Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Stress Response: The Good and the Bad

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Stress Response: The Good and the Bad

Article excerpt

Exams, concerts, and sports can increase student stress levels this time of year. Sometimes that's good. The body's stress response--also known as the "fight-or-flight" response--can help a student focus on taking a test, get ready to perform on stage, or prepare for a play-off game.

In response to a stressor, the hypothalamus spurs the adrenal glands to ramp up production of adrenaline and cortisol. This speeds the heart rate and breathing rate and increases blood pressure and metabolism. Blood vessels widen to increase flow to large muscle groups. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The liver releases stored glucose to boost energy levels. Sweat cools the body. Mental and physical reactions quicken.

The result, one hopes, is an A, a flawless solo, or a game-winning shot.

But long-term stressful situations, or repeated stressful situations that overwhelm a student, can have negative effects. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), chronic stress has been linked to significant health consequences, including:

* irritability and moodiness

* anxiety or panic attacks

* stomach problems and headaches

* acne and eczema

* sleeping problems

* overeating and weight gain

* smoking and substance abuse

* sadness or depression

* a weakened immune system

Stressors at school take many forms. When KidsHealth surveyed teens about what stressed them out most about going back to school, many (32%) cited schoolwork issues. But other respondents cited appearance issues (25%) and other social issues such as fitting in, having friends, being judged, or being teased (30%).

Other stressors for high school students, according to D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, behavioral health editor for KidsHealth.org, include:

* being bullied or exposed to violence

* relationship stress, family conflicts, or grief

* being overscheduled

Classroom activity

Fortunately, there are ways you can help students understand the importance of recognizing stressors, identifying the effects of stress, and developing personal coping techniques.

Have your students write a three-part report on stress. Students should:

1. Research and write about the human stress response, detailing all the physical, mental, and emotional responses to stressors. …

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