Carrying the problems of life
by Rachael Crisp
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore the causes of stress and consider helpful strategies for coping.
Preparation and materials
- You will need three large cardboard boxes, each labelled with a worrying life event such as exams, sickness in the family or problems with friends. (There may be situations specific to your school that you could use.)
- You will also need some Blu-Tack or an elastic band.
- Optional: you may wish to light a candle during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.
- Begin the assembly with an upbeat attitude and share some happy, positive things that have happened to you recently. Make sure that you are smiling and that it is clear to the students that life is good!
- As you continue to describe some positive things in your life, pick up a labelled box and act as if the box is very heavy.
- Describe the feelings that you have about the label on the box. You could change the tone of your voice and your facial expression. Point out that you don’t feel as happy as you did a few minutes ago.
- Pick up another labelled box (try to balance both boxes). Continue to describe how you are feeling, using words such as worry and stress. Use your facial expressions to make it clear that you are beginning to feel more worried.
- Finally, pick up the third heavy box. Explain that the problems you are facing are piling up. Point out that it feels as if the problems are too big for you to carry, and then drop the boxes.
- Explain to the students that although you were acting, these feelings can be very real. Everyday matters can affect our emotions. Sometimes, it can all be too much for us to carry.
- Ask the students to think about what makes them feel sad, worried or stressed. It might be helpful to list some examples such as a test, being bullied, getting something wrong, failing, not being good at football, caring for a sick family member, the dark, a death or bad things that happen in the world. If a tragic event has happened locally or nationally, you could include this as an example. If appropriate, you could add a personal example.
Time for reflection
Take this opportunity to offer the following coping strategies for dealing with stress or worry. Use objects where applicable.
- Fiddling with Blu-Tack or elastic bands can help to manage stress.
- Telling a friend and a trusted adult means that we can talk through matters together and get help and support.
- Writing down concerns and creating a written action plan can also be a helpful way to cope.
- Practising relaxation techniques can help to calm us. Take three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for the count of three and out for three. If appropriate, practise this technique in the assembly.
- Doing something that we enjoy can help to distract us.
- Doing some exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which trigger positive feelings.
- Talking to God may be helpful. Christians believe that it is helpful to talk to God about their worries. They ask God to give them peace and help them.
Optional: light a candle as you say the following words. (It might be appropriate to pray for something specific that is happening in the school, locally or nationally.)
As we light this candle, let’s think about what we have heard.
Sometimes, we get worried.
Sometimes, life’s problems can build up and feel too big for us to manage.
Help us to remember the strategies that we have learnt that will help us to feel more peaceful.
Help us to be willing to talk to someone who might be able to help.
Help us to be good friends who are always willing to listen.