A global pandemic, civil unrest, hurricanes, wildfires, and, oh yeah, murder hornets. Is there anything else that 2020 could throw at us to confuse, frighten, and stress our young students? Let’s not even ask. Even before 2020, a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that teens experience stress levels similar to adults’. Such feelings can negatively impact their ability to cope with challenges effectively—or succeed academically.
Whether your students are five-year-old’s trying to understand why they need to wear a mask in the classroom, or teenagers more cognizant of the cultural and societal changes that 2020 has spurred, your students are most likely feeling the stress and anxiety of one emotionally draining year. As a teacher, mentor, and trusted adult, you can help. We’ve compiled several strategies to help your students relieve stress so that they can focus on their classroom learning.
6 Stress Relievers for Students
- Teach Students to Breathe. Meditation is a proven stress reliever for adults, and it can be a valuable technique for young people to learn in their formative development years. Much of meditation is grounded in deep breathing to promote relaxation. Teach students the power of sitting calmly and focusing on their breath. This technique might be more challenging with a room full of elementary school children than older adolescents. However, even if you can encourage your students to quiet their minds for even one minute and reinforce the power of deep breathing, it can become a technique they turn to in moments when they feel overwhelmed.
- Limit Homework Overload. Collaborate with your fellow teachers to ensure you do not assign too much homework and stack significant deadlines or tests onto the same days. By spreading work out more evenly throughout the school year, you can help students avoid the burnout that comes with late-night test cramming and project completion.
- Play Relaxing Music. Music has been proven to improve focus and calm nerves. Introduce your young students to the power of relaxing music by quietly playing it while they silently read, write, or work on independent projects.
- Incorporate Yoga into Your Physical Education Classes. Physical education teachers can help students appreciate the benefits of physical activity for reducing the negative side effects of stress. Incorporate even a few yoga classes into your curriculum throughout the year. Not only is stretching a healthy movement for developing muscles, but it further introduces students to the benefits of purposeful breathing and introspective focus.
- Encourage Students to Get Enough Sleep. Even though you can’t control what students do once they leave your classroom or log out of class, you can regularly reinforce the importance of a healthy night’s sleep. If you have students who regularly seem to come to class exhausted, take them aside and ask what’s going on. Students who are high-achievers and are overcommitted to athletics and extra-curricular activities might reveal that they stay up late finishing homework every night. For these students, you may be able to work with them and their coaches and parents to accommodate their busy schedules.
- Ensure Your Students See You as a Trusted Resource. Stress increases when someone feels that they don’t know how to cope with a challenge and do not know where to go for help. As a teacher, you can be a source of advice, confidence, and support for children whose anxiety stems from a challenge beyond their control. Thirteen million U.S. children live in food-insecure homes, a number continually on the rise as the COVID-19 crisis continues to cripple our economy. Not knowing where your next meal will come from is a powerful cause of stress and a concern that a student might not feel comfortable confiding about to just anyone. Be a source of support for your students and leverage school resources to help mitigate challenges when possible. By doing so, you’ll be more than a teacher or an advocate. You’ll be a hero.
Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.