Running from stress:
it’s more effective than you think!
Have you ever noticed how it’s harder to learn when you’re under heavy stress? It’s one of the effects that can make sitting exams a nightmare. Whilst some of us respond well to learning under stress, others find it incredibly hard.
If your relationship with learning and testing is a positive one, the stress of exams can feel like a challenge that you’re equipped to deal with. The stress makes you rise to the challenge rather than get thrown into fight or flight. It’s a challenge response that drives you forwards.
If your relationship with learning and testing is less empowering, your mind reacts with a fight or flight stress response. This is often how a fear of exams or intense anxiety around revision & learning develops.
Whatever your starting point, as the stress levels increase, your capacity to learn is compromised. Whether your situation is A-levels, Uni or taking professional qualifications as part of your career, it’s important to manage the stress that comes with exams. So what can you do?
I was often told that exercise would help me reduce stress and I’ve found it a really useful tool to keep stress manageable. But does exercise help you deal with learning stress? It seems that running from stress is key.
Running from stress: it really works
This recently published research gives backing to the theory that exercising reduces stress, specifically around how stress affects learning.
Stress can damage the functioning of the hippocampus, a structure of the brain important for memory and learning.
Running, however, protects the brain’s ability to learn and recall information, even under stress.
Dr Jeff Edwards, the study’s first author, said:
“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress.”
Ideally, you’ll find a way to create a low stress, high exercise lifestyle to maximise your ability to learn, however this isn’t always possible. In fact, some of us need a certain level of stress in order create an appropriately challenging environment to maximise learning.
The point is, you can’t always control the degree of stress that our environment throws your way, especially if learning and exams are a scary prospect for you.
But you can control the amount of exercise you do.
As Dr Edwards says:
“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise.
Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise.
It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”
So, whether you like the challenge of exams or you dearly wish they didn’t exist at all, exercise is a really helpful tool.
And of course, if you find learning difficult or exams scary, I’m a skilled learning therapy coach. Working with me will help you defuse the anxieties that can come with exam pressure and develop your own personal learning style.
Whatever you do, exercise is helpful on all sorts of levels.
See you at the Park Run this Saturday?
- Take a look around the website whilst you’re here. You might find this page useful next: Exam & Study Stress
- Book a free 20-minute telephone consultation with me here: https://tonyburkinshaw.as.me/
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Volume 149, March 2018, Pages 28–38