Make Summer Vacation Last: Break the Student Stress Cycle Now

How can students best use their spare time during their summer break to refresh and renew in preparation for a more successful Fall term? 

As a former school administrator, I’ve had a lot of experience with students. I’ve studied published research as well as anecdotal reports about private schools and public schools to keep my finger on the pulse of student life and how it differs from the underserved at-risk schools to the privileged. I’ve seen kids who have challenged the national statistics that predict they will fail, misbehave, drop out, not graduate, not go to college.

The Impact of Stress on Students

“Stress is the number one enemy of public education, especially in inner city schools. It creates tension and violence and compromises the cognitive and psychological capacity of students.”

James S. Dierke, 2008 National Middle School Principal of the Year

Nationwide, data on the impact of stress in school settings ranges from not-too-bad to epidemic. For example, it’s reported that:

  • About 3 million children receive medication to treat symptoms of ADHD.
  • 25% of teens struggle with anxiety disorders.
  • 25% of students have been sold, given or offered illegal drugs at school.
  • Suicide is the third highest cause of death in teens.
  • High levels of stress contribute to students’ attention deficits, anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and impaired cognitive function.
  • Academic achievement and attendance rates drop.
  • In low-income urban school settings, chronic stress is systemic. When traumatic stress overcomes them, students often choose substance use, violence, or gang affiliation to divert them from their pain.

My husband and I have worked with schools across the country. Based on our mutual experience and knowledge of successful school programs, we are always happy when the Transcendental Meditation program is offered to students in a school. It benefits the individual students and faculty as well as bringing benefit to the whole school. Here’s why:

TM improves school outcomes

Academic achievement and focus on learning are not synonymous with stress. Applied research conducted over the last five years has shown that offering the Transcendental Meditation program—with its benefits of increasing brain integration1, intelligence, memory, moral reasoning and creativity while reducing fatigue, stress, symptoms of ADHD, anxiety and depression—into high schools decreases the rate of dropouts, increases the percent graduating, and increases the acceptance rate to college and post-secondary education, particularly for under-achieving students. 

On the website, Dr. Robert Colbert, associate professor and director of Neag School of Education’s Diversity Council at the University of Connecticut, is quoted:

“While there are bright spots in public education today, urban schools on the whole tend to suffer from a range of factors which contribute to poor student academic performance and low graduation rates. Students need to be provided with value—added educational programs that can provide opportunities for school success. Our study investigated one such program, Transcendental Meditation, which appears to hold tremendous promise for enriching the lives of our nation’s students.”

Research Outcomes and Journal References

Your kids are your number one priority, so it’s likely you’ll want to know more about published research on the TM program that is relevant to education outcomes. Here is a sample list of studies that are related to improved learning ability and well-being.

Increased Brain Functioning, Intelligence, and Academic Performance Improved Brain Functioning
1. Human Physiology 25 (1999): 171–180. 2. Psychophysiology 31 Abstract (1994): S67. 3. Psychophysiology 27 Supplement (1990): 4A. 4. Psychophysiology 26 (1989): 529. 5. International Journal of Neuroscience 15 (1981): 151–157. 6. International Journal of Neuroscience 14 (1981): 147–151. 7. International Journal of Neuroscience 13 (1981): 211–217. 8. Psychosomatic Medicine 46 (1984): 267–276. 

Increased Flexibility of Brain Functioning
1. Biological Psychology 55 (2000): 41–55. 2. Psychophysiology 14 (1977): 293–296. 2. Brain and Cognition 125 (2018)

Increased Efficiency of Information Transfer in the Brain
1. Motivation, Motor and Sensory Processes of the Brain, Progress in Brain Research 54 (1980): 447–453. 2. International Journal of Neuroscience 10 (1980): 165–170. 3. Psychophysiology 26 (1989): 529. M

Increased Creativity
1. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (1989): 950–964. 2. The Journal of Creative Behavior 19 (1985): 270–275. 3. Dissertation Abstracts International 38(7) (1978): 3372B–3373B. 

Improved Memory
1. Memory and Cognition 10 (1982): 207–215. 

Increased Self-Confidence and Self-Actualization
1. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 6 (1991): 189–247. 2. Higher Stages of Human Development: Perspectives on Adult Growth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 286–341. 3. British Journal of Psychology 73 (1982): 57–68. 4. College Student Journal 15 (1981): 140–146. 5. Journal of Counseling Psychology 20 (1973): 565–566. 6. Journal of Counseling Psychology 19 (1972): 184–187. 6. Brain and Cognition 125 (2018)

Reduced Substance Abuse
1. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11 (1994): 1–524. 2. Bulletin of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors 2 (1983): 28–33. 3. The International Journal of the Addictions 12 (1977): 729–754. 4. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 36 (2003): 127–160. 5. American Journal of Psychiatry 132 (1975): 942–945. 6. American Journal of Psychiatry 131 (1974): 60–63.

Easy for students

Easily learned in just a few days, the TM technique is then practiced sitting comfortably on one’s own for about 15 minutes each time. It doesn’t involve concentration or having to clear your mind of thoughts. It is a non-religious meditation that involves no belief or change in a student’s unique lifestyle.

Lani Aulicino learned TM as a student. She said, “When I was in high school, I ran cross country. The feeling that you get before you start a race—it’s like you’ve got all this potential energy. It’s kind of like TM—on a very subtle level—sets you up for your day and it just runs smoothly…. It’s like a peaceful intelligence.”

Melodia Morales from Chile commented on practicing the TM technique in her high school, saying, “It helps us as students to not be overwhelmed at school with homework. Or in sports—we take It lightly. It’s still competitive but not like we’re overwhelmed with the competition. And we’re overall calm and just happy.” And her sister Coral added. “The more we do our (TM) program, the more creative we are, the more expanded we feel and the more calm we are.”

What’s next?

  1. Get in touch with a certified local TM teacher. 
  2. Meet up! Attend a free Transcendental Meditation introductory informational meeting with your children. 
  3. Take the course with them—TM isn’t just for kids. 

R. D. Colbert, Nidich S. “Effect of the Transcendental Meditation program on graduation, college acceptance and dropout rates for students attending an urban public high school.” Education 133, no. 4 (2013): 495-501.

About the Author

Andrea Beall is a retired school administrator who helped pioneer Consciousness Based Education for secondary schools.