Stress and education

French et al. (1976) have defined stress as ‘any characteristic of the job environment which poses a threat to the individual — either excessive demands or insufficient supplies to meet his needs’. Stress is   very common in higher education, because issues such as student progression is becoming increasingly important (Robotham, 2006). Stress is a very normal and natural occurrence which happens in response to a wide variety of circumstances. It is an evolutionary response that is triggered by feelings of a lack of control, priming our bodies to react to a challenging situation. Stress prepares us for immediate action (fight or flight). Though we need stress to help push it a little further too much of it is bad.


Too much stress causes anxiety, depression, social withdrawal. Drug and alcohol use and lack of motivation and focus. In our societies where things such as education, job and the wellbeing of a person have become a competition stress is very common. School has always been the main cause of stress for students and also considering how much a lot is expected of this generation because we are exposed to so many resources, students should be educated on how well to deal with stress. In my research, I came across coping mechanisms which help with stress.


Focusing on having a positive attitude

Manage you time

Deep muscle relaxation


Talking to people and getting social support

Taking a break from the stressor

Do you think the educational system has a part to play in the stress of students? There are times where we stress so much on exams that after the exam we realize it was not worth the stress. Indeed, the pressure of school has ramped up considerably since the ’70s; thanks in part to an education system now obsessed with a narrow definition of success — with standardised testing, ranking, comparison and competition (Hayley Gleeson, July 2016). Stress negatively impacts the academic success of students. The amygdala, at the centre of the brain, is the hub of emotional responses. A storm of emotions raging in the amygdala can weaken the prefrontal cortex, hampering our ability to think and learn. Students under considerable emotional stress underperform in school as stress impairs executive function (Lily Tomlin).

Overall, although stress is necessary to challenge students to learn, there should be approaches taught to students to enable them reduce the negatives of stress which reduce students’ ability to learn and performance well in school. The key to reducing distress is providing students with a feeling of control over their education.




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