When a student says they are “bored” with their classes what does it mean? On the surface, it could mean that they truly find the lesson or subject to be uninteresting to them. But new research suggests that there is a link between boredom and stress.
Education Week reported this week that a new study on student boredom in the classroom finds that those who identify themselves as bored –65% of students daily—may not be simply unentertained, but rather stressed. John D. Eastwood, associate professor of Psychology at York University in Canada and the study’s lead researcher, was quoted as saying that “the experience of boredom directly connects to a student's inability to focus attention” and that “when people are stressed it makes it harder to focus and pay attention at a very basic, fundamental level."
Eastwood and his team cite a number of stressors, including emotional trauma and Attention Deficit Disorder, but stress can also stem from worrying about grades, not wanting to let someone (a teacher or parent) down by doing poorly, or non-educational issues such as busy extracurricular schedules or issues with family and friends.
For students experiencing stress and or boredom in their classes, or any facet of their life for that matter—there are a few tricks and tools to help improve focus.
- Breathing Exercises: Stress can trigger physiological reactions in your body including increased heartbeat and rapid breaths. Breathing exercises counteract those stress symptoms. When you feel yourself getting stressed, or becoming bored during your studies, take a few minutes to go through a deep breathing exercise. Focus on taking a deep breath, filling up your diaphragm, and then slowly but fully exhaling. This gets more oxygen into your blood stream, slowing your heart rate and regulating your breathing. It also gives you a chance to focus on what may be causing the stressor or boredom you are experiencing.
- Exercise: Physical activity is a great stress and boredom reliever. Even just getting up and taking a few laps around the house, going for a short run, shooting some hoops in the driveway or doing some push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks will do the trick. Exercise gets the blood flowing in your body, delivers more oxygen to your brain and your muscles and gives you a quick escape from whatever it is that has got you down.
- Visualization: If you consistently find yourself bored with a certain subject, it could be because you doubt your abilities in the subject, therefore causing stress. Use visualization techniques to help deter some of that stress by visualizing yourself doing well in that subject. If chemistry or math is a sore spot for you, visualize yourself going through the experiment or writing the formula. And telling yourself that you will do well in class, rather than saying that you aren’t good at it, will help, too.
- Talk with someone: If you are feeling stressed or bored with class, be sure to talk to your teacher or parent about what’s going on. Together, you may be able to find the source of your stressor and come up with new ways to deal with it. And if your teacher knows that you are struggling with a certain concept or theme in class, they will be able to better work with you.