Alleviating Stress in the Classroom

Stress … it’s in our lives daily and there is no escaping.  One minute all is well, then BAM the dynamics change, and your whole day is affected because of it.  Stress affects our way of thinking, motivation, what we eat, our joy, and dealings with others.

Alleviating Stress in the Classroom
Photo by Hichem Deghmoum

Stress … it’s in our lives daily and there is no escaping.  One minute all is well, then BAM the dynamics change, and your whole day is affected because of it.  Stress affects our way of thinking, motivation, what we eat, our joy, and dealings with others.

 For students it’s attending classes, completing assignments, writing papers, managing a project, taking exams, fitting in, living up to their parents’ expectations, being motivated, possibly a poor home environment, a bullying issue, lack of sleep, or the fear of not being good enough just to name a few.

As teachers, the stress from home due to family and financial issues can compound things that may be going on in the classroom.  It’s hard to escape the workload, lack of funding, dealing with difficult colleagues, parents, students, and let’s not forget administrators.

 Even though you may not realize it, stress could be affecting your health.  According to the Mayo Clinic, it can be the cause of a nagging headache, frequent insomnia, upset stomach, muscle tension or pain, or your lack of productivity.  Do you feel overly anxious, restless, overwhelmed, irritable or depressed frequently? Do you find yourself over/undereating and consuming alcohol more than normal?

Here are some helpful and creative ideas on how to detox the stress from your classroom:

  • Get them dancing.  Turn on some popular music for your age group and let them dance their hearts out for the length of the song.
  • Take it outside.  Nothing like learning out in the fresh air as the change in the environment will be uplifting.
  • Bring the outside in.  There is nothing more calming than the sound of the rain falling, birds chirping, and the wind blowing through the trees.  If you’re in an urban area, project an image of these on a screen or hang a white sheet from the blackboard and play the sounds during a reading/writing assignment.  You can get stunning images on the web or Instagram for the National Park Service.
  • Surround with COLOR.  Color is calming and creating a colorful environment with patterns, collages, printed-out designs, or mandalas will be appreciated by students young and teen.
  • Strike a pose.  Younger students especially enjoy the activity, if they’ve been sitting for a while.  Lead them in different yoga poses like the tree pose, mountain pose, or lion pose you can find on Google.
  • Meditate the Mind.  Great for ages 8-16 Taking ten minutes out of a hectic afternoon can drastically detox the mind and body.  Introduce them to the widespread practice of meditation.  Play some relaxing ‘salon’ music in the background and have them conduct the following:

1. Begin by sitting comfortably, balanced, and relaxed (if seated in a chair, feet on the ground). Breathe easy and from the abdomen/”belly breathing” (not chest breathing).

2. Practice a few deep breaths with the group.

3. Rotate the head in easy, slow circles; change direction and rotate in slow, easy circles.

4. Look up; tilt your head way back. Look down; put your chin on your chest.

5. Drop your arms and hands to the side and shake them gently and easily.

6. Raise your feet off the floor and gently and easily shake the knees.

7. Straighten your spine while meditating. Practice (repeat two times)

8. This is done SILENTLY.

9. When a teacher says, “Close your eyes”, close your eyes. [Once your eyes are closed, simply relax your mind and do not make an effort to think about anything; slowly your mind will clear and relax] When a teacher says, “Open your eyes”, open your eyes. 10. Now, sit straight up, relaxed, and balanced.

11. “Close your eyes” (two minutes elapse)

12. “Open your eyes”

13. Check in with students: how was that? (Students may give thumbs up or thumbs down.) Now everyone repeat the practice again.

14. Repeat exercise: “Close your eyes”…two minutes elapse… “Open your eyes”