Regardless of our position within education or school location, these past few months have more than likely increased our own stress and anxiety. The same can be said for our students’ stress and anxiety. I know I felt a sense of loss as being physically separated from my students. This sudden absence of the support system both students and parents had grown used to only highlights the need for students to develop healthy methods for dealing with unexpected changes.
Elementary students can also struggle to cope with stress and anxiety because it’s hard for them to put a name to what they’re feeling. They often have overwhelming feelings that manifest themselves in unwanted classroom behavior. These behaviors include being disruptive, inattention or restlessness, struggles to answer questions in class, and frequent trips to the nurse. Providing students with healthy ways to identify and cope with their stress and anxiety doesn’t mean you need to rework your whole curriculum. You can easily integrate these <strong>Short, Teachable Strategies to Help Students Cope with Stress and Anxiety</strong> into your daily routine. In fact, they might even prove to be a positive change in your own life.
Share a Story
First, I like to think that librarians are the bridge between what teachers envision for their classroom activity or projects and how the students arrive there. This often means lending our reading expertise, technical know-how, and wealth of paper and digital resources that directly apply to the subject being discussed.
Start by choosing stories that center on characters who struggle with worrying and stress. This can create an opportunity for you to talk with students about these areas in their lives. When a student can see her/himself in the story, it makes the narrative so much more relatable. Pair a book like Ruby Finds A Worry by Tom Percival with this distance learning digital choice board for intentional activities to help students identify stressors in their lives and work on developing solutions.
Also, check out these additional titles:
Help Students Identify Their Stressors
Next, when we begin to worry about something and don’t sit down to confront it in some way, that worry often compounds over time into something that seems much scarier and more unmanageable than it really is. It’s no different for our students. In fact, some of them have vibrant imaginations, so it might involve a purple dragon or two.
Providing students with a concrete way to name their fears and physically contain them can help to reduce their stress and anxiety. An excellent way to implement this strategy in the library is a resource from Comforting Anxious Children by using a worry box or jar.
You can also decorate your worry box in your library’s theme for the month or quarter, in the school colors, or in a manner unique to you. All you need is pieces of scrap paper and a few writing utensils. After decorating, place the box in a quiet corner. Let students know they are free to use it anytime the library is open.
Practice Deep Breathing
Practicing deep breathing has been a tried and true, research-backed method for reducing stress and anxiety. Set aside the first and last few minutes of class time or reserve the final five minutes before school begins for the day and help students to practice this strategy.
There are boundless mindfulness resources out there, many of which are free. Here are two ideas:
Smiling Mind App – This app has targeted programs for the classroom, age range, and area you want to focus on (stress, attention and concentration, etc.).
Deep Breathing Exercises – You can also use deep breathing exercises from Coping Skills for Kids to help students visualize what deep breathing is doing for their bodies.
When students come into the library, my goal is not only to help them find unforgettable books but also to listen to and appreciate the people they are. If this is your goal too, I hope that these short, teachable strategies to help students cope with stress and anxiety will be valuable tools for you to use in your own learning space.