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. 

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