Tips for giving stress-management training
Here are some general tips for running training workshops with adults.
Plan and prepare!
- Time spent planning is rarely wasted. In addition to thinking through all the questions in the previous section, you may want to know things like:
- What does the room look like? How many participants can it hold? How will they be seated (e.g., on round tables or squares, or in rows of chairs with no tables?). Where are the bathrooms? What time, approximately, will you be taking breaks? Has that been communicated to any catering staff?
- What audiovisual equipment will you need? What about things like flipcharts, markers, tape, paper and pens, workshop handouts and other materials you might want for the training?
- If you use an interpreter, brief them beforehand to ensure they understand the sort of material you will be covering.
People generally learn best through doing. As far as possible, aim for the training to be interactive and fun. Here are some ways to build interactivity into your workshops:
- Try not to lecture for more than twenty minutes without pausing for some sort of feedback (e.g., questions, discussion, an interactive exercise);
- Allow plenty of time for discussion;
- If you have more than 12 people in the group, break into smaller groups for discussions;
- Asking participants to teach others what they have learned is a good way to check how well you have taught them;
- Get to know the names of at least some of the participants and use their names as you lead the training. This will help participants to feel connected to you.
- Sometimes the material you have carefully prepared will take longer to work through in a group than you had anticipated. When this happens you (and the group) will usually be better served if you can be flexible enough to skip some of the non-essential material in your prepared presentation in order to focus on important take-home messages, rather than rushing and trying to cram everything in or simply missing out on the last half of the material (since the last half of the workshop usually focuses more on “what can we do about stress?”).
Be careful with personal questions and potentially sensitive material
- Think carefully about asking people to discuss sensitive or personal information. If some of the material is too difficult to discuss in the culture, find other ways the staff can think about the material (e.g. ask them to make private written notes, or ask questions and allow them time and space to think about the answers on their own).
- A good way to keep people attentive and encourage participation can be to offer small rewards (e.g. chocolates, sweets, fruit, pens). Try to ensure this will not appear patronizing. Rewards can work well if offered in a light-hearted way throughout the training workshop.
Give everyone a chance to talk if they want to
Encourage everyone to talk, but do not force them to. If someone is quiet, you might want to ask them, “Is there anything you would like to add?” If one person dominates the discussion, you could say something like, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Now, I wonder who else would like to add something? I’d love to hear from everyone.”
Anticipate emotional reactions as a possibility
- Sometimes the issues discussed in stress-management workshops can stir up for participants powerful and unpleasant feelings that are associated with memories of their own previous trauma. Early in the workshop, let participants know that this is a possibility. Tell participants that they can step out of the training and take a break at any time if they need to, and that they are welcome to come and talk to you about this during the breaks or after the end of the training. If you are not a mental health professional, you should also know where and how to refer participants to a qualified counsellor if they approach you about these sorts of issues.
Stop and Think
- Which training events have you learned most from?
- What helped you learn during those events?
Next: Introduction to a stress-management workshop