Decatur offers “Relief Wednesdays” to help students cope with stress

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Chaney Wynne

On Wednesday, March 15, Decatur hosted its first “Relief Wednesday” workshop, a new program to help students and faculty feeling stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. For six weeks, specialists from Pathways Transition Programs host 30-minute workshops in the Learning Center before and after school on Wednesdays.

Learning Center teacher Cara Gray helped coordinate the workshops. After distributing a survey to students in advisement, Gray and a group of faculty compiled the responses and noticed clear trends.

“Stress and time management and feeling overwhelmed were by far the most frequently used responses,” Gray said. “Students across the board were feeling stressed out, so we said ‘what are we gonna do?’”

When a parent reached out to Pathways, a mental health services provider based in Decatur, they offered “sessions about how to handle stress and how to respond when your body starts feeling overwhelmed or stressed and give you tools that you can use daily,” Gray said.

During the first session, students learned about the autonomic nervous system and how stress, anger and frustration can be caused by the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the nervous system conflicting.

Senior Jackson Meyer-Lee attended the first afternoon session after hearing about the opportunity from a friend.

“I thought it would be a nice experience, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it would consist of,” he said.

During the first session, the Pathway specialists talked about why the body produces stress and then led “a meditative exercise focused on breathing.”

“It was helpful,” he said. “If you really just needed a moment to sit down and calm down, it was great for that.”

Meyer-Lee recommends the workshop for “anyone who is really busy and overwhelmed with a lot of other stuff.”

“I know it’s hard for someone to fit [the workshop] into their day, but it’s really only a short time, and it was definitely a deeply relaxing experience,” he said.

Gray thinks, “anyone who comes ready to change how they approach their stressors will benefit as long as they come in with an open mind and heart.”