This lesson helps young people understand the causes and effects of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will identify physical symptoms of stress and list some situations that may bring them on. They will learn some skills for managing stress and make their very own stress ball.
Introduce the young people to the topic of stress. Let them know that we’ve all had times when our bodies react to stress and we can feel it. It’s the sensation also known as “flight or fight.” Our bodies’ natural way of coping with being frightened or challenged is to release certain chemicals into our bloodstream that provide extra short-term energy and alertness. Our instincts take over and “tell” us that we are facing danger and we either need to defend ourselves (fight) or get away (flight).
Sometimes when this happens we do things we didn’t think we could, such as run very fast or lift something heavy. We may also notice that our hearts beating harder and faster, our hands getting sweaty and cold, or our faces feeling flushed and hot.
Chances are everyone will have had many experiences of this. Ask for a few descriptions of what that looks and feels like. Young people might also describe feeling “butterflies” in their stomachs or having dry mouths.
Then explain that when this happens the options for what a person can do to respond become very limited because instinct takes over and we lose our ability to fully use the part of our brains that makes rational decisions.
Fortunately, by understanding what triggers our “fight or flight” reaction and learning skills to deal with it, we can learn to prevent some stress responses and calm ourselves down from those that do happen.
Distribute the handout: Your Body Under Stress
Ask young people to each draw or write images on their “body” of where they feel stress and how they know they are having a stress response.
Don’t give examples right away, but if they need a little help you can offer these ideas:
After young people finish the handout ask them the following questions:
Complete the Stress: What Brings it On? worksheet.
There doesn’t need to be a lot of discussion about this worksheet as long as you process it at the end of the session as described in the conclusion. Do point out, however, that one way of both avoiding stress and getting better at dealing with it is to become more aware of what brings it on for you personally. This worksheet helps people think about and identify their own personal stress triggers.
Introduce the stress ball as a way to help deal with stress. These objects are popular because squeezing the ball in your hand helps reduce tension throughout your body. It may be even more effective if you pay attention to your breath as you squeeze: breathe in as you squeeze the ball, breathe out as you relax your hand.
Let each young person make a homemade stress ball. Instructions:
Talk about how young people can learn to make choices that help them avoid negative stress, the kind that makes it so they have a hard time making decisions, the kind that feels uncomfortable and maybe even a little bit scary. Ask the youth what kind of activities will help them deal with de-stress. Some examples include: