In their own words: what young people tell us about stress ... and working with HeadStart to cope with it

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with its theme of 'Stress: Are We Coping?', and in recent weeks, members of the HeadStart team have been working in schools with young people supporting them in developing coping strategies for dealing with stress. This topic is particularly relevant at this time of year, with Year 6 SATs having taken place this week, and the exam season for GCSEs and A Levels in full flow.

Here's a report from Tara Bourne, our HeadStart Young Person Engagement Coordinator for Bilston East, about recent sessions at Loxdale Primary School:


Stress-busting workshops for Year 6 at Loxdale Primary School

I had offered to attend for three lunchtimes during the week of year 6 SATS to run workshops around combating stress. All year 6 pupils attended at least one of the workshops, but most attended all three! During the 3 sessions the following areas and activities were covered:

  • mindfulness and relaxation
  • breathing activities
  • therapeutic colouring
  • stress relief tips and tricks
  • calming crafts: creating homemade glitter jars, homemade stress balls and stress relieving homemade slime!

Feedback given to staff from the young people who attended was extremely positive and confirmed the positive outcome from the sessions. All young people fully appreciated the range of activities on offer through the sessions, including the more calming element to the sessions of learning mindfulness relaxation and breathing exercises.

A number of young people expressed how they found it really helped them, and how they even found themselves so relaxed they were almost asleep by the end! Staff informed me that students arrived for their SATS examinations following our sessions with their homemade stress balls and practising their breathing activities before entering the examination.

Here is some feedback collected during the workshops:

This has been really good and excellent help.
HeadStart staff are really friendly
It was really fun and stress relieving
With HeadStart, the fun is never-ending!
I feel very stress free and happy, I love it, that’s it!
I found it fun and relaxing
Best session ever!

A number of students approached me during the workshops to thank me for listening to them and coming in to do what they had asked for from HeadStart during our initial planning session. When asked how useful the workshops had been the response was extremely positive with all members feeling they had enjoyed the sessions and had taken something away that they felt could help them when they were worried, stressed or anxious in the future, and especially during this SATS.

All year 6 pupils felt this was something that should be on offer for all year 6 pupils across the city as it really helped them stay calm and focus during the examination week.

What do young people say about stress?

Meanwhile, at Moreton School, another of our HeadStart Young Person Engagement Coordinators, Samantha Gregory, was working with her group of HeadStart mini Ambassadors, and asked them questions about what causes them stress and how they respond. Here are their answers:

Q. What makes you feel anxious or stressed?

A. Assessments, losing a family member, bullying, when work is too hard for me, when stuff is out of place, working too hard, when your parents go mad at you, exams, getting in trouble for things I haven’t done

Q. What does stress feel like – physically and emotionally?

Tiring, feeling drained, feeling snappy, distracted, irritated, frustrated, annoyed, stressed, fear, sad

Q. Do you have ways to deal/cope with your stress? What are they?

Taking time out, watching films, talking to friends

Q. What helpful ways have you seen or are you aware of that people do to cope with stress?

Having time out, stress balls, colouring, baking, walking the dog, talking and getting advice

Q. What unhelpful things have you seen or are you aware of that people do to cope with stress?

Destroying stuff, being destructive, shouting, cutting themselves, hit things, arguing

Q. If you could give one piece of advice or coping with stress, what would it be?

Don’t take it out on other people, take time out, walk your dog by yourself, have someone to talk to.

'Stress' podcasts from Moreton School!

Huge thanks to Tara and Sam for sharing their insights from two of our wonderful HeadStart schools!