How Stress Impacts Your Ability to Learn

Stress. We all experience it at different times and in different ways.

But did you know that the human brain is wired to seek out stress? That’s because the human brain is forever looking for threats to its safety. You might even say that safety is our number one concern. From an evolutionary standpoint, that makes a lot of sense.

But in the modern world, the tendency of the brain to be constantly on the lookout for danger is not so helpful. That’s because, whenever the brain identifies something it perceives as dangerous, it creates stress. More specifically, it produces stress hormones which makes us feel stressed.

Stress hormones are produced in a portion of the brain that is frequently called the lizard, or reptilian brain. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is the oldest part of the human brain.

Unfortunately, when the reptilian brain is activated, the forebrain is shut down. The forebrain is the newest part of the human brain. This is the part of the brain we access when we are learning or creating something new.

That’s why stress impacts our ability to learn. When we are stressed, we are unable to think clearly or process new information. We simply can’t learn.

Stress reduction–why it’s so important to learn

You may have heard that stress also impacts your ability to heal. Healthcare costs are a major concern in the U.S. and around the world. So a great deal of time, energy, and money are invested in identifying ways to reduce those costs.

Researchers have begun to identify practices that limit the brain’s tendency to produce stress hormones. Meditation is one such practice that recently has been receiving a lot of attention. Studies have demonstrated that people who meditate can actually change the structure of their brains and limit the amount of stress hormones they produce.

Acupuncture is another ancient practice that has been shown to limit the stress-producing tendencies of the brain.

A less well-known technique for limiting stress is the practice of EFT, which stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. EFT is a relatively recent discovery that has been scientifically proven to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body.

EFT combines knowledge from the ancient practice of acupuncture with modern understanding of human development.

Using EFT for stress reduction and academic success

Unlike acupuncture, EFT is not done with needles. Instead, it is done by tapping. To use EFT, you simply tap on specific points along the acupuncture meridians in your body. Tapping on these points sends a calming message to your brain, and your brain stops producing stress hormones.

EFT differs from meditation and acupuncture in one important way: it can be used to stop the brain from producing stress hormones in specific situations. When you focus your attention on a stressful situation, you can stimulate a stress-response in your brain. If you tap the EFT meridian points while you are simultaneously focusing on the source of your stress, you will send a calming message to the brain. Eventually–sometimes within moments–the structure of your brain will change. Your brain will simply stop perceiving the situation as stressful.

Once your reptilian brain has stopped producing stress hormones, your forebrain will be free to engage. You can now use your higher reasoning abilities to make sense of the previously stressful situation in a way that is more productive to your well-being.

The trick to using EFT successfully lies in your ability to correctly identify the situations that cause your brain to produce stress hormones. This can be a challenge, because the brain contains about 100 billion neurons. Each of these neurons typically fires between 5-50 times per second!

Psychologists have shown that when neurons fire together, they wire together. In other words, if you once became very stressed before an exam, you are likely to have a similar response to a future exam. Each time you become stressed before an exam, you strengthen the neural pathway that connects exams with stress.

But because so many other neurons are also firing at the moment before an exam, they too can be bonding with the neurons that tell your brain to produce stress hormones.

Furthermore, most of us have developed remarkable techniques for avoiding the uncomfortable feelings of stress, particularly when the stress is being produced by a goal we seek to achieve, like writing an essay for school. To avoid the stress of this task, some of us procrastinate. Others create very convincing stories about the external obstacles that stand in our way. In these ways, we avoid feeling stressed.

Unfortunately, we also avoid our goals.

Working with an experienced EFT practitioner can help you to untangle the mass of neurons that have bonded over time. As a result, your response to situations you once perceived as stressful will change.

As a certified EFT practitioner and an academic success coach, I help people create plans for dealing with the obvious sources of stress in their lives. I also help them to uncover sources of stress that are less obvious. When appropriate, I teach people to use EFT to put an immediate stop to the stress reaction in their brains. This allows my clients to access their own best understanding of how to address the challenges in their lives and take the necessary steps toward achieving their goals.

I’d like to help you too.

Contact me today for a complimentary session and learn how working with an academic success coach can help you to complete your courses, finish your degree, and move on with your life–617-851-3914.