“Release” Shows How Middle-Schoolers Tame Anxiety

Living in their own chaotic world, stuck somewhere among piles of homework, bullies, and awkward texts, middle schoolers ‘fight’ their own battles. This five-minute film shows students work through their anxieties by using mindfulness.

“It feels awful, so I try to do everything perfect,” says one student.

A kind of popular statement we can all relate to—if I just work on myself a little bit more, I’ll make fewer mistakes, and everything will work out better. This 5 minute film, titled “Release” takes us into middle-schoolers’ minds who are struggling with social issues, such as ‘the 7-th graders think they’re the best’ and ‘should I wear makeup?’; texting habits, bullying (all kinds), and balancing between homework and other activities.

Just look closely and you’ll notice that a guided mindful breathing practice changes the confused pace only within a few minutes. Students’ faces reveal that that those thoughts are still surfacing—just see those knotted brows and there are still some frowns—but very soon they begin to dissipate and smiles are shown on their faces.

Oprah Winfrey Network’s Super Soul Sunday program in the spring of 2015 briefly aired the kindergarteners’ problems. They discussed how mindfulness and breathing techniques can help them cope with anger and other difficult emotions. As a result, Bayer got inspired to create a short film after taking a six-week course with Mindful Schools i.e. an organization that teaches mindfulness in US schools. “Release” is Julie Bayer and Josh Salzman’s second film. Last year they were creators of their first film titled “Just Breathe”.

“What led me to mindfulness was my own relationship to anxiety,” says Bayer. “So for this particular film, I felt it was important for the viewer to be able to experience the transformation a mindful meditation practice can have on an individual’s state of mind.”

The film starts with students speaking about their anxieties and continues with guiding them into breathing practice. Although you can see that stressful thoughts are still coming up during the practice, the idea of mindfulness isn’t about fixing yourself; it’s about working with your mind. And that is the turning point in the film. Control and stability emerge as students return to their breathing, again and again.

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