As the pressures of personal responsibilities, social obligations, and upcoming final examinations mount, students may feel overwhelmed by the number of things they need to do and achieve. When they’re feeling the need to vent their frustrations or seek some empathy, the listening ear of a friend can be invaluable—but they may not always have the chance to turn to their closest confidantes.
At times like those, a journal can provide a wonderful outlet for their emotions and can serve as a helpful tool for managing stress. Keeping a journal allows students (or anyone, of course!) to record their observations and ideas, write down the things that elate and frustrate them, and give voice to their deepest concerns. Furthermore, a journal can be a safe place where students can express their thoughts and feelings without the fear of embarrassing themselves or offending others.
If you’re sensing that your students may need some additional stress-management techniques to make it through the end of the term, you may wish to bring today’s featured activity into class. This activity, selected from the Instructor’s Resource Manual for Dianne Hales’ An Invitation to Health: Building Your Future, Brief Eighth Edition, teaches students how to write a journal.
What other stress-management techniques do you encourage your students to follow? Submit them below.
Activity: Journal Writing
To teach students the benefits of writing in journals to alleviate stress.
The initial session may take the entire period, but future sessions may only need to be 15–20 minutes.
Journal writing is an excellent resource for stress management. Through the use of journals, one can release emotions onto paper and then review it at a later time to better understand oneself and how to handle future stressful situations better.
- Tell students to bring a new notebook or a journal that they are currently using to the next class meeting.
- Explain the advantages of keeping a journal and the ability to release stress through journal writing.
- Ask students to spread out across the room (or go outside if the weather is nice); make sure they are comfortable with their surroundings.
- Then select a topic for them to write about, such as: who am I, how is my day going, favorite places in the world, how I feel today, what makes me angry, people I admire, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, etc.
- Explain to the students that you will never see their work, that it is only for them, and that they should not show it to anyone.
- Spend some time describing how you personally like to write in your journal and offer suggestions to them (e.g., I like to write in my journal at the end of the day, out on my porch, with a little soft or classical music in the background). Explain to them that you will assign them a topic to write on and that they should discover what is comfortable for them.
- Though your students will not be turning in their work, have them write a paper about their journal writing experiences at the end of the semester.
- Tell the students that for the remainder of the class they may write in their journals. For the initial session, it is a good idea to have them write about who they are. They can address their journal as if writing a letter or as in a class assignment (whatever they are comfortable doing). Remind them that they should just write whatever is on their mind and not pay attention to grammar or spelling. Just write, write, and write!
- At the conclusion of class, ask students how they felt about writing in a journal and then discuss the benefits of writing in it as a stress reliever and as a record of their life.
- Assign the next topic to be written.
Other topic ideas:
- Who is my best friend? How would I describe him or her?
- What do I like about the place I live? Dislike?
- What music do I like to listen to? Why?
- Draw my favorite place.
- Who are my parents? What do I admire most about them?
- What was my scariest moment?
- What do I like about school? Why am I here? What do I dislike about school?
- Who are my favorite teachers? Why?
- Where would I go in the world if I could?
- What do I think about dying?
- What was the saddest day of my life?
- What was the happiest day of my life?
- After the first few times writing, ask students for feedback on how they felt about writing about their thoughts.
- After several weeks of assigning the journaling activity, ask students how many are continuing to use the journaling activity as a stress reliever. (50-51)
Resource: Reference: Hales, Dianne. 2014. Instructor’s Resource Manual for An Invitation to Health: Building Your Future, Brief 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.