The cause of youth stress in Naperville was the focus of the recently released 2018 State of the Kids report. The report was based on the results of an October 2017 survey of seventh- and 10th-grade students in Naperville School District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204. Seven of 10 seventh-graders and nearly eight in 10 high school sophomores say they experience moderate or high levels of daily stress. About half of both groups say stress makes it difficult to perform daily tasks because they’re overwhelmed by anxiety and they lack focus and the ability to concentrate. This stress can play out in a number of ways including family conflicts, behavior problems, depression, anxiety, drugs, and self-injury.
These results should make us question how well do we as adults model living a balanced life? Everywhere you turn these days it seems there is another article full of suggestions on how to simplify one’s life. Make a list, prioritize, get organized, be more productive! Most of these suggestions focus on making the absolute most of your time, multitasking, and accomplishing more in less time. No matter how much one does, it seems that you could be just a little more organized, a little more efficient, a little more accomplished.
We’re suffocating in busyness. Not only do we need to learn to take care of ourselves, we need to model this for our children so that they learn to take care of themselves also. Our physical and mental health, our relationships, our very sense that life is worth living, can all begin to suffer as we speed through our days. Elaine St. James, author of Simplify Your Work Life: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live, writes that “American workers could learn a lot from the European workplace. In most European countries, the 32 hour work week is mandated by law.” Yet, not only do we Americans work longer hours, we take our work home with us. Technology allows us to be constantly connected, even when we should be decompressing. Laptops and cell phones are a constant reminder that more work is always waiting for us.
What’s the answer? To quote a few clichés, the early bird may catch the worm, and it certainly can be a rat race out there, but if we adopt the words “slow down” as our mantra, perhaps we won’t mind being passed up in the rat race of life. In an ideal world, we’ll have time to enjoy the most important relationships in our lives. We’ll recognize that it is the depth of those relationships and the meaning we find in our work that ultimately brings happiness. We may find we need to exit the fast lane and choose a slower, less frantic existence in order to live the lives we want to live.