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Recently, I gathered with an after-school club of seventh and eighth grade students to talk about the stress and anxiety that they face in the course of everyday living…

We started with a simple data-gathering exercise.  Each student identified three stressors or sources of anxiety and wrote them out on a 3×5 card.  The cards were then collected, shuffled, and redistributed.  Next, the students were asked to read one of the identified sources of stress on the card they now possessed.  The variety was amazing.  Parents, siblings, tests and homework, financial stability, reputation amongst peers, the school dance, performing well in their sport, popularity on social media… and the list went on and on and on.  These are among the factors that the kids identified.  But what is really noteworthy is that for every identified factor there are probably two or three more that are much less identifiable.  It’s true.  Sometimes we feel anxious for no real apparent reason.

What is clear is that we all deal with stress, anxiety and fear.  It manifests itself in many ways and at varying levels of intensity.  No one is exempt.  But once the problem has been identified, it’s time to shift the focus to solutions.  If you think about it, there is little that we face in life that we cannot overcome.  I don’t intend to minimize the difficulties with which your students may be acquainted.  It’s just that when we know that life is hard, we have a choice to make.  Will we allow ourselves to be overcome, or will we become an overcomer?  Continued fixation on the problem leaves little margin for the development of solutions.

The difficulties of life present an incredible opportunity.

The difficulties of life present an incredible opportunity.  As we have suggested before, there is value in seeing challenge in life as a real asset instead of a liability.  Adversity often becomes the experiential capital from which we can make investment that increases the equity of others and boosts our sense of self-worth and satisfaction with life.  As educators and influencers, we have the privilege and responsibility of cultivating a culture of overcoming amongst the students within our circles of influence.  We do this by helping them move from fixation on life’s problems to the development of solutions and a clear view of the opportunities that life is constantly laying before us, even when things are really hard.

Maybe an exercise similar to the one I enjoyed with that after-school group would be a good place for you to start.  Let your kids identify the factors contributing the stress and anxiety they are feeling and then quickly change the perspective and turn them loose on the development of solutions.  You’ll be amazed at the resilient strategies they come up with as a group.

Download the free template to print and cut out.  Have the students fill out the card and drop it in a bucket.  Then, randomly pull them out and have some discussion!

Stress Card Activity (PDF Template)
Mick Duffy

Mick has served a number of organizations in a variety of roles over the past 20 years and has vast experience in the field of addiction recovery and counseling. Mick and his lifelong love Jill have enjoyed 30 years of marriage together. They have two sons and two daughters ranging in age from 13-24.