Monday, April 15, 2013

Stress and Coping with Martial Arts

In my martial art, we do a practice called randori, where one person is attacked by three others at once, and has to deflect their attacks while keeping everyone safe on the mat. It is less a test of skill and more a test of calm and confidence. 

Teenagers lives are often more stressful than anyone around them knows. Sometimes even best friends don’t know what the other is going through. In addition to complex relationships with peers, we are trying to negotiate changing dynamics with our parents, struggle with harder workloads in school, juggle sports, music, dancing or a job, and finally adults are constantly talking to us about moving out, going to college, being independent, choosing a career, and making something of our lives.

Three people running at you with wooden swords seems simple to handle after that.
During randori, sensei tells you to keep your knees bent and your shoulders relaxed, turn with the blows instead of blocking them, breath deeply and evenly. Look at the horizon, don’t focus on the problems. Smile.
It has made me more aware in the rest of my life of the times when I am stressed, and how I react. I am less panicky – I know how to take a second to evaluate a crisis. “What can I do here? Where would that put me?” I notice when I am holding tension in my shoulders, or giving myself a headache. Often, stress manifests in your body before you notice it consciously.

Life is tough, especially as a teenager. I try not to make assumptions about what’s going on in other people’s lives. Maybe that girl with unwashed hair spent yesterday visiting her father in prison. Maybe the boy who just swore at me in the hall is tired because he pulled double shifts at work to buy his sister a birthday present.
There is always a bigger picture. The people you are training with in randori don’t actually want to hurt you. Also, that math test isn’t the end of your life, and neither is that parking ticket, or even that DUI, although you may be in heaps of trouble. Try it: stand up straight, deep breath, relax your shoulders.

Also, if you feel like you want to talk to anyone about all of this stress, just to get it off your chest, Teen Link is open 6-10pm every night. Our number is 1-866-Teen Link (833-6546). We are here to listen. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Girls are not always made of sugar and spice. And everything nice...

            Bullying has been an issue in schools probably since schools began. But in today’s modern world, childish playground bullying isn’t the big issue anymore, girl to girl bullying is. Coming from a teenage girl, there is something to be said for this type of girl to girl conflict.  

Any girl can attest to it: that stare from across the room, that whisper at a party, that rumor that came out of thin air.

This type of bullying has received a lot of media attention over the last few years due to the increasing violence of this type of bullying, some cases involving YouTube videos of girls beating up other girls and even highly-publicized suicides.
            Two college graduates decided to make a change to this. Molly and Lauren, both having dealt with their share of girl drama and bullying in both Middle and High School created the “Kind Campaign.” Not aware of the impact they would make on the entire nation, they set out on a roadtrip across America documenting the conversations they encountered with groups of girls in schools, their homes, and personal stories. They developed a documentary based on their first roadtrip (they have had two more since the documentary came out) and make appearances showing it to groups all around America and even Canada. In addition to all of this, they have come up with a  
curriculum centered around realizing the ways we have hurt others and allowing a time and space for apologies and revelations to take place.
            Having gone to one of the showings of their documentary “Finding Kind,” I can honestly say it is amazing what Molly and Lauren have started. They have drawn attention to something every single girl experiences in school, something so simple, and made real progress changing this in schools across America. The film made me truly realize we must be more conscious of how we treat others, and several of my friends who also went were able to restore friendships and re-evaluate the conflicts they have had. The emotional nature of the film deeply touched many in the group I went. Several shared their personal stories to the large group. At the very end, Lauren and Molly themselves made an appearance and lead a discussion. They were two of the most genuine and good-willed people I have ever had the fortune of meeting, and it is apparent they love what they do and will continue to do it for a long time.
            If “FindingKind” is being shown anywhere near you I highly encourage you to check it out!

Here are some other resources that focus on female friendships, leadership, and empowerment for young girls and women.

YWCA- Girls First
The mission of YWCA GirlsFirstSM is to encourage leadership, instill confidence, develop skills, and provide opportunities to girls of color.

Contact:  Sumayya Diop at 206.568.7855 or;

Powerful Voices
Powerful Voices fosters adolescent girls' development by providing programs and promoting
social justice so girls can realize their dreams, engage their communities and shape a better world.

Also, Girlvoluntion is coming up this weekend, April 13 from 9:30am to 3pm. Check out their facebook page to find out more:

Contact: (206)860-1026 or;

Young Women on the Rise

 In this seven-month creative leadership program, young women will gain the skills and confidence to make a difference in their schools and communities. The program is based on the premise that our world needs the energy and creativity of young people. Through Young Women on the Rise participants will uncover their leadership potential and move to action.

