Students reflect on their current levels and understanding of stress. They undertake a self-assessment to understand what stress is and how it affects them on an individual level. They unpack what influences levels of stress, including what we can and can’t control.

Year level



60 minutes


In class activity

SEL Competencies



Learning intention

Students understand what stress is and how it affects them on an individual level.

Key outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • understand the role that study/exam stress plays in their lives

  • describe what stress does to the body, and how serious its effects can be

  • Identify where the stress or pressure they feel is coming from.

Materials needed

  • Student access to the article 'What stress does to the body'

  • Student access to the article 'A step-by-step guide to problem solving'

  • Student access to the article 'How acceptance can help you cope with things out of your control'

  • Student access to the article 'The ups and downs of stress (the stress bell curve)'

  • Post-it notes or equivalent

  • Whiteboard markers

Mapped to

Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Plan, rehearse and evaluate strategies for managing situations where their own or others’ health, safety or wellbeing may be at risk (AC9HP10P08)

  • Evaluate emotional responses in different situations to refine strategies for managing emotions (AC9HP10P06)

Australian Curriculum: General Capabilities

  • Personal and Social Capability:

    • Self-awareness

    • Self-management

NSW PDHPE Syllabus

  • Assesses their own and others’ capacity to reflect on and respond positively to challenges (PD5-1)

  • Assesses and applies self-management skills to effectively manage complex situations (PD5-9)

Victorian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Evaluate situations and propose appropriate emotional responses, and then reflect on possible outcomes of different responses to health and wellbeing (VCHPEP147)

Show details

Activity 1

Brainstorm and word association

10 minutes

  1. Give the students 5–10 sticky notes each.

  2. Ask them to write on each note a word they associate with stress. Prompting questions might include:

    • What does it feel like?

    • Where does it come from?

    • Why do we feel it?

  3. Draw two circles on the board (one big one and one smaller one inside). Label the small circle ‘Things you can control’ and the big one ‘Things you can’t control’.

  4. Have the students put the post-it notes in the circles that they think match their word association.

Activity 2

Class discussion

40 minutes

  1. Start a class discussion by explaining the stress bell curve. Key points:

    • We all experience stress and anxiety differently.

    • It’s good to feel some stress, as this can help to enhance performance.

    • Too much stress can affect not only your performance at school, but also your life more generally.

    • Feeling no stress at all could mean that you have disengaged from doing your best.

  2. Highlight that there are things we can and cannot control, but also that there are things we can do to ensure that stress doesn’t affect us in a negative way.

  3. Access the article 'What stress does to the body.'

    • Students read text to consolidate learning.

    • Students discuss in small groups which aspects are important to them.

    • Ask students to reflect on their original brainstorms.

Activity 3

Reflection activity

10 minutes

Students reflect on their own experiences of stress to begin thinking about what they can do to cope. Ask students to read the following articles and think about how they could implement the strategies.


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