Antidote for anxiety: fresh air


Paige Dwyer

Seniors sit outside during their lunch, enjoying a privilege underclassmen don’t have

I sit in a stuffy classroom, waiting for the bell to ring, fighting to calm my anxiety. Telling myself it’s nothing and I’ll be fine, repeating the words in my head over and over.

I can’t take sitting at a desk all day, much less stay in a hot and humid classroom or freezing cold. I get fidgety and it makes it much easier to get stressed. It gets worse when the classroom doesn’t have windows. I feel trapped in my net of emotions and in the environment of the classroom.

I start hyperventilating, gasping for air in between my sentences because I can’t breathe. A strong pressure builds in my throat and chest, I feel like I’m being choked. I need an escape.

I can’t wait for lunch because, now that I’m a senior, I am allowed to eat outside. 

Sometimes it is the only thing I can use to center myself.

When I finally get outside, I breathe in the cool air and feel the sun’s warmth on my skin, finally able to take a break from the daily stressors of the school day. Being outside calms me down quicker than anything else and benefits mental as well as physical health. It increases energy levels and calms the mind.

My sophomore year, I realized the amount of stress I felt wasn’t normal but I found that it was nice to sit outside after a long day at school. It relaxed me and I spent as much time outside as I could. But it was hard to make up for the stressful day when I could have avoided or reduced the amount of stress I felt. If I had been allowed a break to be outside during the school day it would have significantly improved my mental health.

But Junior year everything got worse because I took the first classes where I really had to fight for an A. I wasn’t ready for the extra pressure and it took a toll on my mental health. I could have really used a break outside during the day but I wasn’t a senior.

Having a break during the school day to spend time outside relaxing would help remind people to take care of their mental and physical health and help them breathe for a bit. Teens have a lot to deal with during the school day including grades, stress from tests and presentations, exams, friendships, and college preparation. Spending time outside to take a break from all of that can reduce the urge to use unhealthy coping mechanisms.

According to the CDC, having recess during the school day increases students’ (grades four through seven) level of physical activity, their memory, attention, and concentration,  and helps them stay on-task in the classroom. I don’t see why it changes for high schoolers. Their brains are still developing and they are still kids.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states in an article “The wellness benefits of the great outdoors,” that spending time outside in green spaces supports an active and healthy lifestyle, which has shown to increase life expectancy, improve sleep quality and reduce cancer risk, and studies have shown that being in nature can restore and strengthen our mental capacities, increasing focus and attention.

As I sit outside finishing this opinion piece, I am relaxed listening to the crickets chirp and the birds sing. Enjoying the cool breeze on a beautiful autumn day, I feel grounded to the bench I’m sitting on and focused on what I’m doing. 

All students should get to feel like this and during a break from their daily stressors at school, no matter what grade they are in. It wouldn’t just help me.