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Introducing the Concept of Stress

Stress, like mental health and mental illness, is a culturally-bound concept, one that does not translate exactly into every language. To introduce the concept of stress, teachers often began with vocabulary around emotions in general. Exploring language to identify the layers of feelings that accompany stress and anxiety is one way to begin exploring stress and ways to practice healthy coping skills.

A lot of my morning students have a lot of different needs going on. Judith recently lost 3 of her best friends because of an interpersonal struggle, some of which is related to one person's behaviors while drunk. Patricia is depressed and has a lot going on; wants to live with her mother. She comes to class, but essentially refuses to participate in most of the activities. I don't force her to. When I try talking to her about it after class, saying it's her decision if she wants to study English but that she'll have to participate in order to make progress, she usually starts to cry and says she wants to live with her mom. She wants to be so tough, it's hard to see how her issues complicate her learning. Her English is already quite good, though rough in some spots. I offered to find her a professional to talk to.  Her answer helped me to realize some of the barriers for seeking help, since it's something I've frequently heard before. She said essentially, when I've talked before to people, they've gossiped. I don't trust people.
- Lisa Gimbel

Several teachers used a Stress Tree Activity, based on the African tree of knowledge model, as a way for students to explore their own life stressors and to begin identifying healthy coping skills they already use and ones they wanted to develop further. See the variety of stress tree projects that emerged in the various classes.

Jeri Bayer's Stress and Ways to Relieve It provides guidelines for intcirclesroducing the concept of stress in an ESOL class.

The Body and Stress offers an activity that guides students through physical effects of stress.

Alice Nelson's Assessing Levels of Stress lesson offer teachers a guideline and template to help students think about stress in their lives. Alice also tells a story about getting started with the topic of stress in her ESOL class.

Stress: What Can We/Can't We Control?
Find how teachers began to unpack the different kinds of stressors they identify in their lives by examining which ones are controllable and which ones seem less so. Ronda Alley has developed a Circle of Control/No Control activity.