The story of the tiger

Stress and resilience

Brief description

As an introduction to the topics of stress, burnout and resilience, a visual story is told to bring the participants into the topic.

Learning objectives

The participants…

  • gain a playful, highly simplified insight into how the stress cycle works in the human nervous system.
  • can transfer the story to situations in their own lives.
  • recognize the importance of self-care and collective care for regulating the nervous system.



The story is based on a chapter from the book „Stress“ by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (2019, Munich: Kösel-Verlag, pp. 24-40) and is a well-known example when it comes to stress and the nervous system. This source is one of many and takes a certain perspective, which can also vary depending on the source. In sustainable activism workshops, the story can be used as an introduction to the topics of stress, burnout and resilience.
These topics can be discussed at the level of individual self-care and resilience or at the collective level. The focus here is on the questions of what individuals and groups need to be active (with each other) in the long term and sustainably and how a caring group culture can be created.


The facilitator deals with the story and can tell it as freely as possible. The participants are in a semi-circle, so they can all look well at the play taking place opposite them.


1. (5 minutes) Introduction

The participants sit in a semi-circle, the facilitators stand opposite them. Depending on how many facilitators there are, the narrator can sit or stand at the edge of the participants or play the main character and narrate at the same time. Introductory words can be: „To get an insight into our physical reactions to stress and to realize how important a group can be for recovery, make yourselves comfortable and watch our short play/listen to the short story.

2. (7 minutes) The Story

It is useful to share some introductory words to set the scene:

„The nervous system and how it deals with stress has changed evolutionarily slower than our environment. The story is an example of the kinds of stress people had to react to long before sexist bosses, the climate crisis and the capitalist logic of exploitation. The story describes the model of a stress cycle process. This process is not only consistent for humans, but also for many other living beings.“

The story: (based on Nagoski/Nagoski 2019: Stress. Munich: Kösel-Verlag, pp. 24-48)

„You stroll out of your village into the open field to take a break from your work. After a while, you feel like you’re being watched and look around. You see a tiger stalking towards you, ready to pounce. What a fright, your life is at stake! Your heart starts beating fast, your breathing quickens and your blood pressure rises. You have to flee! You are wide awake and focused, all your senses are heightened. Your muscles are tense, your whole body is electrified, while other bodily functions fade into the background: Your digestion slows down, your immune function changes. Now it starts. You start running as fast as you can. You hear the tiger behind you and you run and call for help and – you’ve made it back to the village, your community has closed the gate behind you in time. You are saved, alive, so happy and grateful. You celebrate a party together, lie in each other’s arms and rejoice in the beautiful community you have. You breathe in and out with release. You are safe now.“

3. (1 minute) Cheering

The narrator invites the participants to cheer and clap to celebrate together that the person has escaped the tiger.

4. (5 minutes) Recapitulation

The participants are asked what they have observed.
The facilitator then recapitulates verbally what happened in the story and relates what was seen/heard to the stress response cycle:

„What the person experienced was a completed stress response cycle. I.e. stress builds up, the person reacts physically and psychologically to it, flees and finds a place of rest and celebration in the community after the successful escape. This completes the cycle.

However, stress is something that we encounter a lot in everyday life, and chronic stress in particular, i.e. stress that accompanies us on a daily basis, often does not end as easily as in this story. It is important to consider the different ways in which we are affected by systems of oppression such as patriarchy, capitalism, ableism, etc., because stress and strain start at very different points in people’s lives and regeneration is also possible in very different ways (easily or with difficulty). However, there are examples of proven methods for ending the cycle or reducing chronic stress step by step.

Examples include: Breathing exercises, positive social interaction, laughter, affection, crying, creative expression,…

5. (20 minutes) Evaluation The participants go into small groups of 2-4 people. They are given the following questions to share: (Here it is important to encourage the participants to only share what they want to share and to take good care of themselves in terms of how deeply they want to get immersed in stressful situations.)

  • What do you personally find helpful in dealing with stress?
  • What do we need from a group, what can a group give us when one or more people are stuck in stress?

6. (10 minutes) Strategies of coping with stress

The facilitator invites the participants to share their own strategies and approaches to coping with stress in plenary. This should be voluntary and no one should feel pressured. In this way, participants learn different approaches from each other.


If there are more than two facilitators , it is worth presenting the story in a playful way, with a narrator, a tiger and a person from the story. The characters from the story imitate the narrative in a theater-like manner. In this variant, the participants can be more actively involved (as „the community“) and thus experience a sense of connection.

The method is also suitable in a shortened form (implementation of only 1. and 2.). It can then be continued in different directions (e.g. deeper into the topic of burnout or collective self-care and resilience).

Tips and notes for facilitators

It is important to consider in advance which topic will be worked on after the tiger story in order to frame the intensity with which (chronic) stress is discussed and to adapt the method accordingly.;

Content Note: When working in small groups on stress and how to deal with it personally, point out that participants should pay close attention to themselves and how deeply they want to go into stressful situations.

Possibilities for further work

Topics of individual and collective self-care and resilience, stress and burnout.


  • Nagoski, E. /Nagoski A. (2019): Stress, Kösel Verlag München (S. 24-48).

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.