Posts Tagged ‘stress’

This last game in the unit on mindfulness and stress (see Part I and Part II) is a fun way to cap off the topic while also giving students a chance to consolidate some of what they have learned.  This is more of a traditional improv game, where a few participants have the chance to perform in front of the rest of the group.

Instructions:

  • Set up two chairs in front of the group.
  • Two volunteers come up. One will be the therapist, and the other will be the client.
  • The therapist can sit down in the one chair while the client can walk “off-stage,” so that he/she can walk into the therapist’s “office” at the start of the scene.
  • The client will come in concerned about all the stress in her/his life, while (for the sake of this game) the therapist will give them some advice about dealing with it.
  • The one catch is that everything shared by both the client and the therapist must be sung (in whatever ways the performers feel like doing. Rapping works too).
  • Let this round go for a minute or two (gauging how the participants are doing and how it’s being received by the “audience”).
  • Then you can have more rounds with different volunteers, as you see fit.

Instruction Notes:

  • I like to play one (or both) of the roles in the first round (or two), to model ways of performing for other participants. I also make a point of bringing a lot of energy and zaniness to my performances, to try to break through any potential awkwardness as participants warm up to their roles.  Depending on your own comfort level, you need not do this.
  • If you took notes (e.g. on a whiteboard or easel) of ways of dealing with stress that came up in previous activities, you can have these out for participants to draw from in their therapist roles. You can also brainstorm these before the activity.

Application Notes:

  • Have the group recap advice given by the “therapists.” Then use that advice as the basis of a closing discussion on different ways of dealing with stress.
  • Whether or not you use this activity to close out a unit on working with stress, at the end of any such unit it might be helpful for participants to write down ONE technique that they intend to put into practice. That way they have a clear and concrete foothold in the material, since having too many techniques floating around in one’s head can be overwhelming.
Advertisements

The second stage in the unit on mindfulness and stress is an amazingly adaptable activity that I refer to as “Body Sculpting.”  I’ve used this handy game as a way of experientially tackling a wide range of topics, and I’ll give some ideas for doing so in the Application Notes below.

Instructions:

  • Participants get into groups of two.
  • They select one person to be “Person A” and the other to be “Person B”, with the note that both people will do the same thing at different times.
  • Let everyone know that Person A is the sculptor and Person B is the sculpture.
    • Person A’s job is to gently (and appropriately) move Person B’s body into a position that conveys what Person A is trying to represent (instructions on that later).
    • Person B’s job is to be as receptive as possible to Person A’s guidance and to then hold whatever positions Person A leaves them in (within reason).
  • Instruct all the sculptors that they are going to sculpt their partners into a statue that exhibits STRESS.
  • Let the first round of sculpting begin, lasting for about a minute or so.
  • When the sculpting is done, I like to have all the sculptures freeze in place while the sculptors crouch down, allowing a good view of our “Stressed Out Sculpture Garden.” Encourage the sculptors to briefly look around the room and check out other sculptures.  You can even have sculptors share about what they were going for with their sculptures and why.
  • Next, have the sculptors “de-stress” the sculptures by shifting their partners from a stressed position to a relaxed position.
  • Repeat the previous steps, with Person B now doing the sculpting (and de-stressing) and Person A being the sculpture.
  • Possible add-on:
    • Have everyone in the room assume a position that shows how stress manifests in their own
    • Everyone holds that position while you guide them to mindfully explore how it feels (physically, emotionally, and mentally).
    • Then have everyone de-stress themselves, assuming a relaxed position.
    • Again guide them to explore how it feels and how it differs from the stressed position.

Instruction Notes:

  • While sculpting, I like to encourage the sculptor to avoid the following:
    • Giving any verbal instructions (so the whole activity is done in silence)
    • Showing the sculpture how to stand with the sculptor’s own body
  • Near the end of their sculpting session, I give everyone a 10 second warning while also reminding sculptors to add facial expressions to their sculptures.

