We all could use some extra tools in our own personal "toolkits" to help cope with stress and anxiety.

A student club at a Pikes Peak region high school has been helping students in grades 9-12 learn ways to manage stress, anxiety, depression and other such mental bumps in the road for the past few years.

The Mindfulness and Positivity Project was born from that club, the Cheyenne Mountain High School Mindfulness Club.

I think we can all agree that teenagers these days are dealing with a mother lode of stress and anxiety, especially in the face of the global pandemic we are all working to survive.

The club "started really organically three years ago through the kids," said Meg Fredrick, a recently retired AP Literature teacher and 2015 Cheyenne Mountain High School Teacher of the Year. "Teen suicides have increased and school counseling offices were filled iwth kids who were overwhelmed. Most teachers say 'that's not my problem, I'm not a mental-health practitioner,' but we know it's a problem, we know that it's real."

Frederick said she and fellow CMHS teacher Jeff Kenefsky starting thinking about what they as teachers could do each and every day to help guide students to healing. Teaching mindfulness practices was one way to create a positive classroom experience, they found. 

"Even just taking two minutes to focus on your breathing can help," she said.

And the students eagerly responded. 

"It's become sort of cool to manage your stress, practice kindness and admit you have struggles."

So cool, in fact, and so necessary that the up to 75 kids in the club would attend meetings on their own time, early in the morning before their school day even began. The students in the club were inspired to start outreach for elementary schools, showing younger students breathing and visualization techniques, and how to be mindful.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs conducted a study on the club and found “participants have seen growth in coping self-efficacy, which is associated with overall increased mental health.”

That success has been a springboard for reaching out to a greater audience.

The Mindfulness and Positivity Project in June launched a podcast that features interviews with club members who have graduate about how techniques such as visualization that they learned through the club have helped them in their lives after high school.

MPP, which achieved nonprofit status earlier this year, is the brainchild of the adult facilitators of the Mindfulness Club, Fredrick and Kenefsky, along with clinical social worker/therapist Jackie Melin of Colorado Springs.

I've listened to all The Mindful and Positive Podcast episodes to date (there will be four or five released as of this writing, and they are so well-done and infinitely inspiring. Any teen or adult can benefit from what the young people who have been interviewed so far have to share.

The free podcast is "about improving the lives of young people through mindfulness and positive psychology," states it landing page on Apple Podcasts (apple.co/30EKAGN). Episodes are in the 15-30 minute range and are professionally produced thanks to the volunteer assistance of Fredrick's son, James, who does work for NPR and knows how to produce podcasts.

The listening audience of the podcast has been in the hundreds. "We thought if we got 30 people to listen that would be good, but we're up to 600 now," Frederick said last week. 

Since retiring from teaching in 2019, Frederick has made MPP and now the podcast her focus. MPP also conducts workshops for organizations and businesses in the public and private sectors on how to quiet the mind, overcome challenges and increase happiness through, you guessed it, mindfulness and positivity.

I could all use more of those skills. So could you, I'll bet.

Learn more about the nonprofit and how to donate to or sponsor the podcast at mindfulandpositive.com.

Editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers, Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for five years. Contact Michelle with column or story ideas, feedback and letters to the editor at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

Michelle has been editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers (Pikes Peak Courier; Tri-Lakes Tribune; Cheyenne Edition; and Woodmen Edition) since June 2019. A Pennsylvania native and Penn State journalism graduate, she joined The Gazette's staff in 2015.

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