There are many techniques to develop self-awareness, self-appreciation, self-esteem, but what would be useful to use with sixth formers? Life Coach Lunette Allen discusses some of the exercises she works with, which can be tailored to suit most age groups

A couple of years ago, I was asked by my ex Headmistress if I would speak to her pupils about managing stress and exam pressure. ‘What a fantastic idea and what a forward thinking head mistress’ I thought.

The school was Colchester County High School for Girls in Essex and the Headmistress is Elizabeth Ward. Very proud of my old school, I have kept in touch over the years and it was a real joy to be asked to go back to talk to the students in a professional capacity. It seems that pupils and teachers alike are under more stress now than they have ever been. It’s been a while since I did my ‘A’ levels, but there definitely seems to be more pressure to excel now and so I sat down and asked myself a few questions.

  • ‘What I would have liked to hear when I was under that immense pressure?’
  • ‘What do I know now that I wish I’d known then?’
  • ‘What would have made me concentrate more, have a higher opinion of my potential, have a little trust in my ability and make me calmer and more confident in myself?’

During my career as a professional Life Coach, I have learnt so many valuable exercises to lift self-esteem, raise peoples image of themselves and confidence in their abilities. There are many techniques that I now use to develop people, so what would be useful to use with sixth formers? Well, these are just some of the exercises I chose and have either developed myself or learnt along the way. These exercises can be tailored to suit most age groups and they promote self-awareness, self-appreciation, improve self-esteem and prompt people think about things in a slightly different way. I hope by sharing some of my techniques in this article, you can take something away to use in your professional or personal life and I would welcome any feedback, so do let me know how you get on.

‘When students really start to believe that they have the potential to be whatever they want they really start to shine, finding themselves literally capable of doing whatever they put their minds to’

Definition of Stress

Stress is often seen as a negative emotion, but actually used wisely, it can be a very motivating and valuable force. Use this exercise to bring out the positive qualities of stress. I ask the group to re-define the word stress, as if, for instance, they were being asked to do so for a brand new dictionary. The initial reactions of the groups are to define stress as a negative and harmful emotion. I then split the groups into two and initiate a debate. One group gets to argue why stress is a positive thing and the other, why stress is negative.

Following a sometimes lively discussion, I then ask the groups to re-define the word stress again. What happens next is the interesting part. Most groups start to re-define it as something that the human body needs in order to be able to function properly, in other words, a positive emotion whatever they want that we couldn’t live without. Many of my students to be and do have come to the conclusion that life without stress would be pretty boring and would lead to a lethargic population desperately lacking in motivation – not a great thought! It is at this point, when stress is re-evaluated, that they cease to become afraid of stress and start to be able to work with it positively.

Using the subconscious positively

In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative that my students know and understand how their subconscious minds work in order for them to get the very best from themselves at this stage in their lives. We still have much to learn about the sub-conscious, but we do know that the information we put into it has much to do with how we perceive our potential, our lives and ourselves. It is vital that students (and teachers!) understand the value of positive thinking. When my clients and students start to re-think their thought patterns, they grow as people and they start to understand the true power of thinking positively. When I ask what goes through my students’ minds just before an exam, for instance, most of their replies are negative – things like, ‘I haven’t done enough revision’, ‘I’ll never pass this’ and ‘I can’t do this’.

Every person I speak to seems to have their own ‘special’ negative sayings that run through their mind over and over again. I ask my students to write down their negative emotions and beliefs about their ability, followed by possible positive alternatives. Students often tell me that they don’t think positively, because it would be seen as ‘showing off’, but there is a massive difference between showing off and having a quiet confidence in your own ability. I’m not asking them to blurt out loud to everyone that passes ‘I’m fantastic at Maths’ or ‘I WILL pass Biology’. What I ask of them is that they repeat these positive phrases to themselves, as often as they can. It is entirely possible by means of repetition that students can start to believe their positive alternatives and completely eradicate old thinking habits; it just requires a little application!

