No matter the situation, never let your emotions overpower your intelligence (Jean Houston)

– Desiree Panlilio

If only it were that simple! Too often we allow our emotions to overpower our intelligence and our thoughts and communication. I think we can call it drama, and all of us are susceptible to emotions getting the best of us in any situation. However, let’s take the emotions of being upset, stressed, or anxious and bring them into the element of learning. Take a moment and think of a time you were upset or stressed. How easy was it to meet a deadline and how did those around you feel or become a part of your stress or anxiety?
Our teens are no different. It is known that emotions impact how we learn. When we are upset, stressed, or anxious we retain less information. Yes, I share that there exists healthy stress and anxiety. That is the stress that stops our teen from going out on Sunday night and studying for their biology exam that is on Monday morning. However, once stress or anxiety reaches a higher level the emotions become counterproductive and learning stops.

Our ability to learn is influenced by a number of things, one of them being how we feel. Research has shown that our emotions affect everything from how we perceive information, how we pay attention, how we remember information, and how we solve problems. Feeling stressed, anxious, or fearful are the worst emotions for learning. The limbic system is activated by these emotions. When the limbic system is activated it interferes with how memory is generated. This is why it is very important to create a safe and stress-free learning environment. If your teen is relaxed it will help them learn and retain information better. Now I do not mean so relaxed that they are falling asleep in their textbooks. You want your teen to have a small amount of stress and anxiety that encourages them to study and to put their best effort into studying and learning.

Healthy anxiety and stress can result in having an increased heart rate, being nervous or excited. That butterfly feeling. Teens will feel this before an exam, or the homecoming football game. It is normal. Teens may also feel this when they are studying – a small level of stress and anxiety as they are learning new material or practicing using the material that was just taught to your teen earlier that day. Allow for that level of frustration and stress. Realizing that further development of these emotions become counter productive to helping your teen learn. It is important to help your teen manage their anxiety and stress and make sure that their studying time is effective.

If you as a parent feel that there is too much anxiety or stress, have a discussion with your teen and engage professionals early on. Discovering what is causing the stress or upset emotions may be as simple as teaching time management skills, getting a tutor for further help in a subject, or consulting a psychologist to help your teen deal with more severe stress and anxiety.

We need to stay focused on our teens and their mental health and realize how much that impacts their learning.