Exams. Pop quizzes. Speaking in front of the class. School can be a pretty stressful experience for students.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “stress”? Often, people will think about just the negative aspects of stress. They’ll think about how they personally feel when they are stressed and how it impacts their learning abilities. While stress can have very negative impacts on the body and on learning, it can also have some very important, often overlooked, positive effects as well. These effects of stress are separated into two different categories, negative stress and positive stress. But, what is it exactly, that causes these two types of stress?

photo of young children in a classroomStress is our way of coping with any demand or threat that we may encounter. It can be caused by outside forces such as school, work, family obligations, or anything else that you cannot mentally control. It can also be caused by internal forces such as worrying, being negative towards one’s self, or needing to be a protectionist. Stress is our body’s way of getting through difficult situations. While stress can be helpful (positive stress) it can also be very detrimental (negative stress) as well. In a learning environment, the amount of stress one has can determine how well they will do in their classes. Stress has even been shown to make it more difficult to remember things.

Positive stress is stress that can give you the motivation to complete tasks and meet deadlines. Positive stress has been known to increase self-esteem, alertness, and efficiency. It is often a more short-lived form of stress that will allow you to push through whatever task or issue you may have at hand with minimal effects on the body. It is an important and necessary response from the body. In a learning environment, positive stress can help a student learn new information and act as a motivator to achieve. And, while positive stress is needed, too much of a good thing can turn bad. After a certain point, positive stress can turn into negative stress.

Negative stress will disrupt brain function, and it can also cause negative physical side effects, like weight gain, headache and fatigue. It can cause someone to become weak and become more susceptible to colds and infections. It can also be very detrimental in the classroom as well. According to a study done in 2008 done by the University of California, small amounts of negative stress can prevent memory storage. It has also been shown that the brains students who experience higher levels of stress behave differently than those students who experience little to no stress. Higher levels of negative stress have also been proven to cause behavior problems in children and adults alike. 

Regardless of the type of stress one may be experiencing, positive or negative, too much of either type can cause negative impacts on the body. Positive stress is still taking energy from your body and finding ways to prevent yourself from becoming too stressed out and moving from the positive stress one to the negative stress zone. It is also essential to find ways to rest your mind and body after experiencing high-stress situations to refresh yourself. So, what are the best ways to relax during and after any stressful situation? And how can you prevent yourself from becoming too stressed out in the future?

The most important step someone can take when trying to reduce stress is having a balanced schedule. Practicing good time management and not overworking yourself is essential to reducing stress. Taking time for yourself, away from your stressors is important so that your body and your brain can rest. Another way to reduce stress on a day-to-day basis is to set limits and take breaks when studying or working on an important task. Lastly, staying healthy will have a positive impact on the amount of stress one may feel. Eating well and setting a good sleep schedule will allow you to recharge your body and brain every day.

While positive and negative stress will both take a toll on your body, positive stress can be beneficial to any student. The key is to learn how to manage that positive stress through different ways to be successful in school and your daily life.