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Help High School Seniors Deal With Stress

By
Amy Lauren Smith

This past weekend, our seniors came to school on Saturday for a full day retreat, where they attended workshops designed to help them navigate the growing list of requirements for their college applications.
 

Knowing the stress that often appears this time of year, their counselors asked us to offer some workshops on stress management and healthy coping skills. Between applications, essays, portfolios, classes, sports, and social commitments, high school seniors need to be reminded to unwind in healthy ways so they can enjoy their last year of high school.
 

Here’s the agenda we followed, as well as links and resources for further learning. Feel free to use any or all of these with your students, as these are valuable tools for teens (and adults!) of any age.
 

Healthy Coping Skill #1: Journaling

Activity: Give students a slip of paper or a small notebook and have them reflect on the following:

  • How are you feeling about all that’s needed for your college applications?
  • What are some concerns you have going into your senior year?

Learn More: 7 Reasons to Use Journaling in Your Classroom
 

Healthy Coping Skill #2: Practicing Gratitude

Activity: Have students quickly jot down five things they’re grateful for. Doing this simple activity just once a week has been proven to increase happiness in college students.

Learn more: 10 Reasons Why Gratitude is Healthy
 

Healthy Coping Skill #3: Effective Time-Management

Activity: Have students read the Choices article Why Can't I Stop Procrastinating? and figure out what type of procrastinator they are. Then, have them form groups with people who have each of the different procrastination styles, and then read and discuss How Can I Get It All Done? You can also have them watch this video on how to deal.

Learn More: 20 Quick Tips For Better Time Management
 

Healthy Coping Skill #4: Mindfulness and Meditation

If there’s time, show the TED Talk Andy Puddicombe, All It Takes is Ten Mindful Minutes. (If you don't have enough time, the animation intro from Headspace will work as well!)

Activity: Try the guided meditation, Smiling Mind, Level 1.

It might be tempting to skip this part, as it can be tricky getting buy-in from the kids. It’s just five minutes though, and after the workshop was over, my teaching partner and I got an email from a very thankful senior who appreciated the the meditation most of all. She said she would be using the program we shared on her own, so it was definitely worth the time.

Learn More: Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress
 

Healthy Coping Skill #5: Talk it Out

Remember, reaching out to others is a great way to prevent stress. Students need to realize that they’re not going through this alone!

Activity: Stand Up - Hand Up - Pair Up

This is a great discussion protocol, and also a nice way to end a lesson. Give students a list with the following questions (or something similar). They need to find someone to talk to about the first question. When they’re done discussing, they put their hand up and find someone else who needs a new partner. They high five their new partner, talk about question two, and then put their hand up again when they’re ready to move on. They cycle through five different partners, and avoid that whole awkward thing that can happen when they wait for the teacher to tell them to rotate.

Possible questions:

  • What are you most nervous or apprehensive about this year?
  • Are you and your parents seeing eye to eye for your plan after high school?
  • Is there anything you don’t have time for that you would like to do?
  • ​What can you take off your plate so you can find time to do this?
  • What are you most excited about going into your senior year?
     

Even more on healthy coping skills

10 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Incredibly Happy

The 33 Best Online Resources for Teen Health

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