Practicing Stress-Management Techniques in the Classroom
One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching a skills-based health education curriculum is giving students the opportunity to actually practice health-related skills in the classroom so that they can figure out what works best for them outside of the classroom.
While creating a self-management/health-enhancing behaviors unit, my colleague and I decided to frame the lessons around stress management, since being able to handle stress in a safe and healthy way is crucial during teens’ developmental years.
We first explain health-enhancing behaviors as “various actions and practices that a person takes in order to avoid and/or reduce health risks.” We then cover ten stress management techniques, spending a few entire class periods to explain select techniques in detail.
By exposing students to multiple techniques, they can find one that they enjoy doing. We also allow time for student reflection and feedback after each technique. Reflection is important because it allows students to connect the skills to their own lives.
Here are just a few ways to implement stress-management techniques in your classroom:
Mindfulness and meditation are getting a lot of press these days. We introduce it by teaching students about deep breathing, tasking them to inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four. We then use calm.com to complete a 20-minute guided meditation as a class. (YouTube also has plenty of guided meditation videos.) Twenty minutes is challenging (not impossible!) to start with, but after some initial giggling, our students have settled into the practice quite well.
Most writing that students complete is academic in nature, so the concept of free writing is usually new to them. We have students free write in one of three ways: 1. Responding to a prompt (We provide a list of some serious, some funny.), 2. Writing about what is on their mind, or 3. Poetry. We have students write by hand and cue them that spelling, grammar, etc. do not count. Even when students free write about something unrelated to their stress, their stress levels are reduced because they’re taking their mind off of their problems.
Adult coloring books are a hot-selling item these days, but students can use coloring as a stress-management tool, too. We provide students with copies of pages from coloring books or blank pieces of paper. Students are surprised at how quickly time goes by when they’re focused on their coloring, and many report feeling relaxed and that their brain was “turned off” by the end of their coloring session.
In our end-of-term student surveys, many students said this unit was their favorite of the school year. We’ve also heard back from students who have continued to use these techniques outside of school or who have shared them with family members. Try them out, and let me know how your students respond!