Almost all teens experience stress. The good news is that even though the causes vary and some stress is unavoidable there are lots of ways to manage it. Use the steps below to teach young people about the causes of their own stress and ways to deal with it in order thrive.
Show the introductory Change to Chill video. Explain that you are going to introduce them to and practice using some of the Change to Chill resources, which are available any time and anywhere they have internet access. Take a few minutes to see if anyone in the group has a reaction, comment or question they’d like to share about the video or about stress in general. Don’t spend too much time on this, but do give people a chance to speak.
Point out that talking about stress, what causes it and ways to deal with it might mean that at some point you’ll address sensitive or emotional topics. It’s important therefore that you work together to create a safe space where people feel they can share information and ideas, and will be respected and treated well. Ask the group to brainstorm a list of expectations, norms or agreements that will help make that so. If necessary, provide a few examples to get them started. Write their ideas on a piece of poster board or flip chart paper and then post it where everyone can see and that you can point to if people need reminding. If they don’t mention the follow consider adding them:
Confidentiality—What’s said in the room stays in the room.
Non-judgment: The causes of stress and ways of dealing with it are different for everyone. This group is about learning how to recognize and manage your own stress, not “fix” others. Refrain from counseling, coaching or critiquing what others say or do in the group.
Listen to hear, not respond: Again, each person is unique. When others are sharing their stories, thoughts or ideas, listen and try to understand, ask clarifying questions, affirm what’s being said, but don’t try to argue points, persuade others, or correct things you think are wrong.
Respect self, others and the space: Be good citizens of the group. If you choose not to participate, make sure you are not distracting or otherwise making it difficult for your peers to participate in the ways they choose.
Before you start talking about stress, lead a little experiment. Let participants know that there is no right or wrong way to do this…that it’s just about trying it and seeing what happens. Give the following instructions:
This experiment will be done sitting in a chair, with no particular position. We will be sitting in silence for about one minute, breathing normally. As we do this simply become aware of the inhale as your breath comes into your body, and exhale as it leaves.
Let them breathe in silence for about 15-30 seconds, then say the following:
Now, as you do this you may notice, within seconds, that thoughts begin to arise. Some of these thoughts dissolve quickly. Others may hold your attention so much that you cannot focus on your inhale and your exhale at all. When you find this is the case, acknowledge the thoughts and then focus once again as much as possible on following closely the inhale and the exhale of your breath.
Do this for an additional 30-60 seconds. Then talk about that experience. What was it like? How did it feel? Was it comfortable? Uncomfortable? Relaxing? Stressful? Explain that in the sessions that follow you will be learning about and practicing various forms of meditation and mindfulness and that this was one example. Mindfulness and meditation are two of the healthiest and most effective stress-busting strategies.
Change to Chill has a number of options for learning about mindfulness and trying meditation with the help of videos and guided audio recordings. Learning some easy relaxation and meditation techniques can help you think more clearly, make better decisions and manage whatever comes your way. They will probably become much more comfortable with these practices over time and learn to use them to cope with and even prevent stress.
Have teens take the stress factors quiz. If they prefer they can do this as a group and just agree to choose the answers they think are most common among themselves or teens in general. There are five questions and no right or wrong answers. By taking the quiz teens will learn where their stress is coming from and what it does to them.
Once participants have answered the 5th and final question and clicked “next,” a results page will appear. Give time for reviewing the customized results and exploring the recommended resources on the website. This can be done individually or in a group setting. Don’t pressure individuals to share their answers or results if they don’t want to.
Read through as a group or individually the Causes of Stress section. Distribute copies of the Stress: What Brings It On? worksheet or have them each draw three matching columns on a blank piece of paper, marking the top of the columns (from left to right) “then,” “now” and “when.” Follow the instructions on the worksheet.
Ask participants to watch the “Stress Test” video between now and the next time you meet, and to try the breathing technique described at the end. Also ask them to pay attention to when they are stressed and how their bodies react. Then ask each participant to reflect on your time together by saying aloud one word that describes how they are thinking or feeling at the moment.