Researchers find new ways to help teens handle stress, anger

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News 12 This Morning / Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- How well do you handle stress and anger? That's the question researchers are asking high school students. A recently published study may have a way to make it even easier for teens.

The study was done at T.W. Josey and Academy of Richmond County and measured blood pressure and anxiety levels in teens. The students wore a blood pressure cuff for 24 hours to measure their daily stresses and say the results of the study speak for themselves.

High school can be overwhelming. With classes, work, sports and more, these students spend a lot of time trying to deal with stress and anger.

"A lot of times we don't look at our students as far as they have health issues and they have high blood pressure and they have stresses at home that probably prevent them from excelling in the classroom," said teacher Joann Jenkins.

Researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University decided to try out a program typically used for adults. It's called the Williams Life skills program and teaches 10 basic ways to help students handle anger and stress.

"We believe it's important for teens to learn this at a young age so that they will have these skills on into their adult years," said Dr. Vernon Barnes with GHSU, who was the main researcher in this study.

They did the study at Josey and Academy of Richmond County to see how the program adapted to high schoolers and if it worked. Researchers measured the blood pressure and anxiety levels of students at the beginning of the program and again at the end.

"At the end of the program we found a reduction in blood pressure. We also found overall reduction in the entire group in anxiety and a better ability of the students to control their anger," Barnes said.

Health and physical education teachers who taught the life skills to the students say that change was visible.

"I was able to see someone who would usually go from zero to 60 maybe be able to count to 10," Jenkins said.

Although the study is over, the teachers are still using the program in their classes.

"It makes it so, so much easier and you can base it really on the real world, so I think it's much easier," said senior Curtis Johnson.

Now that the study has been published, they're hoping other schools will begin teaching them, too.

"If we can teach them the coping skills for handling that, then maybe they can be better students in the long run," Jenkins said.

Teaching the skills actually didn't take long. It was all done in 10 classes, something that can easily fit into a high school curriculum.

That short amount of time made a big difference for the students. They retested the students three months later and again six months later and said they still saw the decrease in blood pressure and anxiety.

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