Many teenagers are at a point in their life where they start to really experience stress. This lesson will help give them the tools to cope with stress.
Introducing the Topic: Stress
Every lesson needs to start somewhere. For this lesson on stress, I like to offer an introductory statement and then move into an activity.
Here’s an example of an introductory statement I might use:
Statement: “Stress is something we deal with everyday. We each have situations that cause a little or a lot of stress. This can be good or bad. Today we are going to look at the body’s response to stress and how to manage our stress so we don’t let it get out of control in our lives. We are going to play a game first.”
Activity on Stress
Next, I move into the activity.
Here’s what you’ll need to set up. Each team needs 3 tennis balls. Put tape around one of the three tennis balls. Depending on how many teens you have, you can get them into one or two circles. Pick one of them to be the starter person.
Here are the instructions I give:
- The beginner person will send one tennis ball to someone and it should go to each person in the circle. It cannot go to the person next to you.
- The ball will end at the beginner person.
- After you have created a pattern of tossing the tennis ball, we will have a race. Let them create a pattern of tossing once or twice.
- Now you are going to race each other. If there is only one team, you would set a timer and have them try to beat their time. Let them race a few times to see who wins. There will be a lot of messing up and people getting frustrated. Let this happen.
- Now we are going to give a second tennis ball to the beginner person.
- They will toss the first tennis ball and then the second one shortly after. -When both tennis balls are back to the beginner person you are done. Let them race a few times with the 2 tennis balls.
- Now we are going to add a third tennis ball.
- The beginner person will send the first 2 tennis balls in the pattern you have created but this third tennis ball with the tape on it will just go around the circle from person to person in a clockwise direction. Let them race a few times.
Post Game Discussion
After completing the game, we take a minute to talk about it and apply it to the lesson.
I like to say something along the lines of, “We just played a game that probably made you feel stressed. It was a fun game, but you still had some changes happen in your mind and body. Let’s talk about what you noticed.”
Here are some potential discussion questions:
- What did you notice about your body as you played the game?
- How did your behavior change?
- How was your mind affected by the game?
As the class discusses your questions, you can take a moment to teach simple principles about stress.
Statement: “Many things happen when we feel stressed. There can be changes in our heart rate and breathing rate, or we can have changes in our moods and behaviors. Stress can make it hard to focus and do normal activities that we know we are capable of. We are going to learn about some of the common ways our body reacts to stress.”
Notes about Coping with Stress
At this point in the lesson, you can pass out the worksheet or have kids take out there notebooks to take a few notes.
Have them write down these physical symptoms of stress. Knowing these symptoms will help them cope with stress better.
Physical symptoms from stress
- Heart rate goes up
- Breathing becomes shallow and fast
- Shaking in hands and body
- Muscle tension
- Dry mouth
- Stomach feels weird
Have them share any others that they experience.
Video on Stress
Statement: “Sometimes we think that stress is always bad, but it actually isn’t. It can actually get us to do something and motivate us into action. Think about how stress at school is from teachers having a grade for assignments and a deadline for when things are due. If you did not have the stress of getting a good grade or a due date, you would probably not do as much work and therefore not accomplish and learn as much. We are going to watch a clip that shows that stress can be good or bad, based on our thoughts toward stress.”
Here is the video clip I use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=62s
It is 14 minutes long, but if you only want to do the first 7 minutes that is fine.
Discuss anything that you want to highlight from the video.
Statement: “From that video we learn that how we look at stress affects how it affects us and our health. If we can see stress as a good thing that empowers and prepares us, then it can be a tool we use to get through tough situations.”
3 Kinds of Stress
After the video, I like to teach about the three different kinds of stress and have my class write the definition for each one down.
Writing:There are actually 3 kinds of stress.
- No stress – no motivation to do things
- Eustress – pressure to accomplish things and do something in life
- Distress – overwhelming and can take away from our ability to get things done.
This is a great segway into the fight or flight response.
Statement: “Now we are going to learn about the fight or flight response. The body reacts to stress to protect itself and get ready for fight or flight in a situation. The fight or flight response begins with a stressor or thing that causes stress. Then the body reacts and adrenaline is sent through the blood to the heart and muscles. If the stressor is not really a threat or goes away, the body goes back to normal.”
Here is a video that helps us understand a little more about the Fight or Flight Response.
Here are some funny videos of people having the stress response because of a stressor being presented.
Identifying and Coping with Stress
I think it is important to help them learn to identify the things that make them stressed. In order to practice, I have them write their top 3 stressor, but also write one thing they can do about the stressor to help it get better.
Here are a few examples:
- School- I can talk to teachers to get help.
- Friends are being rude- I can talk to an adult to get help and support on how to deal with situations that come up.
- Family conflict- I can take time for myself and calmly talk about problems with family members.
- My room is really messy- I can just take care of the dirty and clean clothes to get started.
Let some students share what they wrote.
Next, have them write about 3 things they would like to do to deal with stress and help themselves relax.
Let some students share what they wrote. Usually their comments include things like exercise, sports, listen to music, read, hang out with friends, or meditate.
Then, you can finish off the lesson with either a discussion or quiet moment to think and write. I like to ask them these questions.
What can happen if a person has too much stress for too long?
- It can affect their mental health.
- It can make it so you get sick easier and more often.
- It can affect your relationships.
Coping with Stress Worksheet
With this worksheet, you can have the students take notes throughout the lesson. It’s the perfect thing to keep them engaged.
Let me know how this lesson works out for you and your students!