Lesson #4: Too Stressed to Think?

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

Educational objective: Understand how stress can affect behavior in negative ways. Making decisions while stressing can lead to regrettable outcomes.

Stress!

You’ll need: Copies of recent newspaper (news sections) and pens.

Here’s How:

  1. SHARE: What have you noticed about your physical and emotional symptoms to stress since the last Real World Challenge? Talk about your efforts to calm down before you lost control.
  2. EMPHASIZE: It’s not easy for anyone to stop a “runaway train.” It gets easier with practice.
  3. BRAINSTORM: When you’re stressed how does your behavior change? What do the people around you notice?
  4. CHECK OUT THE NEWS: People often don’t think clearly when they’re stressed. Divide students into small groups and distribute pens and the news sections of the newspapers. Ask the kids to search for and circle stories about people who, under stress, made really unhealthy decisions.
  5. REGROUP AND DISCUSS: What caused the person in the news to lose control? What choices were made? What were the consequences? What can happen to a person’s ability to THINK when he/she is stressed?

    SHORT ANSWER
    : When you’re stressed, the oldest part of your brain – The Reptilian or Core Brain, AKA Stress Central, signals that it’s survival time… flight or flight – no time to think. For example, if you’re called on in class, or taking a test, or talking to your crush you might get thrown off-balance and start to freak. At that moment, Stress Central hijacks the thinking part of your brain, so you literally CANNOT THINK CLEARLY, and won’t be able to until you calm down.
  6. WRITE/ REFLECT: We’ve all done and said things that we later regretted. This happens more frequently when we’re stressed.

    6th graders: Making decisions can be hard. Recall a time when you were being rushed to make a decision. What happened?

    7th graders: Recall a mistake you made that got you into trouble. Right before you did it, what was going on?

    8th graders: Sometimes we regret something we did or said to a friend. Other times when we choose to stay silent, we later regret not speaking up. Sound familiar to anyone?
  7. REAL WORLD CHALLENGE: Apologize for a choice you made that hurt, inconvenienced, disappointed, or insulted someone. Write in your journal about what was going on when you made that choice. What happened then? What happened when you apologized? What’d you learn?

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