At SchoolJessica Robinson
Social-emotional learning is a vital stress management skill for kids.

Parents and teachers are quite selfless in their pursuit of making their kids or students achieve exemplary academic success. In fact, both parents and teachers are more than willing to go the extra mile to see kids succeed. After all, teachers understand best that the purpose of education is to excel and not to chase grades. However, despite these great intentions, it is also true that the overwhelming competitiveness surrounding students is leading to academic stress. 

In the contemporary era, many students find themselves reeling under stress right from the elementary level. Academic stress, performance pressure, and the compulsion to compete have become the onset of a nightmare for them. This has led to many students feeling baffled about the real significance of education. They have started to believe that learning is secondary while grades are their primary aim. This misconception further adds to their already high levels of stress. 

To substantiate, let us look at some important and alarming statistics associated with stress in American school students. Some of the most concerning trends are listed below. 

  • As per,  70 percent of teenagers in the US state stress and depression among the major psychological issues among their peers. To add, 75 percent of high school students in the US say they are either always or often stressed due to schoolwork. 
  • As per the American Psychological Association, on a scale of ten, teenagers in the US rate their level of stress at 5.8. This is alarming because the average level of stress in US adults is a mere 3.9. 
  • As cited by the Pew Research Center, academic stress and social pressure are among the leading causes of depression among American high school students. 
  • As stated by the World Health Organization, depression and its related symptoms are among the top five causes of illness and disability in adolescents worldwide. 

It is imperative that parents and teachers acknowledge the above stats that paint a dreadful picture of teenage mental health. Amid the ongoing high-stress scenarios, students are gradually moving towards burnout and depression.  Can they excel in education and fulfill their dreams of academic excellence as long as they are subsumed in stress? What can be done to help them in managing their stress in an effective manner? Well, the answer lies in social-emotional learning (SEL)! 

To engage in active learning and grasp knowledge in an incessant manner, it is imperative that students learn stress management. Otherwise, they will often find their cognitive abilities marred by consistent mental fatigue. However, the dimensions of social-emotional learning can change things for the better. Let us find out how social-emotional learning can actually help students keep stress at bay. 

5 Ways SEL Supports Stress Management  

1. Social-Emotional Learning Promotes Self-Awareness

Kids often struggle in the pursuit of self-awareness. They are not generally aware of their core strengths and weaknesses because they are still in the process of discovering themselves. This is where they start stressing about even those things that are doable for them. Moreover, a lack of self-awareness makes them vulnerable to high stress and anxiety when they are compared to others. 

Of course, when they have a greater sense of self-awareness, they would not bother much about comparisons. When they know themselves well, they would back their strengths and would be able to eliminate quite a few major stressors. 

For instance, a student may find mathematics quite daunting and may start to feel anxious seeing mathematical problems. However, it is quite possible that the student has good mathematical skills they may not be aware of. The general perception around mathematics might make them feel scared of it in such a scenario and not their own ineffectiveness. 

This often happens when individuals are not aware of their core competencies and capabilities. Having said that, it is imperative that students embrace self-awareness. Also, awareness of their weaknesses will help them in accepting their failures and working on making the necessary improvements. Otherwise, students often go too grim on themselves when it comes to academic failures. 

You would be amused to know that self-awareness is one of the most pivotal dimensions of social-emotional learning. SEL can help students gain both self-awareness and social awareness. Both these virtues are vital to the holistic growth of students. Besides, these virtues will add immense efficacy to their stress coping mechanisms.

2. SEL Enables Students To Express Themselves Better

Different people have different ways of venting their stress. While some like to talk about it and vent it out, others act out in aggressive behaviors like reckless driving or violence as a response to their stress. Of course, those who can be vocal about their stress and anxiety do better at managing the same. Otherwise, some individuals start picking negative behaviors when they are unable to address their stressors. 

How social-emotional learning helps here is that it comes with social and relationship skills. SEL can bring massive overhauls in kids in terms of expressing themselves and interacting with others. This will give them a better chance and more confidence to talk to their parents, teachers, and friends about their stressors. 

