Stress is a common part of our daily lives, and its impact on mental and physical well-being has been widely discussed. However, stress also impacts learning and retention of information in different ways, and students are often at risk from academic stress. As any person can experience stress, managing such stress is crucial when it comes to studying and learning.
Generally speaking, stress can cause a range of responses fluctuating from emotional to physical reactions. Physically, stress can trigger the body’s natural “flight or fight” response, leading to increased heart rate, tension in muscles, and decreased immune function. Emotionally, stress can lead one to feel anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, and might even interfere with their concentration. These responses can interfere with both the quantity and quality of learning and can lead to difficulties in academic performance.
Stress impacts your brain physically. While numerous studies have been conducted in this area, several cognitive mechanisms are at play. Stress significantly disrupts memory, attention, and creativity, which all affect the learning process. In particular, stress affects memory consolidation, preventing students from recalling what they’ve learned correctly. In a study on the impact of stress among medical students, it was noted that stress negatively impacted student’s long-term memory due to the anticipation of an upcoming test.
Stressed students display a higher level of cognitive impressions, including forgetfulness, clumsiness, and poor memory function. They are also more likely to have difficulties organizing their studying and focus to comprehend any information. Stress can further deteriorate critical cognitive functions such as planning, information processing, and decision making.
In a more worrying situation, chronic stress can lead to physical changes in the brain’s structure, contributing to shrinking the hippocampal area of the brain studied for memory consolidation and retrieval. This condition can make it more difficult for students to store information and lead to significant learning and retention difficulties.
In conclusion, stress remains an inevitable part of life. However, identifying when the stress levels elevate and mitigating the stress’s effects encourage us to maintain a healthy balance between learning and life. The impact of stress on learning and memory consolidation raises concern and indicates the need to implement healthy and constructive approaches to managing stress, which supports students’ cognitive functions, retaining information, and performing well in exams. Also, seek help and support from medical professionals and educational institutions if you notice you’re struggling with a high level of stress during and before examination periods to mitigate its effects. A stress-free learning environment can certainly benefit learners and support one’s academic journey better.