This lesson helps young people understand the symptoms of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will practice relaxation techniques that focus on calming the body in order to relax the mind.
Explain to the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on your body. Here are some ways that stress can affect you physically:
- upset stomach
- trouble breathing
- chest pains
- muscle pain, aches, cramps
- change in sleep habits
- change in appetite
- change in weight.
Ask the youth if they can think of others that they’ve either experienced or heard of.
The good news is that because our bodies and our minds are so connected we can also do things with our bodies that help our minds, and our whole body, relax.
Activity: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Read the instructions for this relaxation activity aloud to the youth and ask them to follow along.
- Get into a comfortable position. You can sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes, if you feel comfortable doing so. Focus on relaxing your entire body as much as possible.
- Start by tensing your toes; curl them up into your feet and hold them tight for 3 to 5 seconds. Release them. Take a deep breath and repeat for another 3 to 5 seconds.
- Next, tighten all your muscles from your feet up to your waist. Do a quick mental scan and make sure you have them all: your calves, your things, your bottom. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds Release and repeat.
- Now do the same thing with your stomach. Tighten it as much as you can. Hold it. Then release and repeat.
- Then do the same thing with your chest. Tighten, hold, release. Two times.
- Now your whole torso, including your shoulders, which will probably lift slightly off the ground or away from your chair when you tense them.
- Now move to your hands. Tighten them into fists, hold for a count of five and release. Repeat this two times.
- Then tighten your entire arms, bending your fists back at the wrist. Hold for five seconds and release. Then repeat.
- Tighten your neck by turning your head as far to the right as you can without feeling any discomfort and holding it for 3 to 5 seconds. Then release. Repeat this one more time.
- Do the same thing on the left.
- Now scrunch and tighten your whole face and hold it for five seconds. Do this one more time and then you are done.
- Now that you’ve tensed and released every part of your body, do a quick scan. How do you feel? Are there are places you’d like to tense and release again for a little more relaxation? Go ahead and do that.
- When you are ready, open your eyes and begin to slowly move around. Enjoy the calm feeling this activity is sure to bring!
Activity: Whip Share
Do a “whip share” reflection about the above activity. A whip share is where everyone stands in a circle and one at time quickly makes one short statement. In this case ask them to share one thing that they do to help themselves de-stress such as go for a walk, talk to a friend, or listen to music.
Optional Activity: Breathe In, Bubbles Out!
Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs full of air! Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds. Put the bubble wand up by your mouth and blow! Repeat 3 to 5 times, trying to blow more bubbles each time. After the exercise, ask the youth where in their bodies do they feel the stress or anxiety being released.
Remind the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on us, but that when we relax our bodies, we can also relax our minds. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is one activity we can do any time we’re feeling stressed.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing stress and healthy ways to deal with it at home.
Additional Instructor Resources
Change To Chill by Allina Health
What Kids Say About: Handling Stress