Proven Strategies to Beat Stress in Language Learning
Between stimulus and response, there is a space where we choose our response.Stephen Covey
⏱ Reading time: 2 minutes
Learning how to effectively cope with stress can help you stay in control of your language learning. Think about it—what gets in your way the most? You might first think, “This language is hard.” In reality, it’s probably the result of some very specific things like falling behind in learning vocabulary, struggling to grasp some grammatical features, or comparing yourself to others who seem to be progressing faster than you.
How do athletes get so good at what they do? They practice, yes—but more importantly, they practice well, and they practice a lot. To do this, they have to push through challenges. But once they do, they realize that it won’t actually kill them, and their abilities grow significantly.
This is true, too, for language learners. When you learn to manage stress so that you can push through your mental blocks, you reach places you never thought you could go.
When you feel stressed, what do you do? It’s important to take action so that your stress doesn’t paralyze you or start to build up. There are a multitude of techniques that you can use to mitigate stress, including:
- Slow, low breathing every hour for a few minutes
- Quick body scan to prevent tension build-up
- Stretch out your neck, arms, and legs
- Close your eyes and take a mini mind vacation to a relaxing place or peaceful memory
- Use an app for a 2-minute meditation
- Change stress-inducing thoughts to stress-reducing thoughts
Some of these things seem intuitive, and some of them might seem too easy to really make a difference. But try them, and you might be surprised! By being proactive and staying on top of stress, you can make the most of your language learning experience.
One student began his study abroad experience with significantly less experience and preparation than his fellow students, but he faithfully followed his program director’s coaching and far exceeded everyone’s expectations in the end. His was a very rocky road, so he learned to manage stress well. Late in the program and even though he was mentally quite hardy, concerns about his future began to weigh heavily on his mind. He feels that the techniques he learned served him well then, and later on in his demanding professional life.
“This week was the hardest week in the program for me…. [T]he stress and anxiety built up from the stresses of life…[and] made me sick and difficult to go to class or do much at all. Frankly, I was quite crippled by it. What helped was the paced breathing and just getting back to work. The breathing helps to control my stress and anxiety at least for a small amount of time and then getting back to the grid is what helped me this week…. I am excited to feel that I have control over the end of this program and I just need to remain c[al]m and keep working.”
Try it out!
Time Required: 5-10 minutes
- Look at the list above. What are some things you haven’t tried? For example, do you exercise regularly? What about scheduling time to unwind?
- Choose one or two new things that you’d like to try. Click on the links to learn more about how to implement them.
- Make a plan to use these techniques this week! Record in your journal how it went.