Toxic Stress And its Impact on Learning

Toxic Stress And its Impact on Learning

Stress is a common feeling experienced by children and adults alike. It refers to the reaction of the body in response to events happening in its surroundings. It is often considered a mental health issue that can affect the productivity of an individual; however, it can be good sometimes. The positive impacts are usually associated with the body’s survival mechanism. There is a long list of negative impacts of stress that cover physical and mental health. Before heading towards the impacts, it is necessary to understand the different types of stress humans face.

Types of Stress

Stress is often considered a negative feeling, but it is not always true. It develops through different levels and stages. We can categorize stress into three levels to understand its impact. It includes positive, tolerable, and toxic stress.

Positive stress defines the most common stress-related daily life events. Routine events can sometimes generate a feeling of stress which is temporary and not much intense. You may feel positive stress before giving an interview or attempting an exam. Some students come across this feeling before doing an assignment, also for which they take assistance from assignment writing service. Due to low intensity, it is easy to recover from this level of stress. Since it does not result in a trauma, it is referred to as positive stress.

Tolerable Stress is the second level of stress where the stress is more intense, and it is comparatively more difficult to recover from it. It may lead to trauma for a child that affects his life. It can result from events such as the death of a close friend or family member, getting some serious medical injury, or surviving a horrible incident. It can have long-term effects, but it is recoverable with professional assistance and consistent efforts.

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Toxic stress is the last and most intense level of stress. It has a prolonged negative impact on the personality and life of a child. It results from extended traumatic events where the child has no emotional or psychological support. It is most often the result of a broken family, physical or mental abuse, bullying, neglect, domestic violence or several other reasons. The recovery from this stress takes more time, effort and consistency.

Impact of Toxic Stress

Toxic stress affects the nervous system among children and harms its functionality. Other areas that can suffer the harmful impacts of toxic stress include DNA and the immune system. The response produced by the child’s body resembles PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It impacts brain functionality so severely that the fear center of the limbic system of the brain changes its size and becomes bigger. On the other hand, the brain areas responsible for cognitive skills, memory, and learning to decrease in size. This means reduced efficiency at learning and behavioral issues. This can result in the following impacts on learning.

Students may not be able to understand lessons or take more than average time to understand a concept. They might mix up the concepts in their minds and fail to remember them correctly.

They might not be able to prepare well for exams despite trying and making efforts. Brain functionality impacts them to put more effort into learning a lesson or completing a task.

Such students are usually reluctant to ask questions that can establish misleading concepts in their minds. Instead of clarifying their concepts or getting answers to their queries, they stick to the overwhelming thoughts in their minds.

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The toxic stress shatters students’ self-confidence and is less likely to engage in classroom activities. They exhibit poor individual and collective classroom participation.

Due to compromised learning, such students fail to show differentiating academic performance and are either average or poor in their grades. The poor academic performance leads to failure in multiple courses, and they might not be able to promote to the next grade with their fellow students.

Tips to Recover from Toxic Stress

Although the impact of toxic stress is prolonged, it is possible to recover from them. Here are some tips that can help children recover from toxic stress. Students can face increased anxiety that refrains them from focusing on learning and failing to utilize their maximum potential. They constantly remain under the influences of anxious thoughts and find it hard to concentrate in the classroom.

Healthy relations with adults

An effective way of reducing stress is to have the support of a trustworthy and kind adult who is ready to listen to the child. Building healthy relations with such children and ensuring constant support without any judgments will help them open up, get rid of their negative thoughts, and speed up the healing process.

Positive learning environment

The environment has a significant role in elevating or recovering from stress. Teachers must make sure that the school environment is conducive to learning and free from activities like bullying or teasing. Teachers themselves should not insult any student in front of their fellows or make fun of them. Every child must get the respect that they deserve.

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Make learning fun

Learning is effective when the learner is self-motivated and willing. Unfortunately, our educational system puts undue stress upon students and suffers from its after-effects. Instead of long boring lectures, teachers can introduce learning through activities and gaming. Also, having assignments, projects, and important tests on the same day is a major reason for stress build-up that must be avoided in the classroom.

Stress Management Activities

Students should practice stress management activities even if they are not facing toxic stress. This will help them develop the strength to deal with stress in the future. These activities include mindfulness, which has a positive impact on students’ cognitive development. They can also include meditation in their daily exercise routine as a mental exercise.


Stress is inevitable, but we can control its impacts with effective strategies and timely execution. The responsibility to take children out of stress resides on adults’ shoulders. They must keep an eye on children and maintain healthy relations with them to provide them with the support they need. They should also identify the level of stress their children might be facing and try to stop it from elevating to the final level where it becomes toxic and has severe impacts.

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