Dealing with Student Stress

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Chasing those ephemeral moments of peace

Student stressors are always present. These days, especially if your students or their families are members of a vulnerable population, stress is skyrocketing.

And as far as we adults and educators go? The numbers are in on that, too, from the American Psychological Association:

To better understand political stressors and assess any potential for long- term e ects, APA commissioned an additional survey in early January
2017, asking Americans again to rate the sources of their stress, including the political climate, the future of our nation and the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. This new survey found that between August 2016 and January 2017, Americans’ overall average reported stress level rose from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale.

In addition, in the January 2017 survey, more than half of Americans
(57 percent) report that the current political climate is a very or somewhat signi cant source of stress. Two-thirds (66 percent) say the same about the future of our nation, and nearly half (49 percent) report that the outcome of the election is a very or somewhat signi cant source of stress.

How do we deal with this? There are certainly times when taking direct action is the way to go, as Eva can attest. But what can we do when the burnout creeps in, life throws a few more stressors your way, and your entire family gets sick all at once (see: Emily)?

We’ve collected some resources that may be helpful in those burnout moments–some that can be done with students, and others that might be helpful to take on yourself.

From Edutopia, courtesy of Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, California, is a fantastic PDF resource chock-full of stress reduction exercises aimed at an elementary school aged population. (Though don’t let that limit you–can’t promise that we haven’t already tried out the Animal Charades.) This resource is beautifully laid out and easily accessible.

From the introduction:

…young people, like adults, can benefit from learning and practicing stress management skills. Students who develop stress reduction skills learn how to feel and cope better without hurting themselves or others. Identifying and acknowledging the causes of stress and expressing feelings about them are usually the most effective tools students have to reduce stress, in addition to learning practical stress reduction skills.

The attached classroom activities are designed to teach students a variety of practical and fun stress reduction techniques. These activities may be used to address a stressful situation in the moment (such as: during a lockdown, before and/or after a morning full of testing, or following difficult transitions). It is important to practice these skills prior to the onset of a stressful event (for example: incorporate as part of health lessons, use as an activity for morning circle/carpet time).

Love to Know has a list of ten stress reduction techniques for children, and we especially appreciated the instructions for Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

  • Face – Ask your child to scrunch up her nose and forehead like she smells something stinky, and then have her relax her face. Repeat three times.
  • Jaws – Ask your child to clench her jaws together tightly like she’s a dog hanging on to a bone, and then have her release that imaginary bone and let her jaw go completely loose. Repeat three times.
  • Arms and shoulders – Ask your child to stretch her arms out in front of her, and then raise them above her head and stretch as high as she can. Have her drop her arms and let them hang loose. Repeat three times.

Don’t let the Comic Sans get in the way of reading this next activity. Creative Counseling provides a great balloon game that can be played with people of all ages to help physically vanquish some stress. The best part? They guarantee laughter.

For educators, Everyday Feminism has an article on identifying and dealing with activism burnout. If you’re new to political engagement of this sort, or if you’re just extra-burnt-out from everything that’s been going on, this is a calming read.

Burnout isn’t something that you either have or you don’t. Rather, think of it like a thermometer.

In order to gauge where you are on this scale, ask yourself some simple reflective questions: What are you feeling? How intense is it? How well are you able to manage those feelings?

From Activist Trauma Support, a quick handout on Sustainable Activism and Avoiding Burnout is well worth your time. This one is easy to print and distribute as well.

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And from Truth Out, an article on dealing with burnout when also dealing with anxiety and depression. The article is from 2013, but the introductory paragraphs describe life for a lot of us today:

As a committed feminist and social justice activist, I am constantly in touch, in communication, online, on alert, engaged. There is rarely a moment where I am away from my computer or iPhone for longer than 30 minutes – what if something is happening right now that needs my attention? – and my social media accounts serve not only as a lifeline to other activists, but as a central part of my own activism. To say that constant connection gets exhausting is an epic understatement.

If you are involved in social justice activism in any way, you likely know of “activist burnout,” the feeling of sheer mental (and often physical) exhaustion that catches up with you after spouts of perpetual tuned-in-ness. But for activists like me, this burnout is magnified by an ever present undercurrent of chemical forces beyond our control: my burnout is coupled with my depression and anxiety.

