Thiagi Group

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

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10 - 155 + Low
Public speaking is reported to be one of the top stressful events for all people. This jolt uses that fact to make a learning point about the physiological effects of stress on the body. Participants take their pulse at the beginning of a session. They are later told they will be participating in a stressful event. When they retake their pulse, they realize how much the thought of the stressful event has caused their pulse rate to increase.


To experience the effects that stress has on our body. See additional learning points under the Instructions section





    Give instructions. At the beginning of the session ask the participants to take their pulse and record their pulse rate.

    You may want to use the following instructions or give your own instructions:

    Let me teach you an important skill. Many of you already know how to take your pulse. Let me review the steps. Please follow my instructions.

    Step 1. Turn your left hand palm-side up, then place the first two fingers of your right hand along the outer edge of your left wrist just below where you wrist and thumb meet.

    Step 2. Slide your fingers a little toward the center of your wrist. You should feel the pulse between the wrist bone and the tendon.

    Step 3. Press down with your fingers until you feel your pulse. Do not press too hard. If you do, you will not be able to feel the pulse. Move your fingers until the pulse is easiest to feel. Sometimes the pulse may be stronger if you drop your left wrist below your waist.

    Step 4. In a moment, I'm going to start the timer for one minute. Continue to feel your pulse and count how many pulses you have during that time.


    (After one minute has passed, call time).

    Please record how many pulses you counted on a piece of paper.

    Set-up the stressful event. Do not explain that you are trying to increase their stress. Make this comment, using your own words:

    In a moment, I'm going to begin today's training session. But first, I want to let you know that in a few minutes, I'm going to ask each of you to come up to the front of the room to make a brief presentation about what you already know about this topic.

    Begin your presentation. Give an introduction to the training topic. Continue for a couple of minutes.

    Have the participants retake their pulse. Stop your presentation, and ask the participants to re-take their pulse using the same procedure they used earlier. Tell them when to start and stop them after 1 minute.


    Begin the debriefing session with this question:

    How many of you experienced a higher pulse rate the second time than the first time? (Most participants will disclose that their pulse rate was higher the second time.) Explain that increased pulse rate is usually associated with higher levels of stress.

    Conduct the remainder of the debriefing discussion by asking these types of questions:

    • What do you think caused the increased pulse rate?
    • What else do you think contributed to an increased pulse rate?
    • Besides the increased pulse rate, what other physiological changes did you notice in yourself?
    • What if you had been told ahead of time that you would be asked to make a presentation. Do you think you would have felt less stressed?
    • What if you were given specific details of what was expected in your presentation. Do you think you would have felt less stressed?
    • How does this relate to stress in the workplace?
    • When might an increased level of stress be an advantage?
    • Knowing what you learned from this activity, what would you do to manage your own stress?
    • Knowing what you learned from this activity, what would you do to lessen the stress you put on others?

    Learning Points

    1. When people are stressed they may experience a variety of symptoms including increased pulse rates, muscles tension, shallow breathing, knots in the stomach, and difficulty concentrating on anything other than the source of the stress.
    2. Anticipation of a stress event can quickly cause negative effects on the body.
    3. You can lessen the stress on others by providing specific information ahead of time.
    4. Providing incomplete and vague information can increase the amount of stress.
    5. Getting ready for making a presentation produces stress. This stress can be reduced by providing timely and specific information.


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