Ridding the rumors of Stress Less Week


Michelle Quan

Stress Less Week will begin on Monday of the week preceding finals week to introduce students to the provided activities. Graphic by Michelle Quan.

Michelle Quan

Stress Less Week is a week of stress management related activities the Mental Wellness Advocacy group created to occur the week before midterms. It is not a “dead week” nor a replacement for Crimson Hour, but does provide the opportunity for students to engage in useful and potentially relaxing activities.

So Stress Less Week will essentially be a normal week with the same schedule, homework assignments and routine learning. The difference? There will be scheduled activities for each day of the week that focus on coping skills as a way to tackle stress. Most of these activities will take place during lunch so that students don’t miss any instructional time.

“Up until now, from what I understand, there’s been very few teaching moments, in terms of giving students true strategies to use to mitigate stress,” Principal Michael Newman said. “The idea behind Stress Less Week is, how do we take time to teach students how to handle their stress?”

Counselor Dr. Jessika Benson had wished for a week dedicated to stress-relieving activities even before the Mental Wellness Advocacy group, a committee composed of Manual students and staff members, brought up similar interests. Dr. Benson was able to target students’ needs from survey data gathered last year during NTI. Over a thousand student responses were recorded. Dr. Benson utilized this information and input from the Mental Wellness Advocacy group to help form and truly bring the Stress Less Week idea to life.

“We are trying to be more proactive about giving students the opportunity to practice and learn how to use coping skills. That’s the purpose of the Stress Less Week,” Dr. Benson said. “So rather than just saying ‘Hey, you should go and meditate,’ we’ll have some time during school where students can actually practice it which I hope will help students learn habits they could use no matter what.”

Originally, it was believed that Stress Less Week would be a time where teachers were not allowed to teach new content. Many teachers, especially those with AP courses, were then worried about how Stress Less Week would affect their timelines of being able to get through all necessary assignments and content before the break. This caused some teachers to worry about content coverage and cram in additional homework.

However, the original no new content belief was a misconception.

A faculty meeting held two weeks ago established a “collective commitment” from teachers and staff to be “intentional” during the week before finals. What this means is that teachers should exclusively focus on work that’s directly related to final exams/projects in order to reduce student workload and not pile on further new content. There is no mandate against homework and teachers may still assign such during this timeframe.

“The reason why it’s called Stress Less Week…it’s more about learning how to manage your stress, so therefore, it is less stress on you, personally, I think,” Dr. Newman said.

However, this brings about another question. Will this year include a school wide time for a break in instruction? A time of mental rest that doesn’t require skipping lunch and similar to the freedom Crimson Hour provided students to roam around, complete work or talk to friends?

Crimson Hours have been temporarily cancelled due to ongoing COVID cases within the state. Stress Less Week is not intended to be a replacement for Crimson Hour, but it is supposed to serve as a reminder to teachers that there is no Crimson Hour; therefore, they should be mindful in assigning major projects not related to the final as the semester draws to a close.

Administrators and other faculty are still discussing the possibility of options similar to the rumored “no homework” week, but have yet to settle on a decision. A major issue with coming to a cohesive creation is the variance of classes, such as AP classes where options like a “no homework” week may not be viable. Dr. Newman may also not have the authority to mandate such, as this would surely conflict with teachers’ year outlines and learning goals. The administrative team will also be looking into the possibility of bringing back Crimson Hour, although this is situation-permitting and not definite.

Students will be required to sign up for the Stress Less Week activities and masks must be worn in order to follow COVID guidelines. Some activities may also be held outside, weather permitting. Group yoga and meditation activities that took place online during NTI are favored by Dr. Benson for their effectiveness in combating stress and students may look forward to seeing those types of group sessions again.

Another Stress Less Week is set to occur in the spring before finals.