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Your Brain Under Conative Stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month–and many of us are all too familiar with the stresses of everyday life. But, did you know that we can also experience significant stress when we are expected to learn and work in ways that go against our strengths?

Brain Map of Conative Stress
Your brain.

Consider this scenario: Adam is a smart, talented child. At home, he’s the first to suggest creative solutions to family problems, and he’s a voracious reader. At school, however, he’s a different child. He often complains of stomach aches in order to stay home from school, and he comes back moody and stressed. His teachers say that everything appears fine and that he has many friends.

Adam is experiencing conative stress. His school is creating stress because he is being expected to work in ways that go against his instincts. He likes to gather data and use it to innovate, but at school he isn’t allowed to customize his assignments and is often dismissed when he asks challenging questions.

When Adam’s parents worked with his teacher to give him more opportunities to use his strengths, his problems resolved and he began coming home from school with a smile on his face.

Parents working together.

We are all born with instinctive ways of learning and striving, and we are less stressed, more productive, and more successful when we are able to use our instincts to achieve in the way we want. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of knowledge about your student (and a conversation with their teachers!) to turn a stressed child into one who is thriving.