Stress Management for Kids and Teachers
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
It’s a fact: nowadays, being a teacher or a student pretty much means being overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed. Is there anything we can do to make things a little easier for everyone?
Actually, yes. Below are five extremely easy and inexpensive methods that my students and I use to bring a little peace to our classroom.
1. We take time to breathe.
Meditation and breathing exercises quiet our minds and help us calm down. There are plenty of meditations that are kid-friendly, and fun for adults, too.
The CD Recess for the Soul has meditations for the mind’s "inner playground." We love to do the "My Inner Swingset" and "Teeter-Taughter Teachings" exercises, which I adapted into a simple breath-activated swing (breathe in to go back, breathe out to go forward), and breath-activated seesaw (breathe in to go up, breathe out to go down).
$20 for the CD
$9.99 for the iTunes album or 0.99 per track
Free to read the blog posts, which are transcripts of the recordings
Mindful Coloring is an active meditation that uses repetitive movement to keep our attention in the moment and away from our thoughts. It is something the kids already love to do. This is a great meditation for those who can’t sit still. We acknowledge our thoughts when they arise, but then let them go and return our attention to the act of coloring.
At the same website, you can also download three-minutes of relaxing children’s music.
Here is a sample of the mandalas for coloring.
2. We take time to laugh.
In our classroom we don’t just do yoga, we do Laughter Yoga. It’s an aerobic body exercise that uses laughter as a way to prolong exhalation, expel air from the lungs, and bring more oxygen to the body and brain. Laughter lowers our stress levels, puts us in a good mood, and gives us hope and optimism.
The best part of it is that you don’t need jokes or humor to elicit laughter. You “fake it until you make it.” So we start with fake laughter by making laughter sounds: “Ho ho ho, ha ha ha, he he he.” In no time at all, this leads to real laughter, especially when we look at each other while we do it. We try to keep laughing until we run out of breath. Then we start again!
3. We take time to recognize happiness.
Every day, we write down or draw a picture in our individual happiness journals of at least one thing that makes us personally happy. By pausing to acknowledge the things that make us smile, no matter how small or insignificant they may be, we set the tone for a positive mindset. We tune in to how our own minds work, understand ourselves better, and become more emotionally intelligent.
4. We take time to be independent.
Being self-reliant — the ability to do things on our own and depend on ourselves — is critical to our well-being. It’s also vitally important that we have choices and know how to choose wisely. There isn’t much free time at school, but we take from 5 to 15 minutes of “me time” every day to be alone; to breathe, stretch, gather our thoughts, read or write, do some catch-up work, perform responsibilities, play a quick game, or take a quick nap. (Sorry, that last one is for students only unless you have another adult in the room!)
5. We take time to communicate without conflict.
One of the first things we talk about is The Golden Rule. In fact, it’s pretty much the only rule we have, because it covers almost everything.
Underneath the Golden Rule, we keep boxes of paper smileys and hearts, which we may give to others when we are feeling kind.
When I notice the class has been especially kind to each other, I turn the pointer on the Care Bears Caring Meter toward the sun and the bigger hearts. When we have not been very kind, I turn the pointer toward the rain cloud and the smaller hearts. The Caring Meter always reflects our current classroom climate. When someone breaks the rule by being mean, we first use “I” statements, such as “I want you to stop doing that,” or “I don’t like that.” If that approach doesn’t work, we switch to “You” statements, such as “You need to treat me with respect,” “You should remember The Golden Rule,” or “You better watch it or you’ll get in trouble.” This turns the focus around from our hurt feelings to the other person's inappropriate behavior. These simple self-defense tactics give us a measure of self-control, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
Give your stress wings and let it fly away.