The Impact of Stress and Depression on Learning.
We’re now well into Stress Awareness Month and it's time for our second post!
This time we’re thinking about the effects that stress can have on mental well-being and how that can affect our ability to learn and work.
One of the difficulties with stress is that it affects people in different ways. According to Stress.Org, stress targets the weakest and most vulnerable parts of us. For example, if you’re prone to headaches, it can trigger them. Similarly, if you’re prone to feeling anxious, then anxiety levels may spike during stressful times.
The effects of stress can overwhelm us and impact our daily lives, often leading to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. This has a cognitive and even physical effect as symptoms listed on Stress.Org can include:
How depression affects learning
With all these effects on the mind, it's no surprise that a recent study conducted by Virginia Tech Scientists found that people with depression learn differently from those without.
The study states that depression affects our cognitive response and ability to process information. For example, “for someone with depression, losing money in a game could feel like losing several hundred dollars or the loss could be hard to forget.” Depression can amplify the negative and make setbacks feel catastrophic, leading to a lack of motivation.
Depression can fog the mind so much that tasks that would once be completed with ease now feel like a huge challenge. As a result, tasks are started but never completed and issues may arise at work or university. Of course, this creates more anxiety, and a vicious cycle begins.
Importantly, the more we talk about our experiences, the more we can improve and adapt strategies to help those with depression learn more effectively.
Improved learning and supportive environments, regardless of context can significantly help to reduce the impact mental illnesses have. If learning is catered to the individual, stress and anxieties are reduced and with new skills, comes greater confidence.
Luckily, there are lots of strategies out there to make functioning and learning when suffering from symptoms of stress or depression a bit easier.
Take five minutes at the end of your day to note down tasks for tomorrow. When you come to work the next morning, instead of “where do I start”, you can get straight to your list.
The list doesn’t need to be long, make it achievable and realistic. Tick off tasks and reward yourself with whatever feels like a small treat to you.
Studies show that we can only effectively concentrate and absorb information for 20 minutes at a time. If you feel like starting a huge task is too much, then try the 20-5 approach.
Set a timer and work for 20 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. This technique is shown to boost concentration levels and maximise productivity.
Everyone has their own ways of working and learning. If you struggle to work from home, then why not try working in a café, at the library or in the garden.
If you can’t concentrate on books or articles, then exploring platforms such as YouTube videos can help auditory and visual learners. YouTube is a great way to learn, it's free and there’s a wealth of content on there that can educate as well as entertain and relax.
“People learn in different ways. This is something I’m really conscious of when I am taking training or creating educational content. I want everyone to feel like there’s always a way for them to understand something new”
Chi Tsang, Autodesk Certified Instructor
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy benefits
The study published by Virginia Tech Scientists showed that cognitive behavioural therapy is effective in treating and preventing symptoms of depression. CBT involves learning how to identify and correct negative thought patterns which aid the treatment of stress and depression.
“Two of the most exciting parts of the findings are that people with depression learn in different ways and that these learning processes changed when depression symptoms improved after cognitive behavioural therapy.”
If we can make learning and working a more pleasant, effective experience for everyone, then we can reduce stress and stress-related illnesses within our communities.
At Pentagon Solutions, we provide free and high-quality educational material on YouTube. Our videos are created by industry experts who provide ‘tips & tricks' and tutorials to help individuals and businesses make the most of their chosen solutions.
The more we talk, the more we learn! So, let’s keep the conversation around stress going and do what we can to raise awareness throughout April.
If you’d like to read more on learning and depression, here is the link to the study referenced in this post:
If you’re struggling, reach out to the professionals for help:
If you’re in the AEC industry and are interested in some free, helpful tutorials then head over to our YouTube Channel.