3 Effective Strategies to Reduce Stress at School

“Every morning a lion wakes up. He knows he must run faster than the slowest antelope, or he will starve. It doesn’t matter if you’re the lion or the antelope – when the sun comes up, you better run. – African proverb.

Fear, stress, is what enabled not only the lion and the antelope to survive, but also our prehistoric ancestors thousands of years ago to protect themselves, to defend themselves, when they risked their lives in the middle of a hostile and wild nature.

Today, to feed, we no longer need to escape the vigilance of large predators. We go to the convenience store or the local bakery to buy our lunch, perfectly packaged with cutlery and napkin. But, as we will see later, hundreds of thousands of years of alertness now imprinted in our DNA have led our brains to develop very effective emotional defense and survival reactions. But these last are often excessive because they do not make the difference between the stress to fight vis-a-vis a snarling tiger, and that to speak in public or to have a “black hole”.

Faced with this universal and human heritage, how can your child learn to reduce stress and succeed in his studies?

What is stress?

“Reactive state of the organism subjected to sudden aggression. (From English stress, intense effort.) The term stress was introduced in 1936 by the Canadian physiologist Hans Selye. »

A little history – Maclean’s tri-single brain

It was in the 1950-60s that Paul D. MacLean, an American physician and neurobiologist, founded the triune brain theory. Thus, it offers 3 brains in one, inherited from the progressive evolution of the human mind.

  • The reptilian brain: it would have appeared about 400 million years ago when fish extracted themselves from the water to colonize the terrestrial environment and thus become amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders), the first ancestors of reptiles. This brain takes care of our basic needs (eating, drinking, sleeping etc.)
  • The limbic or paleo-mammalian brain: it would have emerged 200 million years ago in the first mammals. It is he who allows us to feel emotions, and controls our reactions to stress.
  • The neocortex or neo-mammalian brain: It is only 3.6 million years old and represents the last phase of evolution. It is the center of management of our knowledge but also of reasoning and logic.
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How it works

Imagine the brain as a 3-story house with, on the first floor the reptilian brain, on the 2nd floor the limbic brain, and on the 3rd floor the orbitofrontal cortex or neocortex .

On the second floor (the limbic brain), there is the amygdala, a small almond-shaped nucleus that is the center of emotions.

When we are stressed, the amygdala releases stress hormones (cortisone, adrenaline and noradrenaline).

And under the effect of very great or even too great stress, these hormones are released in too large quantities. They then invade the 2nd floor, thus blocking access to the 3rd floor, ie the orbitofrontal cortex where knowledge is stored.

Therefore, the brain is short-circuited on the second floor of emotions. In fact, the limbic brain tells everyone that there is more urgent and vital things to do than to think! It will therefore just be impossible for a little while to take a step back.

It is therefore the “black hole” and he must reduce his stress. To regain one’s senses, it is, therefore, necessary to lower this level of stress hormones.

How to manage and reduce stress

The objective is therefore to reduce stress by lowering the level of hormones associated with it: cortisone, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This emotional tension reaches its peak during checks or exams. What to do to stem it?

I therefore propose three strategies to teach your child to manage his stress during a homework on the table.


  • Select – First take a deep breath. Next, sift through all the control questions. We will mark with a “yes” those that we know how to treat and with a cross “X” the others. However, we are not going to follow the order of the questions, but we are going to start answering the “yes” questions. So, when we are done with them, we will tackle the “X” questions. Because in the meantime, because we have succeeded in the first phase of “yes”, the level of stress hormones will have decreased . Less stress equals better access to our knowledge stored on the 3rd floor , in the neocortex. There is therefore a good chance that the “X” questions will then become “yes”.
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  • Scrambling – Some assignments only have one question and under the effect of stress, we have this “black hole  ”, this painful feeling of having forgotten everything in a fraction of a second. First, take a draft and write everything you know about the subject, even if the link with the question asked is not obvious. Our brain manages 100 billion neurons which ensure the transmission of nervous messages. These are all connections between the information we have stored there. By passing from one concept to another, by ricochet, and thanks to this neural network, there is a very good chance that we will be able to access what we want to restore.


  • Ritualize – Before each game, Lebron James , the American NBA basketball champion shakes hands with all his teammates without exception in a very specific way (handshake) to “start the game in peace” . For similar reasons, football star Cristiano Ronaldo does not enter the field without having first done two things: touch the round ball of the match, and know the exact place of his family in the stands in order to give them his first look. when he comes in and treads the lawn.

Indeed, these are routines and rituals that they use to release stress and to concentrate. So why not do the same and make your own?

Your child can work with you to choose rituals and routines that can reduce stress before a test. This can be drinking a large glass of water, rubbing your hands 10 times, jumping on the spot (in the hallway) 10 times, emptying your kit then refilling it, etc.

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To recap – how to reduce stress

To reduce his stress at school, during an exam or a test, you will therefore encourage him to:

  • Begin by addressing the questions to which he knows the answer
  • Write on a draft everything that directly or indirectly relates to the question to reactivate your neural system
  • Shaping routines and habits, rituals in order to create an anti-stress bubble and to concentrate.

While waiting for the first results of these strategies, I leave you with this quote”Always do the best you can, where you are and with what you have” – 

​​Theodore Roosevelt



And you? Do you have any other tips to reveal that have helped you deal with stress? Feel free to let us know in the comments, share your experience or ask your questions! I would be happy to answer you

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