We began a unit on stress, a topic on which I’ve become an expert these past six weeks. While I did offer a few personal tips I’ve gleaned, we stuck mainly to the game plan: they completed inventories to assess their own stress (which turned out to be interesting but not surprising to them); I outlined different theories about stress; students shared their own methods for dealing with stress, because as AP students, they are experts as well. My favorites: Get swole (as in swollen, as in exercise; I learn new things every day); wait for the drop (as in the drop of the bass in dub-step music; more education, as they played me a sample); breathe (not as obvious as you might think, as in breathe deeply). One student reported that she reenacted an experiment we discussed earlier in the year: smile, even if you don’t feel like it. The muscles used for smiling may trick the brain into making you feel a little brighter. I was jarred by the coincidence because I’ve been trying this very method in the car, unfazed by what my fellow motorists might think if they glanced in my direction. My fake smile probably looked real to them. And I swear, it does seem to work.
One theory that especially rang true for them: Hans Selye’s general adaptation syndrome. Our bodies do a pretty good job of fighting stress, resisting the many ill effects, but if the stress is chronic, the body becomes exhausted, especially after the stress eases. And this is when we become sick. One can almost predict the illness and perhaps take preventative steps before any actual symptoms appear.
On Thursday, during the last period of school, thick snowflakes began to flurry down with a delicacy that seemed dreamlike. I couldn’t compete, so I made a deal: let me finish this little lesson…and then this little worksheet…and then…we could step outside for a few seconds. Several students were beyond excited, and when we got out there, they were spinning with arms out and baring their faces to the sky. I guess glee might be a good word to describe those expressions.