Fairfax Teen to Hold Stress Management Workshop

Fairfax Teen to Hold Stress Management Workshop

Stress management workshop to be held Saturday, April 2, in the Fairfax United Methodist Church.

Molly McCracken holds a meeting March 16 with her adult volunteers to discuss everyone’s readiness status for their stress management seminar for teens April 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Fairfax United Methodist Church at 10300 Stratford Ave., where teens will learn healthy ways to cope with anxiety at “Breathe Out!”

Molly McCracken holds a meeting March 16 with her adult volunteers to discuss everyone’s readiness status for their stress management seminar for teens April 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Fairfax United Methodist Church at 10300 Stratford Ave., where teens will learn healthy ways to cope with anxiety at “Breathe Out!” Photo by J. McCracken

Online Resources

Fairfax teen Molly McCracken shows her peers healthy ways to just breathe and relax at http://breatheoutno…">breatheoutnow.wix.c… and her Facebook page. Scroll down the list of top posts using the search words “Breathe Out!”

The Josh Anderson Foundation is dedicated to the memory of a Fairfax County teen who took his own life in 2009. This Vienna nonprofit is on a mission to stop teen suicide. See how at http://www.joshande…">www.joshandersonfou… or on Facebook at The Josh Anderson Foundation page.

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board offers mental health assistance to Northern Virginia residents at 703-383-8500. Visit http://www.fairfaxc…">www.fairfaxcounty.g….

Laughter Yoga International contains numerous articles about the health benefits of this exercise at http://www.laughter…">www.laughteryoga.org.

Find other tips for coping with teen stress at the National Institute of Mental Health through its Child and Adolescent Mental Health division at http://www.nih.gov">www.nih.gov.

It doesn’t matter what Molly McCracken’s personal issues were last year. The 17-year-old Fairfax High School junior felt frustrated and sluggish. She needed to shake it off but didn’t know how.

“I was overwhelmed with family issues and school work,” she explained. McCracken knew there was a simple fix but didn’t get the results she needed after asking teachers, friends and counselors for help.

Her mother took her in May to a Fairfax County Public Schools symposium on teen stress. However, the teen noticed more adults – teachers, counselors and parents – than her peers attended the conference filled with 82 work sessions.

McCracken was convinced her solution was as simple as reaching into a mental health toolbox to grab the right gadget to fix her problem.

She set a personal goal to empower teens between seventh and 12th grades with methods to relieve stress at a shorter program tailored to their needs. This multitasker also is using this initiative to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.

HER STRESS MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP — held Saturday, April 2, in the Fairfax United Methodist Church at 10300 Stratford Ave. — will teach participants practical stress management skills from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

School counselors will define teen stress for participants and offer useful solutions for coping. Diane Tuininga is a guest speaker and school psychologist who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College. She knows high school “is a tough time for teenagers and their parents to manage.”

The talk is followed by a traditional yoga session that teaches students “how to focus on their breathing to reduce stress” says Fairfax resident Anna Kim, certified yoga instructor.

Teens are offered quick and easy workshops at five activity stations that appeal to the sense of taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. Each stress management tool takes up to 15 minutes to learn.

“The centers are kind of laid back,” McCracken insists. She doesn’t want her guests to worry about completing a checklist and set up the environment so individuals can spend more time at the work stations they find most interesting.

Teens can pick and choose from healthy options at a salad bar —followed by Girl Scout Cookies for dessert. Then they can experience how the simple act of petting a dog can calm people down with a little help from a handler from Canine Companions for Independence. An aromatherapy specialist will demonstrate the soothing effects of scented oils extracted from plants, such as lavender.

Laughter yoga is a funny exercise designed to relieve stress. Kim will lead pupils through a series of comical role-play activities that are serious about elevating mood. Comfortable clothing is recommended for teens willing to improve their attitude through a good belly laugh.

Tuininga feels some examples of teen stress may create a formula for a mental health crisis: divorce, death of a loved one, moving to a new home, illness, peer pressure plus school assignments compounded by parental expectations for college success.

Furthermore, technology has helped us become more connected to the world at breakneck speed from the palm of our hands. Smartphones show us news of the latest school shooting before we get home and turn on the television. Tuininga feels instant access to information increases teen stress and adds cyber bullying is a big thing now.

“They are so connected every minute,” she admits, “and so anxious.”

“I feel like people are the first to know everything in social media,” McCracken said. Tuininga appreciates the teen’s idea to call this April 2 stress management event “Breathe Out!”

“Waiting to exhale is what we do to alleviate stress,” Tuininga explains.

Mechanics is the driving force behind McCracken’s idea of a mental health toolbox for her peers.

McCracken submitted a proposal last summer for approval then reached out to the community. She garnered support from the Woman’s Club of Fairfax and the Josh Anderson Foundation, a teen suicide prevention program in Vienna.


Coloring is the favorite stress management tool of Fairfax High School junior Molly McCracken. She and other volunteers will provide teens with tools on how to relax Saturday at her workshop in Fairfax United Methodist Church at 10300 Stratford Ave.

THE TEEN scouted for project funding and spent two weeks applying for a local grant. McCracken was awarded $385.50 last fall from the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.

“There is so much to think about for a teen for just one event,” said Mary Driver-Downs of Fairfax — McCracken’s Gold Award advisor. Her Girl Scout assembled a crack team of nearly 10 adults assigned various tasks from web design to washing dishes.

“I think it is a good opportunity for our church to participate in meeting some of the needs of our students and teens,” says FUMC lead pastor David J. Bonney.

Although he wasn’t a preacher’s kid himself, Bonney understands the social pressures faced by his own four children. The pastor — who earned his master of divinity degree from Duke University — claims it’s demanding on children to have parents who work a lot, are gone often and have to please a lot of people.

McCracken admits learning a lot through planning this event. It has transformed her stress into her message to help other teens. Breathe Out! attendance is free and registration is required online at breatheoutnow.wix.com/goldaward.

“Walk-ins are welcome” McCracken says as long as their parents sign a waiver. “I don’t want to have to turn a kid away.”