Grades 8 & 9

How I Am

This section has students look at how they act, feel, and think. Topics covered include self-esteem, social image, decision-making skills, and personal values (what is important to each student). The activities are designed to provide students with a chance to practice decision making and to empower them to make healthy choices.

Activity 6: Dealing with Stress

  • Skills: Understanding stress triggers/Taking care of one's health
  • Suggested Time Consideration: 20 minutes plus project time
  • Rationale

    Adolescence can be a time of high stress. Students are growing and changing biologically. They are eager to gain independence from their parents, who are not always willing to grant it. They are increasingly aware of the stressors that exist in the wider society (street violence, unemployment, war, disease, etc.). Schoolwork is more difficult. Peers and peer approval grow in importance. But, peer approval is not always easily earned.

    Learning to manage and reduce stress can be an important life skill for adolescents. Some adolescents may have the misperception that alcohol and tobacco can help them reduce stress. The information below can help you dispel that myth. What students must learn in these years is how to identify stress, what to do to cope with it, and what to avoid when coping with it.

    This activity will help students identify sources of stress in their own lives and offers some tips for coping.

  • Getting Started

    Share the digital activity link and ask students to answer the questions independently.

    Launch Activity

  • Talking About It

    Once they are done, ask students to consider what situations are the most stressful to them. They may refer back to their activity responses to gather ideas and/or discuss whatever comes to mind. Tally their answers on the board. Discuss the patterns of similarity and difference in their responses. Find out if your students were surprised by some of the responses.

    Next, discuss the coping strategies that are included in the activity:

    • Take inventory.
    • Make a plan.
    • Be healthy.
    • Get support.
    • Give yourself a break.
    • Break it down.

    Do any students engage in them? How effective are they? Ask students if there are other coping mechanisms they employ that are not listed.

  • Wrapping Up

    Take a few minutes to talk about tobacco use. Students may have the misperception that people smoke to relax. Explain to your students:

    • Using tobacco increases the resting heart rate of young people and causes respiratory illnesses7—which are not relaxing.
    • Adolescents who use tobacco often hide this fact. This in itself becomes a constant source of stress.
    • People under 18 can’t purchase tobacco products legally. So trying to get them, as well as the cost involved, can cause stress.
  • Follow-up Activity

    After students have gone over this material, organize them into small groups to research and devise strategies for reducing and coping with stress. Explain that there are lots of ways people can cope with stress. Some people do breathing exercises or meditate. Others exercise or do yoga. Some people listen to music or talk to friends. It’s a personal decision.

    Each group should research a way young people can reduce stress and present the method to the class. They can then create a brochure or poster to reflect what they have learned.

    Some suggestions might include:

    • Organizing peer support groups
    • Organizing daily exercise times
    • Having a family therapist come to school to talk with students and parents about how they can reduce tensions at home
    • Creating a brochure of stress management techniques
    • Suggesting music to listen to
    • Practicing abdominal breathing exercises
    • Relaxing muscles
    • Visualizing

    Use the supplemental “Stressed” video to complement this section.