It’s fair to say that the work people are doing in opposition to this administration is having an impact, and that now is not the time to call it quits. It’s also fair to say that we all deserve a day off once in awhile, inasmuch as it’s possible. Wishing everyone at least a moment of peace–and if it’s easy for you to come by, here’s to helping someone else in your community find it, too.

 

 

Holiday Reading List

In honor of Martin Luther King Day

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Got a little bit of time over the long weekend? Here are a few things that we found fascinating, frightening, and fundamental this week.

Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: In honor of the holiday, edutopia presents seven rich resources for educators looking to integrate more material on King and the Civil Rights Movement into their classrooms, now and throughout the year.

Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983, the holiday has provided an opportunity for Americans to honor and learn from the iconic figure. Yet teaching about King’s cultural legacy shouldn’t be limited to January and February. That legacy should be celebrated and analyzed in classrooms throughout the year. And at this moment in American history, King’s philosophy of nonviolence can help bring balance to classroom discussions.

The key, though, is ensuring that King’s ideas aren’t oversimplified, wrote Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic last year. Students should be encouraged to examine King through a broader lens, and to research his important ideas in areas like voting rights, housing and economic inequity, nonviolent activism, and social justice. The Dos and Don’ts of Celebrating MLK Day, from Teaching Tolerance, offers some wonderful ideas to start.

(We recently featured “The Dos and Don’ts of Celebrating MLK Day” on our Twitter account and can highly recommend it as well.)

Two from Robert Reich:

The 15 Warning Signs of Impending Tyrannya well-documented list of events that are unfortunately more than a little familiar at this point. An important, if difficult, read.

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1.  Exaggerate their mandate to govern – claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2.  Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3.  Call anyone who opposes them “enemies.”

and

Robert Reich’s First 100 Days Resistance Agenda, over at Alternet, a list of 14 steps we can take towards meaningful–and effective–resistance.

2. March and demonstrate—in a coordinated, well-managed way. The “1 Million Women March” is already scheduled for the Inauguration—and will be executed with real skill. See: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/11/15/counter-trump-women-are-mobilizing-massive-march-washington. There will be “sister” marches around the country—in LA and elsewhere. They need to be coordinated and orchestrated. And then? 1 Million Muslims? 1 Million Latinos? What would keep the momentum alive and keep the message going?

3. Boycott all Trump products, real estate, hotels, resorts, everything. And then boycott all stores (like Nordstrom) that carry merchandise from Trump family brands. See: http://www.racked.com/…/136239…/grabyourwallet-trump-boycott. See also this Google document on boycotting.

This Visualization Shows How Ridiculously Divided Our Congress Has Become: The title says it all. There are many paths for debate and discussion that can come out of this data, perhaps first and foremost how we got here in the first place. Check out the full set of images and a quick writeup at The Higher Learning. You can read the full study here.

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Homeless U: How You Can Help, via KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s local NPR affiliate, is a quick list of organizations working to help homeless college students around California. This list is a response to listener reaction to an earlier multimedia series about homeless colleges students, Homeless U, which deserves its own link.

In December, The California Report’s weekly magazine aired a radio, video, photo and text series about homeless students attending college. We were awed by an outpouring of interest in helping those students and others in their situation.

One community member set up fundraising campaigns for two San Francisco Bay Area students interviewed for our stories. At least two students interviewed have received housing due to the generosity of KQED listeners. Also, listeners from The California Report’s partner stations offered support to the new shelter for homeless students in Los Angeles featured in the story.

Pro Publica: The Trump Administration is one to bookmark, though not technically a specific story. Rather, it’s a landing page curating all of Pro Publica’s coverage of the Trump administration and their policies. If you aren’t familiar with their work on a huge range of topics, now is a good time to become acquainted with it. If you are, you already know why this page is worth a visit.

The Indivisible Guide, “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda,” is available in English and Spanish and contains a wealth of critical material from former congressional staffers about how to best apply pressure to our representatives. Below is the introduction in full. Download the PDF and find out about local groups in your area.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President- Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance,

and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize us and our neighbors. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.