When students really start to believe that they have the potential to be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do, they really start to shine, finding themselves literally capable of doing whatever they put their minds to.

3:1 Game

From my experience of talking to the girls at CCHS, the students who feel more stressed tend to have a lower self-esteem and confidence in themselves and their abilities. The 3:1 game is fantastic for raising that inner spirit and confidence. I was taught this by fellow Life Coach Nic Rixon from the Life Coaching Academy where I trained and have used it on many occasions to great effect.

Students pair up with someone they don’t know very well. One person is quiet whilst the other person has 3 minutes to tell a story of how they have achieved something when they really didn’t think they could. It could be anything, from learning to horse-ride to overcoming an illness and still excelling at school.This is their chance to sing their own praises and tell their partner where they excelled and what obstacles were put in their way. After the 3 minutes, their partner then has 1 minute in which to respond, by telling them the positive qualities they must possess in order to have got through that situation and done well.

Students really do change. They sit more upright afterwards, they make eye contact more easily and you can see them grow inches as someone praises their efforts. The results can be staggering.

Play time

This is one of my favourite exercises! I learnt this fun exercise from Gabriella Goddard of Claravia a couple of years ago and so inspiring did I find it, that I’ve used it with my clients ever since. This is an absolutely fantastic exercise to get students to focus on a stress-free lifestyle. Just as a bit of back-ground, our minds take in information in many different formats.

Everything we hear, see and say gets stored in our subconscious minds and it is imperative to fill our minds with the stuff we want rather than the stuff we don’t want. What you need is a sheet of paper for everyone, a pair of scissors and some glossy magazines. From then on, it’s literally a case of cut and paste! I ask my girls to flick through the magazines and cut out pictures or words that make them feel calm and relaxed. They then stick their chosen pieces together to make a collage. Much as this seems like an excuse to act like a five year old again, its underlying impression on the subconscious is valuable.

My students come away from the lesson with their very own personal image of calm and relaxation. It’s easy to say ‘You must take time to relax!’ but what exactly does that mean? Everyone has a different way of relaxing. Some people watch mind numbing TV, others play tennis or go for a run, but visual reminders are not to be underestimated and I ask my students to put their collage up some-where at home where they’ll see it every morning as a reminder of ‘calm!’ It works a treat.

This exercise can also be adapted to suit different discussions. For instance, ask your students to cut out images that make them feel ‘confident’ and you might get a whole host of empowering words from headlines. Ask a group to put together a collage on their ideal career and you’ll get a totally different set of images, all imprinting important messages on their subconscious minds. It’s a way of focusing their thoughts in a positive way.

These are just three examples of exercises that I have used with young people. Take them into your classroom, do them yourself at home, have fun with them and see what happens!

Lunette Allen is a professional Life Coach who specialises in coaching women. Lunette works with TV/ Radio personalities and top female business achievers. She holds regular Positive Thinking, Boosting Confidence and Managing Stress workshops all over the UK. Lunette’s work has been featured on The Steve Wright in the Afternoon Show on Radio 2 in Dogs Today, Zest, Natural Health and Eve Magazine. She is a well-respected writer and contributor to The UK College of Life and Executive Coaching, The Life Coaching Academy and The Association of Natural Medicine Magazines( as well as being the Life Coaching Expert for Natural Health & Wellbeing Magazine.

Her first book ‘Behind with the Laundry and Living off Chocolate‘ (published by Crown House Publishing, ISBN: 190 4424 392, price £9.99) includes a CD narrated by Radio 2’s Janey Lee Grace and is aimed specifically at busy women. Lunette reveals her inspirational, intuitive and realistic tips for creating a balanced, fun, stress free and fulfilling life. Through her own experience of getting the life she dreamed of, she offers a fresh perspective on all aspects of living. From life’s crossroads, to coping or addressing challenges, women can easily incorporate her workable tips into their day-to-day existence to create dramatic change with just a little re-programming!