mrs. neal's not-so-conventional MEDITATION [CLASS] for TEENS...

...the book and the recorded meditation


For I will restore health unto thee,
and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord;
because they called thee an Outcast, saying,
This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

– Jeremiah 30:17


What Causes You To Feel Stress?

Stress is a normal part of life. It can be a good thing when It pushes us to achieve, or puts us into survival mode.

Remember that our strongest instinct is the survival instinct or “stress response” which causes the “flight or fight” syndrome. However, too much stress — or unchecked stress — can wreak havoc with your nervous system, internal organs, etc. (Didn’t you just read about this in the last couple of chapters?)

Consider the things in your life that cause you stress.

As a teen, your life is all about change, pressure, and STRESS! So much is going on in your life!

Let’s think about all those things that can cause you stress. These might include:

  • Parents, grandparents, guardians, siblings
    Are your parents always telling you what to do? Is your little brother or sister always bugging you?

  • Boyfriends / girlfriends / best friends
  • Death, divorce, or separation in the family
    Have you experienced the death of a family member, a close friend, or even a class mate? Are your parents always fighting, separated or getting a divorce?

  • Parents get back together after divorce/separation
    Are your parents trying to work it out, but still fighting? Putting you in the middle? Ignoring you?

  • Marriage or pregnancy/childbirth
    Lots of planning and anticipation for either your marriage or pregnancy/childbirth, or someone else in your household?  Someone unexpectedly pregnant?

  • Gaining a new family member
    Grandparent move in? Got a new baby in the house? Maybe a new step-parent, or step-siblings?

  • Parents who are absent from the home
    Living in a single-parent home? Or, a no-parent home? Living in foster care?

  • Parents travel a lot (without kids), such as for job
    Almost as bad as a parent who is totally absent from the home is the one who is always gone for work and misses your recitals, plays, games, birthdays…

  • Incarceration or other court-ordered program
  • A new job or responsibility (home or school)
    A new job can cause some stress, no matter how much you might like what you do. Have you gained a new responsibility — have to take care of siblings after school? Have to do the laundry or cooking? Learning to drive?

  • Theft of personal possessions
    So, you saved for months to buy your new phone — down-loaded music, took lots of pictures, have all your contacts in it — and someone ripped you off...

  • Illness or injury of self, family member, close friend
    Think about training for a big game (football, basketball, etc.), and being in an accident that leaves you with a broken leg. This big game was going to be your chance to shine, and now that opportunity is gone. Think about your family member who has been in a horrible accident that has left them with severe brain damage and now you have to help take care of them.

  • Attempting to break habits (e.g. eating, smoking, drinking)
    Try something as relatively easy as cutting sugar from your diet; all of a sudden, a nice cold soda sounds so good, or that cinnamon roll smells so amazing...

  • Moving to a new community
    Parents moved the family out of state, and now you have to try to make new friends? Ever been the new kid at school?

  • Change in health
    Something as common as a cold, or as serious being diagnosed with a chronic health condition — like cancer — can be stressful and send stress levels sky-rocketing.

  • Change in financial status
    The economy can wreak havoc on a family. Dad gets laid off from his job, mom’s babysitting job is dwindling, bills don’t get paid, the electricity gets turned off, the car gets repossessed. 
    Or, the opposite: suddenly coming into a lot of money also can cause stress — inheritance, lottery, etc. 
    Now everyone is your best friend and seems to think they should get a cut!

  • Job/Work (bosses, co-workers)
    Regardless of how much you like your job, there will be things you don’t like about it, and people you don’t like!

  • Starting a new activity (e.g. extracurricular/school)
    First day of band or play practice, the day you start that new job, your first day in middle school or high school…

  • SCHOOL (this is a biggie!)
    Teachers and staff, peers and classmates, academic difficulties, being bullied or threatened at school

  • What else? ________________________

— ♦ —

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

Recognize that not all stressors are bad or traumatic; some stressors can be good things — like parents reuniting, an outstanding personal achievement, etc.

The good stress (or “eustress”) these good things create can have as much of an impact on you as the bad stress (or “distress”) created by the negative things that happen in your life.

