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‘Wellness doctor’ helps students at Rancho Encinitas Academy learn to deal with stress

Dr. Brian Alman

With classwork, exams, homework and extracurriculars, school can be a stressful time for students. That’s why two local schools are showing students how to cope with their stress.

“The earlier kids learn to deal with stress, the better,” said Dr. Brian Alman, a 25-year Encinitas resident who has a practice in Del Mar. “They’re going to have anxiety and stress their whole life. It doesn’t go away with age.”

This is the second year Alman has provided students at Rancho Encinitas Academy and Encinitas Academy at REA with tools to manage their stress and practice self-help strategies. With more than 35 years of experience and nine books on health and wellness, Alman holds monthly workshops so students can learn the simple techniques he outlined in his latest book, “Less Stress for Kids: A Stress-Management Program for Parents, Teachers, and Children K-8.”

Dr. Brian Alman working with students.
Dr. Brian Alman working with students.
( / Photo by Chad Voisen)

“I’ve learned through research, writing and working with people what works and what doesn’t,” Alman said.

The techniques can take as little as a few seconds or as long as a few minutes.

One simple trick students have learned is to say their name as they exhale. This helps them focus on their breathing and quickly alleviate anxiety.

“It has to work and it has to be quick, because if it doesn’t work right away, people aren’t going to practice it,” Alman said. For those that like the technique, Alman encourages them to also state their goal as they inhale.

“You will automatically relax and feel more comfortable within two or three breaths,” he said. “If it’s your own name and your own goal, it will always work.”

When the program launched last year, Alman held sessions for teachers and parents so they, too, could help students learn to breathe, relax and take care of themselves.

Since the training, teachers have had copies of the book and continue to practice a new technique with their students every week.

“Dr. Alman has not only taught students numerous ways to deal with stress and anxiety in their lives, but his book has also continued, beyond our session with him, to give my students the tools they need to not only recognize the signs of stress, but to give each student numerous different ways to turn that stress into something positive,” said third- and fourth-grade teacher Claire Killeen.

Karey Jaeger, a middle school teacher who serves as co-director of Edison Academy, agreed.

“Our school strives to provide an environment where our students grow personally, socially and academically,” she said.

“My students have greatly benefited from the sessions. They report using the techniques in many different situations.”

Established in 1990, Encinitas Academy serves students with mild to moderate learning disabilities in third through eighth grade. Rancho Encinitas Academy opened five years later with a mainstream school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Headed by Director Paul Wulle, both private schools are now located on the same two-acre campus in Encinitas, where they have a combined 70 students.

“In all the schools I’ve taught at all around the country, this one stands out as the most personalized, holistic and caring atmosphere,” said Alman, whose seventh grade daughter, Alaina, attends Rancho Encinitas Academy.

Both schools offer small classes that emphasize a child-centered approach to learning. Curriculum is aligned with Common Core Standards. Art, music, physical education and yoga classes are also available. Alman’s program is one of the newest offerings at the campus.

Students said they have benefited from the wellness sessions both at school and outside of school.

“When I was mad at my brother, I used the inhale thing and stopped myself,” Gianni wrote in a testimonial.

“I remember he told me how to fall asleep and it worked,” Sophia wrote.

“We closed our eyes and there was music, and we felt like we were somewhere else,” Tanner wrote.

Despite a busy schedule with private clients and workshops, Alman looks forward to his sessions with the students every month. Another session for teachers and parents is also planned for this school year.

“I love helping people help themselves,” he said.

For more about Alman, visit www.drbrianalman.com.

For more about Rancho Encinitas Academy and Encinitas Academy at REA, visit www.ranchoencinitasacademy.com.


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