Guess the topic!
Before telling students what the topic of the lesson is, put them into 4 groups. Each group gets an envelope with 8 words and expressions related to stress:
fatigue / headache / loss of concentration / nervousness / erratic sleeping patterns / irritability / excessive sweating / difficulty in making decisions
Students have a think and try to guess the topic.
After coming up with the solution, you can share some information on International Stress Awareness Day. It is usually held on 2 November, but some countries might have it on another day, e.g. the U.S. (16 April). For more info on stress in schools: https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/coping-with-stress-at-school/
Pre-reading True or False
Students get 9 statements in connection with the text they are going to read. In pairs or individually, they try to predict whether the statements are true or false. Get some feedback before moving on to the reading task.
Are the following statements true or false?
- Stress can take ten years off your life. T / F
- Stress decelerates the aging of our cells. T / F
- Stress makes us more prone to age-related diseases. T / F
- People with hectic lifestyles are more likely to live longer. T / F
- Our body’s system of cell reproduction gets faster because of stress. T / F
- We age because of something connected with our DNA called telomeres. T / F
- Having very short telomeres means we live longer. T / F
- Having children makes you die early. T / F
- We may soon be able to measure our stress levels. T / F
(Key: T F T F T T F F T)
Students read the text and check their solutions.
It’s official. Stress can take ten years off your life. That’s the conclusion from researchers at the University of California, who have been studying the effect of stress levels on the body. They found that stress accelerates the aging of our cells, which makes us more prone to age-related diseases. This is bad news for people with stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles, as they are more likely to die earlier than less-stressed people. It’s a message for us all to slow down and take things easier.
The researchers discovered in their tests that the system of cell reproduction and replacement, which of course keeps us going, becomes faster under duress. Each time a cell in our body is replaced, part of our DNA, called telomeres, shorten. When they become too short, cells cease reproducing and our bodies continue the aging process. This means longer telomeres lengthen our lives. Stress makes them shorter, and so we die prematurely. The simple message, therefore, is to take life easy.
Research leader, Dr. Elissa Epel, compared 39 women who looked after children with chronic illnesses with a ‘control’ group of 19 mothers of healthy children. The length of the life-giving telomeres was then measured in their blood. The women who had the more stressful task of caring for chronically ill children aged the equivalent of ten years compared with the other women. Their stress levels caused them to age faster. It has always been common knowledge that stress kills. Now we may soon be able to measure how dangerous our careers and lifestyles really are.
Prepare flash cards with one part of the collocation on one side and the other part on the other side. Have students guess the missing part.
E.g. “take ten years __________” // “__________ off your life”
- take ten years – off your life
- conclusion from – researchers
- more likely to – die earlier
- cell – reproduction
- aging – process
- die – prematurely
- common – knowledge
- may soon – be able to
Rank the following ideas according to how much stress they mean to you. (1 = most stressful, 10 = least stressful)
- _____ Christmas shopping
- _____ writing assignments
- _____ commuting
- _____ money
- _____ using social media
- _____ watching/reading the news
- _____ homework
- _____ food in the canteen
Note: The previous four activities come from Breaking News English. Other online activities, listening at five speeds, multi-speed readings, dictation, speaking activities and printable handouts are available for this lesson at http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com.
Divide the class into two groups. Write a statement on the board. Assign the pro and contra sides to the groups. Have students collect as many arguments as the members in each group. As in a ping-pong match, they “throw” arguments at each other but do not reflect in this round. Make sure everybody says one argument from the collected ones. After the first round, give them time to write down their reactions. Do a second round with the reactions in any kind of debate format.
- Stress always has negative effects.
- Stress is always bad.
- No one can live a stress-free life.
- Stress always has a positive influence on students’ performance.
This unit was created with the contribution of Zsófia Jákli, a teacher trainee from Hungary.