Aug 02, 2023

Stress, anxiety, and panic are normal human emotions that impact everyone at some point in their lives. While these feelings can be overwhelming, understanding and managing them is important for mental well-being.

Anxious feelings often aren’t related to a specific situation. The human brain plays a central role in processing emotions, and its functioning can contribute to the intensity and frequency of anxious feelings. Everyone experiences stress differently.  What is stressful for one child, may not be for another. Something that provokes anxiety in one kid may be no big deal to another.

I like to think of stress, anxiety and panic on a scale – like a Laugh-O-Meter, only not so funny. It’s different for everyone.  Today we’re going to share a simple tool to help a child rate their emotions. We call it a Stress-O-Meter. Children (and adults) can use it to identify their feelings and take action.

When anxiety hits, it can feel like it’s always a ten on a scale of one-to-ten. With this meter, kids can better understand how they are feeling inside and that there can be a range. There are degrees of anxious feelings. It may be a ten in intensity, or it may be a six, or a three. Learning to recognize anxious feelings when they are less than a ten on the meter makes it easier to do something about it.

Make Your Own Stress-O-Meter  

Supplies: Piece of paper, markers, split pin (or tape) and a plate 

  1. Trace a half circle on the paper, using a plate as your guide.
  2. Draw a line straight down the middle.
  3. Then draw two more lines to split these halves in half, one on each side of the middle line.
  4. Color each section. Green = ease. Yellow = a little nervous. Orange = shallow breathing, sweaty palms. Red = full blown anxiety. Please help! You can choose the words and colors you use for your meter. 

Help a child make their own Stress-O-Meter and you’re giving them a tool for self-awareness – which leads to self-regulation and self-mastery.

Introducing the Stress-O-Meter to children can be an engaging activity that allows them to express their emotions in a non-threatening and creative way. As a parent, teacher or anyone working with kids, it can help you understand the emotional states of the children you interact with and be able to take effective action to support them.

In daily life, the Stress-O-Meter can be used in various ways: 

  1. Personal Reflection: Use the Stress-O-Meter to assess emotions periodically throughout the day to gain insights into patterns and triggers of stress and anxiety.
  2. Communication: The Stress-O-Meter can be used as a communication tool between parents and children or teachers and students. It helps children articulate their emotional experiences, fostering open and supportive dialogues.
  3. Coping Strategies: Identifying emotions on the Stress-O-Meter allows kids to choose appropriate coping strategies. For example, green or yellow emotions may call for relaxation techniques, while red emotions may necessitate professional help or support from others.

Stress, anxiety, and panic are complex emotions that impact everyone differently. The Stress-O-Meter offers a simple yet powerful way to understand and manage these emotions effectively. By providing a visual representation of emotions on a scale, it fosters self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-mastery.

Making and using a Stress-O-Meter can be a meaningful activity for children and adults alike, promoting mental well-being and emotional resilience. Ultimately, by teaching kids to identify and address their emotions, we empower them to navigate life's challenges with confidence and grace. 

If you’re interested in more useful activities that anyone can do to manage their mind and mood, check out Anxious to Awesome: A Practical Guide for the Whole Family.


Get 5 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Help Kids Feel Less Anxious and More Awesome

We are passionate about helping children better understand and move through anxious feelings. It’s a big problem for a lot of kids right now! So we’ve created a free resource guide full of proven strategies that have been successfully used with kids just like yours for many years.

Whether anxiety has been showing up in your life more lately, or it’s been around a long time, this free guide will help you and your kids shift out of anxious feelings today!