mechanisms, I really do believe that my freshman year would have been so much more successful. 

It’s a popular belief amongst students as well. Many others don’t doubt that if mindfulness and some sort of mandatory meditation was implemented here at ETHS, they’d have more worry free and overall successful school years.

“I think it would be good (to implement mindfulness at ETHS) since it would allow people to relax during the day since we have to deal with so much while at school” expresses sophomore Sami Odisho.

Mental health is almost always shoved under the rug when it comes to the U.S. education system and academics. 

In last month’s Evanstonian, opinion editor Linnea Mayo described the ways that the education system, as currently designed, is never in favor of students’ mental health.

“School creates an atmosphere of stress and imposes on students’ ability to take care of themselves. This is why better-structured support is needed,” she wrote. 

There are many ways we can impose better-structured support and mandatory mindfulness, and mindfulness meditation is one of these ways. 

Now, it’s completely understable how parents and guardians or students would not want mindfulness implemented at ETHS and in its classrooms. It’s possible that when students have to add another responsibility to their daily life, this could simply be seen as an added distraction to regular homework. 

Not to mention, it may not be necessary to all and may not work for everyone. Meditation has at times proven to make others prone to anxiety attacks, has increased dissociation with school and certain meditation poses may just cause physical pain

This all might have scared you away, but I am truly convinced that the positives outweigh the very rare negatives that may come with practicing mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is like taking yourself to the doctor when you begin to feel ill. Mental health and physical health are both extremely important and should both have the same sense of urgency when one is clearly in danger. 

“Being able to control the moment and being able to understand your breathing, I think, is crucial and how that connection is made to your everyday life” voices Consiglio.

I’ll paint a picture for you. Imagine sitting in class, preparing for a very extensive assignment, but suddenly you feel like the room is spinning, you begin to feel nauseous, your palms are soaked, and your heart feels like it’s about to explore out of your chest. Nearly every day,that is how I feel when away at school. It’s exhausting. Diabolic to say the least. 

These experiences will never fail to make me feel so out of control. But, I know I’m not alone when battling these struggles. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.9 percent of U.S. adolescents aged 13-18 have experienced an anxiety disorder. Nearly 31.9 percent of kids like me around the country, and I wish absolutely nobody had to experience what I do.

Like previously stated, taking care of your physical health and taking care of your mental health go completely hand in hand, which is exactly the reason why both must be top priority. Driving yourself to insane amounts of stress and anxiety and not having an outlet to release those pent up feelings is exceptionally damaging. 

If we’re simply mandated to mindfulness meditations as well as mindfulness in general, kids would ultimately be forced to take care of themselves and their bodies, which is quite honestly what we all need.

High school is filled with stressors like college applications, test scores, social pressures and general fatigue. We need this.We need to feel like we can prioritize ourselves over our academics. No longer can we go on without taking care of ourselves, and being taken care of.