SAN ANTONIO — Ujala Patel is trying to assist her schoolmates in finding their center. It's a goal especially
"I just thought stress was something that adults would get very sad and mad and very sad about," Patel said.
She attends school at BASIS San Antonio-Shavano Campus. Aside from school, the 13-year-old is a fitness ambassador for the Mayor's fitness council.
Through training as an ambassador, she honed in on mental health. Her mother, Shavari Parghi, is a pediatrician who became her expert and sounding board for her daughter's big idea.
"She's like – 'Mommy, I really think this is really huge. I think is what I want to focus on,'" she said.
Parghi became excited because children's mental health, she believes, doesn't get the attention it needs.
"Stress is pervasive in all aspects of all children," she said. "I think we shouldn't think of it as just negative – but really empowering... Empowering them to see what can you do about the stress."
Patel, who said she's stressed out as a seventh-grader, sent out a survey to her schoolmates to see if they felt the same way.
"Some of the questions were, how stressed are you – ranging from one to ten?" she said. "And a lot of the responses were eight, nine, 10."
The young mental health researcher could not believe the data she got back from 140 students.
"Most of the student body said they were anxious, stressed, nervous," Patel said.
Her solution was to start a mental health club. COVID-19 destroyed that from flourishing. After overcoming several roadblocks, she came up with a program called 'Meditative Minds.' As a fitness ambassador, she must create a health-based program.
"Each of the sessions that we did was a different aspect of mindfulness," she said. "Mindfulness is being present in the moment without judgment."
The program is four sessions: Mindful breathing, mindful eating, mindful art and music and mindful yoga.
"It's hard for them to see – yes, mindfulness is going to help me," Parghi said. "For them, it's the grades and day-to-day homes – and how they feel."
The physician admits some stress is good, which is likely why we embrace it.
"We are stressed. Society's stressed. I think it's just... It's an accepted norm," she said.
Some of Patel's sessions got held online. She said the response to learning how to exhale and relax is positive so far.
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