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The Upside of Stress & Anxiety

April 11, 2019

During assembly on Thursday, April 11, Lisa Damour spoke to students about the upside of stress and anxiety. A psychologist, teacher, speaker, consultant and New York Times bestselling author, she came to Burroughs to speak with parents and faculty as well.

Damour began her assembly comments addressing the senior class: "After you're 25, no one knows where you went to college unless you bring it up — and those who do talk about it, probably peaked in college! Don't peak in college."

She then shared the good and the bad of stress and anxiety. Anxiety is an internal alarm system. It makes us feel uncomfortable so that we make a change that protects us. But, if the alarm system goes off when everything is OK, or the alarm is out of proportion to what is really happening, then it's not healthy. As for stress, it can actually make you grow. Damour likened healthy stress to weight lifting, the most important part being how you recover after the exercise.

Engaging students throughout, Damour asked for examples of what might contribute to a very stressful day. Ideas came from all grades — waking up late, being pulled over by the police while rushing to school, missing a test, receiving a jarring text from your mother, discovering your girlfriend isn't loyal, etc. Then Damour asked students how they recover from stress. Again, the ideas ran the gamut — take a bath or a walk, cry, play with pets, listen to music (sad playlist, angry playlist, pump-up playlist, chill playlist), try to get organized, watch favorite movies from childhood, etc. Damour said "the only way out of stress is through it. How you recover ... how you put yourself back together, is totally individual. It is your job to know your system."

Damour likes studying and working with teenagers because they change the fastest. "We give you the impression that your personality is fully formed," but you are just like batter until about 26 — you can keep mixing up the ingredients.

As for intellectual development, the bestselling author shared that she was a terrible writer in high school and college, and only began to improve when she took writing classes during graduate school. She declared that at 48 she is still in mid-career, and reminded students they have decades to get good ....