Moreover, with the right relationship skills, they will be able to foster positive relationships that bring out the best in them. These relationships can be about their equations with their parents, teachers, or their abilities to make new friends who add more optimism around them. Besides, relationship skills will also make them more empathetic and understanding. They will also be able to decipher the emotions of others rather than being tangled in their own negative emotions. 

3. SEL Facilitates Effective Self-Management

Stress management and self-management are quite synonymous with each other. Self-management implies that an individual is able to manage their emotions, insecurities, vulnerabilities, and challenges in an effective way. Of course, not everyone has the ability to manage negative influences and challenges in a promising way. 

However, with social-emotional learning, people can incorporate positive traits. Self-management is among the most significant components of social-emotional learning. When students work on their SEL skills, they will also learn how they can respond to challenges in a more reassuring way. They will not find themselves sulking to their self-assumed incapabilities to deal with tough situations. SEL will foster greater resilience in them. Besides, they will learn to remain calm and composed amid adverse situations and manage their attitude to focus more on solutions.

In other words, with self-management traits, students will be less vulnerable to anxiety and stress. They will not fear exams or feel undue pressure from homework and assignments. They will rather be able to manage their emotions in a positive manner and sustain their focus. In fact, self-management is as quintessential for academic success and healthy living as a discipline.

4. Students Feel More Optimistic In A Classroom That Promotes SEL 

In a classroom that promotes social-emotional learning, students will know that their feelings will be respected by their fellow students and teachers. They will not have to be hesitant about seeking assistance from their classmates and teachers. Otherwise, students find themselves trapped in outpouring stress when they are unable to seek help. In such a scenario, their problems start to seem much larger and insurmountable to them. 

Speaking of the reasons why they are not sure if they should seek help, there can be quite a few. Among these, the larger reason may be their apprehension of being bullied or mocked. However, such reluctance is least likely to prevail in a classroom that exhibits soft skills associated with social-emotional learning. In such an environment, students would feel more comfortable in sharing their mental or emotional state with others and seeking help. 

In this way, they will be able to negate a few of their stressors at an early stage itself. Asking for assistance pays off more often than not after all! Hence, this is yet another way in which social-emotional learning can help young kids master the art of stress management. In fact, it will promote mutual support among classmates to assist each other in stressful occurrences.

5. SEL Can Help Students Drive Greater Academic Success 

Is there a correlation between social-emotional learning and academic success? Well. There is empirical evidence to suggest that social-emotional learning is linked to enhanced academic outcomes. As per CASEL, 93 percent of educators want schools to lay a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning. To add, 90 percent of teachers and educators feel that SEL can play a key role in promoting active learning and improving academic results. 

Needless to say, a direct implication of improved academic performance will be lesser distress. Students will have fewer reasons to stress about when they get good scores and excel in education. In fact, a systematic review carried out in 2021 found out that social-emotional learning can help students focus better in class and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. 

Having said that, the fact that SEL helps students achieve better academic outcomes along with effective management of stress presents a firm case for the incorporation of SEL modules. Besides, teaching SEL can also be one of the worthwhile strategies for promoting divergent thinking in students.  

To encapsulate, there are multidisciplinary benefits of social-emotional learning as seen above. Almost all benefits are crucial to students in terms of managing stress, improving cognitive skills, and optimizing academic performance. It is a given fact that excellence in education and overwhelming stress cannot coexist. Stress will have to sideline itself and pave the way for success. With the ever-increasing competitive pressure on students, the need for SEL modules will keep increasing. Smarter will be the parents and teachers who introduce kids to social-emotional learning and its fundamentals at the earliest. 

About the Author:

Jessica Robinson is a charismatic corporate leader, a selfless educator, and a versatile content creator. Despite a management degree, her vision behind blogging is not only to follow her passion but to create more informed societies. Her selflessness reflects in every piece of her work on The Speaking Polymath.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

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