Application Notes:

  • After the activity, you can unpack the exercise and have people share about the different physical manifestations of stress and relaxation they observed. Encourage them to note differences between how the stressful/relaxed positions created by their partners differed from the ones they created themselves (in the add-on exercise).
  • For an even more hands-on approach, you can give participants a piece of paper with an outline of a human body on it, and they can write/draw on that body the places that stress manifests for them.
  • Regarding mindfulness, you can discuss how learning the way stress shows up in our own bodies gives us important information. When combined with mindfulness, we have much more of a chance of catching early physical manifestations of stress and addressing them (de-stressing, assuming relaxed positions, other antidotes) before the stress becomes full-blown and difficult to manage.
  • Other applications of this activity:
    • I’ve used “Body Sculpting” to address a myriad of topics, ranging from gratitude (sculpt a grateful position) and peace (sculpt a peaceful position), to memories (sculpt a specific type of memory) and insight (sculpt a portrayal of a sudden burst of insight—an “aha moment”).

I need not go into how prevalent and difficult stress can be, nor how kids are dealing with it at such young ages. Nor (methinks) do I need to do anything more than mention the significant impact that mindfulness can have in helping people work effectively with their stress—indeed, just look at the preeminent role played in the field by MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). Given all of this, I recently adapted a series of drama games to all flow together as a little unit on mindfulness and stress. I’ll present each component in this unit as a separate post over the coming weeks. The first is the Emotion Walk:

Instructions:

  • Have some participants volunteer to come up and be the “actors”. If you have a small number of volunteers (say 1-4), you can have them up for the whole activity while the rest of the group is the mindful audience. If many people volunteer, 2 or 3 participants can come up every round or two, and you can rotate through all the volunteers over the course of the game.
  • Set up the space such that there’s an open area at the front that a small group can walk across while the rest of the group (the audience) is facing that area.
  • A few volunteers will line up at one end of the open space (side to side).
  • You will give them a certain emotion or mental-state to embody (some possibilities are listed below). When you say “go,” they will all simultaneously walk across the open space, attempting to manifest the emotion/state they were given in how they move.
  • The audience’s job is to carefully watch the walkers and try to identify common patterns across volunteers for each emotion/mental-state. For instance, when the feeling is “stressed,” they may notice that a majority of the volunteers exhibited some tightness in their motions.
  • Here’s a list of possible emotions/mental-states that can be used:
    • Sad
    • Happy
    • Angry
    • Peaceful
    • Spaced-out
    • Focused
    • Stressed
    • Relaxed
  • After each emotion/mental-state is exhibited with a walk, ask participants what they noticed. You may want to keep track of what they noted for each feeling on a whiteboard or easel, so you can refer back to it as the discussion continues.
  • After each related pair of emotions/mental-states, you can compare and contrast how they manifested in the volunteers’ body language. For instance, what was different about how a person feeling anger walked when compared to a person in a peaceful state?

Application Notes:

  • While I have used this activity to tackle the topic of stress (culminating with stressed/relaxed as the final walks), you can obviously use this to focus on other feelings—or else the topic of mindfulness-of-emotions in general.
  • When digging deeper into a particular set of feelings (in this case stress), return to the list of physical manifestations that the audience observed. You can go through each particular body-language detail and ask the participants to raise their hands if they’ve noticed their own bodies doing ________ when feeling ________.
  • This then leads into a discussion about how our thoughts and feelings have very real and significant manifestations in our bodies.
  • Moreover, mindful awareness of these manifestations can be a very powerful tool.
    • On the one hand, a focus on bodily sensation related to a feeling can give us a bit of distance from the swirling thought patterns that feelings can kick up without repressing whatever is arising.
    • On the other hand, as we use mindfulness get to know our own bodies and their responses to certain mental-states or emotions, we can learn to catch early physical signs of, say, stress arising. In doing so, it is often much easier to work with stress while it’s just getting started and still small rather than when it’s a full-blown mental-emotional-physical event.
  • Okay, so mindfulness helps us be aware of the arising of certain emotions or mental states. Then what? This is where the feeling pairs from the Emotion Walk activity come in. For example, what’s a possible antidote to stress? Well, look at the list of bodily manifestations that the audience came up with for the “relaxed” walk. What if one were to attempt to shift one’s body to exhibit some aspects of relaxation. Would it impact one’s mood?
    • Now there’s a question to play with mindfully!
    • In this session, you could have everyone in the group walk across the space—first manifesting stress and then manifesting relaxation, mindfully noticing how it feels. Discuss—do you think changing your body language can change your feelings?
    • Then you can ask participants to choose one bodily manifestation of relaxation and try enacting it the next time they feel stressed. Does it help?
    • Whatever the answers, the point is to mindfully experiment with one’s own body and mind, watching and learning all along the way.