Preparing to teach stress management begins with setting training objectives, which are statements that indicate the takeaways participants should get from the training program. You will also need to choose appropriate instructional strategies to meet the needs of your audience, as well as actually present the training.
The most common objective for any stress management program is to actually teach the participants how to recognize and effectively manage stress. The key to writing effective objectives lies with ensuring that you are expressing measurable results that learners should experience as a result of the training program.
Example objectives appropriate for a stress management training program include:
- As a result of the training, participants will be able to list and describe common stressors.
- As a result of the training, participants will be able to recognize the physiological and psychological signs that they are experiencing stress.
- As a result of the training, participants will be able to select and utilize appropriate strategies for managing the stress that they experience.
You can adjust based on your particular goals being sure that you are expressing intent for the learning in a way that you can measure through observation or assessment.
Serena Wadhwa, Psy.D., LCPC, CADC of Illinois-based TriQualLiving Center explains that content selection "depends on the audience and the goal of the session." Basic topics she suggests include:
- What is stress?
- What are stressors?
- How to identify stressors
- Physiological response to stress
- How the mind (thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, etc.) influences the perception of stress
- Emotional aspects of stress
- How stress affects people (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, financially and behaviorally)
- Techniques of managing stress (including physical, emotional/spiritual, and mental)
According to Dr. Wadhwa, "teaching stress management is both a science and an art. You need the research, information and resources. You also need a creative way to implement the science so that it grabs your students and sticks with them." The best training programs incorporate multiple strategies to accommodate individual learning styles and to create a rich, meaningful instructional experience.
Create or select instructional materials to use in the training. This may involve choosing and purchasing books or an off-the-shelf training program. It may also involve creating or sourcing training materials, which can be print, online or electronic. You may also want to use lesson plans, visual aids, worksheets and more.
Stress management training typically includes a lecture component led by the instructor. The instructor should present content focused on the objectives in an engaging, appealing way. This can be done face-to face, online, in an audio conference format or using a hybrid approach that incorporates two or more delivery options. You can use a computerized presentation such as this stress management PowerPoint presentation or workplace stress presentation, or you may prefer to speak from notes or other training materials.
Opportunities for student interaction are critical to engage participants in the learning experience, so the best training programs include a combination of lecture and discussion. A few techniques for generating discussion include:
- Asking thought-provoking questions
- Encouraging students to share their experiences
- Having participants brainstorm ideas on how to minimize and cope effectively with stress
For any training to be effective, learners must have confidence that they can master and benefit from the training. Dr. Wadhwa states that instructors should let trainees "know it's possible to manage stress and the benefits of it. There are many myths about what stress is and it's important to set those straight."
Dr. Wadhwa suggests that "including games and activities can make learning fun. Hands-on activities are typically what I include in my stress management workshop. You can also include games with information, like true/false or Jeopardy-type game. Keeping humor in the instruction also helps."
A few other activity ideas include having students:
- Write down all words that come to mind. Do not stop to think about them; just write them down. When you are finished, look at what you have written and try to make sense of the words. Ask yourself why you wrote the words and what feelings emerge when you think about them.
- Write in a journal. Include feelings, thoughts and daily occurrences for one week. After the week, look back and associate events with feelings and thoughts. This can help participants link controllable or uncontrollable events to the stress he or she feels.
- Map out a stress reduction plan that starts with identifying sources of steps, deciding on and implementing steps to eliminate unnecessary stressors and choosing strategies to effectively manage the stress that you do experience.
Delivering the Training
On the day(s) that you will teach stress management, it is important that you are thoroughly prepared. Review the content ahead of time, being sure that you are comfortable with all the information you are presenting and that it will fit in the allotted time.
Have a plan in place for soliciting input from students to facilitate discussion, but be prepared to handle questions that come up in unexpected places as well as to move forward if students don't join in the discussion when you want them to. Plan out where you will incorporate the various strategies that you are using to maximize benefit to the participants to ensure optimal flow.
It's important to include assessment opportunities in your training. If you will be meeting with participants on multiple occasions, you can give them homework assignments to complete between sessions. You can also use tests and quizzes (with questions focused on the learning objectives) to determine mastery of the content.
Additionally, it is a good idea to give trainees an opportunity to evaluate the training experience, providing feedback on what they found useful, what they did not see as valuable, how beneficial they feel the training will be and what they view as the most important takeaways from the learning experience.