Stress-induced breakdowns

Seeing how interconnected stress effects get interwoven makes it easy to see how ecological learning really is, even when it's delivered formally as it's pictured here. The inter-dependencies involved in getting learning to happen exceed our left brain's linear comprehension. With a picture of all these linkages, we get a better sense of how learning happens naturally and cannot be made to happen mechanically.

Learning does not happen when people become anxiety-ridden. Feeling stressed-out eliminates the state of mind which support authentic learning. Small amounts of stress can function as a welcomed challenge or inviting game obstacle. Yet when stress exceeds that moderate level, our minds become preoccupied with anxiety relief. We need to get the agitation out of our systems by taking out our frustrations on others, displacing it in revenge fantasies or transforming it via either physical exertion or relaxation. Learning is a luxury we cannot afford when we have become a stress-case.

Stress can be added from several situational sources:
  • A learner may show up with chronic anxiety unrelated to the place where learning is meant to happen.
  • The instructional design may be a misfit to the level of understanding, the subsequent uses of the new input, the pace that accommodates the learner, or other parameters of "what works for the learner".
  • The delivery may come at a bad time, cause problems with other commitments or inconvenience several different people in other ways.
  • The people interacting with the learner may be already experiencing anxiety that infects others, or they may become agitated through the involvement with the stressed-out learner.
  • The management system may hold the learner and others accountable for the learning, penalize a lack of results or withhold rewards for slow learning which all contribute to anxiety-producing pressures.
  • The social context of peers may be sharing the same anxieties as well as providing peer pressures to perform better or more poorly to avoid getting ostracized.
  • The larger context (family, job market, industry rivals, economy, international instability) may offer looming uncertainties which fuel worries, distractions and sleep disorders.
An additional level of stress gets internalized as frustrations, resentment and self-incriminations when there's no listening, evidence of the learner's feedback put to use or timeouts to provoke changes:
  • the learner keeps trying to learn the same way that feeds chronic stress in spite of blatant evidence that personal anxiety is over the top
  • the instructional design, required materials and educational processes remain unchanged in spite of countless "users who found it useless"
  • the delivery sticks to the same schedule, pricing, requirements, and paperwork in spite of evidence that calls for lowering people's anxiety levels immediately
  • the management system "turns up the heat" when it becomes obvious the current level of expectations and consequences has not convinced people to make more effort
  • the social context becomes more cynical, antagonistic or intolerant of those who demonstrate the tattered remains of commitment, confidence, or ambition in the face of this adversity
  • the larger context becomes more imposing, threatening and discouraging as vast networks within it are not learning
This entire ecology crashes when there is no accurate diagnosis of the stress-induced breakdowns in learning. There's no way to alleviate the anxiety and every remedial effort fuels the melt down. Nothing is learned from the learning not happening. The highly interdependent ecology is a happening place for contagious fears, chronic anxiety and stress-cases.


  1. It is not a secret that stress in the work places leads to depression, stress, and anxiety. However, the multinational companies have given rise to certain concepts like overtime (definitely on money), that have catapulted the cases of work related stress all the more. This is one reason that has actually led the companies to start up depression counseling and the sale of antidepressants within the office premises. The sale of antidepressants like xanax has also experienced hike owing to the hike in the overall hike in depression cases.

  2. Thanks for adding your insights to this. I suspect the executives who approve the spending on counselors and on the availability of xanax already felt victimized by the high cost of full-time employees. They imagine they cannot stop maximizing their investment in these hires with mandatory overtime. "Fixing the employment-spawned depression" is a stop-gap measure to protect their investment. I suspect there's no end in sight until it becomes obvious that anti-depressive medication merely postpone the crisis and mask the symptom of a need for less confinement, conformity and repetition.

    Thanks again for your comment!

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