Stress is something that many young people and adults are familiar with. You often see or read it in the news: people are dealing with long-term stress at an increasingly younger age, and sometimes even with a burnout. Yet stress is not only negative. For example, when you have to take a test or give a presentation, the stress you feel can make you extra alert and concentrated, so that you can perform better.
Of course, too much stress is also not good, because then you will not be able to concentrate properly. It is also not good if the stress lasts too long. Then you can suffer from physical or emotional complaints, which can eventually lead to a burnout. In the long term, prolonged or intense stress can negatively affect the well-being of young people and their school performance. That is why it is important to explain to young people what stress is, how stress arises and how they can deal with stress well so that the stress does not worsen but decreases.
The aim of the Stress Lessons was to tackle an everyday topic, namely stress. We wanted to discuss this in a normal way, in which we also discuss any problems that students experience with school, such as social fears or fear of failure.
To achieve this, three psychoeducational lessons about stress have been developed. The Stress Lessons themselves have three goals, namely that students:
1) gain more knowledge about stress;
2) learn to recognize stress in their bodies better;
3) learn more skills to deal with or prevent stress.
Knowledge about stress includes, among other things, what stress is, what stressors are, that stress can also be good, but also what the consequences are of experiencing too much stress. When recognizing stress, a little stress is awakened in students through stress games. Afterwards, it is reflected on what the students felt and which coping strategies they used, after which it is stated that the reactions, they had been also stress-related. Finally, students learn how to deal with stress or how to prevent stress. For example, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation exercises are done in class and students learn to think about positive things in unpleasant situations.
The Stress Lessons are part of a larger project, where after the Stress Lessons the students are asked if they are interested in further training in smaller groups. The students could choose from two training courses, namely a fear of failure reduction training or a social skills training. About 10 percent of the students signed up for one of the follow-up training courses.
To be continued
Research has shown that some students suffer from stress. To help these students, we have developed and evaluated a teaching package at several secondary schools in the Netherlands. The investigation is currently still ongoing. We are investigating the possibilities of offering a workshop to more schools.
For more information, visit the Stress Less Project website or watch this video.