The phenomenon of “Stress” has been studied from the purview of stress as a ‘cause’ as a ‘consequence’ and as an ‘experience.’ Irrespective of the approach adopted, the fact that some amount of stress results in increased productivity, but excessive stress leads to self destruction (inverted ‘U’ concept of stress) raises many issues about managing stress effectively. This paper attempts to focus on Stress Management from the Life Skills Education perspective provided by the WHO (1996). ‘Life Skills Education’ refers to the teaching of life skills. Life skills have been defined as “abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life” (WHO 1993). They are essentially those abilities which help to promote mental well being and competence in young people as they face the realities of life. LSE enables individuals to learn and practice skills; it is based on an individual centred and activity oriented methodology. It subsumes the philosophy that young people should be empowered to take more responsibility for their action. Life skills, when taught as generic skills for life, are taught in the context of holistic health, relationships, social influences on behaviour, rights and responsibilities. The LSE programmes have wide ranging objectives as they address the psychosocial factors that affect behaviour. This approach was selected since studies by Kirby, Kreuter (1991), Caplan (1992), LaFromboise (1994), Ennett (1994), and many others all indicated that Life Skills Education was very successful, in equipping and preparing the younger generation to face the challenges of their adult years. It helped in reducing self-defeating, self-damaging behaviors like smoking, alcohol and drug use, suicide prevention as well as facilitated the ability to handle interpersonal problems effectively and cope with anxiety efficiently.
The study is primarily with adolescence girls because during this period, girls face a number of other problems. Most girls have no say or control over their own lives – they are governed by the authority of their parents. Research indicates that in India girls are far less privileged than boys in access to material resources. They are also discriminated against the boy in areas related to health care, nutrition, education, parental attention and interest. The common health problems of girls below 18 years, besides other medical and physiological problems, include increase in depression, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, maladjustment including identity crisis, lack of concentration in studies. Studies too reveal that girls report more daily stress, feelings of personal inadequacy, lack of self-confidence, inability to express themselves, and are pre-occupied with their body image. Sexual attractiveness, need to be noticed by the opposite sex are also important concerns. Prema Sunderajan (2001) Vinit, and Anuragini Sharma etal (2000), Silberg et al (1999), Hoffmann etal.(1998) Martin, Welsh and Hill .(1998), Ranganathan (1996), Sunita Kishor (1995), Sushma (1995) Murthy (1992) Papanek (1990), Basu (1989). This indicates that the major cause of stress lies in personal and family life of an adolescent girl. Research has also pointed out that among girls there is a greater use of coping associated with social relationships, more frequent use of self-injurious behaviour and emotion-focused coping and deficits in active coping (Hastings etal 1996, Prema Sunderajan 2001.) These symptoms get aggravated in the present milieu which is characterized by competition, frustrations, insecurities, anxiety, anguish and dilemmas. Rapid changes that pose great challenges, and require the individual to adapt, cope with themselves, the environment and the people they encounter.
Even today, despite her many achievements, ‘woman’ is regarded and seen as a ‘Second sex’ and still considered in many societies inferior to man. A need was felt to empower and provide a platform which will serve to facilitate positive mental health in the adolescent girl – tomorrow’s woman. In order to instill among the adolescents a clear and adequate perception of reality it was is essential that they should be empowered with skills in stress management.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND OBJECTIVES
The basic issues addressed, included:
What do adolescent girls understand by the term stress?
What are the life events that are stressful for them?
What are the accompanying feelings, emotions and behaviour patterns experienced by them when in stress?
What are the different coping strategies adopted by them?
What are skills and techniques which they would like to acquire to facilitate stress management and coping?
Can stress management be imparted as a set of life skills and techniques?
Can instruction be provided on healthy and effective ways of coping?
In what ways are adolescent girls likely to benefit from life skills education in stress management?
Can a module in stress management be developed for all schools? What will be its significance and relevance?
