Lesson #2: What is Stress?

Activity type: Brainstorm, Discussion & Simple Standing Demo
Grade level: 5-8th
Time: 20-30 minutes

Educational objective: Define stress (a feeling of being off-balance). Examine what causes different people to feel stressed.

Stress!

Here’s How:

  1. BRAINSTORM: What does the word “stress” mean? Other students said Stress = ______: Frustration. Worried. Overload. Overworked. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Feeling like you always have to do things that you feel forced into.

    EMPHASIZE: Stress can also be a loss of equilibrium or feeling off-balance.
  2. DEMO: Students stand comfortably, arms at their sides. Fingers relaxed.
    1. ASK: Feeling balanced, right? Now SLOWLY raise one foot. Still got your sense of EQUILIBRIUM? Now hold that pose and close your eyes.

      NOTE: Some kids will wobble and automatically put their foot down. For those with better balance, ask them to lift their raised foot higher. The goal isn’t to have them fall over, just for them to begin to lose their balance.
    2. ASK: Stand on both feet again and open your eyes. How does the way you feel now compare to when you were losing your balance?

      EMPHASIZE: Losing your balance triggers a stress-response. That’s not a bad thing. Your stress response is designed to help you survive. It’s a built-in warning system that signals, “You need to pay attention and get ready to take care of yourself.”
  3. BRAINSTORM: Things that threaten our survival, like hurricanes, floods, pain, earthquakes, violence, extreme cold, etc. cause stress. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to deal with these stressors on a daily basis. So what stresses you out? (Kids love to talk about this. Keep a running list so they can see the stressors they all have in common.

    NOTE: Remind the kids that it’s disrespectful to invalidate ANYTHING someone shares about his/her stress triggers.
  4. THINK:
    6th graders: Name some things that used to stress you out but don’t any more. What caused the change?

    7th graders: It’s unethical (and disrespectful) to intentionally mess with someone’s head (emotional equilibrium). How about if you’re “just kidding”?

    8th graders: Close friends and family members usually know each other’s stressors. (i.e., hot buttons) What things do people you know purposely do to stress each other out? How might the relationship change if you stopped doing those things? (More trust? More respect?)
  5. REAL WORLD CHALLENGE: Notice when you start feeling off-balance. Identify the trigger of your stress. Notice what you do to help get back in balance.

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