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How Much Stress Is Too Much?

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This past Sunday, I had dinner with a friend of mine I hadn't seen in quite awhile. We used to hang out every couple of weeks or so, but lately it's been more like every few months. The reason can be described in two words: law school. Luckily, he was able to squeeze me in right at the end of his spring break--which he spent writing papers and working on homework--because otherwise, I don't think I would have seen him at all this semester. After all, finals are coming up... in May. "It's time to start studying," he told me. His classmates have been talking about it for a couple of weeks already, he said, much to my amazement. "Finals is a season, kind of like Christmas," he said. "It starts way too early, and it's extremely stressful."

According to this AP story, he's not alone in feeling that way. Four in ten college students say they "endure stress often," says a survey conducted for AP and mtvU. Almost one in five say they "feel it all or most of the time." Students report feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, and some express a desire to use alcohol or drugs to relax. Many feel guilty for any time not spent studying. The good news is the vast majority of students, even though they are stressed, feel pretty happy with their lives in general.

While this survey focused on students in higher education, I think its implications extend to students in the K-12 environment as well. Stress is definitely still a factor in lower grades, and it can have major effects on student motivation. On one hand, too much stress can completely paralyze and overwhelm students, resulting in feelings of frustration and depression, but a healthy amount of stress can also motivate students to work diligently and keep up with assignments. It's a delicate balance I think few students are able to master.

What do you think? Are students able to handle stress effectively, or are they completely overwhelmed? How much stress is too much, and what kind of effect does that have on student motivation?

4 Comments

What do you mean by stress? Literally stress is a physical property of materials but metaphorically it can mean a lot of different things. Are you referring to the excitation that accompanies the perception of immediate high-level threats or the physical and/or psychological symptoms that result from long term exposure to low-level threats or challenges?

There is no easy answer, in any case. Everyone has different thresholds of tolerance and has different capacities for learning to respond skillfully to increase their tolerance.

For information on how stress affects young children you should look into David Elkind's work. It has been awhile since he published The Hurried Child, but my guess is that things have not improved much and probably have gotten worse. I believe he has published updated versions and has followed up with other titles as well. I just can't recall them right now.

Just found and subscribed to this blog, I look forward to reading more.

Enjoy,

Don Berg
Teach-Kids-Attitude-1st.com

I am currently an undergrad student with aspirations of becoming an Art Educator. As for stress, well I know the feeling all to well. Especially these days since I am nearing graduation and I'm on the homestretch (hopefully I'll make it soon). It's a challenge just keeping my head above water academically while juggling a job at the same time. I often feel guilty when I don't study knowing that I had some spare time to do so.

I do, however, believe that there has to be a balance of good stress and over the top stress. Good stress can allow people to move forward with their dreams. To much stress can prevent needed motivation from occurring therefore causing students to not want to learn.

Although, with society allowing children to grow into a state of mind where video games, myspace, and itunes are an intricate part of their social upbringing, mental and physical stress can be elevated to the point that academic endeavors are stifled and motivation can be decreased. In my opinion, allowing to many luxuries to a child can add fuel to the fire.

Education should be stressed in homes and motivation should be fostered by educators and families. Without motivation, what's the point in growing and experiencing the world and what it has to offer. Thanks!

I am currently an undergrad student with aspirations of becoming an Art Educator. As for stress, well I know the feeling all to well. Especially these days since I am nearing graduation and I'm on the homestretch (hopefully I'll make it soon). It's a challenge just keeping my head above water academically while juggling a job at the same time. I often feel guilty when I don't study knowing that I had some spare time to do so.

I do, however, believe that there has to be a balance of good stress and over the top stress. Good stress can allow people to move forward with their dreams. To much stress can prevent needed motivation from occurring therefore causing students to not want to learn.

Although, with society allowing children to grow into a state of mind where video games, myspace, and itunes are an intricate part of their social upbringing, mental and physical stress can be elevated to the point that academic endeavors are stifled and motivation can be decreased. In my opinion, allowing to many luxuries to a child can add fuel to the fire.

Education should be stressed in homes and motivation should be fostered by educators and families. Without motivation, what's the point in growing and experiencing the world and what it has to offer. Thanks!

I too espire to become an Art Educator. I am currently teaching at a small school district where academic stress is high. Our students must act like young adults in the classroom, but 'adults' at home.

The stress levels exibited through some of our students are even hard for me to imagine. Some of these students are highly qualified academically, but poor test takers; overall this means that they will not beable to walk at graduation because they haven't mastered the TAKS test. Its not their fault. They perform well in the class room, do their homework, even participate in extra curicular activities while still maintaining an A average. But they lack the test taking skills to pass the test as well as motivational goals.

Two of our teachers were able to take the selected few out of the school enviornment a day before the test and talk to them, plan activities with them and try to understand what is going on in their lives that are preventing them from performing well on the TAKS test. We learned later that these students are not just students. Many of these students are make shift parents to younger siblings, or that their parents don't care what they do. A child may be excited one day by saying: "Hey mom: I metaled in a function today!" Mom states...'well, you could have done better.' No congradulations, No 'Great Job!' they just got yelled at because they could've done better. Our kids come to school to hear praise from us because they don't get it at home. Many of these students are already grown up and take the stresses of the world on there own merely because thier parents don't help support and motivate them through their educational years.

I relize that this article was not just for the weak test takers. It was just one example of stress that I see on a daily basis. Unfortunatly, the seniors that took the test will not receive their results until April 25 this year. If they fail they have to turn around and take it again on the 29th. Everyone is talking about Senior Prom, or Graduation...one student said "I can't even think about that until the results are back. I don't know if I could even walk with my classmates." The other students were silent for a moment, they didn't know how to cheer up the student that was constantly worried. Stress has hendered the spirits of many of my students this year.

I wish their was something more that I could do to ease their pain. I am not a core teacher but an elective teacher. I chose this profession to teach my students that ART is EVERYWHERE. They come in and express themselves through art, and with some students it seams to help as a form of art therapy I guess. But I wish I could still do more. Thanks for listening.

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