These questions were then translated into specific objectives.
The objectives of the study were:
To identify the common stressors in the lives of adolescent girls,
To understand the techniques and strategies used by them to cope with their life stressors,
To identify areas in stress management where adolescent girls feel they need training and skill development,
To develop a module on stress management based on the life skills approach for adolescent girls, to try out the module on a group of adolescent girls and to obtain feedback on the tryout.
DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
The study was planned in three phases. PHASE I aimed at arriving at the existing status of the problem among the girls, to know what they understand by the term stress, identify the life stressors in their own context, know the coping mechanisms adopted by them and identify through their own self report, the skills and training required by them.
PHASE II focused on the development of a stress management module (workshop plan). The conceptual framework for this was derived from the life skills pattern provided by the WHO Document. (1996). PHASE III involved the actual conduct of the workshop and recording of feedback from the girls regarding the relevance and effectiveness of the workshop in their lives.
Tools And Techniques
In PHASE I: A focused group discussion based on a thematic interview schedule drawn up for the purpose was carried out with adolescents of classes X, XI & XII. The discussion themes were:
What are the situations, experiences that you feel are stressful in your life?
How do you cope with these situations?
What help would you require in dealing with stress?
In PHASE II - Existing frameworks in Life Skills Education conducted by UN agencies and WHO were consulted to identify strategies and techniques to be used for designing sessions relevant to the themes of the workshop. The specific techniques and strategies used included.
Visualization In Participatory Process,
Checklist On Adolescents Life Change Event Cycle ,
Small Group Exercise ,
Situational Analysis ,
Preparing Individual Balance Sheet,
Self Reporting Of Personal Experiences in Writing.
The sample for Phase I consisted of 110 girls studying in
classes X, XI & XII drawn at random from one government and one public school.
For Phase III the module was tried out on one section of class XI girls
numbering 29 drawn from an ‘all girls public school’ in Delhi
SUMMARY OF MAJOR FINDINGS
The main findings in Phase I indicated the sources of stress in the lives of adolescent girls (as reflected in the focused group discussion) could be classified into four clear categories, namely, family related factors, self related factors, peer related factors, and school related factors. Among these the family related and self-related factors appeared to be more pervasive. Also it was seen that within the family related factors, relationship with parents, followed by siblings, seemed to be the main stressors. Stressors related to extended family members followed this. The details are given in table 1.
The coping strategies used or adopted by the girls were also identified it was observed that most of the girls turned to someone for support and they focused mainly on getting immediate relief. They preferred emotion-focused coping i.e. the girls attempted to reduce the emotional distress instead of actively trying to change the situation. It was also observed that many of the girls had not even conceptualized what effective coping meant and had thus not responded to this question.
The girls expressed a need for skill training to deal with
stress in the following areas:
Ability to communicate effectively,
Management of interpersonal relationships,
Ability to focus on positives,
Conflict resolution skills,
Problem solving skills,
Help in making choices.
Phase I highlighted the need for a skill based intervention
programme to help the girls combat, cope and deal with stress.
In Phase II existing frameworks in Life Skills Education conducted by UN agencies and WHO were reviewed and analyzed. Strategies and techniques were identified which could be used for designing sessions relevant to the themes of the workshop. The details are given in table 2.
Phase III revealed that the girls had a good idea, knowledge
of the nature, term and phenomenon of stress. Based on their understanding,
responses, ideas generated and presented in session II, stress was summarized
“Stress is any event, situation, circumstance, demand, pressure or tension that disturbs or threatens to disturb the individual’s functioning, leading to physical, mental, and emotional strain for example fights with friends, siblings, examination fear, poor marks, illness, death and so on.”
And “Stress is a response to certain negative life events for example depression, restlessness, tensed feelings, or being uncomfortable.”
The prominent stressors identified included:
Family factors : parents’ related stressors being predominant
School and examination related factors
Self related factor: emotional aspects was highlighted and emphasized.
