Stress and Education

Guy Brandon is a counsellor, author and the founder of, a website dedicated to resources for stress, depression, anxiety and related conditions.

Stress is a very normal and natural occurrence which happens in response to a wide variety of circumstances. It is an evolutionary response that it triggered by feelings of a lack of control, priming our bodies to react to a challenging situation. Stress has numerous effects on the body, but essentially prepares us for immediate action: fight or flight. The processes involved also affect the mind, altering decision- making processes and enabling us to take swift and decisive action.

Reasons for stress

Although stress evolved to keep us safe from physical threats, it is most commonly experienced for social reasons nowadays – work pressure, problems in a relationship, money worries, and so on. Stress is a one-size-fits-all response, rather being tailored to specific circumstances, and in many such cases it can be counterproductive. Due to the physiological processes entailed, prolonged stress can have devastating effect on the mind and body.

Education – at least, education according to the Western model – is one area that relies on constant stress. There are always targets and deadlines. We spend at least a decade of our lives and sometimes almost two in formal education: a constant round of homework, essays, regular tests, end-of-term and end-of-year exams – which, it is impressed upon us, will shape our careers and the rest of our lives. Stress is built into the education system. But stress is, by its very nature, intended to be a short-term response to physical danger. Education, by its own very nature, has to be a long term undertaking. The result is inherently a recipe for disaster.

The effects of stress and the link with depression

Via a chain of processes, stress promotes the release of cortisol into the bloodstream, which has wide-ranging effects on the body. Perhaps more concerning, though, are its effects on the mind. It pushes us into ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking: impulsive, quick-fix behaviour intended to get us out of immediate trouble. The chain of processes starts in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the brain. Recent research suggests that depression is also characterised by overactivity in the HPA axis. In other words, it appears that stress and depression are closely linked. Put simply, depression is just a misguided stress response that has become entrenched. Neurologically, depression and chronic stress don’t look so very different. This is hardly surprising when you think that stress creates that all-or-nothing, pass/fail mentality, and depression is characterised by feelings of persistent failure and low self-worth.

Stress and education

In an increasingly pressurised, competitive and market-driven education system, this phenomenon can only become more acute: depression is virtually a built-in hazard. There are several solutions, none of which are mutually exclusive. There is a case for building some or all of them into education syllabuses themselves – since almost by definition, the more ambitious a course, the more prone to negative outcomes for a proportion of students who lack the means to deal with the inherent stresses.

One is exercise: the stress response prepares us for action, and physical activity helps direct that energy somewhere helpful, reducing cortisol levels and returning the body to its normal state. It is no coincidence that exercise is one of the most powerful antidepressants, too.

Secondly, relaxation exercises can help offset the involuntary effects of stress, bringing them to your conscious mind and allowing you put them into context.

Lastly, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) enables you to examine and adjust the link between the way you think and the way you feel, allowing you to ‘switch off’ the automatic stress response in situations where it is not strictly warranted.

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19 Responses to “Stress and Education”

  1. Christina February 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree with the relaxation exercises. Yoga has a great role in this respect. Silence Meditation and yoga helps a lot with relaxation.

  2. trauma center for indonesia February 25, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    good information,, so, I think it’s very usefull

  3. new port June 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Kaynaz Nasseri’s psycho-therapy practice is built on a broad range of training and knowledge that allows her to address a wide variety of issues, some of which include relationships, mood, school concerns, life transitions, and other psychology issues. Her approach to psychotherapy and psychological assessment is warmly interactive, providing support, insight and useful feedback to help one resolve difficulties and achieve one’s goals.

  4. Abyooda July 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    I suffered a lot from educational stress which made me build my first website to let other students grow stronger mentally and psychologically, thanks a lot for the tremendous article, I learned a lot from it and you should talk more about it and specially about CBT.


  5. Essay Writing August 4, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    In my opinion, stress in education is created only if you don’t study through a proper plan. Without a plan, everything can’t work properly. So if you study through a proper plan, learn and do assignments on time then I think you will feel relax.

  6. August 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Cognitive behavioral therapy has a good affect to reduce the stress. It helps to build up new alternative thoughts against the daily problems. Especially for the students stress is an obstacle to get the best results from their studies. They can easily use the CBT and relaxation techniques to restrain stress

  7. London Counselling September 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    In my point of view stress and education are two different issues but can still be connived when it comes to cause of leading someone to a possible treatment. When stress is not handled the right way there is really be that likelihood for certain behaviors to come out and it would affect the education you have as well.

  8. facebook November 19, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I agree with the relaxation exercises. Yoga has a great role in this respect. Silence Meditation and yoga helps a lot with relaxation.

  9. Noel Bell December 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    A new study has found that medication and talking therapy have failed to show any difference to placebo when treating depression. Any views?

  10. Psicologos Barcelona January 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Hello. I think there is a relationship between stress and education. I think that depending on the values ??we learned from small, Teneo more or less afraid of certain situations. For example, what happens if I have no college? Is it a great misfortune? I think it depends on our education.
    Sorry for my English.

  11. Psicologos Barcelona January 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    It is also important to consider the education received in schools. I believe that this education is not very good. The education system in my country, Spain, is not very good and I think that Europe is not. It rewards students who are able to memorize and not those who are able to create or develop. The issue of school education is very complex …

  12. dog games January 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I am so happy when I find interesting stuff’s a sign that people have something to say!

  13. Tuxedo for Weddings April 5, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    This is definitely a topic thats close to me so Im happy that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject some justice. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know how to present in a way that people will want to read more. Im so happy to know someone like you exists on the web

  14. tom August 15, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    Interesting insight into stress

  15. Mark Kastleman November 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I have found taking the time to sit down each morning, and write everything I have to to for the day helps with the stress of busy days. It helps me prioritize everything and reduces the stress of trying to do everything at one. I wish I had known this technique when I was a student.

  16. seo king April 25, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    this is one of the qualitative article


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