New teachers. New schedules. New faces. Oh my!

A new school year can be a stressful time for teachers and students alike! Adjusting to a new classroom, making new friends, changing classes, or even paying attention during lessons (after a long and lazy summer) can make even the most confident students stressed.

While some stress is healthy for students and can help a child develop, grow and deal with challenges, toxic stress is different. Toxic stress can decrease attention spans, interfere with emotional and mood regulation, and disrupt healthy sleep patterns. And stress can lead to mental and physical health problems.

The good news is that you can help your students develop strategies to help them deal with stress today and in the future so that they’ll be ready for learning and growth. Today, we’d like to share some best practices to help you ease anxiety in your students and set them up for a successful school year.

  1. Introduce a Stressed Out Station. Create a quiet area where students can excuse themselves and go to when they are feeling anxious. At the station include plain notepaper where students can write a private note to Mom or Dad about how their day is going. You can also fill a box with stress relief objects such as Silly Putty, stress balls, thinking putty, or memory foam where students can literally squeeze stress away.
  2. Take 15 minute coloring breaks. Something as simple as coloring is packed full of so many benefits for children and adults alike. When you sit down to color, your brain experiences relief by entering a meditative state. Stress, negative thoughts and anxiety decrease almost instantly. Coloring is a terrific mindfulness exercise in that you are focusing on the present. Print seasonal coloring sheets or mandalas for older students and have markers or colored pencils available. A study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 22(2) pp. 81-85 provides support that coloring mandalas or geometric patterns actually does help lower stress and anxiety levels.1 And since coloring is great for adults, you should join in the fun!
  3. Incorporate quiet journaling and reflection time into the school day. Journaling is a highly-recommended stress management tool that is supported by numerous studies. By acknowledging and dumping out your feelings onto paper, you can greatly reduce rumination (recurring thoughts) and worry. Prompt students to write about concerns, fears, goals or even things they are looking forward to. This simple exercise in self reflection can help set a positive tone for the school day. Plus, you’ll be giving your students a technique to use at home and for the rest of their lives. Here is a great article that explains several types of journaling including action focused journaling and journaling to a better frame of mind. Use this ideas to help guide students until they become comfortable with writing.
  4. Practice mindfulness techniques with your students. It seems as everywhere we turn, we hear about all the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom. In a previous post, we outlined several mindfulness techniques that you can start using in your classroom tomorrow!
  5. Move more often. If your students don’t have a set recess time, they might need one. When the weather is cooperative, go on a 10-15 minute walk. Get up and stretch. Simply moving increases endorphins and helps clear your mind for the day ahead.

Other ideas to help students relax and be prepared to learn:

  • During quiet work time, play calming music in the background.
  • Take time to encourage organization in your classroom and for individual students.
  • Make sure students have a small snack time in the morning or afternoon.
  • Write the class schedule and rules where everyone can see them so that there are clear expectations.
  • Lead progressive muscle relaxation exercise or find an app or recording that does it for you.

It’s your turn!

Do you have any ideas that can help our teachers incorporate relaxation and stress relief for students? Share them in the comments section below.

1. 3five Support. (2006, February 5). Amazing Benefits of Coloring For Adults. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from

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