Monday, November 3, 2014

Guidance Lesson: Stress Management (9th - 12th grade)

Managing Stress in the Road of Life
Adolescents have many stressors in their everyday lives: school demands and frustrations, negative self-image, body changes, problems with peers, relationship problems, tensions with family, unsafe living environments, death of a loved one, moving, parental divorce, financial struggles, participating in too many activities, and more. Unfortunately, many teenagers have not been trained on how to adequately deal with these stressors which can then lead to an overload of stress. “When it happens, inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or poor coping skills such as drug and/or alcohol use,” (AACAP, 2013). Therefore, adolescents need to learn how to handle their stress in a healthy way. This lesson is particularly designed for AP students who often take on heavy course and activity loads.  These students are often left under the radar in schools because they do fine academically. Because of this, these students often get forgotten when it comes to their personal/social problems, however, many of them can benefit from learning stress management techniques so they can handle their course and activity load in a healthy manner.  
The following are ASCA National Standards covered in this lesson

A:A2.3 Use communications skills to know when and how to ask for help when needed.

A:B1.4 Seek information and support from faculty, staff, family and peers
PS:A1.5 Identify and express feelings
PS:B1.4 Develop effective coping skills for dealing with problems.
PS:B1.5 Demonstrate when, where and how to seek help for solving problems and making decisions.
PS:C1.5 Differentiate between situations requiring peer support and situations requiring adult professional help.
PS:C1.6 Identify resource people in the school and community, and know how to seek their help.
PS:C1.7 Apply effective problem-solving and decision-making skills to make safe and healthy choices.
PS:C1.10 Learn techniques for managing stress and conflict.


White board
Masking tape
1 balloon/student


1. Students will identify life stressors.
2. Students will recognize that everyone has different stressors and deals with stress in different ways.
3. Students will learn techniques for managing stress.

Introduction Activity

1. Tell the story about how stress impacted your life or the life of someone you know.
        - Exp. I shared a story about how stress led a friend to attempt suicide.  
2. Have students list stressful situations in their lives. As they share, list stressors on the board.
3. Lead a discussion asking questions such as:
        - Why might that be stressful for you?
        - What differences are there in the way that students feel about this stressor?
4. Point out that everyone responds to stressful situations in different ways. One thing might cause one person a lot of stress but might not bother someone else at all. That is because it is out thoughts about situations, not the situation itself that leads to stress.
5. Find one student who found one situation very stressful and one who did not find the same situation stressful. Ask them why the same event led to different reactions in both of them.


1. Create a large rectangle out of masking tape on the floor; this rectangle represents the road of life.
2. Have students write their top stressor on a blown up balloon. Place all of the balloons (stressors), which represent potholes in the road of life, into the rectangle.
3. Blindfold a student and have them walk through the road of life alone. Point out that, without help, the potholes (stressors) get in the way frequently.
4. Next, allow the student to select a friend to help direct them through the road of life.
5. Finally, have the student go through the road of life with their supporter. In addition, split the rest of the class in half. Have half of the students yell encouraging and helpful things. Have the other half of the class shout distracting things. 
Ask students to relate this experience to real life.
            -Who are the supports?
            -Who are the distractors?
            -Who can you go to for help to avoid stress?



Facilitate a discussion with students which may ask questions such as:

What are unhealthy ways you or other teens deal with stress?
- Examples: Unhealthy eating (irregular eating, over-eating, under-eating), drugs, alcohol, anger, procrastination, seclusion, spending too much time watching TV or planning video games.

What are healthy ways you know how to deal with stress? Provide any answers students do not come up with.

-Ask for help. You do not have go through everything on your own. Talk to people you trust and find good listeners.

            - Breathe deeply. This simple act can lower your anxiety level.

- Eat three healthy, balanced meals a day.

- Get plenty of sleep. Stress is easier to manage if your body is well rested.

- Make time to relax. Take a break from a stressful task to do something you enjoy. Take a walk, go for a run, listen to music, do yoga stretches, etc. You will be able to work more effectively after a short, relaxing break. Schedule this break if you feel you need to follow a set schedule.

- Exercise regularly; even just 15 minutes a day can help, but more is always better.

            -Daily Burn, YMCA, Gym class before or during school, etc.

- Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

- Make a must-do and a want-to-do list. Be okay if you only get your absolute must-do list finished.

-Avoid excess caffeine intake because it can increase the feelings of anxiety.

-Decrease negative self-talk. Work on changing negative thoughts into neutral or positive thoughts. For example, “My life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help.”

-Learn to feel “good enough” rather than always trying to be perfect.


Remind students that stress is normal. Tell them to use the healthy ways we discussed to reduce their stress. Advise student to not be afraid to ask for help and talk to someone—school counselors can always provide additional resources to help reduce stress.

Helpful Hints

-This can also be done with Freshmen level classes to prepare them for the stress of high school.

-Provide students with a list of the stress management techniques you discuss.

-Give students a time management sheet if they find that lack of time is what is stressing them out.

-If you have time, consider practicing a meditation technique in class.


Abbas_Abedi. (2008, March 15). 5 minute "alpha" meditation training for stress management [Video file]. Retrieved from
Alberta Health Services. (2009). Grade 8 lesson: Stress management. Retrieved from
All of us need some stress management techniques. [Photograph]. (2011). Retrieved from
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2013, February). Helping teenagers with stress. Retrieved from
Massachusetts Medical Society Alliance. (2012). Teen stress: Tips on managing daily stress. Retrieved from
Teenage stress: The top ten [Photograph]. (2010, January 26). Retrieved from
Teens and stress [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Yoga classroom [Photograph]. (2014, May 22). Retrieved from


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