It’s probably not a huge leap to say we live in stressful times. Forget the holiday madness, each day seems to bring a new headline prognosticating doom or highlighting some terrible event happening in our world. As if teachers weren’t already anxious enough. Thankfully, most of us have found healthy ways of managing with our stress (mine typically involves eating a lot of pasta while watching Netflix). But what about our students?

No Carefree Kids

While much of the world sees modern teenagers as lazy, entitled, and ungrateful, we educators know better. Today’s teenagers face rising workloads, social discontent, and an academic future which gets more uncertain by the day. Even students in elementary school are feeling pressured to not only succeed but exceed expectations. In a recent article for Edutopia, Andrew Simmons revealed how this anxious mentality has quickly invaded every aspect of modern student life;

“The academic pressures and stress faced by teens today start long before high school and seem to escalate every year. The pressure comes from parents and educators who worry—and make teenagers worry—that they won’t get accepted into highly ranked universities with increasingly prohibitive tuitions or be prepared for a competitive job market once they graduate.”

Taking A Moment

So, what can we educators do? Well, like many difficult questions, this one doesn’t have an easy answer. Teaching students to overcome stress is no easy feat. The world is going to keep throwing problems at our students, and as much as we might like to, we’ll never be able to solve them all. What we can do, is equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to face these challenges. Here are three suggestions to consider:

  • Moments of Meditation: Sometimes all students need to do is take a moment and breathe. Help them find balance by giving them opportunities in class to meditate or decompress. It’s simpler than you might think. Put on some ambient music and lead them in a deep breathing exercise. Five-to-ten minutes of this can work wonders for an overwhelmed student.
  • Recommend the School Counselor: If you think a student’s stress could lead them to self-harm, it’s vital that you direct them towards professional help. Your school guidance counselor can assist students in managing their negative emotions and connect them with an outside therapist. This is particularly important since issues like depression or anxiety can be exacerbated by outside pressure. In any case, make sure your students know this type of support is always available.     
  • Make Self-Care Part of the Curriculum: Social-emotional learning is just as important to developing minds as math and science. So why aren’t we incorporating it into our curriculum? Through project-based learning, we can teach young students to manage their emotions and make responsible decisions when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Consider posing questions like the Heinz dilemma or discussing empathy in class to get them thinking.
A Healthier Tomorrow

The world can be a tough place, and odds are it’s only going to get more difficult in the years to come. By teaching our students self-care and perseverance, we’re providing them with a roadmap to navigate the stressful moments they’ll face throughout life. So, keep a vigilant watch out for students who may seem anxious or overwhelmed. Your knowledge and support could be the push they need to overcome their insecurities.

What about you? How are you teaching students to overcome stress?

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