May 08, 2024, Durham, NC – A recent meta-analysis found that adolescents are experiencing significantly higher levels of anxiety in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Pressures to perform well in academic environments and difficulty socializing or maintaining relationships with peers are common sources of everyday stress for adolescents. Increased socialization and returning to in-school instruction may have increased the intensity of these stressors for adolescents when social distancing policies were lifted.

Brief and prolonged anxiety and stress in adolescents can contribute to various negative physical health outcomes, such as decreased immune system functioning, high blood pressure, and insomnia. In addition, when adolescents are not equipped with adequate resources to cope with stress and anxiety, they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as misusing alcohol or drugs. iRT is dedicated to creating resources to help adolescents cope with stress and anxiety to minimize its negative impacts on their health, particularly in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aware for High School Classrooms is a research-based, instructor-led mindfulness education program designed to enhance adolescents’ abilities to be aware of and manage their feelings and thoughts, cope with stress, make healthier decisions, and avoid risky behaviors such as using alcohol or other drugs. The Aware program is grounded in mindfulness concepts, so students can learn and practice becoming more aware of the present moment and their feelings. By providing adolescents with the space and time to slow down and think before responding, they have more opportunities to make conscious, healthy decisions. Mindfulness has been shown to increase youth attention, cognitive control, emotional regulation, and social skills.2,3 In addition, mindfulness skills can decrease sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and externalizing behaviors in youth.4,5

Instructors of the Aware program complete 15-minute mindfulness lessons with high school students each day for five weeks to teach students mindful meditation, mindful movements, breathing techniques, and application of mindfulness skills to everyday life. Students discuss stress and coping, breathing and body movements, pleasant and unpleasant feelings, their thoughts about themselves, and their relationships with others. The program is interactive and engaging for adolescents and is designed to be flexible, so instructors can adapt the program to align with their students’ schedules and needs.

High school students who have taken the Aware program have reported that they were better able to pay attention and stop to think before acting after taking the program. Instructors who have taught the program have reported that their students demonstrated fewer aggressive behaviors over time and teachers reported that they found the program enjoyable, and easy to prepare and teach.

If you are interested in offering the Aware program to high school students to help them learn strategies to cope with stress and anxiety, iRT is offering a teacher training workshop series on May 21 and 22, 2024, from 2:00pm until 5:00pm. Teacher training consists of two, 3-hour live, interactive, workshop sessions. Workshop participants will learn to teach the Aware program with fidelity to students. Participants will learn about how stress can impact decision-making and risky health behaviors, as well as strategies to teach teens to manage stress in a healthy way. They will also experience the program, be taught implementation strategies for each lesson, and complete a teacher certification test in order to receive a Certificate of Completion.

To enroll yourself or your team members in the upcoming teacher training workshop series, contact us by email at

To learn more about the Aware programs, visit our website:

  1. Wang, S., Chen, L., Ran, H., Che, Y., Fang, D., Sun, H., Peng, J., Liang, X., & Xiao, Y. (2022). Depression and anxiety among children and adolescents pre and post COVID-19: A comparative meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychiatry13, 917552.
  2. Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., Ishijima, E., & Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children. Journal of Applied School Psychology26(1), 70–95.
  3. Saltzman, A., & Goldin, P. (2008). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for school-age children. In L. A. Greco & S. C. Hayes (Eds.), Acceptance and mindfulness treatments for children and adolescents: A practitioner’s guide, 139–161. New Harbinger Publications.
  4. Bootzin, R. R., & Stevens, S. J. (2005). Adolescents, substance abuse, and the treatment of insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Clinical psychology review25(5), 629–644.
  5. Biegel, G. M., Brown, K. W., Shapiro, S. L., & Schubert, C. M. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology77(5), 855–866.