For example, let’s imagine that you are a “C” student, and you just get by in school. You are taking a class that you really like, and have a teacher who really connects with her students. For the first time ever, you get an “A” on your report card.

Now, because you have raised the bar, and you have shown that you are capable of higher grades, you are expected to perform at a higher level in all your classes.

Congratulations, you have just elevated your stress levels. The pressure is on to perform at this higher level.

— ♦ —


So, determine how many of the things listed above are causing stress in your life, and make your own list. Think about how much stress each of the things on your list is causing you — does it bother you just a little bit, or does it bother you a lot?

Make a simple chart if it will help you to see where your stress levels are. Name each event using whatever labels you want, and assign a value from 1 to 10 to each event that causes you stress, with 1 being just a little, and 10 being a lot. This may help you to see what it is that is causing you the most stress in your life, and help you put it all into perspective.


Your chart may look something like this:


Think about all these things that are causing you stress, and take another look at your chart.

 If you are highly stressed, you increase your chance of becoming ill, as your immune system is affected. Severe stress also presents a strong possibility that you will experience a significant change in behavior, feelings and/or physical well-being.

Do you have any control over what is causing your stress?

If not, learn to let it go — easier said than done. And learn to control what affect it has on you, and how you respond to it — again, easier said than done.

— ♦ —

How else can you determine your stress levels?

You need to listen to your body.


How Does Your Body Respond To Stress?

As already mentioned, stress can have quite a negative effect on your health. It can take its toll on your brain and nervous system, skin, muscles, joints, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines, reproductive system, and your immune system.

How do you know when you are experiencing high levels of stress?

Your body will give you numerous signals — whether physical, emotional, behavioral, or cognitive. Learn to recognize your body’s signs of stress, which may include any of the following:


The Physical Signals

  •  Rapid heartbeat, pounding heart; even chest pain
  •  Feeling fatigued
  • Headache, stomach ache
  • Hard to breathe
  • Queasiness, nausea, vomiting
  • Sweating heavily
  • Sweaty hands, cold hands
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Dry mouth, hard to swallow
  • Crave certain foods (women: carbs; men: meat)


The Emotional Signals

  • Loss of emotional control
  • Depression
  • Intense anger or agitation
  • Guilt, grief, denial
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Feeling overwhelmed


The Behavioral Signals

  • Angry or emotional outbursts
  • Hard to sleep
  • Antisocial acts, withdrawal
  • Diminished or increased appetite
  • Suspiciousness
  • Hyper awareness of surroundings
  • Change in speech patterns


The Cognitive Signals

  • Lack of concentration
  • Confusion and lack of attention
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Poor decision-making
  • Problems with abstract thinking, problem-solving
  • Disturbing thoughts, nightmares


If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, go back and take a look at your stressors. And, recognize that you need to do something to reduce the stress in your life.


In addition to meditation, this includes finding someone
you can trust to talk to about your problems,
which seems to be a tough thing for teens to do.


I like using mental exercises with my students to help illustrate the importance of working together, and asking for help.

Some of the exercises we do in class require students to rely on each other for help. These always seem to be the most challenging for students. I encourage you to find some mental exercises, such as those as discussed in chapter 21, and see how much easier they are when you work with someone else to find the answers to the problems.

— ♦ —

You Cannot Escape Stress

You have no control over most of what goes on around you, and what is causing the stress that surrounds you. You can, however, control how you react or respond to those environmental factors, and how you allow them to affect you.

This is where simple breathing exercises can help — and, of course, meditation — to calm and clear your mind.

— ♦ —

Struggles are a part of life.

We all have challenges thrown at us, sometimes every day.

How you handle these struggles can make you stronger.

Have you ever faced a challenge with apprehension, then after accomplishing it, looked back and thought to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t so hard!” or “Wow, I did that!”?

Always take time to think about what you have learned from any struggle or challenge you have had to face.

— ♦ —



Do you recognize what is causing your stress?

Do you recognize your body’s signals?





Science is not only compatible with spirituality;
it is a profound source
of spirituality.

– Carl Sagan,
scientist / astronomer