She’s standing in line for ugali and it seems to come out of nowhere: her body tightens up and as she clenches her fists, she starts to feel irritated, maybe even angry. There’s a baby who started crying somewhere and she realizes how this could have set her off. When she lived at home, her little brother seemed to cry all the time - mom didn’t have enough food, not to mention patience, so she’d hand him off to any of the siblings nearby.
At Neema, Linder recently led the 3rd-year students through a class on stress management, where she taught about identification and management techniques, including physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental stress. In this small and intimate gathering, the girls brainstormed together ideas of how to cope effectively with stress. By sharing their thoughts and experiences, they also used this opportunity to practice vulnerability and understanding. They sat there together, asking thoughtful questions and trusting one another with the baggage they each bring to the table.
They can now practice these skills with one another as they’ve begun learning how to identify stressors, recognize their reactions, and use appropriate strategies to manage them. The girls are learning more and more about how to understand themselves. One realizes that a crying baby could be a stressor for her because her body quickly becomes taught and even shaky, while another stands in line for breakfast, unaffected. For her, a trigger could be the deep voice of a man or maybe a crowded bus.
Each of these girls begins to recognize the signs that trigger anxiety. Once they are able to point to them, they are then able to remind themselves to relax — to take deep breaths, walk away, pray, or verbalize their emotions. And as she continues to do this, her body and mind will learn. As she hears and sees those things in her daily life that cause fear, she’ll remember that it’s no big deal. She can take the load of stress off her shoulders, set it aside, and walk on.