We need a break! Ask a teen about their day, and they’ll likely give you a long list of classes, extracurricular activities, and schoolwork.
I’ve witnessed so much anxiety related to these hectic schedules: students pulling the fire alarm during midyear exams, kids sobbing in class, and even a girl fainting during a test. With today’s intense pressure to succeed, many teens are pushed to take on too many responsibilities at the expense of sleep, exercise, and free time.
Thanks to this unhealthy atmosphere, it’s no wonder that more than 25 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 have a diagnosable anxiety disorder at some point, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Even those who aren’t struggling with a disorder often still have trouble getting through the painfully long school day. With only a few hurried minutes between classes, we get worn out, and it becomes increasingly hard to pay attention the longer we sit at our desks.
Recess is the best remedy for this unfortunate situation. Studies show that children who engage in physical activity reap the benefits of improved physical and mental health—yet only 27 percent of high schoolers get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. That’s probably because we have so much going on after school that it’s hard to make room for exercise. If schools were to set aside even a short amount of time for us to move around, it could help relieve our stress—and it also could make us more focused in class later on.
Recess has other positive aspects too. Even if students didn’t want to run around, they’d still benefit from a mental break. That way, their brains could regroup for a bit, and they’d go back to class feeling refreshed and ready to learn again. Plus, recess would serve as an opportunity for social and emotional interactions that can’t take place in the classroom, like meeting new friends.
Something as beneficial as recess shouldn’t be just for little kids. We teens deserve a chance to blow off steam and recuperate from demanding classes. After all, taking care of our mental health is just as important as what we’re learning in class.