In today’s fast-paced and demanding world, stress and anxiety are a reality for most of us. For many teenagers though, anxiety becomes overwhelming and can lead to other issues such as depression or ADD/ADHD.
The Story of Melissa Verdugo, Primavera Graduate
Melissa Verdugo describes herself as a friendly, yet shy person. She began high school at a traditional brick and mortar school. Like many freshmen, she became overwhelmed by the large number of people and felt very anxious. Her big brother was attending Primavera at the time, and they talked about the pros and cons of online high school.
Melissa decided to make the switch to Primavera.
“The flexible schedule, independent learning and the fact that I could start school at my own time and work at my own pace really stood out to me,” she said. “Despite the challenges, I’m glad I chose Primavera.”
As an introvert, Melissa really liked the online structure and her supportive teachers, but her struggle with anxiety and depression worsened over time. Eventually, it became difficult for her to go out in public and interact with others.
“There would be days when I was sad and didn’t have a reason,” she said. “I felt like I was all alone and just needed someone to understand.”
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 25.1% of teens have experienced, or currently suffer from, an anxiety disorder. And according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), children with untreated anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school and miss out on important social experiences.
Melissa is a determined and courageous girl, however, and has been lucky to have the support of a caring family, teachers and a counselor. Committed to helping, her mom spent a lot of time with her in public encouraging her to talk and interact with others. And other family members made sure she never had to go out alone.
And while her teachers and guidance counselor were always there to help Melissa academically, it’s the personal support they offered that encouraged her to keep believing in herself. “My instructors would tell me I was doing an incredible job and to keep going. I even had one instructor send me a card saying he was proud of me.”
Primavera guidance counselor Ryan took the time to listen to Melissa and help her through her academic and personal struggles. He would often call her to remind her that she was doing great, which inspired her to keep working and improving.
In the beginning of her junior year, Melissa decided to give traditional high school another try. She soon realized that the school was behind in academics and that Primavera really was the best school for her. After leaving and returning, Melissa became more determined than ever to stop depression and anxiety from getting the best of her.
Since then, Melissa has worked hard to improve her grades and resolve her anxiety and depression. She has forced herself to do things on her own, and has practiced interacting with others in public. While she still feels nervous, she is able to demonstrate her personality without fear.
“My anxiety isn’t gone. I feel like it will always be a part of me,” she said. “But I am more outgoing and have the ability to control it. I don’t let it stand in the way of doing things.”
Melissa was able to graduate Primavera early and will be attending Phoenix College this fall. She plans on majoring in healthcare to become a dental assistant and then eventually a dental hygienist.
“With Primavera, I’ve come to understand that I can face any hardships that I encounter and that I can do anything that I aspire to do.”
6 tips for teens to minimize stress and anxiety
Teenagers are under more pressure than ever. Plus, their brains and hormones are undergoing rapid change, which creates an environment ripe for stress and anxiety. And while some anxiety disorders require medical intervention, there are things anyone can do to stay calm, relaxed and happy:
1. Ask for help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell someone you trust. Whether it’s a family member, teacher or school counselor, they can help get you connected with a therapist or the resources you need to work through anxiety.
2. Stay social & have fun
Spend time with people and groups who aim to maintain a healthy, fun, active and optimistic lifestyle.
3. Breathe deep, meditate, do yoga
There are so many different ways proven to help you reduce stress and feel good. Do some research and experimentation, then develop a daily routine to help you stay in the happy zone.
4. Exercise every day
Rigorous exercise releases endorphins or “happy hormones” that relax your mind and body.
5. Do school your way
There are many options available from 100% online schools like Primavera to small brick and mortar schools to special programs within your current school to help meet your needs. Find a way to do school that works for you!
6. Limit stressors
Things like caffeine, alcohol, negative people and even social media can create a stressful and anxious lifestyle. Eliminate or minimize the things that stress you out to create a peaceful, relaxed life.
Remember, if you ever need any help, your school guidance counselor is always available for you.
- Do you have encouraging thoughts for Melissa? Share them in the comments below!