One thing that happens a lot in education is that kids get stressed out.
Some kids get stressed by the school environment. Maybe you’re at a school that has a lot of competition and you don’t like competition.
Some kids get stressed by certain types of activities. Common activities that can be stressful are public speaking and test taking.
Some kids get stressed out by social interactions. Maybe you haven’t found any friends at your school. Maybe you’re homeschooled and you haven’t found anyone yet who has similar interests to yours.
Some kids find one particular teacher or subject stressful, maybe because they’re worried they aren’t good at the subject they’re studying.
Here’s the #1 thing you should know about stress:
Being stressed out keeps your brain from doing its best.
If you get stressed out by public speaking or tests, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you know everything there is to know about U.S. history, but you get to a test and you freeze up. Not only have your hands gone clammy and you feel sick to your stomach, but your brain just stops working! You can’t remember anything!
The reason for this is how our brains evolved. We have something called the “fight or flight response.” When we start to get stressed out, our brain switches gears and suddenly we’re in panic mode.
Think about it this way: When people were hunter-gatherers with only crude tools, there were lots of scary beasts around. So we developed this switch in our brain. If we spied a scary beast, our bodies would be flooded with adrenaline, which helps us find sudden bursts of energy.
Our brains wouldn’t say, “Hm, let’s take some time to think this over.”
Our brains would say, “Run!”
Fight or flight is a great thing to have when you’ve spotted a lion.
Not so great when you’re sitting in front of a history test.
OK, so what do we do about stress?
If you have stress so bad that it happens all the time and you aren’t enjoying your life, you need to talk to an adult who can help you, right now.
Most of us just have stress sometimes, or in one particular area of our lives. In that case, there are things you can do to keep stress from taking over:
- I like KidsHealth’s Relax & Unwind Center—check out their five steps for working on stress
- Remember that life can change. In fact, life always keeps changing, and this is good. Look for ways to change your life in the direction you want.
- Notice the signs for when you’re getting stressed out and make a plan for how to deal with it.
Remember, also, that a little bit of stress can be helpful. Psychologists call this “good stress.” Like maybe you are actually pretty good at public speaking, but before you get on stage your heart pounds and you feel sweaty. That’s just your body getting ready to face the lions in your audience!
In any case, the key is this: don’t let stress take over your life and your learning. When it does, that’s the time to take stock and figure out how you can work things out.