Contact: Michelle at 206-938-6090 or;


Also, if you are having trouble with bullying or issues with a friend and you just want to talk to someone about it Teen link is open every night from 6-10pm.
(866) TEENLINK (833-6546) or (206)461-4922

Or visit our website to use our online chat service at  WWW.866TEENLINK.ORG

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Blood.  For some, the word represents life.  For others, pain, or even death.  Whatever it is to you, one thing is for sure: every two seconds, somebody in the US needs it.  Unfortunately, we cannot yet manufacture artificial blood, so the only source for people who need it, is donations.  Every day, more than 44,000 blood donations are needed in the US.

According to the American Red Cross, the two most common reasons people give as to why they do not give blood are: "Never thought about it" and "I don't like needles."  I hope I can have just a couple minutes of your time to address both of these.

The first, "Never thought about it," is easy.  Now you have.  If you live in the Seattle area, the Puget Sound Blood Center is an excellent place to donate.  Another way is through school.  The statistic that I always here when it comes time to do a school wide drive is that each donation saves three lives.  In addition, I have been told that high schools account for most of the Puget Sound Blood Center's donations.  As long as you are at least 16, and have parental permission, you can help make a significant difference in the lives of accident victims, sickle cell patients, and cancer patients.

Now, the second reason, "I don't like needles," is a bit harder to address.  I understand that if you do not like needles, giving blood would not be a fun thing to do.  The best I can do is to explain how it works.  When I give blood, I walk in, sign in, and fill out a form about how I'm feeling and if I'm currently on any medications.  Next, a doctor takes me into a private room to check if I am OK to give blood that day.  The doctor takes my pulse, blood pressure, and a small blood sample from a prick on my finger.  When this is done, I go out to a special chair, and the doctor cleans the arm I will be using.  Next, he or she puts the needle in.  It does sting a bit, but I find that it's not so bad if I look away and clench my jaw.  After a few minutes, they take out the needle, and I get cookies.  All in all, it's relatively painless, safe, and I get to feel good about myself after.

I should probably wrap this up with a conclusion, but it's already a bit longer that I was hoping for.  So, I will leave you with the following resources:
The Puget Sound Blood Center
The American Red Cross Blood facts and stats
As always, feel free to call Teen Link to talk it out with another teen if you are feeling unsure about donating blood, or for any other reason: 1 866 TEENLINK (1.866.833.6546)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chronic Illness as a Disability

I have a friend who has been suffering with kidney problems for more than a year now. She gets sick with no warning, runs high fevers, has very little immune system and suffers chronic back pain. She visited the hospital more than 50 times this year. Like any other college kids, she wants to be focusing on school and a career, spending time with friends, partying, seeing her boyfriend. Sometimes she does that. Sometimes however, her illness causes her to miss class or work, do poorly on tests, and
stay home in bed while her friends are doing fun things.
This isn’t a disability like autism that has a culture and a body of knowledge around it. Neither is it really obvious to people around her, day to day. But people who suffer chronic illness can attest that it absolutely fits the definition of disability – something that interferes with normal activities or behavior. Illness is a largely unrecognized category of disability, outside of the communities of those afflicted.
Even small things like allergies can require a surprising amount of energy and fortitude to deal with. I am badly lactose intolerant. I can’t have pizza, lasagna, mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese sandwiches, yogurt, cereal, ice-cream. There are plenty of other delicious foods out there, and I made my peace with it a long time ago, but it means when I go to a party, I have to pack myself a dinner because chances are 99 out of 100 that the meal will be pizza. When my friends want to go out for ice cream, I can’t go along. It is both stressful and isolating. Something lots of people take for granted takes an extra dose of energy and attention for me.
For someone whose chronic illness is not easily controlled, and affects their entire life, that is magnified hugely. My friend is energetic, outgoing, a club leader and active in her religious community. To meet her, you would have no idea that she struggles to find energy for minor tasks, to finish her schoolwork when she is feeling sick, to pay huge medical bills on top of tuition and living costs.
You can’t always tell when someone is sick, or struggling for some other reason. Something you can do is say “How are you?” and you mean it. Don’t judge people too harshly for not brushing their hair, or getting poor grades, or always staying home. People with chronic illnesses don’t fail to do things, they accomplish much more than healthy people ever do, when each day is a victory.