Harpeth Hall hosted psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour on Thursday, March 7. Damour is a regular contributor to The New York Times and CBS News. Both her book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, and her new book, Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls have received wide acclaim and were instant New York Times bestsellers.
Damour headlined a day and evening filled with insights and information for adolescents and the grownups in their lives.
During the all-school assembly on Thursday, Damour addressed topics such as stress and recovery from stress. She compared the Middle School and Upper School experience to "a long weight training program for your brain." She explained there is stress in every part of the experience, but stress is how you build your capacity. She emphasized to the audience that stress is not all bad.
"Stress is what happens when you are asked to change or adapt," said Damour. "Stress happens with change, when we are working at the edge of our capacities."
Damour explained that with every stressful experience there must be a recovery process. She actively engaged students, encouraging them to share their imagined "worst day ever" and getting them to brainstorm about coping mechanisms or "recovery" strategies.
"Don't be fearful of the stress. It will make you so strong, so durable, and so flexible. It will allow you to do things you never imagined," Damour told students, "Focus on how you recover."
Damour spoke to a full theatre of parents and community members at the Thursday evening event. She shared many of the same messages that she shared with students. She also emphasized the tremendous rate of change that takes place in teens as they head into adulthood. She pointed out that what can appear to be erratic, frustrating, and confusing behavior is often just a normal part of growing up.
Head of School Jess Hill reflected on Damour's visit, "Dr. Damour has a deep knowledge and understanding of adolescent girls, and she was able to connect with our entire student body, 5th through 12th grades during our All-School Assembly on Thursday. Her talk to the parents was direct, humorous, and pithy with nuggets of wisdom about parenting and mentoring our girls in today's world."