Across the country and around the globe stress levels are running at an all time high. If you’re feeling stressed out, chances are your students are too. And since all of our daily routines and lives have been turned upside down, it’s more important than ever to check in with your students to see how they’re doing.
As a teacher your students look to you as a leader and you have the power to help ease their frustrations and feelings right now. Inspire and help your students learn stress management techniques that they can learn now and carry with them throughout their lives. Follow the ideas below and feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section of our blog.
- Teach mindfulness. Mindfulness is more than a trendy buzzword. It is a proven technique for managing stress. The practice of mindfulness centers on limiting distractions and training the mind to be present in every moment. Start the school day virtually with a calming ritual to help students transition to the focused mindset needed for learning. Share a 5-10 minute meditation video or podcast with your students, or record one of your own to help students clear their heads and reduce stress.
- Encourage students to take a break from their devices. Right now students are learning mostly with electronic devices. As much as possible, include lessons where students can do work in their workbooks or with pencil and paper. When the school day is over, encourage your students to put down their devices and do something else to unwind. Depending on the age group, you can send over ideas to students or parents. For example, for K-3 you might suggest writing a story or picture book, playing LEGO, engaging in pretend play, drawing a picture, or playing a board game like Candyland.
- Start a silent reading challenge. Have you ever turned to a good book in a safe, quiet space when you’ve needed to relax? You’re not alone. A study by the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68 percent, and it’s been proven to lower heart rate and ease muscle tension. For young people, quiet reading time can help eliminate barriers to focus and reestablish a sense of calm due to its peaceful, slow-paced nature. Have students track minutes or pages read each day. Congratulate students when they achieve milestones!
- Maintain positivity during this time. Even on days when you’re scared or questioning what is going to happen next, focus on maintaining a sense of calm, trust, respect, and positivity with your students. Your tone, smile, and mere presence can help ease the minds of young people.
- Provide links to printable coloring sheets. The benefits of coloring include lowering stress levels, mindfulness, and relaxation. When you color, your brain actually enters into a meditative state, zapping stress and lowering anxiety levels. It’s a fantastic way to help your students unwind and unplug. Think coloring is just for kids? Grab some crayons and try it yourself. You’ll be amazed how good you feel once you get in the zone.
- Be available. Most importantly let your students know that you are there for them during this uncertain time. Let them know that they can call or email you and discuss any questions or fears they may be experiencing.
While teachers cannot control the external factors that boost stress rates for students while outside of the classroom, they can work to teach students the techniques they will need throughout their lives to manage unavoidable stress triggers. No matter the age of your students, this is a great time to help them recognize the physical and emotional signs of stress and learn how to assuage them.