Warning Signs Activity


The very first step to managing stress is to be aware that you are stressed! When we are chronically stressed, we tend to get used to being in stress and not realize it’s time to take positive, healthy action.

We all have warning signs. These warning signs are our alarm or alert that we’ve crossed from “I can handle it” to “I’m not handling this very well” to “I need some help.”

Each person manifests stress in different ways, but we all tend to have certain warning signs that fall into the following categories:

  • Thoughts
  • Behaviors
  • Feelings/emotions
  • Attitudes
  • Physical/body

The earlier we can be aware of our warning signs, the more likely we’ll choose positive coping strategies.



Brainstorm: see if the class can generate some examples of stress warning signs from each category.

Complete the handout: each student can complete this Warning Sign activity for themselves. What are their personal warning signs that signal, “Uh oh, I’m not handling stress too well? I better intervene and take positive action.”

Students can write words on the sheet and they can also add drawings.

Students can share their completed drawings if they want.


Sometimes people get confused about identifying warning signs of chronic stress (or distress) and instead think of acute stress response symptoms like racing heart, sweating, etc. Clarify that you mean the warning signs that you’ve been in stress for too long, not when you are actively dealing with the stressor.

Sometimes people have trouble identifying their own warning signs. It can help to ask them, “What if you best friend or sibling was doing this activity about you? What would they put down?” Sometimes the people around us are more tuned in to our warning signs than we are!