All of April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s an event that has been held since 1992 to spread awareness about the causes and cures of stress. At Ingla, because we’re an English school, we’re going to focus this week’s blog on how stress affects your ability to learn English.

Stress affects everybody, but how and in what ways? In short, can stress affect your ability to learn, or even stop you from learning, English? Let’s investigate…

What happens in your body when you feel stressed?
Stressful events, like a fight with a colleague at work, an exam, or losing your job can have a massive effect on your body. Stress can lead to high blood pressure, exhaustion, stomach and digestive problems, body aches, and even chest pains. Nowadays, stress disorders, like panic attacks, are becoming more common, as well as stress-related side effects like insomnia. When you feel stress, your body releases a chemical called “cortisol”. This produces the “fight-or-flight” response, which is your body telling you to either fight against a dangerous situation or run away from it. Stress takes a toll on the body!

Can stress do the same thing to the brain?
You must be thinking, if stress is so bad for the body, what does it do to the mind? Life is so stressful that, maybe, that’s why I can’t learn English. The answer, like with most complicated things, is: it depends. Depending on when you feel the stress, it could help you learn or hurt you

A 2016 article in Nature found that if you experience stress just before or after learning new information (“I need to learn English, this lesson is important!”) it actually helps your memory keep new information. On the other hand, if you experience a stressful event a long time before learning new information (grammar or vocabulary, for example) or stress when trying to retrieve information (like preparing for an exam or taking a test), it can actually stop your brain from holding that information. Tell that to your teacher the next time he/she wants to give you an exam!


So, in conclusion, just because you have a stressful life (work, kids, bills to pay) doesn’t mean you can’t learn English. Some stress, depending on how much and when you experience it, can actually help you focus and learn.

This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.