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Learn about stress with best-selling author and professional speaker, Nicola Morgan

Take a look at these great tips and advice from our authors, on preparing for and excelling in exams.

How stress and anxiety can affect learning

When you’re stressed, imagine parts of your brain being occupied with worrying, which may well include the parts you also need to use for your work. So you’ll find it harder to focus on your tasks. You might have heard of ‘multi-tasking’ but research shows that if we’re occupied with one task, we cannot perform another task as well as if we were focusing on it alone. (Some tasks become automatic and we can manage them at the same time: for example, expert drivers can talk and drive, but if something happens that means they have to focus more on their driving, even they will stop talking.) So, thinking about something (a worry) will affect your concentration.

Trouble is, if you really convince yourself you're usless, it will be even harder to succeed. When we believe we can do something, we often find we can. So, somehow you need to banish those 'I can't do it' thoughts, and replace them with 'I can if I break it into steps'.

If you suffer from one of the following, they are often a sign of stress:

  • Regular headaches, stomach-aches and/or dizzy spells. (You should check with your GP first, but it's likely that it's strrss-related.)
  • Pain in shoulders, jaw or neck, often caused by not realising you're tensing up those muscles. (Again, check with a GP first).
  • Appetite problems - either having no appetite or binging on 'junk'
  • Intrusive negative thoughts.

Nicola Morgan talks about strategies for dealing with stress at Castlebrae Community High School, Edinburgh