Activity #1: Recognize Stress | MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds

Activity #1: Recognize Stress

MGH Clay Center Self-Care for Resilience Classroom Activity -


Posted in: Multimedia

Topics: Stress

It’s Week 1 of our Self-Care for Resilience Classroom Challenge! This week’s activity is to help students Recognize Stress.

Don’t forget to log your progress here, when complete! You can also e-mail us, if you prefer.

Please note stress support resources at the end of the activity outline – sometimes conversations about stress can bring up other feelings as well.

You decide what will work best for this activity:

  • Class discussion or breakout group discussions
  • Written personal reflections, during class or as a homework assignment
  • Home assignment (watch video, etc.), followed by class reflection time
  • Creative reflections on stress (creating art, music, TikTok video, etc.)
  • Other ideas you have that you know work well for your students


Class Discussion/Reflection Prompts

  • Why talk about stress? Because it’s something we’ve all experienced (even teachers)! But we don’t always think about how it affects us. When we recognize stress in our lives and how it affects us, we can better manage stress before it gets out of control.
  • Define stress. Feelings of pressure, tension, anxiety, nervousness, or being overwhelmed that come up because of difficult or demanding situations (for example, having too many responsibilities, conflict with family or friends).
  • Acknowledge stress. Life can be stressful. It’s a normal part of life. A little stress can be helpful in motivating us to meet goals, like studying for a test or practicing for a performance. But too much stress isn’t healthy and can interfere with our ability to function in everyday life, both at school and at home.
  • Signs of too much stress. The following are examples of changes in normal behavior that can be a sign of too much stress: Poor sleep; feelings of anger or anxiety; poor eating habits; substance misuse; falling behind in school; feelings of isolation and loneliness; and conflicts in relationships, both peer and family relationships.
  • Reflect on stress. What kinds of things make you feel stressed? Are there particular times when you are more likely to feel stressed? What does it feel like in your body when you’re stressed? How do you tend to act when you’re stressed? Are there ways for your friends or family members to notice when you’re stressed? Thinking about all of these things can help in recognizing stress before it gets out of hand.
  • Thinking ahead. Over the next week, start thinking about what kinds of things in everyday life help you to feel good or calm (e.g. going for a run, talking with a friend, listening to music, drawing, etc.)


Media Resources on Stress

Experts on Dealing With STRESS – Shrinking It Down: Mental Health Made Simple (Video, 5 ½ minutes long)

Dr. Gene Beresin and Dr. Steven Schlozman explain what stress is and how it affects young people, and share strategies to help bring things down a notch.

Middle School Students on What Stress Can Be Like (Video, 1 ½ minutes long)

Content note: Topics related to stress in this clip include trouble concentrating, too much homework, peer relationships, questions around gender identity, and ethnicity and bullying

High School Students on What Stress Can Be Like (Video, 2 minutes)

Content note: Topics related to stress in this clip include academic pressures, falling behind in school due to illness, first generation applying to college, feeling left out from peers because cannot afford 4-year college, and parents fighting.

College Students on What Stress Can Be Like (Video, 1 ½ minutes long)

Content note: Topics related to stress include balancing so many relationships and responsibilities, challenging transitions, race and identity, and feelings of depression and suicide. 

Teens and Young Adults – What’s Up With Everyone? (series of five 45-second videos)

For more nuanced conversations about the different kinds of stress with older teens and young adults, push them to think about stress beyond specific events, and in the context of a state of mind, like feelings of perfectionism, loneliness, and independence. These videos are part of a new mental health campaign made in partnership with Aardman Animations and young people, themselves.

What’s Up With Alex? – Social Media

What’s Up With Merve? – Loneliness and Isolation

What’s Up With Tai? – Competitiveness

What’s Up With Charlie? – Perfectionism

What’s Up With Ashley? – Independence

Stress Support Resources

We recommend you be familiar any support resources in your school or organization.

Local resources

  • Talk: to a trusted adult in their life
  • School/City examples: school guidance counselor, community health center

National Resources

Thanks for visiting the Clay Center. We are entirely funded by visitors like you. We receive no financial support from Massachusetts General Hospital or Harvard Medical School. Your support of our work helps us to continue to produce content on mental health topics that support the emotional well-being of young people everywhere.

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The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital is a free, practical, online educational resource dedicated to prom...