Stress & Anxiety Activity for Middle School Students

I created this activity for a 12 year old client I was seeing in private practice, and I recently began using it with a few students at my school. This is a great way to keep students active, to continue to build rapport, and to introduce some CBT concepts.

My inspiration came from a 3D shape I found at the dollar store {Fun fact of the day- if you’ve ever wondered what a 20-sided object is called, it’s an icosahedron}.

On the 15 sides of the object, I wrote rapport building questions that also gave me better insight into her stress and anxiety. On 5 of the spaces, I wrote, “Write a specific time you felt worried or anxious.” Here are some of the questions I included:

  • Does it bother you if something doesn’t go perfectly? Why or why not?
  • What is something you are proud of?
  • What is something that makes you feel overwhelmed?
  • Do you usually start a project and leave it unfinished, or do you usually finish what you start? Why?
  • Describe a time you were disappointed in yourself.
  • What is something you’re afraid of?
  • How does your body feel when you experience stress?

Note on Materials: You can use a beach ball if you can’t find something like this, and you will also need pre-cut slips of paper and markers.

So how does this activity work?

To use this activity in session, you and the student will toss the icosahedron or beach ball back and forth. Whichever prompt each person’s right thumb lands on when you or your student catches it is the one that is responded to. For example, if the student wants to go first, I would toss the shape to her, and she would look at the space where her right thumb landed. If it is a question, the student would answer the question, then toss the shape back to me {repeating the process}. If the student’s thumb lands on a space that says “Write a specific time you felt worried or anxious,” she would take a slip of paper and write a time she experienced anxious feelings.

After all of the questions have been answered {and you have quite a few anxiety producing situations written}, you can sit down with the student and review the slips of paper–yours and the student’s. This is when I begin to introduce some CBT concepts, starting with some psycho-education on types of disordered thinking.


I printed out four pieces of paper with the following cognitive distortions: All or Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, “Should” Thoughts, and “What If…?” Thoughts. After telling the student about each type of thinking, we looked at all of the stressful situations we each wrote during the game. First, we figured out what thoughts caused the anxiety or stress, then we sorted them into the different categories. Finally, we replaced the distorted thoughts with ones that do not make us feel awful {I found that students liked to use my examples first to identify and change bad thinking because it wasn’t directly tied to them…and one of my students even said she felt happy that she was helping me – so sweet!}.


When I did this in private practice, the whole activity from start to finish filled the hour long session, so with the limited time we have in the school setting, it might be more realistic to do this over the course of 2 or 3 meetings.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this activity! Please let me know what kind of results you have if you try it out!


One thought on “Stress & Anxiety Activity for Middle School Students

  1. Tanya Kirschman says:

    I picked up a few of these at the dollar store, too and haven’t used them yet. I was thinking of having students write personal characteristics (character traits) that they possess or perhaps goals for their future and then they can keep it as a reminder. Thanks for sharing your idea — it gave me more ways to use them!


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