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Calming Strategies for Students: Helping Overwhelmed Middle Schoolers Take a Break


Staying Calm & Taking Breaks. Calming Strategies for Students.



Middle school can be a challenging time for students as they navigate academic pressures, social dynamics, and the rapid changes of adolescence. These challenges can often leave them feeling overwhelmed. As educators, it’s crucial to equip students with effective calming strategies to help them manage stress and maintain their well-being. In this blog, we will explore why middle school students often feel overwhelmed and introduce practical strategies to help them take a break and regain their composure. You will also find here a detailed lesson plan to implement these strategies in the classroom.

Why Middle School Students Often Feel Overwhelmed

Middle school is a period of significant transition. Students are adjusting to a more demanding academic workload, experiencing changes in their social circles, and dealing with the physical and emotional changes of puberty. The pressure to fit in and perform well academically can lead to feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Additionally, the increase in screen time and social media use can amplify these stresses, leaving students with little time to relax and unwind.

Introducing Calming Strategies for Students

To help students manage their stress and take a break when feeling overwhelmed, here are seven effective calming strategies:

  1. Taking a Break: Encourage students to step away from the situation for a short period to clear their mind and gain perspective.

  2. Counting to Ten: Teach students to count slowly to ten, which can help them pause and reduce immediate stress reactions.

  3. Taking Deep Breaths: Deep breathing exercises can help calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety.

  4. Relaxing Muscles: Progressive muscle relaxation can help students release tension and feel more at ease.

  5. Talking to an Adult: Encourage students to talk to a trusted adult about their feelings and seek support.

  6. Visualizing a Calm Event: Visualization techniques can help students imagine a peaceful scene, reducing stress.

  7. Using Kind Self-Talk: Teach students to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations to boost their confidence and calmness.

Lesson Plan: Implementing Calming Strategies for Students in the Classroom


Students will learn and practice various calming strategies to manage feelings of overwhelm.

Materials Needed

  • Bulletin board “Bulletin Board: Overwhelmed? Try 1 for 1 Minute”

  • Visual mediums (photos, drawings, paintings, stickers, etc.)

  • Paper and art supplies

Introduction (10 min)

  • Begin with a discussion on why students might feel overwhelmed. Explain that it is normal to feel overwhelmed when we experience stress in our lives.

  • Introduce the seven calming strategies: taking a break, counting to ten, taking deep breaths, relaxing muscles, talking to an adult, visualizing a calm event, and using kind self-talk.

Bulletin Board Activity (15 minutes)

  • Present the “Overwhelmed? Try 1 for 1 Minute” bulletin board.

  • Explain that this board will serve as a reminder of the calming strategies.

  • Divide the class into seven groups, assigning each group one strategy.

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Group Work (20 minutes)

  • Have students brainstorm what kind of visuals they can use to best represent the calming technique that is labelled on their cloud.

  • Students will fill in their cloud on the bulletin board using photos, drawings, paintings, stickers, or other visual mediums.

  • Encourage creativity and collaboration within groups.

Presentations (15 minutes)

  • Have each group present their cloud and explain their visual representation of the calming strategy.

  • Discuss how each strategy can be used in real-life situations to manage stress.

Wrap-Up Discussion and Reflection (10 minutes)

  • Lead a class discussion on the importance of using calming strategies.

  • Ask students to share how they felt during the activity and which strategy they think will be most helpful to them.

  • Encourage students to reflect on how they can incorporate these strategies into their daily routine.

  • Encourage students to use the bulletin board as a resource whenever they need a quick reminder of the strategies.


Helping middle school students manage their stress is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success. By teaching and reinforcing calming strategies, we can provide students with the tools they need to navigate their emotions and maintain a sense of calm. Implementing activities like the “Overwhelmed? Try 1 for 1 Minute” bulletin board in the classroom not only makes learning about these strategies interactive and engaging but also ensures that students have a constant visual reminder of how to take a break and stay calm. By fostering a supportive environment and encouraging the use of these strategies, we can help students build resilience and thrive during their middle school years.

Sample Video

Students learn best from watching real students their own age model skills. Try out this sample video lesson. We offer our entire Social-Emotional Learning platform free for 14 days here!


Related Blog Posts:

Responding to Feelings: Interactive Worksheet and Lesson Plan for Middle School Students

Teenage Confidence Building Activities: A Lesson Plan for Middle School Educators

Navigating Middle School Friendship: Handling Conflict with Friends

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