The try-out also pointed out that the major coping strategies adopted by the girls, were:
turning to friends for support
discussing their problems and dilemmas
This emphasized the significance of the peer group and friends in the life of an adolescent.
The study also highlighted that:
The session on Refuting Irrational beliefs revealed that irrational beliefs are an integral part of our life we cannot visualize a life without them. We are not willing to do away with or refute them.
The session on problem solving strategies revealed very few
solutions which indicated proactive behaviour.
In the session on Focusing on Positives and Counting One’s Blessings the students were instructed to prepare a balance sheet on the strengths and weaknesses. Discussions were held on how to convert weaknesses into strengths. It was also observed that girls faced difficulty in writing their strengths but were very quick and prompt in writing about their weaknesses. In fact one girl asked her friend to tell her, her positive points.
The student’s feedback suggested that the stress management workshop left a positive impact on the girls’ mind and they unanimously felt that it was an effective capsule for coping and should be organized in other schools.
TABLE 1: SOURCES OF STRESS IN THE LIVES OF ADOLESCENT GIRLS
PARENTS RELATED SELF RELATED FACTORS
EMOTIONAL ASPECTS SCHOOL FACTORS
Unsatisfactory, relationship with father.
Poor communication with parents.
Unrealistic parental expectations.
Differences in opinion with mother and father.
Parental objections to long phone calls.
Not being allowed to interact with members of the opposite sex. Inability to express oneself
Lack of freedom
Helplessness due to inability to say no
Feelings of incompetence
Problems in decision making Unsatisfactory relationship with teachers
Worry about exams Worry about results of tests and exams Lack of concentration Too much home work Unrealistic expectations by teachers
Being victims of others tale tattles Unsatisfactory relationship with classmates
SIBLINGS Related PHYSICAL ASPECTS
Conflicts, arguments & fights with brothers
Concern about hairstyle
Concern about facial features
Concern about weight
Not satisfied with body image
EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS SOCIETAL ASPECTS
Illness in family
Conflicts with grand parents Getting eve teased
Living in a crowded colony
PEER AND FRIENDSHIP
Difficulties with friends
Receiving blank calls
Inability to interact with members of the opposite sex
Difficulties in making new friends
TRAINING MODULE AND PROGRAMME
SESSION NUMBERS PROGRAMME OBJECTIVES TECHNIQUES
Session I Introduction To motivate the girls
To describe the nature, content and the sessions of the programme.
To form a Rapport Lecture
Session II Stress: An Introduction To Understanding and comprehension of stress.
To engage in self-exploration and identify sources of stress in everyday life.
To become aware of the problems and difficulties.
Session III Recognition Of Emotions, Feelings, And Behaviour
Accompanying Stress To become aware of personal stress responses and signals.
To increase awareness of consequences of unmanaged stress.
To emphasise the cumulative effect of negative stress.
To get a personal grip on stress.
Small Group Exercise
Session IV Coping Strategies For Everyday Life To identify
different ways of managing stress through simple techniques and strategies.
To teach cognitive, behavioural strategies, which will increase resilience to stress
To combat stress effectively and efficiently.
Handout on “Stress Busting can be Fun”
Session V Refuting Irrational Belief To increases sensitivity to irrational beliefs.
To realize its negative consequences.
To develop a rational attitude towards life.
Session VI Problem Solving Training To develop problem solving skills
To negotiate with problems and difficulties.
Session VII Focusing On Positives And Counting One’s Blessings To enhance their self esteem.
To focus on the positives in life
To develop a positive attitude in life
To count one’s blessings Emotional Balance Sheet
Session VIII Sharing & Concluding To elicit general impressions on the workshop
To educe specific impact of the sessions in the module on their lives.
Self Reporting Of Personal Experiences
2. Praktisk håndtering af stress
"Det er først når man forlader et helvede, at man indser, at det var det".
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