Last week, I wrote a fairly popular post titled How Stress Affects Our Students (& Their Parents) — Plus, How We’re Trying To Help. In it, I shared the results of new research studies, and explained what I was doing in the classroom.
As a follow-up, I asked one of our vice-principals, Jim Peterson, to offer some additional suggestions on how teachers can help students (and anyone else) deal with stress. Jim, who also happens to be a behavioral therapist and a clinical hypnotherapist (check-out his site, Alpha Mind Coaching) is very talented, and I’ve written about him several times in this blog. I also share some of his helpful classroom management ideas (especially with challenging classes) in one of the chapters in my upcoming book. You can read about how I have applied his advice in Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?
Here are some of his additional suggestions how how we can help students better cope with stress:
“Breathwork” is one of the most universal forms of stress reduction, especially in eastern cultures. One technique that’s good for kids, because it’s visual, is to have them visualize breathing in light, positive energy and breathing out negative energy. “In with the good, out with the bad.” Talk with the student to find out what image or idea (It’s good to include the word “idea” since some people are less visual, and you don’t want them getting caught up in trying to get an image if one isn’t coming to them.) resonates best with him or her. A common one is a bright sparkling cloud for the inhalation and a dark stormy cloud for the exhalation. They can even inhale smiley faces and exhale angry, sad or frustrated faces.
I start out by having them inhale deeply and hold it for ten seconds before they exhale After doing this five times, I have them continue with this visual or idea as they continue breathing normally. At this point, they are not trying to control their breathing like they did during the first five cycles, but rather, are now observing it. This is basically a visual meditation.
The second note I’ll make on lowering stress is the power of writing things down. When I train clients, some of whom are teenagers, how to write things down, their stress drops and their productivity increases. The vast majority of people who are stressed out have less to do than they realize. The mere act of writing a list of everything that you have to do, then reading over it, will lower your anxiety as is takes each one of those items out of that parade through the city that we discusses. The steps of prioritizing those items and attaching due dates to each will lead to a dramatic increase in productivity, which could be an article unto itself.
I think these are great ideas that I’ll certainly be applying. Jim also thinks that meditation can also be a good stress-reduction tool. What have you found that has helped your students handle stress better? And, have any of your schools taught meditation techniques?