STRESS School related stress is the most prevalent, untreated cause of academic failure in our schools.
Flight or Fight
What happens under stress?
Fight or Flight The result of this call to arms is that within seconds, every system of the body is quickly tuned to one purpose: avoiding the threat that is about to take your life! Known as the fight or flight response, this process is evolutionarily designed to increase the chances of surviving sudden unexpected threats. You can imagine that when we were still hunting for a living—and being hunted ourselves—the speed of this response could make the difference between life and death.
Slow Response Accompanying this fight or flight reaction is a slower response. It is this slow response that may have an important impact on both our classroom performance and daily lives. During stressful events, the pituitary secretes a peptide called adrenocorticotrophin or ACTH, into the blood. ACTH travels through the blood to the adrenal, where it signals the production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol aids the body in recovering from the detrimental effects of acute stressful experiences.
Cortisol Even non life-threatening stresses, such as worrying over an exam, can work to produce small but significant elevations in the body's cortisol levels. After enough of these small increases, the body soon resets its control mechanism to maintain a higher constant amount of cortisol in the body.
Cortisol helps the body manage stress by freeing up energy stores. It works in the liver to release sugar into the blood. It also signals the body to release fat that the muscles store so that the body can utilize the energy in them. The logic behind the slower stress response is that the quick fight or flight response uses up a lot of the body's available energy. Cortisol
Cortisol Unlike the fast response, which happens within seconds, the whole process from stress onset to increased cortisol can take from one to five minutes. Unlike adrenaline, which is stored ready for use in the adrenal, cortisol must be synthesized from scratch by the adrenal every time more of it is needed. This synthesis takes time making the cortisol response a slower process.
The body usually has some small amount of cortisol circulating in the blood at all times. Following stress, however, this level is increased. The brain will turn off the pituitary signal to produce more cortisol if it senses there is enough circulating in the blood already. The fact that cortisol works both in the body and in the brain to turn off its own production sets up a feedback loop between the brain and body.
The Chronic Chronic elevations in cortisol can have long-term health effects. Heart disease, ulcers, insulin resistance, and hypertension have all been associated with high levels of cortisol.
Stress in the classroom Our modern life has liberated most of us from facing life-threatening situations on a daily basis. We have, however, replaced these threats with events that we perceive, or react to - with the same high levels of cortisol response. Exams, social situations, performance reviews, and calls into the boss's office have replaced the evasion of predators as the main activators of our biological stress system.
Stress in the Classroom In the classroom, any positive priming effects of stress on learning may be even harder to observe... There is no guarantee that any positive effects of stress on learning will outweigh the negative cost of too much stress on our bodies.
Hippocampus Every time stress hormones increase, the brain senses the change with a cadre of receptors that detect cortisol and other stress-related hormones. Interestingly enough, these receptors, which are found throughout the brain, are concentrated the highest in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in memory formation and spatial awareness.
Stress and Memory
What is clear is that what constitutes stress is determined by individual perceptions. How much control a person feels in a particular situation dramatically effects how much of a stress response his or her body produces. Keeping that in mind, the answer to performance seems to lie in keeping a healthy balance between not responding and over responding to the challenges and tests our lives present us with.
First, people who are under a lot of stress have a difficult time paying attention to the sensory inputs in the immediate surroundings - their minds are pre-occupied with other thoughts and are not focused on perceiving, interpreting, and reflecting on new information in the environment.
Do you Recall? Second, stress hormones cause disturbances in our brain chemistry, which appears to make accessing previously learned material more difficult. Just think back to a particularly stressful exam!
Stress and Memory Chronic over-secretion of stress hormones adversely affects brain function, especially memory. Too much cortisol can prevent the brain from laying down a new memory, or from accessing already existing memories. The renowned brain researcher, Robert M. Sapolsky, has shown that sustained stress can damage the hippocampus , the part of the limbic brain which is central to learning and memory. The culprits are "glucocorticoids," a class of steroid hormones secreted from the adrenal glands during stress. They are more commonly know as corticosteroids or cortisol .
Parental Stress Syndrome
Cognition Cognition is your brains ability to concentrate, and process what it is taking in. If your cognition is impaired your ability to learn will likely be impaired as well.
So What can we DO?
Stress Removal Tool
What are your take aways? In a group of 4 Choose the 3 concepts about stress that you feel are the most important for everyone to know Create a movie short, a poem, a dramatization, a drawing, a song, a rap, etc. to illustrate those concepts You have 30 minutes