Stress Reduction in Everyday School Culture

Stress Reduction in Everyday School Culture




Stress can be defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.Stress can affect many aspects of a persons life. In order to first understand how to help reduce the stress level of students we must first understand what causes it.  


Why Here? Why Now?

Students spend 7-8 hours a day at school. Who do they have the most interaction with?Stress can affect each individual differently. Who is someone with a good relationship with that individual? Stress is reported at a higher level now than it ever has been in Americans. These high stress levels are starting to transfer and affect our younger genration. "Some researchers have begun to refer to the present time as the “Age of Anxiety” (e.g., Twenge, 2000, p.1007). Twenge, reviewed research involving 40,000 college students and 12,000 children, aged 9-17, from a variety of backgrounds, between 1952 and 1993 (2000). The results showed an increase of nearly a full standard deviation in anxiety (Twenge)." Marcy L. Kusz The changes in our society continue to put new stessors on our younger genereations with standarized testing, social media, finances, etc."Research has shown that the negative effects of stress on children under the age of 10 are far more profound and longer lasting "(Jewett & Peterson, 2003).By helping students learn how to cope with stress at a young age we hope to alleviate the stress levels of our future leaders and current students. 


Signs/Symptoms of Stress

Unusal behavior in a student might be a sign of something more serious. When obseriving students it is important to document changes in behavior and consult a school counselor/psychologist if necessary.Below are some common signs of behavioral changes due to stress.



  • mood swings
  • acting out
  • change in sleep patterns
  • bedwetting
  • stomachaches
  • headaches
  • difficulty focusing
  • becoming withdrawn
  • overreact to minor problems
  • have nightmares
  • become clingy
  • have drastic changes in academic performance
  • joking about suicide
  • lack of self worth

Younger children

  • pick up new habits
  • sucking their thumb
  • twirling their hair
  • picking their nose

Older children

  • lying
  • bullying
  • defying authority
  • substance abuse



Possible Stressors

There are many causes of stress such as academic pressure, personal relations, financial burdens/lack of resources and more.

  • separation from parents
  • unable to do what they think they should be able to do
  • academic pressure
  • social pressure- trying to fit in
  • overscheduled- don’t have time to relax after school or have enough creative play time
  • overhearing parents worries- such as finances, work trouble, sick relative, etc
  • world news- seeing graphic images, hearing about war, natural disasters
  •  death
  • standarized testing
  • abuse/neglect
  • divorce
  • homelessness
  • illness
  • lack of resources (weather appropriate clothing, food, hygiene products)


What is stress and why do we have it? 

While we all know that stress can be a good thing in certain situations, chronic stess is becoming more common in our soiciety and can have detrimental affects on our emotional and physical well being.

This video is about neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky and his studies from Stanford Unversity about stress and how it impacts the human brain.


Categories for helping strategies

After you are able to identify the factor(s) causing stress in the students life then you can try reducing the stress by using the following strategies.




  • Movement during transitions
  • Rubber bands
  • Stress ball
  • Work out bands
  • Weighted coat
  • Silly putty

These are several examples of self regulated therapy tools. These tools help students with focusing and concentrating. By allowing the students to use self regulated tools you are giving them a sense of control over their life and teaching them life long techniques. 

  • Meditation


This is a short Youtube video about an urban school with high stress levels. It adresses the fact that if students feel stressed they cannot have a sucessful academic career. This school resolves their stress issues by using meditation and the results are shocking!


This website has a free pdf filled with meidtation, partner sharing and many other stress releiving techniques already written in a lesson plan template. 


  • Exercise
  • stretches/yoga


This website talks about the clinical postives affects exercise and being physically active can have on a person and how it is important.

  •  Brain breaks

This video shows interviews of several teachers through various grade levels on how they use brain breaks in their classrooms and how it has helped reduce stress and imporve classroom mangement.


Expressionistic (creating):

Students need to learn how to cope with their stress one way of doing this is by allowing them to express themselves creatively. You could have centers or just materials available in order for the students to just express themselves in a healthy manner. A lot of studies have shown that keeping a stress journal can help not only cope with stress but also help avoid these stessors in the future.


This link explains how journaling can be benifitical to people dealing with stress and how you can incorperate technology in this process.

  • Music
  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Drawing



It is important to maintain a calming tone when dealing with a student who is under a lot of stress.Reassure the student that they are in a safe place and that you care about them before asking them to confront the stressor.

  • Music
  • Recorded books
  • Recorded poems
  • Pre Made messages from parents, teachers, friends, etc.
  • Verbal praise



Whole class:

  • Morning meetings
  • End of day meetings
  • Share time
  • Verbal/written expectations
  • Routines
  • Choice
  • Promoting good habits Poor diet, lack of sleeping and lack of excersise (physical movement) are all causes they have been connected to stress. By stressing healthy habit choices to your students you can help them change their lifestyles. My classroom personally uses the 7 healthy habits. The link below is a song for students explaining the 7 healthy habits.




“Students learn what they care about, from people they care about and who, they know, care about them . . .” Barbara Harrell Carson, 1996, Thirty Years of Stories.

  • “Time out” place
  • consult the school counselor
  • Creating a sense of community in the classroom environment and buiding relationships with your students

This website explains the impacts stress has on the brain as well as how a teacher and their relationship with the student can help reduce stress. This article also gives some tips on how to create a safe environment for your students. 

Here are some helpful tips that you can give to parents/guardians as well to help cope with stress at home

Home Intervention

  • proper rest
  • good nutrition
  • parents/guardians need to make themselves available to their children
  • quality time
  • parents/gaurdians need to show an interest in their child
  • parents/guardians need to talk to their children about certain stressors and come up with coping skills or strategies together
  • parents/guardians need to prepare their children for certain stressors by talking about them beforehand
  • parents/guardians need to teach their children that it’s ok to have strong feelings
  • parents/guardians need to build confidence within their child by telling them they know that they can handle a situation
  • it’s helpful as a parent/guardian to talk about your own sources of stress in a way that serves as an example that allows your child to talk about what stresses them out
  • consult a therapist if necessary (behavioral thereapy)






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